The Complexities of Learning, Part 1

Learning at school can seem like a simple equation: teacher presents material + students listen (including taking notes) + students complete the homework assignments and tests = learning.  Yet, in practice, learning can be more complex.  The following is the first in an on-going series of posts that will discuss the intricacies of learning in contemporary classrooms.

Purposeful Failure

“I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Thomas Edison I am the anti-Thomas Edison.  I fear making mistakes.  I fear mistakes will expose me to others’ (mis-)judgements, like being seen as stupid.  I’ve evolved into a cautious reactor, preferring to watch others from the sidelines go first, make my own conclusions about when I…

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Image of a Teacher

Learn HOW to Learn: The Legacy of Mr. Coombs

At this time of the school year–after first semester grades and well-into the next semester–I receive increased requests for tutor referrals.  Parents and students naturally assume that a less than expected grade in a class is due to content deficit–that somehow the student just “isn’t getting it”; “it” being the ideas and concepts presented in class. The actual issue may…

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Academic Cheating: No Simple Explanations

Harvard recently required 60 students to withdraw for up to two years, after being found responsible for cheating on a take-home final essay exam last spring.  (The students will be eligible to re-enroll after the forced withdrawal period is over.)  Is it surprising that Harvard students cheat?  Or surprising that 125 students, about half the total government class were accused…

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The Classroom Transition from Anonymity to Known

The dictionary defines teaching as, “showing or explaining”, and explain in its simplest terms is “to make clear, make plain.”  Making plain takes time and a dialogue to be sure each person within the exchange is in agreement, so with a class of 35 students and one teacher, one can come up with creative ways to “check for understanding”–hand signals,…

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The College Freshman Holiday Homecoming

The first time (or maybe first extended time) home for college freshmen during the Thanksgiving break can be simultaneously exciting, and frustrating for both parents and kids.   College students may be looking forward to hot, home-cooked meals–not served on a tray–sleeping in their own (quiet) bedrooms and a private bathroom with a door that locks, rather than the mega-5…

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Peace Comes to the Old Dog Via The School of Hard Knocks

We are told that states of being at peace and happiness are our divine right–just reach out and grab them and struggle no more. Peace and happiness, though, seem difficult when it comes to the everyday job of making choices within a sea of possibilities. The default logic for living is that we achieve peace and happiness by taking control…

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“ARRRRGH! Why is High School So Stressful?!?”

The worry that comes with trying to understand how actions today will affect one’s unknown future can create stress for anyone.  Now, add that one is 15, 16 or 17–with limited life experience–trying to predict their future based on their academic performance on one class assignment today, and there’s even further cause creating stress.    Plus, parents, wanting what’s best…

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IMAGINE and Then RE-IMAGINE

Everything can be re-imagined.  Our creativity is limitless in its natural state.  We only limit ourselves.  Education gives us tools and helps expose us to options.  After that, its our responsibility to build on those experiences to produce (or re-produce) something new. Here’s another “re-imagining” of a classic icon, Julia Child, who wrote that through food found “an opening up…

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The Benefits of “Frenemies”?

Reading about Helen Gurley Brown’s death today inspired the following post.  (No matter your opinion of Ms. Brown and her positions on social issues–she was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for 32 years and wore mini-skirts into her 80’s, according to the New York Times–she stirred discussion.) A discussion does not happen when everyone agrees from the beginning.  The agreement…

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Back To School…More Complex Than Buying New Notebooks

BACK TO SCHOOL: Three words that can send excited nerves through a student’s, parent’s and teacher’s bodies.  Students may lament, yet their friends are waiting on campus, after all.  At the same time, there’s a frenzy of last minute summer reading and assignment completion while parents buzz in the background, brimming with “I told you so’s…”–both said and unsaid.    For…

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