Category Archives: Studying Skills

Procrastinator Panic: is your brain rewarding putting it off?

time_watch_msclipartProcrastinators are motivated by deadlines.

Clarity and purpose, hard to find and easy to dismiss, now assemble at the last minute. Focus arrives, hard work ensues, and the job gets done.

That urgency at the last minute invigorates and inspires procrastinators. It’s almost exhilarating — and it is, because you’re getting the same brain-chemical reactions from “procrastinator’s panic” as you do from getting startled. Scientists call it ” CRF,” and it is a brain drug that is released at the panic of a deadline.

So what’s the problem? Well… every procrastinator knows it: you should have gotten that feeling of urgency a little sooner.  Sometimes “last minute” means by the deadline. All too often, it’s after the deadline passed and turned into a “drop dead deadline.”  But you got it done, so what’s the problem? Continue reading

How to Turn a Bad Report Card Into a Learning Experience

arguing-over-homework_titlepageReport cards are a contentious subject in any household,

but a bad report card is something that parents (and kids) need to handle with tact and grace, as hard as that may sometimes be.

Avoid the common missteps like immediately yelling at or punishing your child for a bad report card. Instead, come up with a productive reaction which will have the best long term outcome. The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC is a comprehensive online tutoring service that takes a holistic approach to test preparation, remedial tutoring, and process oriented educational engagement. Continue reading

What do teachers really want?

apple-for-teacher_msclipartBribery?

Maybe, but flattery will work better. Seriously.

The highest and most effective form of teacher flattery is asking a teacher for help. The next highest is actually doing your work. You meet teacher expectations, you get an A. Easy enough.

Well, let’s start from there, anyway.  So what do teachers really want? And how can the student figure that out? Continue reading

The Nature of Procrastination & Helping Students Achieve Their Goals

tomorrow_localvoxEveryone procrastinates, but there is a distinct lack of understanding

… when the procrastinator is a struggling high school student. Maybe it is a generational stereotype, but there is very little sympathy towards students who are unable to manage their time properly. When kids struggle in school, they are often accused of procrastination. The fact is, procrastination is a prevalent symptom of human nature.

The A+ Club from School4Schools.comn LLC is an online tutoring and academic support and remedial tool for education that recognizes the damage of such categorizations. Our professional and experienced educators do more than help with individual assignments, they also teach young students how to advocate for themselves and use the system that labels them “procrastinators” to their advantage. Continue reading

Kids Learn to Advocate & Achieve With A+ Club Online Tutoring Services

Rear view of class raising handsDespite developments in cognitive psychology and education reform,

most students are still educated in a system that has remained largely unchanged over the last decade. That’s not to say the system doesn’t work; many kids find success and joy in traditional learning, but countless other intelligent students find it difficult to succeed. Most kids don’t hate learning, but many dislike school. They can’t fathom why they feel intelligent and capable yet continually fail to come up with the grades to reflect that.

Young students struggling with traditional schooling should be taught to set goals and engage with the system in a way that works for them. That’s where School4Schools.com LLC & The A+ Club comes in. The online tutoring service differs from traditional education and tutoring. This service doesn’t compartmentalize learning and focus exclusively on problem areas, but rather the experienced educators teach self-advocacy, processes, awareness, and accountability for those with whom executive function does not come naturally.

header-w-art-and-logo

The A+ Club is run by experienced educators, college students, and teachers. They help young learners realign their perception of teachers and the system so that they can use the inalterable process to their benefit. While not everyone in The A+ Club will achieve academic success, they are guaranteed to increase academic awareness through informational interchange, goal setting, honesty, feedback, and a comprehensive reflective process. The online Homework Tracker™ is a list and calendar based system with direct oversight from The A+ Club, designed for students who lack natural executive function skills. Kids and teachers can upload assignments, track progress, set goals, and stay in touch with in-school teachers.

The perspective of The A+ Club’s tutors is different than that of a parent or in-school teacher; kids will have honest conversations during weekly 30 minute check-ins. The A+ Club will help kids to appreciate the fact that they are required to do things they don’t want to do or that they feel don’t have any relevance. Young students need to understand that they can’t change that, but they can alter their perspective and learn to see teachers as a tool to help them get the grades needed to achieve their goals. This is the self-advocacy characteristic of School4Schools.com LLC & The A+ Club.

Let The A+ Club teach your kids to say it, track it, and get it done. Call (703) 271-5334 to set up convenient, flexible, and unique online tutoring, which will help your student find their success.MP900438620[1]

Do your grades Spring forward or Fall back?

clocks_MH900430829Beware the Daylight Saving! Sleep, rhythms and grades

My wife has long held a theory that life gets more difficult for students when the clock changes every November. The early sunset makes it dark and dreary, and the change itself messes up our daily rhythms and internal clocks. Well, it’s true. Check this out:

End of Daylight Saving Time can mean headaches for some

For some, the end of Daylight Saving Time means an extra hour of sleep. But for others it can mean a headache. Doctors say the time change can cause cluster headaches that can last as long as eight weeks.  The portion of the brain that triggers these headaches also controls your body’s rhythms.  Slight changes can throw off the rhythm, which can also happen when you switch time zones.

Yeah. Researchers have now also affirmed that join pain can predict the weather (How Your Knees Can Predict the Weather: Granny was right: Scientists find link between achy joints and the forecast) and that intuition is rational and often works (Moms know best: Doctors say ‘mother’s intuition’ is real).

Human beings, it seems, weren’t invented along with Edison’s light bulb or Al Gore’s internet. We’ve been experiencing and adapting to time, weather, seasons for, well, for a long time.

With the end of Daylight Saving (here for the Book of Knowledge, I mean, Wikipedia, entry; oh, and it’s “saving” not “savings”), we’re moving the clock back to the “normal” time that is supposedly lined up with the path of the sun. Actually, time itself isn’t made up by humans, but we need some way to measure it, thus sundials and clocks. High noon literally means when the sun is at it’s highest point in the sky, so that means that high noon is different across time zones. High noon here in Washington, DC, isn’t the same as high noon in, say, West Virginia, even though both are in the same time zone, both showing 12:00 noon at the same time.

Time zones were created by the railroad industry in order to coordinate train schedules across places with different actual times. So these, essentially, arbitrary “zones” were created so that passengers and shippers could know that the 5:00 am train from New York that arrives in Chicago at 7:00 pm New York actually took 14 hours, even though it arrived at Chicago at 6:00 Chicago time. Confusing enough? The point is that it’s all made up.

We could leave the clocks alone, but in order to interact with different places, we kinda need to know what time it is there. I think we should all just be on the same time, but that would mean that, if morning in New York is 5am, then morning in London would be a midnight, which would mean we’d have to change midnight in London to Noon. People would still get up when it’s light, or go partying when it’s dark, whether that’s 4:00, 16:00 or whatever. Instead, every local time follows the sun, with morning being morning by and midnight at midnight on the clock.

The reason for it is that humans need sleep. And when we mess with sleep, well, bad things happen.

Sleep!

Sleep is a fundamental part of those “cycles” of life that we experience on this planet. We go around the sun every time the earth spins 365 and a quarter times. And during every one of those spins of the earth we experience a certain amount of sunlight. Since the beginning, human beings have followed these natural, physical patterns of the earth and sun. A fundamental interaction to it is sleep.

Then along comes Thomas Edison and his light bulb. Now we can get more than a flickering flame to light our streets and homes, and we can remake the natural clock of the earth. A cost of this defiance of time, is sleep, and it can really mess with people. Please check out this site from the NIH: Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep, which explains the importance of sleep, its rhythms and cycles and some of the harm in messing with it.

Sleep and Grades

I write all this to remind our students that sleep matters, and sleep can make or break your grades. Adults are always telling kids to “get some sleep,” and kids are always rebelling against that advice and staying up late. So many of the students in our program tells us about sleep issues: have too much home work to do, can’t get off the computer, and then falling asleep over homework or in class.

Sorry, kids, the science is working against you on this one. Electronics mess up your sleep cycles, the “need to text” or Tweet misplaces your priorities and cuts into your productivity. There are a thousand websites with advice on this, but please know you are impacted by your choices. Just this week, here’s another warning about how electronics can destroy a child’s sleep

Pediatricians Set Limits on Screen Time: The American Academy of Pediatrics’ New Guidelines on Children’s Use of Internet, TV, Cellphones, Videogames

Parents should ban electronic media during mealtimes and after bedtime as part of a comprehensive “family media use plan,” according to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The influential new guidelines are being spurred by a growing recognition of kids’ nearly round-the-clock media consumption, which includes everything from television to texting and social media. “Excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression and lack of sleep,” said Marjorie Hogan, co-author of the new policy and a pediatrician.

It may seem like parental nannying, but are you sure it’s not hurting your grades?  Yes, sleep does matter. Please be aware of your habits and needs, and please do what you can to make them match.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Goal Setting by Nick Goodall

Scoring Soccer Goal

We humans are goal-oriented creatures

– we work best when we have a target, something to aim for. Despite that, the majority of people don’t have clearly defined goals, and the majority of people aren’t achieving what they want, either. Goals are what can set you apart – in your studies and in your life – so taking the time to set, stick to and celebrate them is beyond profitable.

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” – Fitzhugh Dodson

Taking the time to map and work out the following three phases is something which can excel you on your journey. A*’s become that much easier, as does school, simply by being clear about what you want and then taking the time to get there.

Create

The first step is to create them. Easy to do, easy not to do. I wrote a comprehensive Guide to Goal Setting, but here I’ll outline a few key principles:

  • Your goals. It’s important to aim for what you want to achieve, not what someone else wants. Your goals should inspire and motivate you to take action in order to make them a reality.
  • Specific goals. The clearer you are, the clearer the target, and that makes for straightforward achievement. Try to include numbers, such as a certain mark on your next test.
  • Time-bound goals. The all important question: when? To quote C. Northcote Parkinson: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words – the more time you have, the longer it’ll take to achieve your goal. Push yourself!

Just creating goals will make you part of an elite few, so congratulations if you’ve come that far. However, this is just the beginning, and coming up is the most important phase:

Progress

This is the critical part – progress. Without it you’re but a sitting duck, looking at your target without moving towards it.

Saying it’s the most important doesn’t mean it’s the most boring and effort-intensive, because if you’ve set some inspiring goals – this will be a walk in the park. In fact, being productive – progressing – is a fundamental key to lifelong fulfillment. If you don’t produce, you won’t be happy, so taking the time to produce what you want is well worth your while. There will be ups and downs, but the long-term satisfaction is better than any quick-fix you may find.

Do this for long enough and you can move onto phase 3:

Achieve (and Celebrate)

This, contrary to belief, is not the most rewarding part. The most enjoyment is to be found in phase 2 – progressing, but here you can relax (for a short while) and celebrate your achievement!

It’s important to not linger too long, for you’ll get bored pretty quickly, but it’s a good idea to celebrate the things you’ve done. People often sell themselves short of what they’ve accomplished, but whatever goal you’ve achieved – it’s a great accomplishment.

Repeat

Thought it was over? Well, almost – just repeat the first 3 phases. Once you’ve celebrated, you can go back to the drawing board and dream up some new goals to inspire you yet again!

If goal setting is something you’ll stick to (for life, preferably), I can guarantee the astronomical rewards. Whatever your goal – straight A*’s, make a million or run an ultra marathon – remember that’s it’s possible, for truly anything is within the limits of your imagination and the laws of nature.

Be Ambitious!

Nick Goodall is a student of life, self-development addict and author of The Student Manual, a fluff-free guide to help students awaken their potential and take on the world.

 

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Procrastinators unite!

Nah, we’ll get around to it later.

“Hi, my name is Michael, and I’m a procrastinator…”

In our inaugural podcast, Gabriela Bromley, a neuroscience major at Simmons College, introduced to our listeners the relationship between procrastination and anxiety. I’m amazed by the insight – so simple, so obvious, but one that I had never considered before.

I asked a guidance counselor friend of mine about it. This professional’s ability to relate to and understand kids is extraordinary. “Wow,” she told me, “I’ll have to include that in my next student questionnaire.” Me, too.

Rational Choice Theory

When teaching, I always talked to kids about procrastination. I viewed it as an entirely rational choice and its opposite, getting things done right away, as, well, a bit freaky. Think about all the moral tales and quotes on it, starting with Thomas Jefferson’s, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” or Aesop’s “The Grasshopper and the Ants” fable. If procrastination weren’t so normal, society wouldn’t lecture us about it so much.

Thankfully, Mark Twain comes in on our side: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” Yep, there’s always another tomorrow, or so we hope. Yet even Twain gets serious and gives actual advice on how to beat the impulse to delay:

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

It’s tough advice, no matter who it comes from, because just grasping the nature of some tasks sure can be “overwhelming.” And if we could just do that first step, wouldn’t we be doing the rest already? How are we going to start that first thing if the entire thing is scary, or if we are unsure and intimidated by it? Even more readily than putting off what we know we must do, we put off what we don’t understand how to do. Thank you, Gaby, for pointing this out!

Teachers: how many of your procrastinators just don’t know what to do? How many late papers or projects are late because the student was unsure and insecure about it, and not because they’re lazy or disengaged? Have you prepared your students for it? Have you identified their needs and concerns? It’s not so simple as “get it in on time,” anymore, is it?

Warriors

It begs the question, however, that if we are anxious and unsure, how come we finally get to it at the hard deadline?

“If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done”- Anonymous

The reason that procrastinators posses infinite ability to focus and work long hours just before a deadline is because the task wasn’t clear to them until then. It was the deadline that forced the concentration and the courage that went missing before. We procrastinators need to build early that anxious deadline feeling, that scent of battle that finally pushes us to get it done at the last minute — only at the first minute, instead.

But this is, as they say,

Easier said than done.

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never.'” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

That and the Golden Rule, easier said than done. So what can we do about it? A couple thoughts, first, following Gabriela’s ideas about procrastination and anxiety, and the other following our core strategy of articulation at the A+ Club:

1. “Am I putting it off because I’m afraid of it?

From now on I will use Gaby’s dictum as the first question. Am I afraid? Or is it because I don’t know what to do? It’s so much easier to say “I can’t” than to get help. Again, a rational choice. But, we want to resolve this procrastination thing, not excuse it. So, instead:

2. Articulate: say it, track it, and get it done.

At the A+ Club , our view on overcoming procrastination and delay is to think about it, say it, and remind.  The more you speak it the closer you are to getting it done. We call it “Articulation.” Say it, track it, and get it done.

Student procrastination is not about laziness. Not even procrastinators put off the things they enjoy. When students are inspired and engaged, they eagerly jump on the assignment and meet all the deadlines. Sure, procrastination is a matter of priorities — get off the phone, turn off the Xbox, and so on, but we prioritize what we best understand and believe in.

Maybe it’s time for us all to put off taking an honest look at procrastination.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

The Learning Process

Or, where do grades come from?

Learning-Process_flow-chart4_noheader2

Where do grades come from? Click here to view my Learning Process flow chart. Grades and learning are not necessarily related… Ideally they are, but what, really, do grades measure?

Have you ever considered what, exactly, do grades measure?

They measure something, but can they really measure everything? And of what they do measure, is it fair, is it meaningful, and does it represent what we really want students to achieve?

At the A+ Club we work with students to appreciate what grades are really about. The first thing to understand is that grades do not measure, do not indicate intelligence. Nor do grades necessarily measure learning. Whatever schools have done to lead any students or parents to believe this need to just disappear. Of course students have different intelligence. But they also have different skills Good at math, bad at drawing. Good at football, bad at reading. Good at singing, good at science, too. Whatever, these are all different types of intelligences, as intelligence is purely contextual. I do wish I was a math wizard like my astrophysicist brother. Ain’t gonna happen, so I do what I can with what I’ve got. That doesn’t mean I can’t get a good grade in Physics. So how would I go about getting a good grade in Physics if I’m bad at math?

I love this c.1910 French vision of the future of education. Would that it were so easy!

I love this c.1910 French vision of the future of education. Would that it were so easy!

First some vocabulary:

  • Assessment: a measurement of something, such as a grade on an exam.
  • Grades: assessments of student performance based upon certain criteria, hopefully not arbitrary
  • Learning Expectation: what a teacher expects students to learn
  • Relevancy: the idea that something is important or meaningful
  • Prior Knowledge (PK): what you already know
  • New Knowledge (NK): new things you learn
  • Internalization: the process of turning NK into PK

Grades as measurements

If we consider that grades measure something but not everything, then we must first consider what it is that grades measure. If a teacher gives a grade for “participation,” what does that mean? Is it an impression? A concrete measurement. Or is it a measurement of a process, such as a requirement to show the steps taken to answer a math equation as opposed to just answering the equation. When teachers outline assessment expectations in advance, we call this a “rubric.” Ideally, every little grade has a clear rubric or clear understanding by students about its expectations.

Just about every student has a story about getting a zero on something because they forgot to put their name on an assignment. It was done. It was even done well, and the student learned. But the student got a zero. So, what’s the grade about? Well, putting your name on the page is part of the grade. (Some teachers throw out un-named assignments; I always keep them, as it killed me that a kid did the work but I can’t reward it because I don’t know who it is!).

The next lesson here is to follow instructions!!! Students who are impatient with process often skip the instructions and then miss out on important steps that lead to low scores. You may have had one of those teachers who puts a “trick question” into an exam just to see if the student read everything, such as “skip the next two questions for extra credit.” I get the idea and have tried it myself. Ultimately, though it is not fair, but the sentiment is true: “read me,” screams the test!

Grades reflect so much more than just learning. A few things that go into most school assessments that are so basic we don’t often think about them. But if we do, we are more cognizant of what it takes to get a good grade:

  • timeliness
  • completion
  • name
  • instructions

If you really consider it, there is far less “learning” in a grade than there is “process” and just meeting teacher expectations.

Student Success

At The A+ Club, we employ these ideas very simply:

  • are you aware of what is expected of you?
  • what learning is expected?
  • are you being graded on timeliness and completion?
  • what process is expected?

That last, process, is behind most low grades. Many kids believe they could just ace the test and get a good grade without having done any homework. Often enough they are correct in this. But hardly always, and it is always the case that students are graded on process as much as learning. The trick is for students to make it meaningful enough to bother to do it, or, better, to want to do it. The best teachers make everything meaningful to students, but that’s a rarity. Instead, kids have to take up relevancy upon themselves.

Our job at The A+ Club is to provide kids with the tools and strategies to make their work meaningful, if only to get a higher grade.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.