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YOUR favorite (or least favorite) teacher story

May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

Favorite teacherIt seems like very few days go by when I don’t hear one story or another about the positive impact a teacher that “got” them made on someone’s life. I also hear lots of stories about unbearable school years where a teacher just didn’t connect with someone and this lack of connection made a negative impact on the individual’s perception of school in general, the subject matter being taught, and (most importantly) their own self esteem.

These examples are backed up by numerous recent research studies which conclude that positive teacher-student relationships have been shown to support students’ adjustment to school, contribute to their social skills, promote academic performance, and foster students’ resiliency in academic performance. (Battistich, Schaps, & Wilson, 2004; Birch & Ladd, 1997; Hamre & Pianta, 2001)

In fact, ASCD’s email newsletter just yesterday stated, “students as learners are also students as people, with hopes, fears, and needs. That’s why it’s so important to build adult-student relationships that support and encourage each student’s academic and personal growth. The frequency and perceived worth of interaction (PDF) with faculty, staff, and other students is one of the strongest predictors not only of student persistence but also of student learning.”

This belief is the foundation upon which Kidzmet is built. And it shouldn’t be something that we expect just from interpersonally gifted instructors that have an innate talent for connecting with people. We should expect a fervent attempt at true connection from EVERY teacher a child has in school. It doesn’t just benefit the students, it gives the teacher the experience of having a room full of students that are not only more engaged throughout the school year, but who wrap up the school year thinking, “s/he was the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

Throughout May, we’ll be looking for blog comments that tell stories of their most POSITIVE and most NEGATIVE teacher relationship experiences. (It can be yours or your child’s.) It can be a story of a teacher that made you love science because he presented it in a way that “clicked” for you. Or a teacher that used the *wrong* approach to motivate you and you spent the year dreaming up excuses about why you couldn’t make it to her class. Or even the story of a teacher that came highly recommended by another parent, but that just didn’t “get” your child.

Everyone who posts a story will get a Kidzmet Classroom Account gift card to pass along to a teacher, so that she can understand how each individual student in her class ticks and hit the ground running with new student relationships. Save it until you know who your child’s next teacher is in the Fall; pass it along to a sports coach, tutor or summer activities leader; or even gift it to this year’s teacher so that he is better prepared to welcome his new batch of students this Fall. It’s entirely up to you.

We’re looking forward to hearing everyone’s stories!!

To our kids’ collective success,
Jen Lilienstein
Founder
Kidzmet 

Why master teachers are also master marketers

March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

As I speak with principals, assistant superintendents and curriculum directors each day, one of the first questions I always ask is “what is it that separates your superstar teachers from the rest of the pack?” The answer that comes back is always the same: “They are able to connect with each of their students,” “they tailor their lesson strategies to each class,” or “their classes are consistently engaged.”

Sounds a lot like another profession I was in for a couple of decades…marketing. A marketer’s job is to take a product and make it look/sound as appealing as possible to the target audience so that they’ll listen long enough to eventually be convinced to buy it based on the messages in their packaging, advertising and brochures. The selected message and advertising vehicle for products is not the same—it needs to be tweaked, tailored and massaged based on the target demographic. Focus groups are run in which all KINDS of perspectives are heard. A/B test splits are executed. Even if the message is perfected for a certain group, it will need to be modified if it’s to effectively reach a different target.



A teacher’s job is to take a concept and make it look/sound as appealing as possible to students so that they’ll engage long enough to eventually learn it based on the messages in lesson plans, homework and breakout groups. And, just as with marketing, the selected lessons and breakout groups need to be tweaked, tailored and massaged for the class based on who’s sitting in the classroom. Even if a unit is a hit with one class, the teacher will most likely need to modify it to most effectively reach their class mix either the next year…or next period.

In fact, the teacher’s job is INFINITELY harder than the marketer’s job because, while marketers can get a pat on the back for getting just a percentage of their target audience to purchase the product…the teacher is expected to get every kid in class to “buy” the concept.

Master teachers are able to do this because they often have an innate interpersonal gift. They intuitively know how to reach very different students. They are able to convince a raucous group of teenagers why geometry is and will be important to them. They are able to contextualize history in ways that students will be able to remember so that we’re not all doomed to repeat past horrors. They work magic with student breakout groups so that students are empowered to learn from each other and admire the unique strengths of their peers. They’re able to detect when a student “learns different” and help both the student and their parent modify the ways in which homework is approached so that the child has a greater chance of success with learning.

Why’s this important? Harvard & Columbia recently released the findings of a longitudinal study of 2.5 million students over 20 years that show the dramatic impact that quality teachers can have on their students. They are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods and save more for retirement. They are also less likely to become pregnant as a teenager.

But earning your stripes as a quality teacher is more meaningful than just for the students. It’s a much more enjoyable profession for the teacher when she feels she’s reaching or, better yet, inspiring her students. At long last, the education and EdTech sectors are beginning to take notice and calling this new ground swell Personalization 3.0. But, at Kidzmet, we feel that what EdWeek has dubbed Personalization 3.0 isn’t using a wide enough angle lens. While the teacher-student relationship is important, so is engaging the parents as a critical member of a child’s learning team…as is beginning to harness the power of compatible student groups. In short, we believe that ALL learning relationships matter in a student’s education. Parent-student, teacher-student, parent-teacher, and student-student.

What about you? Do you feel that content positioning is as important as content pacing in educating our youth?

VAK Learning Styles

October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

The full text of the hotly debated Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence piece by Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork from Psychological Science in the Public Interest was recently linked to by one of my favorite Tweeps – @anniemurphypaul.

Obviously, this piece is of particular interest to us at Kidzmet since one of our learning preference “pillars” is VAK learning styles. Most recently, NPR ran a piece that we felt was an incomplete summary of the learning styles piece, so we’ve pulled some quotes directly from the piece to flesh out the authors’ conclusions. We hope you’ll find them both insightful and enlightening as to the more complete findings of the study.

From Points of Clarification
“Although we have argued that the extant data do not provide support for the learning-styles hypothesis, it should be emphasized that we do not claim that the same kind of instruction is most useful in all contexts and with all learners.” (p116)

“Educators’ attraction to the idea of learning styles partly reflects their (correctly) noticing how often one student may achieve enlightenment from an approach that seems useless for another student.” (p116)

“It is undoubtedly the case that a particular student will sometimes benefit from having a particular kind of course content presented in one way vs. another.” (p116)

From Everybody’s Potential to Learn
“It is undeniable that the instruction that is optimal for a given student will often need to be guided by the aptitude, prior knowledge, and cultural assumptions that a student brings to a learning task.” (p117)

As we often talk about on Kidzmet, we don’t believe that kids CAN only learn in certain ways…we believe that kids PREFER to learn certain ways and that the more we’re able as parents and educators to key into these learning preferences, the more exciting, engaging and intrinsically motivating learning can be for our kids.

 

Interested in our assessment of your child’s learning preferences and how you can use this information to help with homework? Take our Pairing Portrait for a spin and send yourself our Student Snapshot–it takes about 15 minutes to complete.

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