Developing Thinking Leaders for Tomorrow

Schools in many nations are closing in record numbers. As parents, we all know that what we want for our children is a better life than what we had. That sentiment has been part of the parenting cycle for centuries. Regardless of the education the students receive at whichever type of school, thousands of kids walk out of their school at graduation and are totally unprepared/under-prepared for the trials ahead. Of course, the students that drop out of high school before graduation are even more unprepared. Instead of any of these students becoming contributing members of society, they add to the numbers who place a drain on the over-taxed systems for the under-paid/unemployed.

There have been many studies for trying to correct the low ranking of many schools. But whether your child is in a high ranking school or a low ranking school, what parents want is for them to become productive and happy members of society as adults. In my opinion, we need to change the way students are taught; they need to learn to think and reach their own conclusions. If they don't, their peers will tell them what to do (and our government will continue to not be considered ethical; though it was set up to be so). We need to help students learn that the information presented in the classroom is not just for the classroom's test, but rather for real-world implementation.

Decades ago, I heard a story about a study on elementary students. The object of the study was to improve spelling scores. They tested the students to find their baseline on the spelling list. This was followed by a ton of practice on the words...rote memorization. They were tested again. The scores had not changed. After all the practice, the scores of the students did not improve. I am sure the practicing on spelling lists is done the same as it was in the 40's, 50's and 60's even though students used slide rules then and are using computers now.

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Many studies indicate, testing just for the sake of test results, and having a student feel like their whole future is riding on the results, results in teachers having their classroom's main aim to be simply the results of the tests. This results in lowering the overall healthy/discovery-type learning. We need to realize that students learn and retain a larger percentage when they 'get their hands dirty'.

A while ago, I learned—

- When a student simply hears information, he generally retains only about 5-15% of the information.

- Concentration in college lectures has been found to drop off after only 20-minutes!

- Lectures are necessary at times, but need to be broken up and used sparingly. (Break into discussion groups then gives feedback to group.)

- When a student is involved in discussions about the information, he generally retains a higher percentage of the information; about 10-40%.

- When a student sees the information producing results, he generally retains over 25% of the information being shown. (Generally happens in labs).

- When a student touches the information, he generally retains an even higher percentage of the information; over 50%. (Generally happens in hands-on labs)

Which result would you like to have for your child/student?

When I was a college instructor, I greeted my students with the idea that when they entered my classroom for the first time, they had a great big A in my grade book. What their actions did would/could make that change; I would do all I could to assist them to keep that A. That is what I believe all students need to understand when they walk into any classroom. They need to claim it for themselves.

As a college instructor, I gave my students my home phone and told them that if they were struggling with homework, they could contact me any day of the week (this was before the days of cheap phone calls or cell phones). In my opinion, it is better that that students learn to be self-disciplined rather than struggling to prepare for a test. Having the knowledge that they know how to use their resources allows students to be more self-disciplined (today’s students have the internet). Students need to know to ask for assistance; it is not a sign of weakness to ask for assistance.

While teaching Geometry at a college, I included on each quiz or test all the formulas needed to do the problems, as well as a few extra. I did that because of the premise that in the 'real-world', the information is readily available and one just needs to know where and how to implement it. When I was teaching Basic Math classes, the students did NOT like the story problems. They just wanted the problems in math-form. I told them that LIFE is a series of story problems. If their boss had the information boiled down to math-form, he would not need to hire them. I wanted each student to think of each class as preparing them for the real-world, not just the classroom's tests.

Thinking and evaluating pieces of information is what students need to learn to do to be successful in life and become thinking leaders. Each student needs to be sure that all of their classes are teaching him/her for the real-world, not just the classroom's test results.

Several studies show that it would be better if the education systems did not offer both private education and public education; but rather to have all students receive the same classes. Every instructor needs to have high expectations for all of their students, and the school system as a whole should strive to keep every student on the same level. Instead of putting a label on every student that walks through the door, schools should maintain high expectations of all students, and focus on giving more after school attention to those falling behind as opposed to moving them to another classroom where they are immediately labeled as average and have lowered expectations. As I mentioned, students should be taught to apply the information for themselves for use in the real-world, not just learn it for the classroom's tests.

If a student fails in America, one teacher is considered to be at blame. Instead, we should consider the whole school to be at blame, the complete state system. We should use ALL of the available resources. If one teacher finds that their methods aren’t working with a student, they need to consult other teachers to find other methods that may work better instead of abandoning the student.

In the U.S., we need to move toward finding alternative teaching methods that may be used to help all students. More students need to consider online resources. Since I tutor a variety of subjects online, I would like to help your student.

If the U.S. wants to stay a great world power, it needs to start getting all of our students excited about math and science as well as physics and engineering. The well-paying occupations in the future will be in these fields and will require great-thinking minds. If you have a struggling or bored scholar, consider using our lessons to increase their options for a better future. The past is behind all of us; the future is what we all need to look forward to and hope to enjoy!

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