Sunday, June 9, 2013

Opposition - Enhancing or Downgrading

Opposition – Enhancing or Downgrading

I came to the realization that opposition can be both positive and negative, enhancing and downgrading.

Negative (downgrading) Opposition is based on stopping, blocking, or, at least, impeding another or others.  Negative Opposition is always looking for what is wrong and emphasizing it, drawing everyone’s attention to it.

Positive (enhancing) Opposition looks for what was done right and praises it.  Then looks at what was not optimum and asks how it can be improved.  Positive Opposition is what coaxes and pushes others to do better than they thought they could, to reach beyond themselves.  It creates strong, collaborative, integrated teams.

Imaging the students and learning we could have, the accomplishments that would take place, if our teachers were able to practice Positive Opposition.

Please tell me about a teacher, mentor or coach you had who practiced Positive Opposition.  They pushed you to be and accomplish more than you thought you could.

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Boredom - It's Not Your Child's Fault

Boredom – It’s Not Your Child’s Fault

I’m bored with school.
How many times have you heard that?!

According to studies on this subject of boredom – students’ boredom can be linked to Stress.
Here are a couple of quotes:
  1. “Boredom is one of the most consistent experiences of school and one that can be frustrating and disheartening for teachers.”
  2. My favorite, “By definition, to be in a state of boredom is to say the world sucks out there in some way.  But often that’s not the case; often it’s an interior problem, and students are looking in the wrong place to solve the problem.”

What’s wrong with those quotes?  You’ll notice that they are all centered on something being wrong with the student.  We most heartily disagree!!

I’m Virginia Koenig, co-author of How to Learn – How to Teach, Overcoming the Seven Barriers to Learning, and we think this is evidence that your child has been mishandled by their teacher.

One of the reasons your child can express boredom is because they are in the last and final stage of the Three Stages of Student Decline.

Parents – you need to be aware of the Stages so that you can recover your child before they decline too far and are beyond reach.

It’s all too common that a child’s want to learn and contribute is trampled on.  In their enthusiasm to share, they may speak out in class only to have their teacher tell them to be quiet.  The child is dominated, overwhelmed and made subservient to their environment.

The good news is this can be reversed.  To learn how to reverse the harm being done to your child go to

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning

Friday, May 24, 2013

Personal Methods of Learning

Personal Methods of Learning

I know mine.
Do you know yours?
But more importantly, do you know your child’s Personal Method of Learning?

I’m Virginia Koenig, co-author of How to Learn – How to Teach, Overcoming the Seven Barriers to Learning.

We’re all gifted with the ability to learn, however we each have our own Personal Method of Learning – the way we learn best.

Some children learn best by hearing what they need to learn.  They can listen to a lecture and absorb everything.

Some children learn best by seeing what they need to learn.  They can read a book, watch a film or demonstration and absorb everything.

Some children learn best by doing what they need to learn.  They enjoy taking things apart, running experiments, building things.  They are usually 3-D learners who are able to envision a 3-D model of what they’re learning.

When you know your child’s Personal Method of Learning you:
  1. Are better able to help them with homework,
  2. Can speak with their teacher so their teacher is better able to help them learn.

To learn more about Personal Methods of Learning go to

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Teacher's Unions

The Plight of Teachers' Unions
Arthur Levine
Education Week    May 7, 2013

I felt compelled to share this post by Arthur Levine in Education Week.

Mr. Levine really hit the nail on the head when he stated, " Industrial societies focus on common processes, epitomized by the assembly line.  information economies focus on common outcomes. Process is variable. With regard to schools, the emphasis is on learning;"

"the shift to an information economy and a focus on learning is inevitable. Teachers' unions can oppose it or lead the transition."

I rescue failing students by overcoming the Barriers to Learning

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Monster At the End of Common Core

The 'Monster' at the End of the Common Core
Education Week,  May 1, 2013
Laura Thomas

Since the Common Core State Standards emerged, people I respect have come out in opposition in a way that reminds me of a book from my childhood: The Monster at the End of This Book. In this classic, Sesame Street’s Grover begs us not to turn the pages, lest we unleash the monster at the end. He becomes increasingly agitated, building walls and threatening us as we get closer to the end. His panic sounds a lot like what I hear from some of my colleagues in the educational community.

I think that, if we're as smart and committed as we say we are, we can use the common core as a stepping stone to better outcomes for all of our kids.  And by "outcomes" I don't mean just "test scores." I mean, you know, Learning. Engagement. Success. . . . but also the skills and dispositions that kids need to succeed in life, like communication, collaboration, curiosity, organization, and problem solving.

What we should be celebrating as an opportunity, we're dreading. We've been buried under "teach to the test" and doing the heavy lifting in our classrooms for so many years that we’ve forgotten a basic premise of education: The learner does the learning.


I applaud Ms. Thomas’ view on this situation.  Common Core Standards are an opportunity that allows the student to direct their own learning.  What better way to interest and engage our students, and engage our teachers.

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning


Monday, April 22, 2013

Math Teachers Strive to Core to At-Risk Students

Math Teachers Strive to Bring Core to At-Risk Students
Education Week Teacher
Published Online March 13, 2013

These math teachers are practicing the prevention of Learning Barrier #4 – Missing Foundational Knowledge or Too Steep a Gradient; and I applaud them!

The learning of any subject requires the correct sequence of the development of knowledge or skill.  Earlier pieces of information are necessary for the later understanding of the advanced steps.

These teachers are breaking down each concept into its basic, foundational pieces and introducing each piece to their students in a methodical, gradient fashion.  This allows the student to learn and digest each piece before the next level of knowledge is given.

Parents – these are all methods you can use to help your children with their homework.

The Common Core State Standards for mathematics are now being introduced in schools across the country.  While many accomplished math teachers are enthusiastic about the standards' emphasis on mathematical reasoning and strategic expertise over rote computation, some say the transition to the new framework poses daunting challenges for students who are already behind in math.

Some math educators are taking steps to refine their practices and adopt creative methods to help at-risk and struggling students make the shift to the new instructional paradigm.

One approach commonly cited by teachers is to maintain the common core’s emphasis on abstract reasoning and conceptual understanding while using word problems that require less advanced math skills.

Similarly, Todd Rackowitz "focuses on problems that don't involve complex computation at first."

"You have to help kids understand how to justify solutions through discussion, interaction, and close guidance.”  When his students are struggling with a problem or new concept, Arcos said he demonstrates how to work through similar problems and discusses his reasoning with them.

Justin Minkel said he also makes an effort to give his students problems that have "practical applicability" to the real world. He noted that he has had success in having his students use what they were learning in math in an economics unit that involved determining the costs of materials for a building project against a budget.  Such activities can help students "make sense of problems and begin thinking about the ways math relates to their own lives.”

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning



Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's Not the Test That Made Them Cheat

It's Not the Test That Made Them Cheat
Education Week    Published Online April 9, 2013
By Michael J. Feuer

News came down about the indictment of the former Atlanta schools chief Beverly Hall and 35 other current and former officials for their alleged roles in a massive cheating scandal that has rocked the city for the past three years.

There is nothing good to say about cheating on tests.  However, some of the reactions to the scandal have been surprising.  The most troubling response comes from people opposed to standardized testing generally and to current federal policy specifically.  They somewhat gleefully use this sorry episode as the ultimate smoking gun, the perfect we-told-you-so case that clinches their claims about the evils of testing, and the entire reform movement.

William Ayers, an education professor emeritus from the University of Illinois at Chicago, posted, “the Atlanta story proves that teaching toward a simple standardized measure and relentlessly applying state-administered tests to determine the outcome both incentivizes cheating and is a worthless proxy for learning.  The road to the massive cheating scandal in Atlanta runs right through the White House.”

Mr. Feuer has several problems with that logic.

First, shifting the blame for egregious mischief away from the perpetrators and onto the system strikes me as morally and politically bankrupt. Here’s an analogy to consider: Do we react to the worst instances of tax evasion by condemning the concept of taxation rather than by prosecuting the evaders? I assume that Mr. Ayers would not call for abolition of the graduated income tax as a way to finance public goods and redistribute wealth just because the system has its imperfections and because some people lie on their tax returns. Shall we excuse individual or group criminality because certain social institutions create pressures for greed and misconduct? Banking executives accused of fraud will be delighted.

Second, pinning the responsibility for the Atlanta disaster on the White House is an extravagant example of misdirected blame. Maybe current federal policies lead to unwanted outcomes, such as narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test, but that’s a far cry from the outright fraud of the sort listed in the Atlanta indictment.  In any case, there’s no evidence that federal policy causes cheating, or that “cheating is inevitable.”

Third, indicting testing, rather than cheating, undermines the possibility for reform in the design and uses of tests.

What’s often ignored in the popular frenzy against testing is that tests can help gauge individual learning, give teachers additional information about their students’ progress, provide objective indicators of student achievement, and expose inequalities in the allocation of educational resources.

Read all of Michael Feuer’s excellent article at

I rescue failing students by remedying the Barriers to Learning