Archive for October 2015

Aiming For Excellence

October 28, 2015

Excellence is not always emphasized in our classrooms – or our lives. We often mark papers with either a letter or number grade. What is acceptable to many people is a an A- or B or less. Believe me, some students would rejoice at achieving these marks and they are certainly good achievements. I am talking more about aiming for excellence and setting our hopes and habits to achieve it. It is only by aiming for the best that we can achieve it.

It’s almost the norm to settle for less. People who get 70%  or are usually happy. They may take up the answers in class on why they did not get perfect but they are not always learning as they do. Students who write assignments may achieve 75-99 on a project but never make the effort to correct the errors or use it as a learning opportunity. Grading the students’ papers alone is not a teaching tool. I mark papers regularly and believe helpful comments will teach a student, but first, they must read the comments; some don’t; secondly, they have to believe they can apply the change; finally, they must try to master the task. The easiest way to ensure learning is to give the students a chance to rewrite an assignment.

Of course this method is not popular with everyone because it is more marking for the teacher. The student who does not achieve perfect may speak with the teacher who explains the necessary correction. This gives an opportunity for teaching and learning to occur. The students realize what they did not do or should have done and physically correct the error. The students print the new document and attach it to their marked copy with the revisions made. They hand in the paper with the opportunity to achieve excellence.

This would seem to be a perfect way of assuring all students get perfect, but please note – not all students choose to do the rewrite. Often students settle for a grade of C or B rather than make the corrections. The reasons are diverse and complicated as some have families and children; most have jobs; some are athletes. The point is not all students make the correction because they do not believe it is necessary or important. The percentage of these students is not high, but my goal is set on trying to make them want to achieve excellence. Some who do rewrites do not achieve perfect because they do not make the corrections at all and hand in the same paper with errors maybe hoping I will not notice.

Documents they write for me are documents they would use in further academic studies or in their jobs. If there are errors that are not corrected, students have no excellent examples of documents to draw from. Should the students have excellent examples, they can apply the formats to their careers. Applying knowledge in an atmosphere that encourages true learning excellence can prompt students to make a bit of an extra effort to learn and make corrections giving them models of excellent documents. Present learning and corrections can lead to further future career related success.

Self Talk

October 8, 2015

I have spent some recent blogs discussing the power of words to impact our lives psoitively or negatively. I consider this regularily as I deal with different kinds of people daily. My words can impact my students so I want my words to be encouraging, kind, instructive, inspirational.

Sometimes the words the students say about themselves cause me to correct them. I don’t just mean correct their grammar – I mean correct them deeply.

It is quite usual to get students who will put up their hands and say”Forgive me for asking this dumb question but…” or something similar. They do this because they are new to higher education and because they do not have confidence in their own understanding. I try to let them know I am on their side and want to clarify the topic and am glad to do so. Once they believe this, they ask without insulting themselves publically.

Often they say “I am not very good at writing” or ” I never was good at English”. They actually believe that their past performance will affect their present performance. This is not necessarily true. I spend the first class trying to show them I believe in them. I give them opportunities to learn – meaning if they will put the effort into writing, I will let them do a rewrite. This means they can comfortably learn and express themseves without fear. As they realize they can ask me for help with assignments, and they do, I find they are learning not only my subject but also that if the first attempt isn’t perfect, it is not a defeat but an opportunity to learn. Some of these students who lack confidence in writing have tremendous confidence in other areas of their expertise.

What we say about ourselves can limit or inspire us. Our words can determine and do determine our destiny. If we say we can’t, we are most likely going to fail. If we say we are not very good, we most likely will be average or below average. You directly hera your own voice speaking and what you say becomes what you actually believe. It is so important that we speak positive things about ourselves. It is so important that at the bottom of it – you are on your side. A person who can encourage and build up himself or herself is someone that can accomplish anything.

Past performance does not mean you are limited to it. If athletes believed this, there would be no professional athletes or Olympics. We should be continuously trying to improve ourselves in all areas of our lives. We should face each day with excitement knowing we can accomplish something, beyond the day before. Try your best and cheer yourself on by inwardly saying :You can do it”.

Self Talk is normal. Most people talk to themselves. It is a way of examining and learning about a situation or task. Positive self talk is not so normal. Most people utter cuss words about themselves or negative words. If we just stopped and checked ourselves concerning negative self talk we would win more victories. Adding positive comments would ensure success and a positive attitude.

Becoming your own best life coach should be a goal we should hold on to. I know not everyone is ready to jump in there but we can start by examining the words we speak. Is there any negative self talk? It can not remain if we are to grow beyond our present condition.

Start inserting affirming phrases into your self talk : You are pretty good at that.” “Keep it up” ” Good job” . This doesn’t mean we become pompus or arrogant. Your number one cheer leader should be you.