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Increasing the Probability for Success
by Tom Cody

Successful teaching and learning in 2013 bears little resemblance to the education system many of us experienced. Despite these changing educational times, today’s teachers and students continue to strive together to achieve academic excellence.

When I began teaching math in 1974, my job description was pretty simple: take the math concepts that I knew, write lesson plans and deliver that information efficiently to the students. Then I would test that knowledge, assess the learning and move on to the next chapter. Thirty-five years ago, I was probably a very effective delivery system for transferring information and data to young people. Over the past fifteen years or so, this process has rapidly become outmoded: technological advances have created far superior, readily-available delivery systems. If it’s all about information and data, then the Teacher of the Year finalists are GOOGLE, Wikipedia and Ask.com. Sadly, Mr. Cody is no longer among the nominees.

Many teachers have recognized the challenges posed (and the benefits created) by this ever-advancing tech revolution and have embraced their evolving role as educators. Although Spanish verb tenses, the periodic table and the Gettysburg address are still being taught, collaboration, relevancy and curiosity have also become integral parts of the curriculum. The teacher of the 21st century can use technology to deliver a great deal of IQ (intelligence quotient) information, freeing up valuable classroom time to teach relevant EQ (emotional quotient) character education topics like respect, self-discipline and self-motivation. Successful teachers in this century will intentionally create meaningful connections with their students. The 3 R’s of the past (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic) retain their importance, but the 3 R’s of the future are just as critical: Relationships, Relevancy and Reasoning

I have seen hundreds of highly successful students during my 36-year career. Generally, I have found those students to be intrinsically motivated, highly self-disciplined and specially “gifted” in one form of intelligence or another.

External motivators like grades, honor rolls and “cash for A’s” are effective short-term rewards that promote appropriate behaviors and obedient students. However, today’s life-long learner is looking for relevance and meaning in addition to those outside rewards. Successful students are truly engaged in their learning process… and this real engagement cannot be coerced or manipulated by adults. Curious students learn because they enjoy learning, they know that their own intelligence is not a “fixed” product but a “growth” process.

Do you want to increase the probability of your teen’s success in high school? Promote your son or daughter’s curiosity (not just 95% scores), encourage taking educational risks (not the easy A classes), and praise the effort (not the product).

Self-disciplined teenagers most often turn into self-disciplined adults. It may or may not be important to learn about parabolas, but the self-discipline required for this task is an extremely vital skill. The 21st century curriculum has to offer students opportunities to learn how to do things that they do not want to do. The ability to overcome the DFLIs (Don’t-Feel-Like-Its) is a crucial element in successful students’ academic tool boxes. In teaching the ninth grade Top 20 class for the past ten years, one of the most popular (and highly effective) topics has been Power Hour. We have tried to help students organize their homework time more efficiently by encouraging them to “power down” their distractions (TVs, cell phones, music, etc.) for one hour each night. We have seen dramatic improvement in the quality of work (and reduced time spent) when students exhibit the self-discipline necessary to create a quiet, appropriate work space for themselves.

Do you want to increase the probability of your teen’s success in high school? Helping to facilitate a Power Hour might be one great way to foster self-discipline in your child.

Traditional, narrow definitions of intelligence are falling by the wayside in many once-successful educational communities. Each year that I teach, I discover more and more students who are “smart” in one way or another. These multiple intelligences have to be deliberately recognized and celebrated in our young learners. Last year in my ninth grade pre-algebra class, it became clear to me that three of the lowest-achieving math students in the room were among the top three when it came to empathy and interpersonal skills. Successful students routinely demonstrate star qualities like these in (and outside of) school.

Do you want to increase the probability of your teen’s success in high school? Look for and praise your children when they exhibit their own unique ways of “being smart”.

Each class your child attends is financially supported by someone or some agency. With guided support from parents and teachers, successful students get their money’s worth!

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