Private Tuition Blog: Archive for May 2011
Posted on 31st May 2011
The very powerful Joel Klein, ex chancellor of New York’s schools and current executive vice-president at News Corp foresees “a digital revolution in education”. Technology is rapidly taking over our lives in ever increasing ways, and according to Klein, it’s about to invade education, and to the extent that thousands of teachers may one day be replaced by computers.
Klein is part of a team developing and supplying ‘virtual classrooms’ and he has predicted that in a decade, children are likely to be spending more time learning at home on a computer than in a classroom at school.
Florida has already started experimenting with the technology and has a school known as the Florida Virtual School [FLVS]. The FLVS already has a staggering 100, 000 students, all of whom access lesson online. The students who use it are a mixture of those who don’t want to go or can’t go to school, and those who wish to take lessons in addition to their conventional school timetable. The FLVS is run by teachers and programmers in a building in the middle of a business park in Florida. However, the virtual lessons do not necessarily have to be run by teachers in the same country as their students, and Klein has suggested that one day teachers in other countries could upload lessons. Maybe one day teachers in India, Italy or Iceland may be posting lessons for students in Ipswich.
Advocates of the new system say that computer programs are excellent at figuring out a child’s educational needs, and therefore should be made available to students all over the world. However, I have a number of serious concerns about the notion of computers taking over from conventional schools. As a tutor I whole-heartedly believe in the importance of teachers and pupils being in the same room at the same time. Teaching is about more than just imparting knowledge, and a huge part of the job is boosting students’ morale and confidence, as well as offering pastoral advice and support. I don’t see how a computer can do this. Moreover, students who spend all day sitting at home behind a screen will not be able to make friends with fellow classmates, and they are also at risk of becoming overweight due to a highly sedentary lifestyle. Are we really happy to let children become lonely, unhealthy and lacking access to inspirational human beings in the name of technological ‘progress’?
Posted on 30th May 2011
A few months ago I came across an article in the Financial Times about how damaging too much praise can be for a child. ‘’Surely not’! I exclaimed (to myself and silently in my head, but hopefully this will effectively communicate my surprise).
The article discussed how parents’ attitudes towards their children have changed in the last 50 years: while parents used to refer to their offspring as ‘little rotters’ or some other mildly insulting, albeit affectionate term, apparently now parents lead their children to believe that they are little princes and princesses who are constantly being told how brilliant they are.
What happened to old-fashioned discipline and hard work? It seems that discipline got lost among a wave of parents who, instead of only rewarding their children when they have done something exceptionally well, are constantly showering them with praise and permitting them to do whatever they please, whenever they please.
Only yesterday I read another article about why we shouldn’t constantly praise children. The reasons make perfect sense to me…
1. Praise will stop working. Dole out too much, and it won’t be effective when you need it to be. It will also cease to seem sincere.
2. Children who are constantly being told how brilliant they are may develop an over inflated sense of self confidence and become precocious and superior in their attitude towards their peers
3. Indiscriminate praise will reduce all efforts and achievements to the same level. Save it up for when a child does really well and they will genuinely feel that they have done something special.
I have been thinking about how this philosophy of only praising children when they have done something particularly well can be transferred to the classroom. Instead of saying that every piece of work a student produces is a masterpiece, their effort should be rewarded (if they have tried hard), and points for achievement should be saved for work that is exceptionally good. Students need to learn that what is important is trying their best and making praise harder to attain will hopefully make them want and work for it more. Of course I don’t think we should be draconian in our attitude to children, but being considerate and thoughtful about when to offer high praise may well do them a great deal of good.
Posted on 27th May 2011
Next week is half term, although it may feel more like ‘just a few days without exams and time to do more revision’ than an actual holiday. Half term is a good time to take stock during the middle of your exams. It should act as a little breather, and a good opportunity for you to work out how best to go forward in the following weeks.
Take a moment to think through the exams you have done so far. Did you have timing issues? Were you hungry during the exam? Did you forget to bring the right materials? Make a list of all the things that could have been improved on so that you know how to do better next time. Or maybe things have been going really well and you can think of what you did to make yourself feel calm and confident.
Half term is also a good time to catch up on some revision. Maybe you’ve still got quite a bit of learning to do for subjects which are being examined later on and so you’ve neglected them a bit so far. From all of your revision over the past few weeks, you should have gained an understanding of what works best for you. Perhaps you revise best with some classical music playing, or when you draw lots of diagrams. Make sure you use this time really well and focus on what you know you need to learn.
You should also use next week to take a bit of a break and have a rest. See your friends, go to the park, or maybe catch an exhibition at a gallery You don’t want to keep working so hard that you burn out, so it is important to take it easy every now and again, as long as you revise efficiently when you are working.
Don’t forget that you can still get in touch with us for help. It isn’t too late to improve your chances of success in the remaining exams. If you are struggling with revision or just want someone to talk things through with, then give Enjoy Education a ring and we’ll do our best to help.
Posted on 26th May 2011
To make a change from writing about the exam period, I thought it was time to think about life beyond June. It’s hard to believe that the relentless exams will come to an end, but you have to trust that they will and that life goes on afterwards!
Watching The Apprentice last night got me thinking about job interviews and applications and I think we can learn a great deal from the aspiring Lord Sugars who appear on our screens every Wednesday at 9pm.
The contestants all have a great deal of self-confidence, which is fantastic because you need to have faith in yourself, but you also need to make sure that unlike some of the contestants, you don’t appear to be too arrogant. Finding the right balance is tricky. You need to have an awareness of what your skills are and what you can offer, but also be humble and acknowledge that you have weaknesses too.
A tip we can definitely take from the contestants is how motivated they are and how many of them have set up their own businesses. If you think you have a good idea, then why not try and pursue it? You may be able to create your own job, and future employers will be impressed that you took the initiative to start something yourself.
You should also make sure you look smart when you go to an interview. Turning up in jeans and trainers will not give a good impression at all. Boys should wear a suit with a nicely ironed shirt and girls should pick something equivalent. Don’t wear too much jewelry or make up, and ensure that your hemline isn’t too short, as you don’t want to show off too much flesh.
Probably the main thing that The Apprentice has reminded me of though, is the importance of attention to detail and the use of common sense. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has shouted at the television screen when the contestants are making really obvious and silly mistakes. Whatever you are doing, try and remember to think about things logically and in a detailed manner, and that way you should avoid getting fired!
Posted on 25th May 2011
The economic forum OECD has completed a decade-long study into the behaviour of pupils around the world. It looked at how often classes were disrupted and also how long it took pupils to quieten down during lessons.
Although we may think that classroom behaviour is getting worse, on the whole, it seems to be improving, and according to the study, teenagers are less likely to be disruptive in class now than they were ten years ago.
So who behaves the best?
Asian countries dominated the top ten, closely followed by eastern European regions. The UK came in at number 28, above average, but behind America and Germany. Although we did do better than France and Italy.
The top ten list is as follows:
Hong Kong – China
The most disruptive classes in the world can be found in Finland, Argentina and Greece.
Within the UK itself there is a clear correlation between the social background of the pupils and their behaviour. The 25% of schools with the most advantaged pupils were in the top 25% in terms of behaviour, and the 25% with the most disadvantaged pupils had the most disruptive classes.
A class full of rowdy teenagers is unfair on the teacher who is trying to do their job, (which should not be policing, but teaching), it is unfair on the pupils who do actually want to learn and the disruptive students are undermining their own chances of success. Although behaviour seems to be getting better on the whole, more must be done to improve the situation and level out thedifferences between schools. Hopefully next time there’s an international study into behaviour, the UK will be in the top ten!
Posted on 24th May 2011
The child health journal Acta Paediatrica has published research carried out at Essex University into the fitness of children today compared with a decade ago. Today 10-year-olds have less muscle strength, can do fewer sit-ups and are less able to hold themselves up on monkey bars. Compared with ten years ago, the average arm strength has dropped by 26% and the number of sit-ups a child can do has fallen by 27.1%. Levels of childhood obesity are on the rise and children are spending more and more time on the sofa and playing video games and less and less time playing outside.
As a tutor I am a huge believer in the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ principle and I always encourage my students to go out for a run or take a dance class or two when they are busy working hard in order to help them to stay focussed and energetic. As well as causing a huge strain on the NHS, allowing children to become overweight and unhealthy will be detrimental to their futures.
In addition to the increase of video and computer games, another cause for children’s decreasing levels of physical activity is the paranoia of sports coaches and teachers who are scared of being responsible for children’s safety. The Sunday Times reported last week that hundreds of sports coaches are “reluctant to grab [children] away from danger for fear of being accused of sexual abuse”. The rules about codes of conduct when looking after children vary according to each sport’s governing body, and so the lack of continuity can get confusing. Of course teachers and coaches should be mindful of whether or not it is appropriate to touch a student, but if they are in a situation where they are in grave danger and need rescuing, then the child’s safety absolutely must come first.
The recent research findings have highlighted how important it is that we encourage children to do more exercise, and the fear of teachers and coaches needs to be addressed. Training and rules need to be put in place that will protect both the teachers and the students.
Posted on 23rd May 2011
The impact of the government’s decisions to raise tuition fees is already having an immensely negative impact on students. Unprecedented numbers of students are applying for university places this year in order to try an avoid paying the higher fees and this means that competition is higher than ever.
Examinations are stressful enough as it is, but knowing that your grade may determine whether you have around £10 000 or £30 000 of tuition fees to pay off (and that’s before you consider living expenses) after your degree, has pushed many students to extreme levels of an anxiety.
This year 583, 501 applicants are chasing roughly 400, 000 places. The fear of rejection is driving thousands of teenagers to seek psychological help from doctors and councillors. The mental health charity YoungMinds has reported that 39% of their most recent 900 calls from 16-17 year olds have been about examination related stress, whereas last year the figure was only 27%. The charity has also announced that they are receiving increasing numbers of calls from worried parents who are concerned about the health of their children.
Adolescence is a difficult time and teenagers already have a great deal on their plates. Such extreme levels of stress can surely not be good for their mental health in the long term. In some schools, pupils have started taking prescribed medication to help them to cope. Turning to medication like this at such a young age also strikes me as a great cause for concern.
If you are a student currently taking examinations, and are feeling the pressure, don’t suffer alone. There are lots of support networks in place to offer you advice. Speak to your school nurse for advice about whom you can ask for help. It is also vital to keep things in perspective. Examinations are important, but they are not the end of the world. The most you can do is to try your best, and one of the ways you can do that is to try and have a sensible attitude towards the next few weeks.
Posted on 20th May 2011
Exam season is in full swing and so I thought it was time to give you some tips for maximising your chances of success at the last minute.
The night before:
-Look through your revision notes once or twice, but don’t spend hours trying to cram. The knowledge should all be settled into your brain by now (if you have already done plenty of careful revision over the past few weeks) and this is just to go over the details and make sure you feel secure about what you’ve learnt.
-Have a good supper. You might not feel terribly hungry in the morning due to nerves, so eating well on the night before is essential. Have a well-balanced meal with a good mix of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. Maybe you could even cook the meal yourself. Doing something practical will help to distract you from your nerves.
-Double check what time your exam starts and where it is.
-Get everything ready for the next day. You may need to assemble your pencil case, find your statement of entry and set an alarm for the morning.
-Take some time to relax. Have a bath with some delicious scented bubbles, watch a film or read a few chapters of a novel.
-Go to bed early to try and get a good night’s sleep. You will limit your chances of being able to focus effectively in the exam if you are feeling tired.
-Wake up early so that you have plenty of time to get ready.
-Have a refreshing shower and wear clothes that are comfortable but make you feel confident. You don’t want to be too hot or cold in the exam room, nor do you want to feel lethargic through association by wearing the tracksuit you usually wear for slobbing in front of the TV.
-Try and eat a good breakfast that will give you lots of energy. Sugary cereals won’t keep you full up all morning. Oats, yoghurt, bananas and nuts and seeds will be much better for you. Also drink some water to keep you hydrated.
-Arrive at school in plenty of time for the exam so that you can do everything that you need to do before it begins. Put your mobile phone safely in your locker, go to the loo and double check you have the right pens and materials (calculators, rulers, texts etc).
-When you are in your seat take some deep breaths to calm your nerves
-During the exam make sure you read the questions properly, keep an eye on the time and check that you haven’t made any silly mistakes before you hand in your paper.
Posted on 19th May 2011
According to the children’s organisation Unesco, the best way to measure a child’s potential for future success at school is to find out how much they read for pleasure. Alarmingly, there appears to quite a gap between how much boys read in comparison to girls, and this is having a negative impact on their literacy skills.
In 2010 an impressive 85% of girls aged 11 reached the expected level in English for their age group, whereas only 76% of boys were at the same level. When it came specifically to reading, 79% of girls were at the expected level, but only 64% of boys were.
The problems seem to stem from boys’ reluctance to read, which was exposed recently in a survey by the publishing company Pearson. Pearson asked 500 secondary school teachers to find out at what point in a novel boys’ attention switched off. 70% said that boys switched off by the 100-page mark, 25% said they switched off after a few pages, and 22% couldn’t persevere beyond 50 pages. Nearly a third of the teachers involved in the survey said that if boys saw that a book was longer than 200 pages then they couldn’t be bothered at all. As an English tutor, I find this mightily troubling.
Anything by Shakespeare or Jane Austen was on the list of texts most loathed by boys, which I think is terrible pity indeed. The Bard’s corpus is bursting with magnificent work, and Austen’s novels are exquisite; we should be doing our best to get boys to engage with these works.
So what’s the solution? Parents and teachers should encourage reading from a young age, do their best to find texts that boys are interested in, and then gradually broaden their tastes. I would be very strongly against only setting short novels at school in order to maintain boys’ interest. Instead, the length of texts should be built up step by step, but they must be carefully chosen. Teachers also have a responsibility to plan lessons that really help pupils to engage with what they are studying. Passionate teachers who are dedicated to their subject and committed to promoting engagement in literature are what schools need more of if literacy levels are to improve and boys are going to catch up with girls.
Posted on 18th May 2011
They have been called ‘the window to the soul’, but thanks to research by the University of East London, now we may also be able to learn a great deal of concrete information from children’s eyes. Scientists are using computers to track the movement of the eyes of children under the age of six in order to try and ascertain how their brains are work and how their attention fluctuates.
Eye tracking has been around for a while, and it is used a great deal. Market research companies, for instance, can use trackers to monitor the attention of consumers and then use the data to make decisions about products and advertising. However this is the first time such young children are being tracked in a large-scale study, and it could have a major impact on education.
The study has been heavily focussed on trying to understand how babies engage with their surroundings, and what sort of objects they tend to focus on most. So far, faces and clocks have come at the top of the list of the things they fixed their attention on most.
What is exciting about the research in terms of an educational context, is that we will be able to know what sort of social and speech stimuli children respond to best, and this could be transferred into the classroom environment. It may also mean that potential problems with language and social perception could be addressed and attended to as early as possible.
I whole-heartedly believe in putting the student at the centre of their education, and focussing their lessons on their individual needs. One size does not fit all, and hopefully this research will help lead us towards greater attention being paid to each particular pupil.