Keep Learning, Keep Growing

It seems amazing that 2021 is drawing to a close. And what a year it has been, filled with both triumphs and challenges, happiness and sadness, joy and frustration, positives and negatives. It’s up to each of us to decide which parts of the year we want to hold on to and revisit, and which parts we want to release and forget. Are you learning from the past year? Or are you running from it?

As I reflect on the year, I like to assess what I have learned this year to keep pace with our ever-changing times. As creatures of habit, we often find new ways or change difficult simply because they are different. But I have tried to … >>>


Focus on Strengths to Enhance Learning

We all have strengths and weaknesses. Which is better to focus on for learning and success? Should we strive to improve our weaknesses no matter what? Or should we accept our shortcomings and simply focus on our strengths to achieve success and happiness?

In our society, we are trained in a deficit model—to fix what is wrong. And, in a very real sense, our attention is geared at fixing others. This is true both in school and in the workplace. So many performance reviews at work gloss over the employee’s strengths and instead focus on “areas for improvement.”

We see this in education as well. For example, after a meeting with teachers, the student said to his mother, “Why didn’t … >>>


Don’t Worry About Grade-Level Expectations

With many schools around the country resuming classes—either in person or virtually—we are hearing a lot of talk about grade-level expectations and how today’s new reality may affect them. Parents, in particular, fear that their children may be “behind” since missing part of the previous school year.

The fact is that our current school systems are founded on a series of grade-level expectations that certain learning goals should be achieved by a certain age or year in school. Yet there is no reason to suspect that the brain pays attention to those grade level or age expectations. In reality, young people of the same age show a great deal of intellectual variability.

These differences can profoundly influence classroom performance. For … >>>


Focus on Collaboration to Help Students Succeed

Collaboration is the key to lifelong success. In fact, if we want our children to succeed in school and later in life, we need to shift our mindset in how we educate them.

Knowing this, here’s an important message for both parents and teachers: Just taking in information is not learning. Retention requires review, reflection, and (with a skill) practice. Force-feeding students more and more information at younger and younger ages is not the answer. Rather, we need to focus on understanding, mastery, and most important, collaboration.

Why is Collaboration so Important for Learning?

Outside of schooling, the importance of teamwork is absolute because people work collaboratively.

It is ironic that in schools the emphasis is on performance of the … >>>


What’s the Future of Education? Look to the Past for Answers

No doubt you’ve heard of John Dewey, the American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Even today, he is regarded as one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.

Dewey died in 1957 at age 92 in New York City. My guess is that if he were alive today, he’d be appalled at the educational landscape (and I like to think he’d be a proponent of The Levels of Development and the Discipline Without Stress methodology).

He taught for three years but struggled with the expectation that he should be a knuckle-rapping disciplinarian. That wasn’t how he viewed education.

After posts at the University … >>>


Reflection Prompts Learning

Learning something new is always challenging, especially if you’ve always done something one way or are convinced your inefficient way is correct. This is true of both adults and children.

Here is an example: A third/fourth grade teacher asked me the following question: “What do you say to a student who thinks his answers are ALWAYS correct even when I prove he is wrong by giving examples of the correct math solutions and by other students demonstrating the correct answers by their methods?”

I responded:

ALWAYS keep in mind that the person who asks the question controls the situation.

The only way this child will change is by having him continually reflect. With reflection comes learning and change. The skill … >>>


5 Ways to Promote Learning

We all want our children and students to do well in school. But there is a big difference between memorizing facts and true learning. Unfortunately, because of the proliferation of standardized tests, many students are merely memorizing facts for a short period rather than engaging in real lifelong learning.

The good news is that you can help students make meaningful connections between what they study in school and what happens in real life. A good start is to have young people learn the Levels of Development.

Here are 5 tips parents and teachers can use to promote learning in today’s youth.

1. Self-testing and asking “Why” questions are excellent ways to improve learning. To see if a student truly … >>>


Student Awards and Rewards: What Works and What Doesn’t

I often say that doling out student awards and rewards is counterproductive. However, I must also say that I don’t condemn ALL student awards and rewards. Allow me to explain.

As a former instructional coordinator, I have come to the conclusion that awards ceremonies are counterproductive for LEARNING—especially when so many young people never find themselves in the winner’s circle and would therefore prefer to drop out rather than compete.

When it comes to learning, collaboration is much more effective. When people collaborate, they do not compete.

However, as a former high school athletic coordinator, I do believe in award ceremonies for athletics and other competitive activities such as spelling bees, high school band competitions, and academic decathlons THAT ARE … >>>


Make Learning Less Stressful

Many people find it challenging to separate themselves from what others may think about them. This is especially the case when it comes to learning. We can see this play out in classrooms and workplaces every day. Both children and adults are afraid to make a mistake when learning something new, and as a result they prefer not to take chances, not to speak up with new ideas, and not to stretch beyond their current comfort zone. Doing so is simply too stressful.

But consider this: generally, people are not embarrassed to make mistakes when learning a musical instrument. They don’t give up when they play a wrong note on the piano—or in my case the Great Highland Bagpipes.

The … >>>


Spark the Joy of Learning

Many teachers and parents often ask me how they can instill a joy of learning in children who seem to hate school. Since it’s true that you teach someone something they don’t want to learn, the question then becomes, “How can you create interest so that the young person will WANT to do what you would like?” In other words, how can you spark the joy of learning? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Let the youngster know that you understand how he or she feels and that you will make no attempt to change the youngster’s feelings. (This approach is often referred to as paradoxical in that as soon as you indicate you will not do anything, the person very
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Tom Sawyer does what behaviorism, such as PBIS, can never accomplish

Tom Sawyer was a better psychologist than any behaviorist. Behaviorism relies on external approaches to control. In contrast, Tom inspired others to whitewash Aunt Polly’s nine feet high, 30 yards long fence. Here is how he did it—using an approach that behaviorism NEVER considers.

On the Saturday morning Tom was engaged in the project, Ben was on his way to the swimming pool and commented to Tom, “What a shame you have to work on Saturday.”

Tom replied, “This is not work. Work is something you are obliged to do.

Besides, I don’t think there may be one, maybe two in a thousand who can do the work the way Aunt Polly wants it done. She’s not too particular about … >>>


Make High Grades Meaningful for Students

For some students, earning high grades is an incentive. These students are very much interested in receiving good grades. However, some students are not interested in achieving high grades. Here is an example of how grades serve as an incentive:


My name is George H. Orfe, and I am the principal who told you the story of the boy and the $5 his father gave him for each “A” grade. You asked that I relate the story to you. Here it is.

I had a father of a fifth grader who gave his son $5 for each A on his report card. The first marking period the child received eight A’s and $40 from his father. The second marking

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Get Students to Do Homework

How do you get students to do homework? That’s one of the most common questions I receive from teachers and parents alike.

Recently a 4th-grade teacher contacted me. He said that he was having a tough time getting his students to complete their homework. He believed in the Discipline Without Stress methodology and didn’t want to go back to the old way, where he would deduct points from the students’ overall grade if they failed to turn in homework (which was what his colleagues were urging him to do). This smart teacher knew there had to be a better way to get his students to do homework. But what?

How to Get Kids to Do Homework

I told him to … >>>


One of the Most Effective Teaching Methods

Effective teaching methods aren’t just for teachers. They’re for anyone who needs to transfer information or knowledge to another person.

Teaching someone (whether old or young) new information can be a challenge. Have you ever tried explaining something to someone and felt like you must be speaking a different language? Perhaps the person was obviously confused or had a blank stare on their face. What can you do to make transferring information and knowledge easier?

The message of modern memory research is that the brain is wired to recognize and organize CONNECTIONS and that rote memorizing is usually ineffective. In other words, people are more likely to retain new information when they can relate it to what they already know.… >>>


The Quest for Perfection

Striving for perfection has plagued many people. Recently a parent wrote to me the following: “My oldest son is very good at math but resistant to practicing his language arts. The source of his problem seems to be that he feels he is not ‘the best’ or ‘perfect’ in this area. I explained to him that he needed to allow himself to learn using an example of how I would need to learn if I wanted to fly an airplane. While I will continue these efforts at home, I would like to also send him to a tutor who employs your techniques. Do you have a list of tutors or teachers who use your methods?”

My Response about Perfection

I … >>>


Learning and Memory

Learning and memory are acutely intertwined. When you’re trying to learn new information, think in terms of mastering small chunks rather than an entire course or concept. Why? Because the typical human brain can hold only about seven pieces of information (in contrast to experiences) for less than 30 seconds. If you need to remember information for longer than a few minutes or even a few hours, you will need to continually re-expose yourself to it. That’s simply how learning and memory work.

Neuroscientists refer to this as “maintenance rehearsal.” This is a form of remembering information that involves focusing on an object without thought to its meaning or its association with other objects. For example, when you repeat a … >>>


How to Help Struggling Students

Many teachers wonder what is the best way to help struggling students. These same teachers reveal that they often have to re-teach information to students. Doing so can be time-consuming and frustrating. Fortunately, there is a better way. It’s called pre-teaching.

Pre-teaching is often more effective and positive than re-teaching, and it is one of the best ways to help struggling students. This approach requires a shift in thinking and some pre-planning, but it does not necessarily require any more time than would be spent to help a less capable student who has not learned the material.

Pre-Teach to Help Struggling Students

We all know that no two students are alike. Some learn concepts very quickly, while others require more … >>>


Movement Improves Learning

movementThe human body was designed to move, which is why movement improves learning. People seem to be realizing this fact for adults, hence the movement for standing desks. But children need movement too! Expecting young people sit quietly for long stretches of time is not only bad for their health, but it also makes learning more difficult.

The more you have young people sit quietly and attend, the more opportunities you should give them to stand, stretch, and converse. Movement brings more oxygen to the brain; therefore, learning becomes more efficient. Additionally, many children are kinesthetic learners, meaning they need to have their body engaged and moving in order to comprehend and retain information.

If you are a teacher who … >>>