student teacher


Are teachers better off in conservative or liberal states at retirement?
By National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Ringleaders/al.html

Most public school districts have a retirement plan that is based on your income as an educator. Some base it on your highest salary and some of the best three years. Obviously, salaries change and so do the politics and so the chart I have made reflects those salaries from the National Education Association (NEA) and are fairly current.

The data does not reflect the living costs in each state. The cost of living certainly is going to eat up more of your pay check to live in some areas of California over those in Nebraska. However, this study was not designed with that as a criteria because some teachers may want to retire in another state which may have a higher or lower cost of living. Thus, if you are looking for good salary and, perhaps, willing to move, this chart may be of significance knowing that in the next few years there is going to be a lot of jobs as the Baby Boomers move into retirement and leave significant openings for new hires. Some states may require a few more courses to gain your accreditation in that state, but those courses are tax deductible and the cost of the move may be deducible as well. It is best to check with your tax person.

The first consideration is to ask yourself does it pay (income wise) overall to work in a conservative state. Well, not really. Here is what A GALLUP poll lists as the most conservative states. I have added that states average and starting salary from the NEA site as well. However, most salary data is a couple of years old. Nevertheless, the average percentages should remain similar.

Here is the salary information for the most conservative states (starting-average)

Alabama
$36,198
$47,949
North Dakota
$32,019
$47,344
Wyoming
$43,269
$56,775
Mississippi
$31,184
$41,814
Utah
$33,081
$49,393
Oklahoma
$31,606
$44,373
Idaho
$31,159
$49,734
Louisiana
$38,655
$51,381
Arkansas
$32,691
$46,631
Nebraska
$30,844
$48,997

Here is the salary information for the most liberal states (starting-average)

Massachusetts
$40,600
$72,334
Oregon
$33,549
$57,612
Vermont
$35,541
$52,526
Delaware
$39,338
$59,679
Connecticut
$42,924
$69,397
Washington
$36,335
$52,234
Rhode Island
$39,196
$63,474
Hawaii
$41,027
$54,300
New York
$43,839
$75,279
California
$41,259
$69,324
New Jersey
$48,631
$68,797
Maine
$31,835
$48,430

Average starting salary conservative states $34,00* average salary $48,200*
Average starting salary liberal states $39,900* average salary $61,000*

Retirement differences

Although these figures may no longer be accurate, they do provide insight into the averages a teacher may expect. As for retirement numbers, studies have shown that when a teacher retires after 30 years their retirement is typically in the 60 and 75 percent of her final salary range.

It does not take long to see that those working in the liberal states not only make more money to start, but are going to make significantly more when retiring. A teacher working in a conservative state who retires with an above average salary of $50,000 should get a retirement check of $30,000. A teacher in a liberal state making a slightly below average of $60,000 would get $36,000 based on 60 percent. In California, for example, the majority of teachers are getting in the range of $55,000 to $70,000 a year.

I did not factor in Social Security as the Windfall Elimination Factor can deprive teachers of the full payment they should have received while working jobs that require Social Security deductions. The Windfall Elimination can eliminate 66 percent of their retirement from Social Security even though they have paid for it over the years. That is why teachers who have been in other occupations for a significant amount of time might want to look at how much they are going to lose by becoming a teacher in those states where the Windfall is in play. It could cost them thousands of dollars a month.

There is no way to factor in cost of living for various cities. However, there is a site that helps you with this http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/. I compared Bismark, North Dakota to Los Angeles, California. The cost of living in Bismark was $50,000 and for Los Angeles $67,000. The average salary for a teacher in North Dakota was about $47,000. The average salary for a teacher in Los Angeles was $59,000. A budgeting teacher in Bismark could break even, but the Los Angeles teacher needs to find a second income. However, when it is time to retire, the California teacher is going to have $36,000 coming in and the North Dakota teacher under $30,000. Essentially, $500 a month more and the truth of the matter is that it could be far more with $100,000 teacher salaries in California for teachers with over 30 years of experience becoming commonplace.

Bottom Line

If you are free to live anywhere, willing to adopt to new surroundings and requirements, you might want to consider working in a liberal state and retiring in a conservative one. Indeed, some states don’t tax Social Security and others don’t have an income tax. It is a difficult choice to move from the known to the unknown. The best advise I can give is that after you have done your homework, after you have made your decision to start a new life in a new state remember that wherever you go, there you are so know yourself.
* Figures are rounded off and may not be current.

Resources for National Hispanic* Heritage Month
By National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
http://www.findingdulcinea.com/features/profiles/h/alan-haskvitz.html

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, America observes National Hispanic Heritage Month. This observation began in 1968 as National Hispanic Heritage Week, but it was expanded in 1988 to include the entire month-long period. To help educators and parents with this observance, I have put together free resources to help undestand the significance of the month and tie it in with Common Core reading and writing reqirements.

One of the official sites
http://www.hispanicheritagemonth.org/

Latino-Hispanic Heritage
http://www.42explore2.com/latino.htm

Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month
http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/heritage_month/hhm/index.html

Hispanic Heritage Resources for Teachers
https://www.teachervision.com/hispanic-heritage-month/south-america/6629.html

Hispanic Heritage Music Resources
You may be asked to register.
https://www.teachervision.com/hispanic-heritage-month/resource/20161.html

Other lessons related to Hispanic history
The Aztecs – Mighty Warriors of Mexico
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/aztecs-mdash-mighty-warriors-mexico

Aztecs Find a Home: The Eagle has Landed
A unit of study about the founding of the Aztecs capital, Tenochtitlan
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/aztecs-find-home-eagle-has-landed

Conquistadors
A encompassing view of how Europeans controlled the natives.
http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/theconquistadors/tp/08conquistadors.htm

Cortez and the Aztecs: Different Points of View
Great for Common Core lessons
http://historyclassroom20.wikispaces.com/file/view/less-mayaztec1.pdf

Couriers in the Inca Empire
A lesson about the communications of the time period. For elementary age students.
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/couriers-inca-empire-getting-your-message-across

Teaching with Historic Places
Excellent site with a v ariety of lessons from the National Park Service
http://www.nps.gov/search/?affiliate=nps&query=hispanic

Culture and History Through the Use of Children’s Literature – This site has three simple lesson plans to provide examples of what can be done for this month using literature as a base. Not for everyone.
http://www.cis.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1997/2/97.02.06.x.html#i

Hispanic Culture and People
Andes Manta – From the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge celebration of Latin American arts
http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/multimedia/series/VideoStories/andes-manta.aspx

Students can create own clickable map of Mexico
http://createaclickablemap.com/create-clickable-map-mexico.php?maplocation=mexico

Some Famous Hispanic Scientists
http://coloquio.com/famosos/science.html
And
http://www.factmonster.com/spot/hhmbio4.html

Latin America Data Base
Good resoucres for creating Common Core math lessons
http://ladb.unm.edu/

Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo Activities 
Large number of lessons
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/cinco-de-mayo/

Mr. Donn’s Cinco de Mayo Lessons
Large variety of lessons for all age levels
http://holidays.mrdonn.org/cincodemayo.html

History of Mexican Independence Day
http://teacherlink.ed.usu.edu/tlresources/units/byrnes-celebrations/mid.html

*Full Definition of HISPANIC
1.of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal
2. of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent living in the United States; especially :  one of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin
http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Dealing with Hate in the Classroom
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Almost every classroom has incidents where a prevailing moment reveals hate. This is not unusual, but it is a teachable moment. A very teachable moment for the parent or educator willing to take the time to consider the various cause and effects aspects and act accordingly. This is where experience pays. In many cases the issue has surfaced previously and the actions taken at that time may have worked, if nothing else by pure luck. However, the speediest method is to gloss over the episode, push the incident into the future, and move on with the lesson at hand.

It is important to note that criticism is not hate. One of the most counterproductive comment is that a criticism of something is being negative. Nothing could be further from the truth. Calling someone negative may make the caller feel better, as name calling frequently does, but in fact, the name caller is the one being negative. Criticism is meant to improve something. It may not be accurate, but it is certainly needs to be carefully studied as it roots can reveal a great deal about how others see an issue and fresh viewpoints can result in positive improvements. There is a quote by Robert Ingersloll. We Rise by Lifting Others that reads, “Being critical means one cares.” That being said, negativity may just be the result of not being able to see another person’s point of view. In A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy there is a segment where a gun is revealed whose sole purpose if to fire at someone and inflict on them the ability to see things from the gunner’s point of view. A very valuable weapon. I am sure that every teacher would own one for classroom use.

Hating is something difficult to evade. For example, if you are a good teacher and someone acknowledges that there may be another who feels he or she is just as good they could turn that feeling into hate. A great deal of hate can be traced to someone being jealous of another and seeing that individual’s success as not deserved. Something as simple as someone getting a better grade can result in negative, hateful remarks. Being successful nurtures hate. Call it human nature. Even those who profess religious tolerance and obedience have difficulty avoiding hatred. Here are several quotes from the Bible about hate
http://www.openbible.info/topics/hate

This is not to delve into the freedom of speech quandary over hate. That is another issue. This essay is about how to deal with hate based on your background and those of the individuals involved to the best of your ability. To mention the fact that dealing with hate is complex is an understatement. At best dealing with hate in a productive manner can nullify, perhaps for the moment, hate and turn it into a lesson that others may benefit from. In other words, a teachable moment.

The number one rule when dealing with hate is that although it is universal, it is not universal. In other words, not everyone hates someone or something, but someone is going to hate. Indeed, that is what makes people so attuned to it. You can have 35 students in your classroom but the one who hates you is the one who gets your attention. And since hate is usually learned, it may well mean that his or her parents may also support that hate. So your ignore the good and turn to the squeaky wheel that needs attention . So rule number one is to confront the issue by trying to find out the cause. That does not mean you have to agree with the cause, but you need to understand what caused it before you react. One of the most dramatic causes is that haters may feel that they are the center of the world. It revolves around them and this may well be fermented and brewed at home. At school it can be a leading cause of bulling. Bullying is essentially a display of hate for others that must be learned behavior. Babies are not born with it, to the best of my knowledge. Bullying is encouraged by those whose self-esteem is built upon expressing their disdain for others. It could be a fear of being low man on the totem pole or the belief that putting someone down enables their status and enables them a step up on their self-esteem chart. Thus is it imperative that you find out the cause of the hate by asking the hater for his or her feelings on the manner. They may not know why, but by opening their eyes to the possible results of their actions it may stop hating in the future. I broke up a student fight one day and after pulling the two participants apart asked them what caused it. One boy said the other deserved it. The other boy had no idea what caused it. I warned and dismissed them with the usual warning. I didn’t make it a teachable moment. I regret that now. What if I would have sat down with both of them to get to the bottom of the disagreement? Maybe nothing would be resolved, but at least they would understand each other better and I wouldn’t have to get my Hitchhiker gun.

Lesson number two is not to let hate get the better of you. Google fight reveals that there are 100 negative student comments to one positive comment. Although not clearly an academic study, it does reveal that is negative clearly gets more attention. I had an assistant superintendent of instruction who didn’t like me at all despite my successes or, perhaps, because of them. When I was being interviewed for a mentor position she asked me what day would be best. I said that Wednesday wouldn’t be good for me knowing that I had classes on the other days. She told me that Wednesday was the only day she could make it. I told her I would try and make arrangements. I took great pride on how I didn’t let her hate get the better of me. Of course I was rejected, but her use of her position enabled her to do so and left me powerless overall. This is the same bullying that rears its ugly head when students who are viewed as more popular use their “power” to regale others with negative views. Learning how to deal with hate sometimes requires a support group, but always requires the individual learn how to cope without endangering themselves mentally or physically.

Lesson number three is to not underestimate the danger of hate. It lingers and can cause damage to all concerned. Glossing over even something as simply as name calling can manifest itself in lifetime of harm and thoughts of retaliation. Indeed, there is a clear need for a battle plan for dealing with hate. First, invest in a good anti-bullying campaign such as http://beyondbullies.org/ and use it for the entire school. Using peers is always best as there is inherit mistrust of adults by some. Secondly, there should be a procedure to follow and it should be part of a staff development plan. First, investigate the cause or causes. Secondly, don’t make judgments. Third, don’t blame. Fourth, support both parties by educating them to the potential impact of their acts. Fourth, make a time line to follow up with those involved. Don’t let the matter drop. Finally, see how widespread this hate might be. Talking to students without naming names can provide depth.

Often time the problem with finding the cause of hate isn’t easy to ascertain. Online videos of students who have been bullied or the victim of hate are shown and yet students frequently miss the point. They think it was terrible, no doubt, especially if the featured child commits suicide. But they don’t understand that people react differently to hate. Was it the child’s fault that he or she couldn’t “take it?” Studies of the impact of hate on an individuals all point to its negative and dangerous nature. What is missing is what should have been done to stop it. There are many instances where a student or parent complained to the school and nothing was done. Unfortunately, it was probably because those involved were too busy, thought they had solved the problem, or wanted the problem to go away. So the final rule is get feedback and act on it. I would suggest that dealing with bullying and hate be part of standardized testing. Having students read about it and write conclusions clearly fits into Common Core standards and yet such reading lessons are non-existent at present.

Last rule: You must do an anti-hate/bullying program school wide using a quality program. Everyone must be involved from classified to certified in the training. Changing attitudes is not a one assembly or staff development program. That is why it is critical to have administration support such causes with time and funding. A district wide policy would be even more effective. Using student mentors is essential as well. And, to gain the maximum benefit the program should give students the opportunity to write about concerns and learn how to deal with them. The program should develop a cadre of students who are trained to help curtain hate and bullying.

Conclusion: Haters are going to hate. They get satisfaction from that and the notoriety may provide the support they need to continue to spread hate. When you see images, read articles, and listen to rhetoric against groups or individuals by adults you have to question what happened to them in life and in school that empowered them to be so hateful. Perhaps just one teacher’s caring remarks and follow up might have made the difference. Regardless, the issue of dealing with hate should be part of every teacher preparation program and every district’s mission statement. There are rules of behavior posted in nearly every school room and yet there are few posted about hate and bullying. Perhaps it is time to move dealing with hate up a notch in the curriculum hierarchy and treat it as a crime against humanity.

Making School l Elections Meaningful: A Relevant Civics Lesson
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/alan-haskvitz/featured/1

Almost every school has school or class elections with the idea of sharing the true nature of a democracy where everyone can vote. Usually those students who want to run create posters, give a speech, and come election day the results are tabulated and the winner announced. What I would suggest is to consider making it more representative teachable moment.

The Campaign

First, every one who wishes to run for office must meet certain requirements such as a 2.0 GPA. When the person signs-up to vote they are given an agreed upon number of poster paper and they are numbered and signed. They are accompanied by a list of where they can be placed and proper etiquette. In that way all the participants have an equal chance. There can also be interviews in the school newspaper, using the public address system for a fixed number of ads, and a speech that can video tapped to play on the school system, if it is enabled. The whole idea is to make the election fair and to promote creativity within set bounds.

Election Day

The next step takes place before the voting. Students line-up at registration tables where the school attendance folders are duplicated. Students sign by their name and are give a ballot. They have a day to consider the person they wish to vote for and the ballots are cast the following day. This means that some students who don’t care simply can’t vote because they didn’t take the time to register.

The Vote

After the election there is a registration process in which every student who wants to vote registers to vote and receives a ballot.

Integrating the Lesson

I also recommend having an art competition for the best campaign poster and one for the best slogan. The competition could even include the best campaign song. A panel could do the judging, teachers, or it could be on the ballot. In this way the election becomes more interesting to the students and gets them more involved. This site provides information on what is called the “youth vote.” It makes interesting reading, but it also provides more evidence to support educators who use voting as a teaching tool. Have students reach conclusions from this data:
http://collegestats.org/2012/09/25-facts-about-the-youth-vote-this-year/

Of course, integrating civics is a given. Here are some recommended websites that have good lessons to accomplish that goal:

National Student/Parent Mock Election
The best site to get involved.
http://www.nationalmockelection.org/

iCivics lessons
You can register, but it isn’t required. Some lessons are interactive.
https://www.icivics.org/teachers/lesson-plans/mock-election

Mock election link site
Pretty much everything is here, but it takes time to navigate.
http://www.ncwiseowl.org/ss/Citizenship/MockElections/Mock_Elections.htm

Scholastic
Lessons by grade level
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/unit/elections-everything-you-need

For federal elections
http://www.educationworld.com/a_special/election.shtml

Types of propaganda
Print out
http://shepherdenglish.pbworks.com/f/AdvertisementAssignment.pdf

An exceptional source of Constitutional related materials
A great newsletter, lots of lessons, and a knowledgeable staff.
http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/

Using vehicles to create student interest in math and Language Arts
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Using vehicles is an excellent way to motivate students and to help ready them for real life buying decisions. The following links deal with the various manufactures where students can write for information, obtain pricing information and to harvest compare and contrast data for Common Core related essays.

A listing of all DMV offices.
Finding the office that deals with your state and others can provide information on how old one needs to be to drive as well as the various license fee data that could be used for Common Core math problems. I have used driver manuals to motivate students to read.
http://www.dmv.org/

Data on fuel economy
This federal site would enable students to select a variety of vehicles and there fuel mileage. This could be used for math as well as to provide statistics for an essay on the best or worst type of vehicles in terms of fuel costs.
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

A link site to manufacturers who sell cars in America
http://search.ezilon.com/united_states/business/automotive/auto_manufacturers/

A listing of vehicle websites worldwide
http://autopedia.com/html/MfgSites.html

National Motorists Association
A great source of information on driving and the law.
http://www.motorists.org/

A listing of car value prices
A good place to find statistics for math problems about the prices of cars and motorcycles.
http://www.nadaguides.com/

Where cars are made by location
Great way to teach geography.
http://www.caranddriver.com/features/a-graphic-representation-of-whats-really-made-in-america-feature

Best Space and Astronomy Lesson Plans and Resources
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Space and astronomy are ways to get students interested in space and also enhance your ability to use lessons that require reading and math as per the Common Core requirements. With the anniversary of America’s First Space Walk (http://life.time.com/history/space-walk-nasa-edward-white-makes-history-june-1965/#1) nearly 50 years ago coming up in June it could be just the teachable moment to create interest in that event as well as research the future and make a case for where we will be in space in another 50 years.

Very few things get students interest as much as the future, especially when there can’t be a wrong answer. I even have toyed with the idea of placing their ideas in a time capsule and keeping it on campus until they day they return. Here are some tips if you are going to bury it: http://www.bl.uk/blpac/faqtime.html. I would prefer to just leave it in the school library where the students could check on its contents in future years.

There is another option and that is to have the student sent a time capsule to themselves in the future. You need to check what is going into the capsule, but is is more fun for the students and easier for them to access in the years ahead. http://www.mytimecapsule.net/

My students at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut have sent their ideas about the future to the Griffith Park Observatory for its time capsule to be opened at the arrival of the Halley’s come in 2062. Needless to say, I won’t be around for it and the students who created it are going to be in their 70’s, but the idea of it gave students the motivation to start thinking and that is what good education is about. http://articles.latimes.com/1985-11-01/local/me-865_1_time-capsule-griffith-observatory-halley-s-comet

Another lesson that I like to use to promote thinking is Space News (http://www.space.com/news). It offers students the opportunity to read interesting and factual stories and to use them as a starting place for their own science fiction writing.

Using images of space often gets students thinking about space travel and there is always the possibility of having students build their own rockets and fly them as the ground crew measures the altitude that they reach. http://www.scienceinschool.org/2012/issue22/rockets

I also like to have students looks at the Constellations from the perspective of those in the Northern Hemisphere and those in the Southern Hemisphere. Here is the Southern Hemisphere information http://www.dibonsmith.com/downunder.htm and here is the Northern Hemisphere information: http://www.windows2universe.org/the_universe/Constellations/north_constellations.html

Finally, having the students write and produce their own play about space is very motivating for them as they have to solve the problems of how to make the audience believe they are in space. The props could include fairly accurate drawing. Regardless of what method you use, the theme of space and astronomy are valuable lessons for students that can motivate them and work as a tool to make science, history, language arts, and math more interesting and meaningful.

Images from space
http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2010/09/eight-good-resources-for-space-science.html#.UyZ3OoU_TCs

NASA
Important of math in space travel
http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/topnav/materials/listbytype/Importance_of_Mathematics_in_Space_Exploration.html

This is the main NASA site
Some of the information may be of value. What is interesting for older students is the Pathways program signed into law by President Obama that enables students to work for NASA.
http://www.nasa.gov/

Discovery Education has a large offering of lesson plans.
http://www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers/free-lesson-plans/rocket-science.cfm

For younger students this Pinterest site may have some ideas that combine art, craft, and science.

Astronomy lessons
For every grade level. A fantastic collection.
http://osr.org/articles/great-space-and-astronomy-lesson-plan-ideas/

Remote sensing can be useful in studying numerous disciplines, from biology to ecology to geography. The material in Earth from Space therefore can be used to satisfy the requirements of many .
http://www.earthfromspace.si.edu/lesson_plans.asp

Space and Flight
High Interest stories
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/

Daily Science Fiction Short Stories
Allows the students to read and get ideas for their own creations.
http://dailysciencefiction.com/

Where you can submit good science fiction short stories
This is competitive, but worth a try.
http://www.mystorypage.com/submit.php

A free map of the sky
This is an intriguing site that the students might want to explore on their own.
http://www.astroviewer.com/index.php

The Most Difficult Student to Teach
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
http://www.findingdulcinea.com/features/profiles/h/alan-haskvitz.html

He was young, bright, and failing school.

A year after finishing the eighth grade he failed high school and was sent to a continuation school. There, I noticed his writing talent, gave him an old computer, and worked to get him into a small, high school program where he could get the attention he needed. I went to the principal of his school and told her of my plans. She was thrilled and brought him in to discuss the possibilities. The only thing he had to do was continue not be a discipline problem. The next day he got into a fight over a pencil. End of story.

He won. He liked his life. No expectations, no school related stress, and no fear of failure. This is the most difficult child to teach. The reasons are simple and complex. Unlike students who have been diagnosed with a learning concern, these students don’t have any measurable problems that can be ascertained by testing. They simply win by losing. They see a test not as a measurement of what they know, how to improve, and to guide future methods to help them, but as a waste of time that can only end badly if they try. They know they have the power to fail and it they do, it was of there own choosing. Some may call it passive aggressive, but it reality it all aggressive. They are in charge and let the devil take the hindmost. Within minutes they are done with the test and sit idly by trying not to draw attention. Bubble tests offer them the ability to make designs with the answer sheets. Essay tests enable them to write about issues that are not related to the subject, but make it look like they are working. Going to the bathroom requests are frequent and finding ways to hide and use cell phones provide the only challenge that a quiet room provides.

The results are no surprise to the parent, teacher, or student. Indeed, most schools advocate simplifying the requirements, giving the student extra help, and even after school detention. It is the latter that provides the most joy to the hardcore. For there they meet others who could care less. Not all the students, but he or she only needs one to rationalize their efforts and maximize the benefits of failing by providing socialization possibilities. By the end of high school, if they make it, the system has provided them with hundreds of hours of special help, thousands of dollars worth of remedial books and media, and has pushed them out into life. They have won even if they are not allowed to graduate because they have beaten the system. They remain in charge.

These students have made the legendary, “not working to potential” comment a staple on report cards and parent meetings. To the student this means they have ability and confirms what they have known all along. The amount of ability, the ability to show it, the ability to use it in a useful manner are all the teacher’s responsibility to measure and maximize.

This syndrome, if you will, is not just for low or average achievers, it is also for some of those labeled gifted. It is this latter group where this winning by losing is most evidence because some schools heap more work on those identified as high achievers. There is a dramatic difference between high achievers and those identified as gifted in some cases. The achiever loves the game and loves to win. The gifted student may just want to blend in or face the competition and simply does poorly. These students come in all shapes and flavors, but the one thing low achieving, highly gifted students have in common is the belief that in the end everything will be okay.

Many teachers have seen the same scenario, especially when students take tests. They know if they do well they are going to be challenged and, if the scores are high enough, even lose friends. Students know the game and play it well. I have seen them complete a two hour state test in 15 minutes with no regrets. When the results come in they shrug it off and return to the lifestyle they have learned to enjoy. No stress, no expectations, and best of all no need to change. Change is frightening and these students have found a way to avoid it and thus new challenges. They like their comfort and responsibilities aren’t a concern now that they have proven that they aren’t any good at meeting society’s expectations for them.

Smart? You better believer it. They have the system mastered. While other students are working away trying to prove they are the best, these students cliche together and enjoy themselves without the worries school usually provides. They have realized that if you do well you only court disappointment and they also fear losing control. Ironically, the only control they have over their future is to fail and using that method that don’t lose control. They can control their expectations and gain approval from their peers. Best of all they can shrug off that bright label and its expectations.

It is important to note that failure is not the student’s term, but one society places on them by grading them on things they don’t value. Not working to potential is an overworked term to imply that the individual in question has the same potential as others regardless of that individual’s self-imposed value.

Some students don’t fear success as much as they fear it’s ramifications. Doing well puts the onus on them to continue to do well, even improve. It also can cut into their social life and may even create a classic Catch 22. If I do well I shall have to do better and better. If I don’t do well I don’t have to stress.
High expectations aren’t for everyone. Some students just want to remain uncalled upon. “I don’t know” is their code word for don’t ask me anymore because I don’t want the attention good or bad. The goal is to hide among the masses.

The good news for students who fail to succeed is that they can capitalize on apathy and make it their stock and trade. When the test comes the student simply does not care. I am not good at math is an explanation they have learned works. Failing because one simply does not care is better then facing a challenge where the results of studying might be failure. It is better not to care and not be surprised. These students aren’t lazy, they work at not doing well. They have all the answers to avoiding it. “I forgot”, “I don’t understand”, and other rationalizations have worked for them. They simply do not have the courage to change. It isn’t self-esteem, it is a lack of understanding, foresight if you will, of the value of success to society. It has been said all students want to learn, but the reality is that they may not want to learn what you are offering. They want to count, but without a clear appreciation of what is at stake failure becomes acceptable. Let’s face it, a good grade means little these days. The difference between a B and a D isn’t worth staying up late and losing friends. To these students a D isn’t a disappointment, it is a victory. They didn’t fail and who really wants to be on the honor role anyway.

A common trait of these students is usually the fact that they are street smart, but have limited math and language art skills. As the school years went by they found themselves falling behind more and may have reached the conclusion that it really didn’t make any difference how well they did because they wouldn’t measure up. In many cases parents are also feed-up having tried several types of motivation without success. Parent-teacher conferences were tedious and repetitious with educators noting the lack of achievement and offering up a few suggestions all of which the parent had heard frequently.

Smart students don’t care if they pass or fail or fall somewhere in between. Threats of repeating the year hold little value to them. Worse, if they do fail next year’s teachers are probably going to have a student in their class who could be disruptive to the others and a behavior problem. Is the system going to fail them two years in a row? They know this won’t happen and so their goal just might be to get kicked out putting more pressure on the parent and a loss of income for the school.

Schools are caught in a quandary with these students. If they follow Piaget’s theory that they will learn when they are ready to learn and promote all students failure is not an option and threatening a student just makes them more hardened to such talk.

To overcome this consistent failure to buckle down to society’s standards requires a paradigm shift in education. Schools must learn to accept failure from some students and be willing to use it as a starting point. Failure is the leading cause of progress. To error is not failure, but a starting point. The only true failure in school is expecting that all students are the same. Hence standards based testing is essentially useless to these students. They don’t care. The problems that the system must solve are how to motivate them, how to measure this success, and how to justify this to the public.

To overcome the “I don’t give a damn” attitude requires some decisive action that may be out of the mainstream and thus expensive, time consuming, and frequently frustrating. If you follow the idea of multiple intelligences you cannot help but being struck by the fact that most people are better at some things. The problem is finding what they are better at and developing a plan to exploit this weakness in the bright child’s armor.
The student needs to be taught about themselves. Why? Because they may think that they are unique and their problems are different. The reality is that their problems might not be common place, but they are seldom unique. That does not mean they should be ignored, but they can benefit from learning about problems others have overcome. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s many failures. (http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/education/failures.htm)


Ways to Help Reach Them

I recommend that following plan when dealing with deliberate non-achievers. First, involve them in the decision making. Tomorrow we are going to read a story about people who burn books to keep others ignorant. Here is brief outline of Fahrenheit 451. Do you think the students would like to guess at what the title means before reading it or after? Engagement is crucial in motivation. Asking students to develop questions about the material and showing them how to create these questions is a plus. Giving the questions to other students to answer is also engaging.

Relate assignments to real life when possible. Books are being banned. Here is a list of them. How do you see the relationship between those who burn books and those who ban them? Is banning the book the same as having parental guidance on records? Write an essay on why such warnings are needed or not and when we are done we can write to a record industry official and see what they say.

This type of lesson can result in discussions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and helps feed the skeptical nature that some students have because they don’t feel empowered. Having lessons that can attempt to change society are very motivational to these students.

Learning from errors is what schools should be for. Remember, failure is the first step on the road to success. However, humor is also important. Bright non-achievers usually have an aversion to making errors and so they don’t try. Thus they feel they control the situation. It is the same tactic that students use when they reply that they don’t know to a question even if they do because they don’t want to get involved. This is why I recommend not using red markers and giving students a variety of ways to show they know the material. Some students might be motivated to improve by having their marks read out loud and some may be chagrined. The toughest students to teach don’t care and if they do well frequently say, “I didn’t even study” to assure their position at the bottom on the class.

These students have another universal code word and that is “boring.” Unfortunately, it is true. Most lessons taught are boring. There is very little that can be used to motivate a student outside of parent pressure, love of the subject matter, or desire to please someone, even the teacher. The latter is vital and the reason that good teachers are often subject to undue pressure brought about by students telling others whatever it takes to get them out of the class. Administrators essentially have a choice of believing the child and/or parent and the teacher. It is easier to move the student. The transfer seldom results in improved grades, but alleviates pressure and that is why the tough to teach student uses it. As for why a subject or lesson is boring is almost always because of two reasons. First, they see no need to know the material. Secondly, it requires too much effort. Students used to memorizing answers, asking friends what was on the test, and spending hours figuring out ways to cheat are seldom happy when confronted with something that is out of their control. Asking why that is the right answer or wrong answer is tough. Especially for those why rely on the “I don’t know” evasive reply.

In an attempt to avoid this the teacher might consider giving students a choice of lessons that teach the same subject matter. Sites such as Awesome Stories (https://www.awesomestories.com/) are prefect for this. The stories are high interest, plentiful, and provide a variety of ways to reach a goal. Proof of learning can also be expanded to include the traditional essay, writing online stories, Khan Academy website (https://www.khanacademy.org/) type tutorials where they teach others, songs, poetry, and more that transcend boring. Here are some examples based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (http://buhlercc.wikispaces.com/Bloom’s+Taxonomy) In my classroom I have students create museums, newspapers, miniature golf courses, tattooed arms, and musicals to allow students to show mastery of the subject.

Critical thinking is an interesting term in that the person has to have the knowledge to think critically before they can apply it. For example, a mechanic must find out why the engine does not work. Without a working knowledge of the engine their can be no critical thinking. That is why the hard to reach student must learn the value of being skeptical. When you add this to their usual positive response to the absurd you can develop students who start to look for the disconnects in lessons and society. I make fun of fairy tales, for example, and that usually gets them to start rethinking what has been accepted by them in the past. This contrarian point of view also works in math class as well. Giving students the answer a question and having them write the question results in their striving to apply their learning in ways that they have not experienced before.

Conclusion: I would suggest that winning by losing attitude is the prerogative of the student and to overcome this learned behavior requires changes in methodology and require a teacher to have patience and the ability to try different approaches. Time consuming, yes, but once mastered the lessons flow and the results are dramatic. Start slowly with these students by empowering them and inviting them to take part in the process. After that tilt the lesson so that it requires a fresh outlook with no wrong answers. The little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike to save the community is a grand example of getting these students involved. http://www.dutchcoachapproach.com/The_Dutch_Coach_Approach/A_brave_Dutch_boy.html

After reading this to them ask them why this was a stupid thing to do? Ask them what they would have done instead? Next read them this
“True! Of course it is! […] I have given you the story just as Mother told it to me, years ago. Why, there is not a child in Holland who does not know it. And […] you may not think so, but that little boy represents the spirit of the whole country. Not a leak can show itself anywhere either in its politics, honor, or public safety, that a million fingers are not ready to stop it, at any cost. “

Now the teacher can relate this to a number of readings and even tie in math, geography, and political science. There is the potential to consider whether the quote was a primary source and why it wasn’t. The point is that the lesson isn’t boring and the learning potential is vast. The non-productive student can be called on to design a medal, create a poem or song, write an editorial, or even design an outfit the Dutch boy might have worn as well as writing an opinion of why it was good or bad.

Bottom line: Empower the students, keep the lessons unique, and be prepared to challenge yourself. Finally, share your outcomes with others to gain feedback and solicit changes. Remember that they may be the most difficult students to teach, but they can be the most rewarding.

Clever Boys Dumb Down
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/5071005/Clever-boys-dumb-down-to-avoid-being-bullied-study-claims.html

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