Showing posts with label success. Show all posts
Showing posts with label success. Show all posts

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Recharging students for success in mathematics

Being in a low socio-economic school sometimes is disheartening. The students don't believe that they are able to achieve academically. This is reinforced by parents, teachers and the school in subtle ways throughout the year.

A parent complains that the student is only doing lower maths and does not need a $175 calculator. The timetable allows many non-TEE subject to run, but only a few TEE subject selections are available. Portfolio entry is seen as a primary pathway to university rather than a backdoor entry for extreme cases. Lower school programmes lack the rigour of programmes in more academic schools. A single student or groups of students can disrupt classrooms for an entire year, but little coordinated effort can be made to limit the damage being caused. The idea of secondary graduation is diminished by the idea that 'anyone' can graduate. Cohorts of students are labelled challenging and good students lose opportunities as classes are aimed to manage the lower students and keep them engaged to detriment of academic achievement by top students.

Charging academic students for success is a mentality that must be driven - it doesn't just happen. Kids need to be told that they have the ability to succeed, shown possible outcomes, be given opportunity to try/fail/succeed and be mentored as they go along. Setting clear standards sets the groundwork for success.

Things that I consider serious issues in my A class:
  • Not being quiet and ready to start work within 2 minutes of entering the room
  • Being late for class and not entering the room quietly
  • Complaining, whining and whinging before attempting work
  • Not paying attention when instruction is given
  • Relying on friends or personal attention of the teacher for instruction rather than some level of personal investigation
  • Not attempting homework
  • Failing a test or assignment ( lower than 1 standard deviation from mean)
  • Not seeking assistance when required
Students that continuously fall into these issues risk demotion to BCD classes. For some, demotion is the right option, for others the motivation to be moved down is enough for them to alter negative behaviours. For a relative few, it identifies students with ability but are unlikely to succeed at TEE level. This year, boys in particular have been a real issue and a focus for the course next year (I think this is the most significant issue at our school).

Things that I do to promote positive attitudes towards mathematics and address issues:
  • Look for opportunities to congratulate students on achievement
  • Attempt to talk to each student each class
  • Allow friendship groups to remain together only when learning is occurring
  • Ensure that new topics include new material
  • Promote the A class as being a privilege and a responsibility
  • Reinforce that attitude is as important as aptitude
  • Change the difficulty level regularly to allow for opportunities for success/failure and stretching of the mind.
  • Question their own beliefs of their ability and remind them of progress made
  • Use personal experiences to enhance class material
  • Focus the basis of enjoyment in mathematics in achievement rather than entertainment by the teacher (though the converse may be more important in lower classes)
  • Encourage students to self monitor behaviour and provide peer feedback
  • Create opportunities for students to see the different rapport with yr 11/12 TEE students than with yr 10 students

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Indigenous Education cont..

I spoke to a colleague about this issue (one of the successful teachers at the school motivating indigenous and low performing/high aptitude students) and he raised (surprise.. surprise) that the most significant factor was the contact he had with parents. It's true too, he has a joke with parents and doesn't hold back if he thinks a student is going in the wrong direction - it works for him.

His main criticism is related to parents saying one thing and doing another - the support of students had to be real as the lure of government money and money from working provided a real alternative to completing school. As a parent it is so important to do what is promised in the way of student support.

A situation today raised another pertinent factor - the need to maintain high expectations. A request to drop to an easier class via the AEIO was turned around with a reminder that assistance was available (and had been organised at the start of the year) but was not being used. The student walked away happy being able to discuss their concerns, negotiate a better situation and we maintain a student university bound. The downside is that I find these type of discussions rather time consuming, taxing and draining.

The final factor to raise today is the common avoidance of indigenous students to conflict. I had to double check with the AEIO afterwards to ensure that this wasn't one of the cases where student says yes and means no. He assured me that this was not the case and we can verify this when the student comes to the arranged tutoring.

All in all not a bad day..

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Successful Indigenous/Aboriginal Education

A worrying trend is seeing high performing indigenous students in year 9/10 fall away in year 11/12. The success of students that buck the trend seems highly dependent on the contribution of a few people in schools.

Firstly the AEIO is one link in the chain. This is the person that has had the perseverence to keep the kids coming to school. They discover and solve issues on a regular basis and to be successful are firmly entrenched in their communities.

The follow the dream programme and their coordinators do a great job in lifting students to a level where university is a potential option. I've seen students, many that have been given up on, be brought 'back online' multiple times and crawl toward some form of success in year 12.

Individual teachers are such an influence on these students lives. Many of these students feel persecuted in the classroom by students and teachers. A good teacher can redirect some of this insecurity into the student seeing the consequences of their own negative behaviour and the same teachers also investigates any ongoing social issues themselves. And when I say good teachers, I mean great teachers, as these teachers are giving life changing assistance and it's not something just anyone can do. I say that with confidence as I'm pretty useless at it, despite best of intentions on many occassions.

Student support and integration are key components. Successful students can be persecuted by their own, leading to dumbing down their ability and overacting behavioual problems. Student integration into non-indigenous social groups can help break the helplessness cycle. Great student indigenous role models especially in year 10,11,12 prove to be so important. They show that success can be achieved, it's ok to work hard and quite possibly fun/cool too!

Administration is often the missing link as they are often seen as the punitive rather than supporting source. The punitive support is essential as there are many lower performing students that require that punitive backbone to underpin their positive behaviour. The other half of the equation is the ability of administration to assist teachers, programme coordinators, students and AEIO's to promote ongoing student success.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Failure as a path to success

I'm sorry, I don't understand how you can expect to succeed without experiencing failure. Students must fail from time to time to maintain motivation. Striving for excellence is a lifelong ambition and true excellence is something that's highly unlikely we will reach often.

I'm guilty sometimes of molly coddling my students and I have a great member of staff that says no.. make the test harder.. push them further. The test results come back and they've averaged 25%.. but they know what they needed to learn, we can review the content and give them a second go at it. They can analyse what they could have done better.. We can empower them to self evaluate and re-examine their work and study habits. They can make new connections and realise that resilience is a desirable commodity.

.. and they can feel the exultation of getting something that they thought impossible.

To me that is what learning and mathematics is all about.