Celebrating the End of the Marking Period

Celebrating the End of the Marking Period

I love teaching. It has always been my career of preference from a young age. Perhaps it all started when I found a special teacher at school who I loved and admired. I started this blog to promote the profession and share the fun—and challenges. No two days are alike in the classroom and the students change year to year. I learn from them as much as they learn from me. Certain times of the year are noteworthy, and not just holidays and vacations. The end of the marking period is a big deal, too.

This year I got a bunch of my fellow teachers together for a party in the teachers’ lounge to celebrate this milestone once again. So much work gets done at this time of the semester and a reward is always welcome. It’s no big deal, but just enough to denote the end of another season of grading and evaluations. We have a cake, of course, and a few short speeches. It is a time of camaraderie and relaxation after a time of tension to meet deadlines. We bond as a group, a needed activity, since we spend so much time on our own.

We have one tradition that is a little different from other schools, or so I am told. We bring in a shredder from Shredder Lab and ceremoniously destroy our lesson plans as a group. It is a cathartic and oddly funny act. If a lesson or two went badly, we don’t feel a pang of regret at all. Instead, we hear loud cries of joy and laughter. Then life goes back to normal. It is all part and parcel of a teacher’s world, and  it is a wonderful world indeed. I never want to complain.

Other parties come at the end of the term right before vacation. We don’t shred anything –ha!—but we do relate where we are going and anything special that will be coming in our immediate futures. Then we are off on our own for several months, so we can be refreshed when the new school year begins in the fall.

Teaching is a very traditional career full of designated points of time during the year and multiple celebrations as mentioned above. Graduation is not the least of our regular routines, and everyone looks forward to this special event. This year, I am going to be practical and a bit sarcastic by suggesting we use old bags of shredded paper as confetti for the final party of the season. Now that is a way to repurpose some old trash. I wonder what the reaction will be. Given the routine nature of what we do, teachers have to get creative now and then to perk things up. This is my latest brainchild and I will let you know if it happens.

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds

There is no question that nutrition and exercise are tops on any least of “must do” to attain and keep good health—no matter your age. Somehow, however, in all the media attention, teens get lost in the shuffle. I guess they are left to fend for themselves or adults figure that it will be taken care of in school. Not so. There is no budget in the current educational system, at least in the state of Delaware, to provide programs that address student needs. What ever happened to “healthy bodies, healthy minds?”

My class and I do our best to study the benefits of good eating and the importance of lots of physical exercise, whether it is in gym class or out on the baseball field. This week we wanted to focus on water. How much should you drink to stay fit as a fiddle while you are still growing and developing?  No question about it: the eight glasses usually prescribed are right on. No one wants to carry that many water bottles around, so what do we do?

We decided to take it as a fitness challenge. The kids came up with all kinds of ideas. Since this age group is not as hysterical about filtered water as many self-conscious adults, many thought that refilling a water bottle at the school tap was just fine. Of course, there had to be a way to keep track and we created a check sheet that included the day of the week, the time of the first bottle, and an account of how many were consumed for the rest of the day.

The problem was that our water doesn’t taste good at all. There are chemicals no doubt in the system leaving an after taste that is less than pleasant. Most of the students concluded that they do, in fact, want filtered water. Some said their parents didn’t want to buy case after case and store it all in the already-crowded garage. Plus, it is always a pain to tote those big, bulky plastic-wrapped cases from the supermarket back home.

I did my research as the teacher I am and found that buying a water filter is far more cost-effective and really does a good job at improving water taste. I agreed to be the guinea pig and bought a unit for my kitchen sink. These devices are so easy to attach to any faucet. My report was so positive that all the kids wanted to follow suit. We just had to raise the money for each household. We decided on doing a fundraiser on Saturday, but which kind?

Here were our choices:

  • Bake sell with each mom contributing one item. We could also ask for donations from the local bakery.
  • Car wash in the school parking lot with flyers around town inviting locals to help support our effort.
  • Sell candy from a company that specializes in raising money for organizations, including schools.
  • Collecting plastic bottles for recycling

While these were all great ideas and everyone was more than enthusiastic, we tabled the decision since the students’ families all chipped in to make the group effort successful. We will just have to do some kind of fundraising for another cause.

Brainstorming Session

I am active in the school community as a teacher in the great state of Delaware. I imagine that teachers in other areas have the same problems we do. The rest of you should also be able to relate whether you are parents or not. No one wants a poor educational system for today’s youth. We need constant support and supplies to supplement the meager funds allotted to us by the state government. Teachers get behind the school board to help fundraise several times a year.

One of the best ways to garner public dollars is to hold events that are entertaining so that people will enjoy themselves as they participate in a silent auction, a raffle, or other form of fundraising. The tickets to the event are the bulk of our earnings, and we advertise it in all the local Facebook pages. I volunteered to work the auction table and was on my feet in high heels for literally hours. The auction opened as people arrived and didn’t close until the last minute. We wanted to wait for motivating speeches to motivate latecomers.

A fellow female teacher was working the buffet and I saw that from time to time she would remove her shoes. I smiled at her knowingly and we got to talking. She also wore high heels to look elegant for the event patrons and we were both paying the price. I had met her at the brainstorming session, but at the time we both wore flats. Ha! Someone should have mentioned how long these evenings run as I was a newbie. As we got to comparing notes, she said that she had her own way of dealing with these situations and I begged her to tell me.

I put up with sore feet, she said, because I treat myself to a long foot massage at home. She reported that her loving husband had given her a really good appliance as a birthday gift for which she has been eternally grateful. Any woman who wears heels would feel the same way. Now I wanted to hear more. This is just what I needed, that very night. She said that she doesn’t fear these fundraising events when she has to work on her feet because there is relief in sight. No wonder she didn’t say anything at the brainstorming meeting. She had the problem solved.

Not me. I had to face a night of sore feet. She smiled and quickly offered to share her device if I would come over after the event. I was close to accepting, but was tired and wanted to go to bed. I would remember her words and shortly thereafter I bought my own foot massager from Higher Massage with all the bells and whistles.

It had attachments to promote circulation through the sole of the foot and to address the often-forgotten area between the toes. You can change the intensity of the application from low, then to medium and high. It had a vibrating button which was just heaven. I will also be grateful to my fellow teacher for her helpful suggestion.

Learning about Earth

I promised students some extra help with certain subjects, particularly regarding current events. Climate change is a big issue and they need to learn more about the pros and cons. I started this blog to tackle the basic points to show that there are two sides to every question. Most of my class agreed that air purification, for example, is necessary to help those with acute respiratory problems due to poor air quality. Little do they know that these same purifiers, particularly the ozone type, can harm the atmosphere.

Apparently, there is some confusion about what is on the market and words like ozone generators and ionizers are bandied about and often mixed up. Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate these products despite some dangers? This is in addition to the fact that many simply don’t work as advertised. They are not a panacea for everything in your life.

The most common type of air purifier is the ionizer designed with layers of filtration to reduce indoor pollution. Here’s how it works. They attach negatively-charged ions onto positively-charged particles of dust or allergens. As a result, the affected particles drop out of the atmosphere. You must then vacuum when using your unit. The danger is that these ionizers can produce ozone.

Ozone sounds scary when you think about holes in the earth’s protective barrier (against the harmful rays of the sun). It is a gas found in the atmosphere while it is also present at ground level when air pollutants are spewed from power plants, automobiles, etc. At this level, ozone is harmful to the lungs. It exacerbates asthma and makes the body vulnerable to respiratory infection. Are you getting the picture?

Kids, listen up. It’s time to speak up against unnatural ozone creation. This happens with ozone generators or air purifiers. Who is fooling the public? I know they can remove odors from a room such as cooking and pet smells as well as making sure there is No More Smoke Smell, which is why they are popular. They make a room smell fresh and clean – the real smell of ozone.

Given what we know about the earth’s surface, it might be wiser to buy an air purifier with ozone-free technology so there is no byproduct from motors, computers, hair dryers, electric mixer, and ceiling fans, etc. Ozone output has been limited but who is checking your home? Why are air purifiers not regulated while appliances are? If you are guilty of using a dangerous product by, all means, replace it. You have other choices that are compliant with safety regulations.

It seems an easy decision. There are healthy ways to remove odors and pollutants to improve the quality of your life. The secret is the HEPA filter that rids the air of up to 97% of allergens without releasing one iota of ozone. You can have a safe and pleasant indoors.

Class Debate

The great complaint among teachers today is the lack of funds and resources. They learn, like me, to make do. They know budgets are tight. You create educational opportunities out of virtually nothing—or thin air as they say. The kids will respond if you are enthusiastic and present them with benefits. They want to learn about anything, even household appliances. This may seem like an odd topic of discussion, but it came up when I asked my students to select a subject for the monthly class debate. They had already done to death the usual suspects and have torn apart President Trump and all sorts of political issues. They loved talking about being green and what it means today. They got into the clean water problem around the world and the role of corporate America in remedying the situation.

Sometimes the debate gets heated, especially when we hit on something extremely controversial like kids using cell phones or Facebook. At times, the participants have almost come to blows. I have to settle for something safe this time to calm temperaments. I need a break. They are very practical and curious so now, for some reason, they are into helping mom. I can see discussing the pros and cons of certain appliances such as vacuum cleaners. They are ever present, which makes them something relevant and immediate. However, most students don’t even know what a canister vacuum is. The word “upright” means when someone sits up in bed or has good posture.

I suppose learning about vacuums like Bissell, Shark, Kenmore and Hoover, the best-selling leading brands, will be of use at home. They want to give something back in exchange for all the parental help and guidance they get. They could learn to operate the appliance and read the manual. I agreed to the debate topic and set a date. They all went home to research online the difference between canister and upright models. I wonder which one will win out. It might have to do with what they find in the storage closet.

As usual, the teams went back and forth for the designated hour and I heard some impressive points. It boils down to effectiveness and ease of use. Price is also a consideration as is the weight of the unit. It comes down to what is most important to the user. Most people would say good results and I agree. Few students insisted on attractive appearance, although some harped on size so the vacuum would fit easily into any closet. That seems rather unimportant. The purpose was to learn to present one’s point of view clearly and succinctly and to answer any objections. A debate is more than a mere exercise in class.

They did a good job and it was an easy and calm experience. They understood what I had in mind and I had to promise an exciting controversial current events topic next time to keep them happy.

Sports + Smarts

If you are a teacher and short on school resources, you must get creative and use your imagination. Money just doesn’t appear in the budget and important programs, like art, music and sports are the first to be cut. They are all vital and you must find a way to restore them on your own. You can combine music and athletic movement, for example, or art and literature. Kids can illustrate stories from their reading books. They can act them out to music. This seems like a poor substitute for sports and it is. There has always been a need for balance in education. Reducing exercise to a very short recess time is not enough to create a healthy well-rounded child.

There is nothing like sports to build self-confidence and skill. Kids are proud of even little accomplishments. They also learn discipline by being on a team and having to adhere to the rules of play and good sportsmanship. They learn to share and help one another become better. I always see an enormous improvement in behavior after a program of daily sports. Grades seem to go up naturally when kids are energized. The proof in the pudding is that sports yield smarts.

I love basketball and basketball blogs like this one and I’ve found that most kids do as well. Since there is a built-in hoop on the playground, all I needed was a smaller sized ball. The older kids regularly trained for this sport and I copied some of their movements and exercises. I just had to modify them slightly for a younger group. Their regime included stretching and reaching, knee bends, touching the toes while standing, and twisting the core. It was adorable seeing the older children side by side with the tots. It was like a twin experience. My kids got a big kick out of imitating the higher grades. In turn, the little ones inspired them to be diligent and do more. This kind of combined program enriches any school and is popular with teachers and parents alike.

I fought to make basketball training a regular part of the daily regime alongside the usual academics. A short break even makes kids concentrate better and remember the material for a longer period of time. Test scores skyrocketed, which pleased the administration. Now they are seriously considering adding sports for the younger grades to next year’s budget. I am in there touting the benefits and showing the results. I got the parents to sign a petition speaking to the necessity of a stronger exercise program. All these tactics worked. I was pleased to be called into the principal’s office where I was told to start thinking ahead. I could create some model sports lessons to share with other teachers. I might even give a talk at a general teacher’s meeting for our region. These occur once a quarter at which time new ideas are exchanged. I was more than happy to participate and share the good news. Hurray for sports in education!

Here’s Why We Need Math

Everyone remembers math time in school. We had it every day. We had to repeat our tables endlessly to learn them by rote. Mom or dad would drill us at home so we could ace the quizzes. Some kids catch on really fast and math becomes a life-long forte. Others struggle and need a bit of help. It sometimes gets easier when the teacher relates math to everyday life.

Do you remember those lengthy word problems we had to solve in elementary school? Some were so hard we groaned in fear. We preferred our math tables since they were easier. Here is an example: Mrs. Smith has 17 cupcakes. She wants to share them equally among her three children so that no one gets more than anyone else. If she gives each child as many cupcakes as possible, how many cupcakes will be left over for Mrs. Smith to eat. It just goes to show how math can enter our everyday lives. We need math to calculate how much fabric we need to make a dress or how much seed to buy to grow grass on a fifteen by twenty-foot lawn. We often use basic math to calculate a tip in a restaurant, to get our average weight for a month, or to calculate how many planes can fit into a hangar that is 300 feet long if each airplane is 40 feet in length.

I could go on and on to illustrate why we need math. Recently my class was given the problem of how to determine what size tankless water heater to buy for a three by three-foot space. It was something that they’ll face in real life, and I got the idea from Twitter. We often give such puzzles to give the class an answer to questions about math such as “why do we need to know division or multiplication?” You never know when you will use your skills. If mom or dad asked you to help select an appliance, you will be able to pop up with the best for the given space. Now won’t they be proud. You can tell them if there will be any room to store a mop or broom next to the new unit. It is a bit simpler with a tankless unit since they are known to be smaller than conventional heaters and they come in multiple sizes. No doubt the more you spend, the larger the capacity and dimensions. Not every home needs the giant ten-shower model. Help select what is needed by estimating the number of showers taken in the morning by family members and how many gallons of hot water per individual shower.

I love these kinds of math problems as they teach kids about practical thinking along with improving their skills. They will encounter them on evaluation tests through schools and ultimately the SAT for college qualification. Math is half your score. In any case, I like to show how math permeates our lives and helps us improve our decision making.

Is Shop Class Still Important?

Have schools let the students down? In some ways, no and in some regards, yes. If you want to pursue an academic program, classes are offered to help you succeed. But those who want to learn a vocation are often out of luck. In the old days, shop and practical classes were required such as typing, metal and wood working, auto mechanics, and cooking and sewing. Wow, have things ever changed! Now you are lucky to learn how to use a laptop in school. Shop used to be a viable elective, but it is rarely on the curriculum due to lowered school budgets.

But I, for one, believe that you should teach kids to work with their hands whether it is to fix cars or build something with jigsaws (see https://www.woodworknation.com/best-jigsaw-reviews/) and other woodworking tools that they might not have access to at home. This might lead to a good life-long career, if not a usable skill at home. Jobs in manufacturing and the automotive industry are not being filled with former students any more. People must apprentice or learn on the job, making them start at the bottom rung of the ladder. Someone has to lobby for more school resources for these ignored students. There is a huge gap in the current education system.

I vote for requiring at least one shop class for normal students and more for those seeking vocational training. Former shop teachers are now teaching other subjects. They have been compelled to change routes due to budget cuts. Otherwise, they lose their jobs. I say, let them go back to their specialties alongside history or science. People with multiple teaching skills should be treasured. Many years ago, when shop was popular, students used to thank me for such a valuable program. They mention that they would never have learned a trade any other way. In fact, they might have had to drop out of school at the legal age to go into an apprenticeship. No child should be denied a full-term education in order to secure future work as an adult. I know they have separate tracts in Europe, so why not in the U.S.?

We allocate funds for athletics in most schools and perhaps a tiny bit of this large budget could go to shop classes. Both are equally important, but shop gets short shrift. I remember when students in woodworking shop would make the most beautiful things. A jigsaw was always present. They could make home repairs and at the same time learn how to furnish the place with hand-made furniture and cabinets. I can’t think of anything more practical for those students with innate skill. But sadly, shop has gone the way of art classes, music, and dance in the schools. Personal expression is as devalued as manual dexterity. How wrong we are!

All you can do is stand up for your principles and get the word out. I harp at the school administrators and try to get the parents on board. If the community will follow suit, we can make some real progress.

The Proper Way to Praise Your Children

As parents, we are our children’s best and most important cheerleader. Over the years, though, we have received mixed messages about how best to encourage. Sometimes we are told that we need to praise and other times we are told that we are doing our children a disservice by praising everything they do. It is hard to figure out the best course of action. Here are some tried and true techniques that I have learned both as a parent and as a teacher.

  • Specific praise is more beneficial than vague praise. In other words, “Your handwriting on this report is so neat and easy to read!” is more valuable to your child than hearing, “You’re so smart!” all the time. Kids can see through meaningless comments and will stop listening to you. However, give them an acknowledgment of something concrete and they are more likely to repeat the behavior.
  • Praising the effort rather than the result can encourage children to try even when things are hard. When they struggle to get an answer, you can say, “I am so proud of the way you worked through that math problem!” This is acceptable whether they come up with the right answer or not.If you see that they are putting in hard work, you can acknowledge it. This will encourage them to continue to try. Kids who struggle but feel supported are much more likely to figure it out than those who develop the habit of giving up when they don’t know something immediately offhand. If your child feels that your approval is tied solely to their grades or performance, they may feel even worse when they receive a low mark or don’t perform well on something. When you find something positive in their work, they will feel supported no matter how they do. That doesn’t mean I am telling you to applaud a failing grade. But you can point out that they followed the steps correctly and just came up with the wrong calculation. Or you can offer to help them study for the next test, reminding them that hard work can help them get where they want to be.
  • Provide opportunities for success. If they are having problems with a complex problem, help them break it down into manageable pieces. If they have trouble with time management, set timers for them so that they learn to focus on the task at hand and don’t get overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. If their problem is that they get stuck on a problem on a test and then cannot get the whole thing completed, show them test taking techniques: how to find the answer within the information provided in the test, how to read the questions so that they understand exactly what is required, how to skip over questions they are unsure of and go back to them if they have time at the end. Work with them on homework that they might need help on but try to let them come up with the strategies and answers on their own—be more of a map when they get lost than the tour guide blazing the trail.

Everyone loves to receive praise. When you praise your child, you can brighten their day, encourage and acknowledge their hard work, and provide them with confidence and determination. Follow these tips and you will be headed in the right direction. Thanks for reading!

Use Your Library

Studies have routinely shown that young children who are read to at a young age have advantages in language and reading skills that others do not. This advantage carries over into the preschool and kindergarten years. This is also true as children get older—if they don’t have access to books or other reading materials, they don’t get a chance to practice the skills they are learning in school. Without being able to read books, magazines, comics, and newspapers that they choose on their own, many children do not develop a love of reading. They also suffer a loss of skills during holiday breaks and especially during the summer. But it can be cost-prohibitive to fill a shelf of books when your family is struggling to put food on the table.

As a teacher, I can understand both sides. I know how important it is for children to read. At the same time, I don’t get paid a whole lot, either. I have had to make the decision to buy a pair of pants for my growing child instead of a book before.  It makes me feel like a terrible parent sometimes. However, I reminded myself of a place that my child can surround himself with all the books he wants, and bring some home—for free.

The public library is not just a place to spend a rainy day when there is no school or a place you go when you have a report due. A library is a great place for children of all ages. They can learn computer and research skills if they don’t have access to a computer or the internet at home by using the public computers available. They can read and check out all different kinds of materials: books, magazines, movies, CDs, comic books, newspapers, and even research materials. There are books on just about every subject and for all reading levels. Giving them the freedom to select reading materials on their own will encourage reading. It will boost not only their skills but their enjoyment of reading for the sake of reading. Remember that children who read on a regular basis do better in school.

If you aren’t sure where to start, introduce yourself to a librarian. These staff members are trained and knowledgeable in all things reading! They will get you set up with a library card and grant you access to the public computers. Talk to them about what you are interested in or what you need for an assignment. They can teach you how to search the catalog so that you can find the materials you want as well as show you where the books are located. They might even have some suggestions for books you will enjoy. Librarians also have the ability to special order items for you that may be at a different library or put a hold on something for you.When the item you want is returned, they willset it aside for you. They will also know of any library events scheduled that might fit your interests, from teen game nights to Mommy and Me storytimes. And all of these things are free!

The library is an excellent resource to help students develop their reading skills and indulge their interest in just about any topic. Your public library will have more materials than the school media center, and it stays open all year round. Take some time to check it out and see what the library can do for you.

Get More Out of Your School

The resources available at our schools vary greatly from district to district and state to state. The things I have here and the resources available to you might be completely different, but I wanted to talk about different ways to learn about and then utilize what you have within your own school.

The first thing to do is ASK. Ask your teacher. Ask the main office. Ask the librarian or the nurse. Ask the principal. If you are looking for a resource, start at the school. There might be tutors available for free or at a low cost for subjects you are struggling with. There may be extracurriculars you are not aware of. They may have ideas for before or after school care. There may be assistance programs you qualify for but the school keeps quiet to respect the families they assist. If you need more books to read, sometimes teachers or libraries will let you borrow extra materials. You won’t know about any of these things (or anything else) unless you ask. And if the school doesn’t know, the guidance counselor can usually find out for you.

Next, verify that you are receiving information. Make sure that contact form filled out at the beginning of the year still has the right information. This will allow the school to let you know about inclement weather or attendance, true, but it will also allow them to send you pertinent information like the school newsletter. Sometimes these newsletters are put on the school website, emailed to families, or printed and sent home. Emails tend to be the quickest way to let students and their families know about events as they come in at our school. The second fastest way is sending flyers home in backpacks. If you aren’t reading them, you never know what you might miss out on. Science fairs, fun family events, sports clubs, book fairs, tutoring sessions, PTA meetings. The list goes on and on. Our school also has an internet calendar that you can link to your existing online calendar. In this way, parents can see school activities right alongside their own activities on the calendar they are already using.

Lastly, be present at the school. The easiest way to find out what’s going on is to be there. Go to the parent/teacher conferences with your child or parent (depending on which one of you is reading this). Volunteer at yourschool for assemblies or other events. Join the PTA. Get involved in a club or on a sports team. We know that many parents work and maybe can’t go on a field trip, but may be able to bake cookies for the class party. Come in on career day and talk about what you do. If your school is hosting something as a fundraiser, attend. Give what you can. Many teachers end up using money out of their own pocket to buy supplies for their classrooms, so every little bit will help. And if you can’t pay the sports equipment fee, instrument rental, classroom supply fee, or whatever else, let someone know. There is always a solution. Trust me when I say that the teachers don’t want their students to go without, either. We will find a way to make it happen, but we can’t do that unless we know accommodations need to be made.

The more involved in your school you are, the more motivated you will be to do well there and the more support you will have to do so. There is never any shame in asking for help.We will all need help with something at some point!

STEM For All Ages

If you haven’t heard the acronym STEM in school by now, you will. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four subjects have been grouped together to enable schools and policy makers to make more of a focused effort to promote them. But what does that mean for students and parents? Well, the idea is to improve our competitiveness in scientific study and in the development of new technologies. The end goal is to make students more desirable in the global job market and to establish a new curriculum that ties these related fields together. Many people strongly feel that the best jobs of the future will be in STEM fields.

So how do we familiarize ourselves with STEM and how can we benefit from it? Here are a few basic ideas on how to incorporate STEM into your life or your classroom:

  • Students of any age will benefit from following the scientific method. The scientific method is a series of steps followed in order to answer a question. It helps students to think analytically, research information, form their own theories and ideas, test those theories out, record data and interpret their results. The best thing about the scientific method is that the steps are so straightforward that even the very youngest of scientists can do it with some assistance. Here are the steps:
    1. Think of a science question you want to discover the answer to.
    2. Do background research on the question to familiarize yourself with the subject. What does the information lead you to believe?
    3. Form a hypothesis. A hypothesis is your best guess on what will happen during the experiment. Now that you have done some research, what do you think is the answer to your question?
    4. Test your theory with an experiment. Record data to help you determine the end result.
    5. Analyze the data and information that you have discovered during your experiment. Draw a conclusion. What did you learn? Was your hypothesis correct? If not, why not?
  • Engineering is, at its core, solving problems. Some examples of engineering include determining the best materials to build something out of so that it will be strong, keeping an egg safe when it is dropped to the ground, getting water to a village that is in a drought. Engineers can also take an idea and try to improve upon it. Is there something in your life that doesn’t work quite the way you hoped? Look at the problem critically and see if you can come up with a solution!
  • Go beyond basic computer skills. Computers are not just for surfing the web, playing games, or writing a paper. Learn how to write your own program! Use a website like org to learn basic coding and let your imagination run wild. If you could create an app, what would it do? Would it be something that helps people or something just for fun? There is plenty of software out there where you can do just that! One that some of my students have used is appypie.
  • People don’t often realize how often we really do use math. Find everyday ways to make it more fun. For example, you can learn fractions while baking a cake, money while on a shopping trip, measuring while building a piece of furniture, and advanced math to figure out currency conversions.

I hope you take these ideas and run with them! Let me know how you incorporate STEM into your studies, I would love to hear about it!

Improve Your Study Habits

Here is a little secret that teachers know: not everyone is naturally good at every subject. But the other thing that teachers know is that with proper study techniques, you can improve your grades in almost any subject, including those you do not have a natural aptitude for. It takes hard work and practice, but you can get there. Here are some tips you can use to maximize the time you use to study.

  1. The most important thing is to have a dedicated study area. Choose somewhere that has few distractions. Sitting in the living room with your family talking loudly and with the tv on is not a great place to study. A desk or table in a quiet area is best but sometimes life forces you to be a little more creative. Sit up straight and be prepared to work when you are in your study area.
  2. Prepare mentally for the task at hand. Having the mindset that you are there to work will help you stay focused. Believe in yourself. Remind yourself that practice makes perfect. Know that it might take a few tries but that you will be able to understand the material.
  3. Have all of the materials you need—such as books, pens, paper, and other related items—ready and within arm’s reach before you start studying. Being organized in this way prevents you from wasting time looking for things you need or running around gathering things you have forgotten. One thing you should leave out of your study area is your cellphone. If you cannot turn it off while you are studying, put it on mute or in “do not disturb” mode so that your family can contact you in an emergency. Handle everything else either before or after you study. If it is distracting you, don’t bring it.
  4. Try different strategies to see what works best for you. Some people have to re-write their notes. Other students do better with reading texts, highlighting relevant passages, and focusing their attention on studying those. Sometimes, mnemonic devices help. A mnemonic device is a memorization technique that can help you retain information. An example of one of these devices helped you learn the order of colors in a rainbow: ROY G BIV. Flashcards can be especially helpful when trying to memorize new words and their meanings. For math and science, practice problems often are the most effective way to learn thematerial. Different study techniques might work for different subjects. Give things a try and see what works for you. The more you know about how you learn will make your study time more efficient and successful.
  5. Study with a partner or a group. Choose someone (or people) you can work with and won’t distract you easily. They need to be as invested as you are in studying or else one person will feel like they are doing all the work. Sometimes having another (or several) pairs of eyes on what you’re doing wrong can help you avoid mistakes. They may also be able to explain the material to you in a way that you haven’t heard before, which might help you understand it better.

These are the ways that I tell all of my students to study and to do their homework. I hope you have found ideas here that will be useful to you as you study and do your schoolwork. Good luck and happy studying!