Dr. James Schaller, MD
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Title: Learning Programs and Tutoring Success: Thoughts on What Works & What Does Not Work

This is an excerpt from a book in preparation -
Out of Control Youth: 80 Solutions

Education has become a buzzword these days. I have concerns that common sense ways to help children and teachers enjoy learning are being lost.

Here are some basic common sense ideas commonly missed

  1. Learning is a shared joy. A love for knowledge is contagious. Teachers must be allowed to be creative and explore new teaching methods. They merely need to be safe and be sensitive to values issues. But they should never have to teach to a standardized test or follow a scripted "program."
  2. Some tutoring services advertise themselves as having "certified" teachers. Check to see if this is more than simple certification by the company itself!
  3. The teaching process should allow for sincere praise for any youth honestly trying, no matter what their ability or IQ. Understaffed classrooms make for moody worn out teachers, who merely teach that learning and schoolwork stinks!
  4. No school program or tutoring system should be totalitarian. Meaning, if the child and teacher cannot offer input into the reading or teaching materials, then why should either be excited. No system can read the mind of unique teachers and students, and put them in a pre packaged learning or tutoring program.
  5. Have students do an interest inventory so that, where possible, their interests can be used in their book learning.
  6. Youth are social beings. At least consider some discussion, if it can be productive, and not merely foolish talk.
  7. Book reports allow a child to feel a sense of expertise and competence. Due to their focus on a single topic they may know more than their siblings, friends or even parents. They may feel pride in mastering a topic. Pride in learning makes a youth want to learn more.
  8. While the Internet can offer much special information, a school library can be made into an adventure if it is based on a child's dreams and fantasies. If they like doll repair, cars, animal's or their native home, go see if there is any material that fits their interest. Keep aware of the size of a library since very unique interests may not have a book in a very small library.
  9. Communication between schoolteachers and tutors is work and consumes time. Busy teachers or tutors may be resistant. Try to encourage in any way you can. Some teachers like a written note, others a faxed note, some love email and some line talking briefly on the phone.
  10. Find ways to show value in the child's work. Can the work be seen in the home or school where it will be respected and appreciated? If they get more attention for breaking a neighbors window, perhaps something is wrong.
  11. Ultimately, learning provides its own reward. But if we expect that to easily be the experience of the young, we are being fools! Rewards need to be tailored to each child, because no child is motivated the same way. If we spend time thinking about their clothing or shoe size, we need to look for a good "rewards fit" that matches the child. Some children like to have their work seen or read out loud. Others like money, prizes, new books, or small gifts. Still others like certificates, which look formal.
  12. Accountability for progress has a place but can be over rated. If a teacher or student is involved in "busy work" or mere paperwork, expect them to be turned off to learning. And yet data on progress needs to get to teacher, parent, and tutor. None can be out of the loop.
  13. Brains are each uniquely wired and a learning style is unique to each child. Anything that assumes most children learn better by hearing or seeing, or by a certain presentation, is mistaken about the many different ways the brain can acquire information and learn. And this learning style may also vary by subject! Teaching and professional tutoring is not for the simple minded.
  14. Keep a pleasant and comfortable learning environment. Some schools have more mold than a cheese factory and wonder why some kids are rubbing their eyes and noses. Dust mites are everywear. I once asked a school to do a dash of testing and they assured me "everything was just fine because the pollen and mold count in the school, was the same as outside the school." Of course, the outside seasonal counts for both were through the roof, and most of my patients with allergies were gargling anti-histamines from the allergist. My site offers a link to a solid independent allergen removal company offering quality machines that I use in my own home.

    If the learning environment is ugly, what are we saying to the child? Are we saying that your comfort and learning is not important?

    If kids are forced to be in hot or cold rooms and must wear clothing that does not breath, or they cannot regulate their temperature to be comfortable, why are we surprised if they are not interested in school? School is not the marines. It should not be Spartan and tough. A child can wear comfortable clothes at home. Modest yet comfortable clothes should be an option.
  15. Nothing inspires like relationship. Lets keep teacher to student ratios as low as possible. This allows fast encouragement and time to talk and relate about the subject they are learning.
  16. Tutors and teachers need plenty of supplies for their craft. If the copier is broken or they do not have access to colored paper, please do not expect as much from the teacher. And students should have access to tissues and other basic things for their comfort.

Diplomate: American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology
Diplomate: Forensic Medicine & Forensic Examination
Certification: American Soc. Clinical Psychopharmacology

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5150 Tamiami Trail, N • Naples, FL 34103
Phone: (239) 263-0133

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