Friday, January 17, 2014


The new Common Core Standards, national standards of public instruction being adopted by many states in the U.S., place a greater emphasis on project-based learning.  This is in recognition that students collectively learn and express themselves in a number of ways, that there are a number of intelligences, not just those that contribute to IQ.  The more ways you can challenge and elicit that potential, that multi-faceted expression in your students, the deeper and more accurate will be your assessments of student achievement.

As a consequence of adopting Common Core Standards, individualized and differentiated learning should be more easily implemented.  Incorporating a student-directed aspect of the learning process will guarantee that aspects of classroom learning most certainly can be individualized.  A goal would be to be able to individualize all learning while at the same time holding all students responsible for reaching for the standards of excellence in their work and expression of knowledge and deep understanding of the subject.  The teacher, ideally, is a prompt and guide who understands the benefits of the Socratic Method, of answering questions in such a way as to lead students to the next answer on their own.  Student learning empowerment is the name of the game.

Again, we already know how smart you are.  You wouldn't be a teacher if you didn't know your stuff.

But teaching is so much more than content.  Putting the human relations element front and center, a teacher understands the human connective element is where the power of everything lies.  Classroom management is easier, motivation is stronger, anticipation of discovery higher, focus is sharper, achievement is greater, engagement is broader, and the collective psychological needs of the classroom are being met

Teaching students to be their own, self-directed learners is only part of the holy grail for educators and learners.  Modeling human-centered, life-long learning skills as well as empathy and open communication in the classroom, will help deliver more motivated students and reinforce the humanity behind the best education.

Better ingredients, better pizza.

The Human Relations and Emotional Brain Building I'm suggesting works to strengthen the new emphasis seen in the Common Core Standards.  Building a strong foundation, it sets the stage for project- and group-based creativity and problem-solving as well as encouraging self-motivation, self-direction and an autodidact drive.  The message is to develop a love of learning and create the foundation for life-long adventures in discovery while adhering to the highest standards of intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical pursuit.

By emphasizing open communication and relationship building, and by creating and reinforcing the trusting environment necessary for public risk-taking in knowledge acquisition, understanding and expression, a teacher puts their class on intellectual and emotional steroids.  Other teachers will wonder why certain shared students are doing better in your class than theirs.

They always conclude, by the way, that you must be an easy teacher and that's why students 'like' you. You're just an easier grader.  You may find yourself on the defensive even when all you've done is succeed in connecting and bringing out the best in this challenging student.  Sometimes you just have to do a lot of smiling and nodding with those unaccustomed or closed to the framework and power inherent in a human relations approach.

 This is where the motivation for greatness resides. This is where teachers seeking to bring out the best in all their students find the doors, the windows, the chutes and ladders and buttons, that make up the mosaic of motivation within each individual student.  These connections are the deeper ones that most always lead to greater student motivation, focus, problem-solving, and achievement in your class.

It all comes down to validating the student as a valued human being in your class.  Simple Human Relations exercises, sampled and repeated throughout the year, lead to a Human Relations based classroom.  Inherent in this approach is the validation of each individual student.  That each one is greater than the grades they earn in your class is an important message that resonates within each student.  Too many times, teachers without achieving the deeper connections of human relations, leave the impression that they judge their students on one criteria: How well they did in their class.

It's a shallow, superficial message that always leaves a bad taste.

Making the deeper human relations connections with your students allows you to challenge them even more simply because they know you're not judging them solely on how they do in your class.  Your class is just a small part of their lives and it is your goal to, among other things, understand the whole child and attempt to bring out the best in that child.

That message, that you'll challenge each student on their terms, on where they are, is a powerfully connective message. You may not believe this, but there are parents who are uncomfortable with affection and have a hard time expressing it at home. Other parents can't tell their children enough how much they love them and the 'I love you's' flow freely.

Point being, there are invalidating forces outside your classroom that you have no control over and may never even know about.  That's why it's important to understand: simple human validation, especially teacher to student, is essential for a young person's strengthening identity development and a healthy sense of self.

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