Megan Olivia Hall teaches science and service at Open World Learning Community, an intentionally small Expeditionary Learning school in Saint Paul Public Schools. She founded Open’s first Advanced Placement program, recruiting students from all walks of life to college prep classes. She is a leader in character education, providing professional development, curriculum and mentorship. In 2013, Hall was named Minnesota Teacher of the Year.
A number of students are referred to me exhibiting signs related to behavioural and emotional challenges. More times than not, I will see clients who are moderate to severe in their behaviours. So we’re talking about students who are involved in disruptive behaviours or illicit activities, atypical behaviours, and consistent violators of school policies. To be more specific, these are children who were referred to the multidisciplinary team, for the following issues at school and at home:
- verbally abusive
- fighting with fist and weapons
- uncontrollable sudden outbursts of anger
- constant stealing
- excessive lying
- drugs and alcohol abuse etc.
Generally, I will begin with a Functional Behavioural Assessment (FBA) on the student. This will include a number of observations, interviews with teachers, parents and the student, along with checking reports from other stakeholders. The objective is to get as much information as possible.
Over the years I have come to notice that behavioural or emotional challenges do not always exist in isolation (in this case only in one particular setting), but, sometimes their expressions do.
Some years ago, after graduate school, as I was starting off as a psychologist working with children with emotional and behavioural disorders, at the time I did not realise there was so much more I had to learn. I remember taking the approach that clients will be consistent in their behaviours, regardless of the environment they were placed in. But human beings are not like programmed robots. For instance, if we install software on our laptops, then regardless of where we are in the world, it should work the same. So, if I take my laptop to Europe, Africa, United States or the Caribbean, when the icon for Microsoft Office Word is clicked, the program will open. People should be the same, right? No! This approach will be so wrong.
Behaviour is affected biochemically, but environmental factors (or lack of specific ones) around us, also influences our reactions or expressions.
It is therefore very important, that to reduce or to completely eradicate an unwanted behaviour, we look at things which maybe contributing as fuel to the behaviour. When this is identified, we should manipulate it to modify the behaviour.
Now, the understanding that children are affected by their environment has vital importance on the way they learn as well. For this reason, as an educational psychologist working with teachers and students, I encourage teachers to create an environment with things that acts as positive stimuli. These positive stimuli may include:
- a library,
- adequate space for group work and other social interactions,
- proper lighting and temperature,
- and a reasonably outfitted soundproofed room etc.
What are some additional features you believe can be used to act as positive stimuli to our children learning?
The objective of this book is to assist you to develop habits that promote success in your life. You will be able to now condition your mind and put together strategies to make you successful.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Life with Expectations
Chapter 2: History of the Problem
Chapter 3: Preparing For Action
Chapter 4: Six (6) Habits of Successful People
Chapter 5: How To Keep Going When Forming Useful Habits Get Tough.
Admit it, failing at anything in school does not feel good!
It can damage your self-esteem, make you lose interest in educational pursuits and to see yourself as a failure.
I want to help you with exactly what must be done, to put you in a position to perform at your highest potential at school.
Learning can be fun and very rewarding. When your self-esteem is improved, you are placed in a position where you want to replicate your performance.
This is a straight forward student’s guide to a quick turnaround to educational success. Inside you will find exercises and questions for reflection.
Prepare your physical area to study.
Use a stop watch or wall clock.
Do not procrastinate.
Always have confidence in yourself.
Helping others to examine themselves.
Planning for each day of school.
Learning new things engages your prefrontal cortex, which operates via your working (i.e., short-term) memory. Your working memory is used for conscious decision-making and planning, directed at the attainment of your goals.
However, once you automatize a skill, it becomes subconscious; and thus, you free up by 90 percent your working memory, which allows higher-level functioning. For example, you can drive for minutes at a time without even thinking about driving.
In the context of learning and performance, automaticity allows you to apply and deepen your learning in novel and enhanced ways. Developing automaticity is the process of going from doing to being–empowering you to become an expert and innovator.
As Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning, has said, “Just as the yin-yang symbol possesses a kernel of light in the dark, and of dark in the light, creative leaps are grounded in a technical foundation.”
Here’s how it works.
Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality. –Earl Nightingale
The first step toward automaticity is repetitiously learning small sets or bits of information. If you’re learning a new language, it’s repeatedly hammering the same word types and roots. If you’re golfing, it’s practicing the same shot over and over.
However, automaticity goes beyond the initial point of mastery, to what has been called overlearning. To overlearn, you continue practicing and honing long after you know something inside-out.
Becoming grounded and proficient in the left-brained technical rules and skills frees up your right brain to creatively break or manipulate the rules. As the Dali Lama has said, “Learn the rules well so you know how to break them properly.”
2. Find your zone and stay there as long as you can.
“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”―Richard Marcinko
The second step toward automaticity is making the practice or training progressively harder. If you’re at the gym, increase the weight and intensity. If you’re giving a speech, include elements outside your comfort zone.
The goal is making the task increasingly difficult until it’s too hard. Then you drop the difficulty back down slightly to stay near the zone or threshold of your current ability.
3. Add a time constraint.
The third step toward automaticity is making the training more difficult while adding a time restraint. Do the same activity (e.g., writing an article), but give yourself a shortened timeline to do it in. Your focus should be process, not outcome on this. Quality over quantity.
Adding a timeline forces you to work faster while at the same time it requires you to think about the time, which loads up your working memory (think Chopped on Food Network).
4. Load up your working memory with purposeful distractions.
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”–Sun Tzu
The final step toward automaticity is working/training with an increasing memory load. In other words, doing the task with greater levels of distraction. Math teachers leverage this strategy by having students learning an obscure fact and having them recall it immediately after completing a math problem.
Eventually, you can perform the activity in a flowlike state, where the external distractions and pressures no longer influence your unconscious ability to act.
Watching our 8-year-old foster son learn how to read is teaching me a lot about the development of automaticity. For months, he did everything he could to avoid reading. Yet, we were persistent in working with him.
Eventually, he developed confidence himself and began to see the utility of reading, and his motivation shifted from extrinsic to intrinsic. Now we have a difficult time stopping him from reading.
If you want to become world-class at what you do, you must get to the point where it becomes unconscious and automatic. Once you get to this level, you’ll be able to innovate and make your craft your own, because you’ll be operating at a higher frequency.
Video created by New Zealand Psychologist Dr Alice Boyes. This video is an experiment in making some basic videos.
The problem: “My child doesn’t listen.”
A student with ADHD might not seem to be listening or paying attention to class material. He may be daydreaming, looking out the window, or focused on irrelevant noises or other stimuli. As a result, he misses lessons, instructions, and directions.
The reason: ADHD is not just an inability to pay attention — it’s an inability to control attention. Children with ADHD have a lower level of brain arousal, which in turn decreases their ability to screen out distractions like noise in the hallway, movement outside, or even their own inner thoughts and feelings. Children with ADHD have an especially hard time tuning out distractions when an activity is not sufficiently stimulating.
The obstacles: Children with ADHD struggle to stay focused on lectures or any tasks that require sustained mental effort. Sometimes, this distractibility can appear intentional and annoying — which then works against students with ADHD in getting the help they need. Remarks such as “Earth to Amy!” or “Why don’t you ever listen?” will not correct this attention deficit. If children could pay better attention, they would.
Read on to discover classroom and home solutions to end distractibility.
Solutions in the Classroom
— Select seating wisely. Keeping kids with ADHD close to the teacher and away from doors or windows will help minimize potential distractions and provide the best stay-focused results.
— Allow all students to use distraction-blockers. In order to prevent singling out children with ADHD, let everyone try privacy dividers, earphones, or earplugs to block distractions during seat work or tests.
— Keep things interesting. Alternate between high- and low-interest activities and when possible, keep lesson periods short or vary the pacing from one lesson to the next.
— Accommodate different learning styles. Use a variety of strategies and teaching techniques to accommodate the multitude of learning styles in the room so all students have the opportunity to approach lessons the way they learn best.
— Include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic facets to all lessons. Also, give students opportunities to work cooperatively, individually, and with the group.
— Redirect rather than reprimand. Instead of scolding a student who becomes distracted, redirect him in a way that doesn’t cause embarrassment. Sometimes, asking the child a question you know he can answer, or giving nonverbal cues, such as standing close and patting him on the shoulder, can bring the child back into focus.
Solutions at Home
— Establish a daily homework routine. Some children need to take a break between school and homework or may need frequent breaks between assignments. Figure out what works best for your child in order to help her avoid distractions and procrastination.
— Help your kid with ADHD “set up” in a distraction-free environment. Sometimes the best learning environment can actually be the kitchen table with music playing in the background. Experiment until you find the ideal learning spot.
— Get her started. Sit down with your child and make sure he understands what is required for each assignment.
— Supervise as needed. Most children with ADHD need significant adult supervision to keep on task. As situations improve and the child matures, you can move away from constant supervision to frequent check-ins to make sure your child is on task.
— Allow short breaks between assignments. Have your child stretch or have a snack once one assignment is complete. This can help make his workload seem more manageable.
— Break down large assignments. Divide big assignments into “bites,” each one with a clear goal. If your child feels like a task is manageable, he’ll be less likely to become distracted.