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Helpful Tips on How to Get to Know Your Students

happyclass

 

Getting to know your students is one of the most effective ways to create a harmonious classroom environment. Teachers and teaching assistants alike know how different each child is from his or her peers. Similar to adults, they all have their own set of attitudes, beliefs, biases, likes, dislikes and coping mechanisms. Knowing all of these can be the difference in developing a fun, yet respectful atmosphere in the classroom. For instance, if you know that a particular student dislikes being praised publicly, you can give praise subtly either through writing a note in his book or speaking to him/ her one to one.

Getting to know students in an individual level can be challenging especially if you have a huge class. But, however large your class is, there is always a way to get to know them. You just have to be willing. Here are some ways that I have found useful over the years:

  1. Ask pupils about their weekends every Monday morning: Find 5 to 10 minutes on a Monday morning to ask what your students did on the weekend. This is a relatively simple task that can reap such huge rewards. They may tell you that they have watched a sports game or a movie, and who they watched it with. From this conversation, you would know what sport they love and which player/ team they follow. Such wealth of information can be used as ice-breakers when they become unresponsive in lessons. For example, if a child who supports Chelsea and love Fernando Torres struggles with addition, you can give hypothetical examples such as ‘Torres scored 1 goal against Arsenal and 2 against Liverpool. How many goals has he scored altogether in those two games?” 
  2. Join in on their games in the playground: Being able to join in on the kids’ games in the playground can make them feel comfortable around you. By playing their games, you are showing that you are also capable of following their rules, as they follow yours in the class. It shows them that a person can both be respected and be fun to be with.
  3. Crack some jokes once in a while: Similar to the previous tip, this one shows that you can be fun. Most teachers fear that once they crack jokes, students will not take them seriously. But my experience suggest otherwise. Having shared a joke or two with my students (particularly when I worked with teenagers), I began to be accepted even more. One student commented that I became the person they approached the most because I can relate to them.
  4. Find out what music, TV programme, sports, etc. they like and familiarise yourself with them: As a person from a different generation, they may think we are out of touch with the current trend. Surprise your students by knowing more about their favourite artists, films, etc.
  5. Listen actively to your students: Use body language effectively. Allow your students to finish what they are saying and concentrate on their points of view. Make sure that you clarify anything that you do not understand.
  6. Use a ‘Free Expression Box’: There would be more than one student in any given class who prefer not to say anything due to anxiety. Make sure you have a box (call it whatever you like) in the classroom in which the students are allowed to put notes in. These notes may contain their thoughts about you, their peers, the school or their family. Be very clear about the rules for confidentiality and disclosure, though.
  7. Use these positive words and phrases:20130708-124901.jpg
  8. Ask them for feedback: Do not be afraid to ask them how they felt about your lesson or activity. Ask them what they enjoyed and what you could improve next time. One may fear that this gives complete control of your class to the students, but I disagree as this promotes harmonious and inclusive atmosphere in your classroom. It makes your students feel that you consider their thoughts and opinions.
  9. Use Golden Time and Free Play times to speak to your students: Spare 5 to 10 minutes of your marking/ planning time to speak to kids during relaxed/ unstructured times such as free play and golden time. Ask them about their day/week, how their pets are, or anything that they are interested in.
  10. Let your students know you: Communication and relationships are a two-way street. Let your students know a bit about you. Tell them what music/sports/TV programme, etc. you like. Just like you, they will find some similarities between you that would build a foundation to a stronger bond between you.
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Being Intelligent Does Not Guarantee Success

TEDxGrit

 

When I was a  young child, I was always taught that in order to be successful in school, work and in life in general, I needed to be intelligent. High I.Q. according to my first teachers, equals a high grade. However, as I went through high school to graduate school and now as an educator, I discovered that having a high I.Q. does not guarantee that individuals will succeed. Intelligent students do not always get the highest marks/ grades, and the not-so-smart ones do not always get the average or lowest grades.

Life events and well-being immediately come into people’s minds when asked why this is the case. In addition to these, Angela Duckworth proposed that success depends on another important factor: Grit, defined as the ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals’. Watch her TED talk below:

 

To read Angela Duckworth’s seminal research on Grit, click HERE

Parents of individuals with Autism, I salute you!

parents

 

If there is one group of people that I respect more than any other, it’s the parents of individuals with Autism. Having worked with young people with ASD for almost a decade, I have witnessed their struggles and triumphs first hand. I have listened to their stories- both the good and the bad. I have seen them deal with the tantrums and stims in and out of the classroom, while others stare ignorantly and at times, angrily and them.

Almost all of the parents I have spoken to were angry, frustrated and relieved all at the same time upon knowing their children’s diagnosis for the first time. ‘Nobody deserves to have a child with Autism’, some would say. But they figure out a way to raise their children. They are the first ones to acknowledge that it is not their children’s fault that they have Autism. Instead of giving up, these parents have had to change their ways of parenting in order to accomodate their children’s needs. Heck, they have had to change their lives to accomodate their children. Routines, ways of speaking, the food in their houses, the places they go to, have to be planned in advance. These parents are the ones who have to explain to their other children, who does not have Autism, why their brother/sister needs more attention and patience.

As mentioned above, they, along with their children, have to deal with those ignorant people who give them angry, disgusted stares and unsolicited but wrong parenting advice when they are in public places. They have to deal with the persistantly tough but misinformed teachers, who insist that their children are naughty, unattentive and academically slow. These parents are the ones who would fight tooth-and-nail to get their kids to the right school, with the right support and appropriate equipments.

These parents are the ones who are worried about their children when they reach school-leaving age.

It comes to no surprise that every single young person that I have worked with have their parents at the top of their prioroty list. Regardless of their mental and social skills, all of the young people that I have worked with would run back to a burning building just to save their parents.

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So whenever you speak to the parents of a child with Autism, always remember what they go through, day in, day out. When it comes to their kids, they are the experts. Listen to them. When planning and implementing interventions in schools, take their suggestions into consideration.

 

Follow these lovely parents on Twitter:

@autistagirl

@OurAutismLife

@lifewithAutism1

@DeekG43

@dixiegras

@ShitMyAspieSays

@gazsuper

@Sharissa77

@everhopeful1000

@feistyoatcake

@Donna_M_Forrest

@AutismJournal

 

Why Obedience is Not Always Good

milgram

If an authority figure told you to harm another person by administering 450v-shocks, would you do it? I hear you say NO. In the light of the nazi regime and it’s horrifying tales, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram set out to find just how much we obey autority figures. In his now classic experiment, he told 40 male participants that they were conducting a study on learning. Each participant took on the role of a teacher. Individually, they asked a ‘student’ (a confederate of the experimenter), who is in another room, a series of questions. If the student fails to give the correct answer, the teachers must administer electric shocks, which increased in intensity as the study progressed. The participants were not aware that the shocks were fake and that the students were only pretending to be hurt.

The students begged to be released once the 300v mark was reached. When the participants asked if they could stop, the ‘experimenter’ (another confederate, wearing a white lab coat who is standing next to the participants), gave these commands:

  1. Please continue
  2. The experiment requires that you continue
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue
  4. You have no other choice. You must continue.

Milgram’s findings showed that 26 out of 40 administered the maximum shock, whilst 14 stopped before reaching the highest levels. These findings led Milgram to suggest that most of us are likely to obey any orders due to the presence of an authoritative figure.

 

Why is this song in my head and how do I get rid of it?!

carly rae jespen

Whether it’s Carly Rae Jespen’s Call Me Maybe, Nickelback’s How You Remind Me, or Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger, we all had a song or two that has been stuck in our heads for a while and we don’t quite know why. Such an experience is called ‘Earworm’, a term which is a direct translation of the German word ‘Ohrwurm’.It  has been found  that around 90% of the population have had such an experience at least once a week. Earworms have been found to last between a few minutes to a couple of hours (Beaman & Williams, 2010). Although it is a common experience, around 15% of people claimed that Earworms are ‘disturbing’ and ‘unpleasant’ (Liikkanen, 2008).

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

Although there isn’t a definitive theory which can explain why how songs get stuck in our heads, there have been a few suggestions:

  1. Exposure: Some have proposed that songs/tunes are more memorable than others because we’ve listened to them a lot of times. However, a research by Victoria Williamson and her colleagues (Williamson et al., 2011) found that listening to a song is not a necessary pre-requisite for a song ‘worm-into’ our brains. Their findings suggest that being exposed to a stimuli which are (sometimes vaguely) related to a song can induce an Earworm. For instance, reading a number plate with the letters CMM can lead to remembering Call Me Maybe.
  2. Memories: Being in the same place where you’ve heard a song can be enough to trigger an experience.
  3. Mood: Williamson et al.’s findings also suggest that being in the same mood as you were when you first heard a song can also trigger Earworms.
  4. Boredom: The same study have also found that in some cases, Earworms begun when people were bored or in a ‘low-attention state’.

 

HOW CAN I STOP IT?

Now that we know the possible reasons why an Earworm manifests, we must know of any strategies of stopping it. In a research conducted by Hyman et al. (2012), participants were asked to listen to a variety of songs, from those of the Beatles to current ones like Lady Gaga’s. They then completed a number of different puzzles, with varying difficulties. After these, they were asked to report whether there are any songs that are playing on their heads (and did so again after 24 hours). They found that puzzles which are too easy and too difficult induced the most number of Earworms. The researchers suggested that:

  1. Earworms are manifestations of Zeigarnik Effect, i.e. we only cease to remember things/tasks when they are completed. In other words, a tune lingers in our heads because only a certain part (and not the whole of it) plays in our head. Hence, if we want it to stop, we need to consciously ‘play’ the whole of it.
  2. Also, after we’ve listened to a piece of music, we need to perform an activity that will keep our minds and/or bodies occupied. However, we need to consciously avoid tasks that are too easy or too difficult for us.

 

HERE ARE SOME EARWORM-INDUCING SONGS FOR YOU:

 

REFERENCES:

Beaman CP, & Williams TI (2010). Earworms (‘stuck song syndrome’): Towards a natural history of intrusive thoughts.British Journal of Psychology, 101(4), 637-653.

Hyman, I., Burland, N., Duskin, H., Cook, M., Roy, C., McGrath, J., and Roundhill, R. (2012). Going Gaga: Investigating, Creating, and Manipulating the Song Stuck in My Head. Applied Cognitive Psychology DOI:10.1002/acp.2897

Liikkanen L.A. (2008) Music in everymind: Commonality of involuntary musical imagery. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition. Sapporo, Japan.

Williamson, V., Jilka, S., Fry, J., Finkel, S., Mullensiefen, D., and Stewart, L. (2011). How do “earworms” start? Classifying the everyday circumstances of Involuntary Musical ImageryPsychology of Music DOI: 10.1177/0305735611418553

Why do Alzheimer’s disease sufferers remember songs from distant past?

Alzheimer’s disease, the 6th leading cause of death in America, is a form of dementia, commonly associated with memory loss in later life. It affects different areas of people’s lives such as planning, organisation and co-ordination. Despite being widely known as a condition of the elderly, it is not uncommon for people in their 40s or 50s to develop Alzheimer’s. At the time of writing, the causes of this disease is unknown, and hence, there is very little known about its treatment and prevention.

 

SYMPTOMS

Brain imaging studies have shown that little by little, the brains of people with Alzheimer’s are getting thinner and are losing their connections to each other. Such degeneration of the brain causes significant memory loss, particularly of newly presented items. Symptoms also include a decline in organisation skills, planning and co-ordination, as well as having (unfounded) suspicions over significant others.  These symptoms will gradually worsen over time- the progression varies from one person to another.

 

THE EFFECT OF MUSIC

There has been some cases where Alzheimer’s sufferers who were non-responsive and were unable to communicate suddenly awakens when they hear a piece of music which they liked in the past (before they had Alzheimer’s). A case in point is that of Henry, which as you will see in the video, was unresponsive to other therapies and interventions. But after being given an ipod which played music from his era, he began to respond to simple questions. Here’s the video:

 

 

One of the reasons why people such as Henry is able to respond to music is because our medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC) is one of the last parts that are affected by Alzheimer’s. A recent fMRI study conducted by Dr. Janata of the University of California-Davis has shown that the mPFC is the part of our brains which processes music and interlinks it with memory and emotions. As long as the mPFC is still intact and relatively undamaged by Alzheimer’s disease, significant pieces of music will still be able to evoke emotions and memories.

 

For an abstract of Dr. Janata’s research, click HERE