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An Oasis of Dignity

Blog Type:  Social and Emotional Issues Date Posted:  Thursday, June 27, 2013

Submitted by Donna Hicks, Ph.D.

It was pouring down rain on Friday June 7 — graduation day for the class of 2013 at Landmark High School in Beverly, MA.  This was no ordinary graduation, and the rain did not put a damper on the joy that infused everyone in attendance.

It was victory day for 82 students who struggled with learning challenges early in their lives. As many of them reported, they were headed down a slippery slope in public school, where they felt overwhelmed and depressed. They did not respond to traditional teaching methods that were geared toward the average learner. Given their unique ways of processing information, they needed instruction that was designed for their particular learning style. Their parents found Landmark school—a life-saving educational institution that has graduated thousands of such students for more than 40 years. I call it an oasis of dignity.

I was asked to deliver the commencement speech. It seemed clear that these young people would understand what it meant to have their dignity violated. So many of them suffered from feeling marginalized and shamed simply because they had a different way of learning. Landmark School, with its remarkable faculty and administration, turned that around for them. They were transformed into accomplished graduates, all of them attending college in the fall.

My message to them was simple. I told them that they needed to remember three lessons. These would apply to the next phases of their education, and to all people from all walks of life.

1. You have inborn value and worth. The minute you doubt it, you're heading for trouble. People out there might want to make you feel unworthy; the world can be a cruel place. We humans can do very hurtful things to one another.

Many of us make the mistake in feeling that if someone mistreats us, that there is something wrong with us. It's certainly embarrassing and hurtful when our dignity is harmed but it doesn't mean there is anything personally wrong. It means that something wrong happened to us. Whenever you start to doubt your worthiness, say to yourself, "I'm invaluable, priceless, and irreplaceable.”  That will get you back on track.

2. No one can take your dignity away from you. It is always in your hands. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and stated, “Any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose.” It can be wounded and trampled on, and it needs to be cared for, but you are the only one in charge of your dignity.

When your self-worth is intact, you can get through just about anything. It's the key to resilience. We may need time to heal from the wounds, but it is always there. You may betray your dignity (by losing sight of it) it but it will never betray you.

3. By honoring dignity in yourself and others, you become an outstanding citizen of the world. Success certainly requires technical training and education. However, what is going to set you apart from all the other people competing for jobs and opportunities is your character.

Knowing how to treat people well, how to recognize their dignity, and how to live your life in an honoring way, will not only bring you success, but it will make you the kind of human being that people want to be around. It will make you a leader. Give back some of the dignity that Landmark created for you.  Go out in the world and treat others the way you were treated here. Not only do we make others feel good when we recognize their worth, but we look good, too. When we honor others’ dignity, we strengthen our own.

Learn more about Donna Hicks and her book, Dignity

 

Donna Hicks is the author of Dignity and an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. Dr. Hicks delivered Landmark's 2013 commencement address.

 

 

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Tags:  accomplished graduates character commencement address dignity Donna Hicks graduation day Landmark School learning style Nelson Mandela oasis of dignity outstanding citizen Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

Differences Among Learners, Real and Not

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Friday, April 26, 2013

Submitted by Annie Murphy Paul

The idea that students have particular “learning styles”—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. — is a popular and persistent one despite the lack of scientific evidence to support it. (For a great summary of the research, see this blog post by UVA cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.)

The apparent weakness of learning styles theory does not mean, however, that students don’t differ from one another. They clearly do. But let’s focus on differences that have empirical support. Scott Barry Kaufman points out one such set of differences in one of his recent columns on the Scientific American website—that is, differences in working memory.

As Scott explains, “Working memory involves the ability to maintain and manipulate information in one’s mind while ignoring irrelevant distractions and intruding thoughts. Working memory skills are essential for everyday intellectual functioning.” And learners vary in the capacity of their working memory, a fact that teachers can take into account:

“In an educational setting, helping students overcome working memory burdens can be particularly helpful. Over the past decade John Sweller and colleagues have designed instructional techniques that relieve working memory burdens on students and increase learning and interest. Drawing on both the expertise and working memory literatures, they match the complexity of learning situations to the learner, attempting to reduce unnecessary working memory loads that may interfere with reasoning and learning, and optimize cognitive processes most relevant to learning.

Cognitive Load Theory can be particularly useful for students with working memory deficits who are otherwise extremely intelligent and competent as it allows them to more easily demonstrate their brilliance.” (Read more here.)

For learners with such working memory deficits (and for all of us when we’re learning something new or difficult), reducing cognitive load can lead to big improvements in performance. We can do so by breaking concepts and problems into smaller steps, weeding out extraneous information, presenting information in multiple modalities (e.g.,  supplementing written text with pictures or aural information), and simply slowing the pace of learning so that we don’t become overwhelmed.

To quote Dan Willingham: “People do learn differently, but I think it is very important to say exactly how they learn differently, and focus our attention on those differences that really matter.” What are some other evidence-based distinctions we can make among learners? Read Annie Murphy Paul's blog and weekly newsletter, The Brilliant Report.

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Annie Murphy Paul is a book author, magazine journalist, consultant, and speaker. 

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Tags:  Annie Murphy Paul auditory cognitive load theory cognitive process Daniel Willingham John Sweller kinesthetic learning learning style Scientific American Scott Barry Kaufman The Brilliant Report visual working memory

Dyslexia: Learning Disability or Entrepreneurial Advantage?

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Thursday, October 13, 2016 Byline:  By Elliot S. Weissbluth

typewriter

Having dyslexia doesn't mean you can't learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

I was first diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, and then again 20 years later as an adult law school student.

Dyslexia affects each individual a little differently, but generally creates difficulties for processing written language. It is often characterized as a “learning disability.”

Early on, I struggled to keep up in grade school, especially with reading and studying. My parents purchased a Smith Corona typewriter, and every day I typed my notes from class onto onionskin paper. The process of deciphering my own handwriting (not easy even today!) and then typing the words onto a page I could read later was critical to helping me learn. Imagine my delight later in life when computers came along and I was already so comfortable on the keyboard.

Having dyslexia doesn’t mean you can’t learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

In fact, people with dyslexia are often highly creative thinkers, likely because in compensating for or overcoming the challenges of dyslexia we develop a strategic intelligence, as well as a stubborn persistence. It is no surprise to me that entrepreneurs exhibit higher rates of dyslexia than the general population. We’re wired to approach challenges in new ways, to work around obstacles, and to solve problems.

And we’re in pretty good company: Woodrow Wilson, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, Agatha Christie, and Cher, are just a few examples of dyslexics who have achieved amazing things.

Effective coping strategies vary from person to person, but here are a few I’ve learned:

  • Take your time. In school, dyslexic students are often allotted extra time to complete assignments. In the real world, the best way to avoid the sensation of not having enough time is to start things early. I’ve always been an early riser, so I usually get up at 4:30 in the morning so I can have an hour or so to myself before the kids wake up and the day begins in earnest. This allows me to look at my calendar, slowly read important e-mails, and think through everything ahead of me that day. My habit of extensive and early preparation developed out of my need to not feel rushed to “keep up” with my non-dyslexic peers.
  • Be purposefully attentive. Attention requires effort. Try “active listening,” a technique used in conflict resolution, in which the listener paraphrases and repeats back the speaker’s message to ensure mutual understanding (you can keep this feedback silent and write down what you think they mean). Look for clues about what the speaker FEELS rather than just hearing what they SAY. I’ve found that journaling helps me stay in the present.
  • Reject the myth of multitasking.If you are trying to listen to someone speak or you are reading something important, you can’t text, talk, tweet, check your email, or perform some other function without degrading your attention.
  • Recognize your strengths and develop them rather than improve a weakness. Turn your compensatory tactics, whatever works for you, into assets. I could type 30 words per minute in seventh grade, and by the time the Internet caught on, I was naturally composing on the keyboard, able to transcribe spoken words and typing nearly as fast as a professional typist.

About the Author:

Elliot Weissbluth

Elliot Weissbluth is the Founder and CEO of HighTower Advisors, a financial services company that serves high-net-worth clients. He's also a LinkedIn Influencer. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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Tags:  Agatha Christie Albert Einstein Cher confidence dyslexia dyslexia awareness Elliot Weissbluth entrepreneurs with dyslexia Executive Function executive function strategies language-based learning disabilities learning disabilities learning style multitasking Richard Branson Steven Spielberg Woodrow Wilson

Successful Online Learning

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, July 28, 2016 Byline:  by Danika McClure

working on computer online learning

"Learning in an online environment is quite the adjustment if you've never experienced the platform before."

Distance learning is a trend that has rapidly expanded in recent years. Reports by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System indicate that nearly 5.5 million had enrolled in at least one online course in 2012, and an additional 2.6 million students were enrolled in fully online programs—and there’s significant evidence that suggests this number will only continue to increase in years to come, some even arguing that schools might someday be completely online. Online courses are even becoming more common in high schools and for professional development.

While online classrooms offer students flexibility, increased contact with professors and teachers, and additional time to review course materials, online learning is not without its own challenges. In fact, the learning in an online environment is quite an adjustment if you’ve never experienced the platform before, and special preparations are necessary in order to avoid online learning mistakes.

If you are considering pursuing a degree, or even taking a few courses in an online learning platform, here are a three essential steps you can take to ensure your success.

Step One: Plan and Stick to a Schedule

While online courses do offer students flexibility, it’s important that students create and stick to a reliable schedule for completing their coursework. As you grow to understand the expectations for your courses, take note of how long it takes you to understand the reading material, how long and how frequently you are expected to participate in group discussions, and how long completing exams and quizzes takes you.

Once you have a grasp of this information, spread the workload out throughout your week, month, and semester, so you have enough time to complete the coursework before major due dates and exams.

Step Two: Make the Most of Online Group Discussions

Without being a part of the traditional classroom, students can feel isolated or feel like they’re going through the process alone. Participating in online discussions and chat rooms is the easiest way to beat the isolation blues, and can give you added insight into the thoughts of your peers. Some professors go so far as to argue that online engagement can be even more  productive than an in- person environment.

“They’re very dynamic discussions. In a class of 12 people, we might have a discussion question on reading a particular article of how a business has developed a sustainability plan…And out of 12 students, there’ll be a hundred different comments…they’re extensive,” notes Paul Ventura, Acting Director of the School of Business at Marylhurst University. “Our students are literally talking books. They’re bringing in resources. They’re bringing in links to videos–things that you can’t do in a spontaneous classroom.”

Step Three: Optimize Your Workspace

Online learning can be done in nearly any location, but optimizing your workspace will allow you to fully immerse yourself in learning materials and make the most of your busy schedule. Try to locate a quiet, dedicated space where you can surround yourself with no distractions.

Online learning also comes with the temptation to view distracting websites. In order to remain productive during your study hours, try using extensions or apps to block distracting websites.

The expanding presence of online learning is certainly exciting for students of all ages who are looking for more flexible, accessible, and affordable learning opportunities. For many students, however, learning in an online platform requires a new, unfamiliar set of skills, as well as a level of autonomy not found in a traditional setting. By simply keeping these three tips in mind, any student will be well prepared to transition into this new, exciting environment.  

About the Author:

Danika McClure

Danika McClure is a writer from the Northwest who enjoys covering politics and the future of education. She sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl   

 

 

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Tags:  distance learning education learning style online classroom online courses online learning

Tips for Parents: Working with Your LBLD Student, Part 3

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Sunday, May 15, 2016

mother and daughter at computer

By Gail Kent

Homework: Importance and Procedures for Success

Ever have difficulty figuring out how to help your child with homework? Why is homework so important anyway?

Homework is used to reinforce skills and information learned during class time. It is important for students because it allows them to further interact with material and repeat learned skills. In addition, it readies them to perform independent work after high school. Below are some best practices for homework completion:

Establish a consistent time and place for homework completion. Use a desk, the dining room/kitchen table, or someplace with a hard writing surface.

Set up the homework completion area for success:

  • Be consistent
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Maintain homework tools:
    • pencils, pens, colored pencils, highlighters
    • paper
    • tape, glue stick
    • hole punch, scissors
    • ruler, calculator
    • miscellaneous items that your student may need

Monitor but don't get involved in the routine completion of homework. The goal is for your student to become independent. While students may need more direct help to set up a routine at the beginning of the school year, slowly decrease your support.

Learn the work cycle of your student and when students need a break. Breaks can happen at certain time intervals or after certain goals are accomplished. Just make sure breaks are taken before students reach points of frustration.

Give positive feedback. Make a point to talk about the things your student is doing well and praise their effort not just their accomplishments.

Expectations. Talk to your student about getting to know their teachers' expectations. Each teacher may have a slight variation of their expectations. Make sure your student knows what these are. If a teacher does not provide a hand-out at the beginning of the year (or for each assignment) listing basic expectations, encourage your student to ask for one.

Use the notes. If your student doesn't understand something, encourage them to look in their notes. Notes are the best way to get information from what happened in class. Asking your student to reference their notes encourages them to take better notes, see potential places they could improve their note-taking, and become more independent learners.

It's still not working. If students still have questions, encourage them to email their teacher.

Don't do it for them! 

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Gail Kent, an academic advisor, has been a teacher and tutor at Landmark for 20 years.

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Executive Function 101: Independence

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Monday, April 23, 2018

This is the fourth post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time. The second addresses managing materials, the third addresses managing information, and the fifth finding balance between school and extra-curricular activities.

executive function templates room cleanup
Download the Room Clean-up and Daily Checklists. 

The ultimate goal to mastering executive function skills is achieving independence. This gives us the liberty to take on new challenges and thrive.

Once students have been introduced to the skills and strategies to manage, and in some cases, overcome executive function deficits, the goal is to push them to become independent learners. First and foremost, students achieve independence when they understand themselves, their strengths, weaknesses, foibles, and learning style. The next step is to take all of this information and make adjustments to best manage time, information, and materials, and to ultimately be a confident and effective self advocate

Tips

  • Practice new skills.
  • Build time into the day to reflect, update, prioritize, plan, review.
  • Refine skills to suit your learning style.
  • Know yourself.
  • Self advocate for your needs.

Support at Home

Most experts agree that families and guardians must listen to their students struggling with executive function deficits. They should encourage their students to master skills for school and home and practice them regularly. Robin Day-Laporte, the head of the Study Skills department at Landmark School, said, “As students encounter more opportunities for success and failure and as time passes and they grow up, their executive function skills are strengthened. Failure is okay—it appropriately challenges the brain and a child's character. Opportunities to fail help a child to develop problem-solving skills and build resiliency. "And as it relates to helping a child grow, develop, and eventually transition out of high school, I encourage parents to know their children, to watch and listen to figure out what they love and what truly brings them joy, and then to honor and cultivate that. If a child genuinely loves what they are doing, they are motivated. And motivation is a key component of executive functioning."

 

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Tags:  Executive Functioning executive functions learning style problem solving schedule self-advocacy
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