Ah, the excuse note. A powerful little document with the magical power to grant forgiveness for many a scholastic transgression. They are sacred things, those notes, an inevitable part of school life: written, handed in and then forgotten. But sometimes a note is different — sometimes it stands out. Let’s take a look at some notes that made enough of an impact that the teacher-recipients had to share them. And remember, the misspellings and grammar problems were in the original note.
“My dad forgot to do my homework for me.”
“I left my homework in the back of a pickup truck. Went through a carwash.”
“My son Michael won’t be in school today, he caught his thing in his zipper this morning while dressing and is in lot of pain!”
“Please excuse Johnnie for being. It was his father’s fault.”
“My youngest daughter couldn’t turn in her homework because her younger step-brother had stolen it, filled it in and turned it in to his teacher to prove how smart he was.”
“Please excuse Eric from school on May 5th through May 19th. He was waiting in line for the new Star Wars film. You will be happy to know, he got tickets for next September, when he will be missing another week of school while he waits in line for the perfect seat.”
“Please excuse my daughter from school yesterday and P.E. forever. She had a very bad asthma attack running in P.E. because the coach made her run too much. Please excuse her from P.E. even though the doctor says she needs it.”
“Diane was late on Wednesday. She fell asleep on the bus and was taken back to the bus yard.”
“Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrheea and his boots leak.”
“Please exscuse John from being absent Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and also 33.”
“Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.”
“Tommy wasn’t in school yesterday because he thought it was Saturday.”
“Please excuse my son. He will be out next week slaughtering goats for his manhood ritual. Thank you!”
“Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch and when we found it Monday we thought it was Sunday.
“Please excuse little Jimmy for not being in school yesterday. His father is gone and I could not get him ready because I was in bed with the doctor.”
“I won’t be in class today because I’m in love.”
We take so much of today’s education system for granted, as though the way we teach young people has always been the way it is. Truth be told, however, it took years, even generations to develop our present level of understanding when it comes to the process of learning. One remarkable thing about the development of education, though, is how much of it has been the result of a few individuals with genius and dedication and a sincere desire to improve the lives of young people. This is something we at Tutor Doctor can appreciate, since we’re on the front lines, working with students every single day. Here are five educators, mostly unknown to those outside the field of education, who really made a difference.
1. Horace Mann (1796-1859)
Mann was an extraordinary person who lived and worked in the early years of the American republic. He was a politician from Massachusetts, serving in the state legislature and, later, in the House of Representatives in Washington. The true passion of Horace Mann, however, was to shape the new nation into a modern, prosperous, leading-edge nation, and the main path toward this goal, in his view, was education. He led the charge for an education system that was accessible to all, and for free. But he didn’t just want schools to squeeze knowledge into the mind of children — he wanted to instil character, to make sure that future citizens would be dedicated, hardworking and have loads of character. Mann not only played a central role in the creation of public education, he was massively influential in creating American values.
2. Margaret Bancroft (1854-1912)
Margaret Bancroft is truly one of those people to whom “world changer” fully applies. Before she came along, any child who had special needs was pretty much considered a lost cause. But Margaret Bancroft saw potential in those kids. She started her own school, with the unbelievable name “Haddonfield School for the Mentally Deficient and Peculiarly Backward,” and got to work with a broad regimen of healthy eating, exercise, arts, music and constant experimentation with lessons geared toward every kind of special needs student. Because she never gave up on her students, she learned techniques that allowed them to get an education instead of being labelled and discarded. She changed society’s thinking, and so now, to this day, kids with exceptionalities are valued.
3. Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
If the name Montessori rings a bell, it should. Maria Montessori lived in Italy, and in fact was the first woman in Italy to become a medical doctor. After her education, she got a job in a mental hospital. There were children there who were considered mentally ill or deficient, but Montessori found that with attention and skill, these students could be inspired to find a passion for learning no one had thought possible. Afterwards, working with often-neglected children of poor families, she experimented with the kind of early childhood educational techniques we now take for granted: child-sized furniture, educational activities, and letting kids decide what they want to do and how to do it. She found that kids work best when given a bit of freedom rather than under the old approach, which involved strict, often severe discipline. She essentially created early childhood education.
4. John Holt (1923-1985)
If you’ve got a kid in public or private school, you’ve probably never heard of John Holt. But if you homeschool, chances are you’ve read at least some of his work — and if you haven’t you should! You see, Holt’s writing provided much of the scientific basis for homeschooling. Like so many teachers, he went from college to teaching, but very quickly became intensely frustrated with the public school system. He found it conformist, rigid and inflexible. He later conducted research that indicated most kids perform better in atmospheres with flexibility, using learning approaches tailored to their own specific needs. He played a key role in raising the legitimacy of homeschooling, and his book, Teach Your Own, is still the bible of the home-teaching world. Today homeschooling continues to grow by leaps and bounds, something that’s hard to imagine without Holt’s research and writings.
5. Howard Gardner, (1943-
Some of the approaches and techniques used throughout the history of education were based on observation, but a lot of it has been based on practical needs, availability of resources and just plain assumptions about what works best — indeed the basic structure of classroom learning, with a teacher standing in front of rows of students behind desks, hasn’t changed much in the past 150 years or so. Howard Gardner, however, came along and started asking some tough questions about how the human brain actually learns. His research resulted in the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which posits the idea that different people have different brains that best learn in different ways. His work has been widely supported by research. His original list of intelligences (also known as learning style) has grown to nine distinct styles, and the list continues to grow. Gardner’s work has thrown into question the idea of a single one-size-fits-all approach to education, but educators still struggle to transform Gardner’s theories into practical change. Which style are you? Take a test and find out!
Sleep is important. Sleep is very important. First of all, it’s precious time for our brains to rest, taking a break from the hard work they do all day getting us through this crazy carnival we call life. Doctors know full well just how harmful a lack of sleep can be, both physically and mentally, as it can contribute to stress, anxiety, cognitive ability, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and much more. A healthy sleep regimen should therefore be a central part of everyone’s daily routine. But while it may seem like we’re powerless to improve our sleep patterns, there are actually ways we can help.
1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Sleep shouldn’t be an afterthought, it should be a core part of your daily routine. When it comes to sleep, our brains love a healthy routine. Try to use set times to go to sleep and wake up each day. You should especially avoid staying up past your bedtime if at all possible. Yes, “bedtime.” Sound like a word that normally gets applied just to kids? Well guess what, every parent can tell you that maintaining a healthy sleep schedule not only helps the cognitive development of children, but also makes them less grumpy. In this case, it’s just as important for adults who want to be healthy.
2. Try to be active during the day
Exercise helps a great deal. Indeed getting the heart pumping on a daily basis is incredibly beneficial in so many ways, but when it comes to sleep, you’ll notice effects in terms of relaxation, blood flow, and just plain wearing you out. There are other benefits you may not even have thought of, such as the fact that a healthy weight allows for easier respiration at night along with less snoring. So try to squeeze in a walk, a run, a workout, anything active.
3. Watch what you eat and drink
Caffeine is a stimulant, it’s the biggest reason why we consume it. A morning coffee, or a pick-me-up at that late-afternoon energy drop, are often helpful in getting us through the day. But you may not be aware that caffeine can stay in our bodies for ten hours or more, which means a cup of coffee consumed at 3pm could still be keeping us wired a 1am. So as difficult as it can be for some, try to reduce the amount of caffeine you take in, especially after lunchtime. In addition, try to avoid eating too much food too close to bedtime, while at the same time avoid going to bed hungry. Also don’t drink too much before hitting the hay, as that could result in many sleep-disturbing nighttime trips to the bathroom.
4. Try to get as much real sunlight as you can
Melatonin is one of many hormones produced by our bodies, but for good reason melatonin is often called the “sleep hormone.” To make sure your melatonin levels are where you want them to be, try to soak up as much natural sunlight as possible. Why? Because sunlight plays a major role in regulating our melatonin levels. Try to spend a good amount of time outdoors, and when indoors try to let in as much sunlight as you can. At the same time, be careful about screen time: staring at a computer, TV or even phone screen can trick your body into thinking it’s daytime. Instead, when sleep time approaches, shut it all down and read instead. Or just rest!
5. Make sure your sleep environment is restful and comfy
In order to drift off to sleep at night, you need to be soothed and relaxed. To make that happen, try to ensure your bedroom is as close as you can get it to completely silent. Darkness too is a help, and that includes little LEDs of chargers, adapters, and the myriad of devices we have in our lives. Use a mattress that matches your needs (maybe you’d be better off with bedding that’s softer, or maybe more firm). Keep your linens clean and your room tidy. Think about nice decorations too! The bottom line is this: you want your sleep environment to be welcoming, calming and peaceful.
6. Watch your stress levels
Stress can have serious effects on human health in so many ways, including blood pressure, digestion, headaches — the list is long. For most people, however, the first thing to get hit is their sleep patterns. Stress from school or work can generate many a night of tossing and turning. Since you need to relax in order to sleep, stress can ruin your night. Tackling stress is a huge undertaking, one that a sizeable percentage of our fellow citizens need to focus on. There are many methods for dealing with stress, so if it’s keeping you up at night do some research and talk to your doctor. Reducing stress will help you sleep, and getting more sleep will reduce your stress.
Headlines these days tend to focus on events in Washington, but a major court case is brewing that could have major ramifications for parents of kids with disabilities.Under US law, public schools nationwide are required to admit students with disabi…
“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein
Ensuring our young people obtain a quality education has always been a challenge, but every generation seems to encounter new struggles requiring new solutions, and these days an increasing problem is that of fake news.
There’s a natural human tendency to prefer information that agrees with our opinions and feelings. Thanks to the Internet, however, we now have the ability to spread information among our friends, drowning out differing views, while computer algorithms, originally designed to personalize our Internet experience, deliver up information that’s already being filtered before we even see it. This is called the “filter bubble,” and it ensures that most of us are only seeing a narrow range of information, and a growing percentage of that information is simply false. The two quotes at the top of this article, for instance, although both went viral on social media in recent memory, are fake; neither man said the words ascribed to him.
The filter bubble and fake news have combined to have a strong effect on political debate, and this is the topic of many a discussion on politics. Less acknowledged is the impact it’s having on education. A recent study [NOTE: PDF document] found that huge numbers of students of all ages, from middle school to college, are unable to distinguish between false information (and images) and falsehoods. These young people live a significant percentage of their lives online, and the digital world is witnessing a rising tide of false information on every subject, particularly history and science. What can be done to protect young people from the lies? How can youngsters be expected to spot falsehoods when grownups fall for them so easily?
1. Emphasize book learning
Yes, books can be just as biased and false as those Facebook quote images. However for most of human history, books were difficult and expensive to produce, so market forces meant there was less motivation to jam them with nonsense. Track down well-researched and properly-edited books on history and science, read them thoroughly — while relying on a number of sources, not just one or two — and make sure you and your youngster have a solid foundation of knowledge. Yes, try to read them and discuss them together, because all will benefit from this process. The greater your level of knowledge the greater your odds of spotting falsehoods.
2. Learn how to spot opinion disguised as fact
People have very strong opinions these days, and a certain number of your fellow citizens feel the need to create articles and images to bolster those opinions. In truth, however, these attempts are often very clumsy and easy to spot if you’re looking out for them. The first step is being able to say, “that doesn’t sound right.” From there, you can do a web search that will let you know in very short time whether the “fact” is real or not. Always remember the power of opinion. Pretty soon you’ll start to see them everywhere.
3. Question everything
It would be nice to just sit back, relax and read. But the truth is, the explosion of false information means it’s necessary to maintain a sense of suspicion and doubt at all times. In the above-referenced Stanford study, even undergrads at that highly-respected university were unable to identify questionable sources of information, or simply didn’t bother trying to tell the difference between reliable and unreliable sources. And even web searching may not pave the way to truth, because false information can sometimes spread so widely that it permanently ranks high in search results. Even alleged fact-checking sources can be suspect, displaying biases even as they claim to emphasize fact. Snopes is still reliable, but it can be hard to find truly reliable sources.
4. Be prepared for arguments
Because the filter bubble gives people information that matches their feelings and preexisting opinions, they can get very upset when that information is questioned. So it can be difficult to decide whether or not to challenge information one’s friends are gleefully sharing. One opinion might be that lies should be fought wherever they’re encountered; another might be that too much challenging may quickly make one friendless. Choose carefully.
5. Don’t hate opposing opinions
Opinions are valuable, and we should assume that everyone has them. But opinions are only a small part of a human being. Beyond our opinions we have thoughts, feelings, experiences and a spiritual and physical reality that is unique to all of us. It is inevitable that we will encounter people with different opinions. Yes, it is sad that a discussion of facts ends up being about opinions, but it’s the power of opinion that’s driving this false facts phenomenon. People aren’t stupid for believing different things, nor are they evil or subhuman.
Perhaps by connecting with one another, we can chip away at the filter bubble and start shaping our opinions based on facts, rather than the other way round. Most importantly, we need to recognize the threat posed to education by this phenomenon — we need to tackle it before it starts to cause real damage.
In many ways, the standard high school curriculum is largely unchanged from decades past. Math and science courses in particular have remained the same, although it’s easy to understand why: calculus remains calculus, physics remains physics, a…
When some people think of academia, they tend to imagine stuffy little offices piled high with old textbooks, or perhaps elderly lecturers droning in a monotone before an audience of bored note-takers. However, in truth academia is a living, breathing organism that not only observes mainstream culture but interacts with it and strives to understand just what it is we humans are up to and why. As a result, they sometimes end up with course offerings that might sound unusual, or even silly. Whether or not they are silly is in the eye of the beholder, but just for fun let’s take a look at some current and recent offerings.
1. Game of Thrones-related courses
Well, this one was certainly inevitable. A TV show that has slashed and stabbed its way to the top of the ratings would certainly be noted for its cultural significance. Here is part of a course description from the University of Virginia: “We will compare the ways in which HBO’s approach to the Game of Thrones phenomena both changes and cements aspects that Martin created.
2. Street-fighting mathematics (MIT)
One can’t help but associate the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with the absolute bleeding-edge research and deep thinking in all things technological and mathematical. So what is all this talk of “street-fighting mathematics?” You’ll be relieved to know that it has nothing to do with combat. Actually it’s a course that trains students how to do advanced mathematical calculations in their heads. Which is actually pretty great.
3. Arguing with Judge Judy (Berkeley)
Judge Judy’s TV show is extremely popular, and has earned its eponymous star a net worth in the tens of millions of dollars. But this course isn’t about the judge, or about the legal system. Instead, it looks at the rhetorical and logical devices that are routinely employed on the show: “Did you hit the plaintiff?” respondents often say, “If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!” This reply avoids answering “yes” or “no” by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called “a fortiori” argument “from the stronger” in Latin. In other words, it explores the use of logical fallacies on the show, and how similar fallacies are routinely used in society at large.
4. Philosophy and Star Trek (Georgetown)
Oh, you knew there was going to be a Star Trek course on this list. Few television shows have had as big an impact on human culture as the decades-old, multi-media Star Trek universe. Just as the show asked some fairly deep questions about the human condition, so do many of the Star Trek-related courses. This one at Georgetown certainly uses the show as a vehicle for asking about the self and free will, among other things. And in case you thought it might be an easy course, Professor Wetzel at Georgetown requires class participation and four thousand-word essays.
5. Social significance of clothing (Princeton)
Clothes make the man, so they say. But just what do our clothing choices say about us? This course at Princeton, apparently no longer offered, points out that clothing choices identify us as members of groups, subcultures, organizations and other aspects of society. Among other issues discussed are (or were) court rulings related to wearing religious headgear in the military.
6. The undead .. live! (Cornell)
Vampires. Once the stuff of trashy B-movies, vampires have climbed out of a once obscure niche and into a seat at the cultural big kid’s table, being now intertwined with action, romance and more. This particular course is quite unique, using vampire-related stage plays to take a look at the vampire phenomenon and what motivates it, not just in our modern era but throughout the generations. It’s worth noting that the course description emphasizes the requirement that all class assignments must be properly-constructed and -structured.
7. #SelfieClass (USC)
Welcome to the 21st Century. Selfies are a big deal these days, or at least they are pretty much everywhere. But what do our selfies say about ourselves? What do they say about how we express ourselves? There are many questions to ask. This course at the University of Southern California tiptoes into the strange realm of the selfie. Yes, students need to take selfies as part of the coursework. And yes, the course title is a hashtag.
8. Toy design major (Otis College of Art and Design)
You might not have heard of Otis College, located in Los Angeles. It’s not a big institution, and its offerings are for the most part unremarkable. They do, however, offer one of the more unique majors out there: toy design. It’s hard not to describe the major as being anything less than very cool, with included courses covering life drawing, visual communication, prototyping and more. It’s hard to know what the job prospects are in this field, but toys have always been a major part of society — and what could be more fun than designing toys?
9. Wasting time on the internet (UPenn)
We consider it time wasted: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. But just what is it we’re doing online? How much of what we do in these “time wasting” activities comes from the heart? If we were to assemble a narrative based only on our social media postings, would it be a novel? In addition to reading required texts, the course description advises that “students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs.” The description adds a final note: “Distraction, multitasking, and aimless drifting is mandatory.” You may not have put much thought into your online content, but it sounds like this course will make you think about it in whole new ways.
It’s not easy being an introvert. You’re subject to all the same obstacles and struggles as anyone, including trouble at home, difficulty concentrating, and just plain hating school — but on top of all those everyday concerns you have a layer that makes school’s casual socialization much more difficult. Speaking up in class, participating in group work, answering questions on the board, all these things (and more) can be a source of stress, anxiety and, even reduced grades. So how can we help these struggling students?
Shyness isn’t the same as introversion
Understanding the mechanism is a good start. In general, shyness is where a person is afraid to speak up, where the act of public speaking can easily generate embarrassment and even shame. It is frequently associated with a lack of confidence, even self-esteem. Introversion, however, is more of a personality alignment, in which someone is just happier with their own company and a generally lower appetite for social interaction. Introverts can also be shy, but they are still different things.
Try shrinking the audience
If a teacher is aware of shy/introverted students in the class, a useful technique is to slow down the process of public speaking. Instead of simply pointing to someone and ordering them to stand up and start speaking, take a pause and ask the students to think about their answer. This will give the more withdrawn students a chance to calm down and collect their thoughts. Furthermore, adding a partnering step can also be a big help. Have students try giving an answer to a fellow student before giving it to the whole class. That act of speaking to just one person, hopefully a friendly person at that, can really take the edge off and make it easier to address the class.
Employ social media
This is one scenario in which social media can be a huge benefit in the classroom. Even the shyest of student is likely to have a much easier time communicating through text-based chatting or posting to platforms like Facebook or Moodle.
Be careful about comfort zones
Some teachers and parents may feel the goal should be to reverse their student’s shyness/introversion by forcing them out of their comfort zone with required recitations or speeches. However, this approach can be extremely dangerous, and indeed can cause real trauma.
Instead, be gentle and gradual. As mentioned above, addressing individuals or small groups can be a great way to expand a student’s comfort zone, so that over time they’ll be better equipped to grow their audience. It is true that being able to speak to large numbers of people can be a valuable life skill, but acquiring that skill has to be a gentle process. The mere thought of standing on a stage and addressing a crowd can truly be a terrifying prospect for some people.
Above all else, it has to be emphasized at all times that shyness and introversion don’t in any way lower the value of a human being. Ensuring that every young person accepts that truth is critical to advancing in life.
The discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is fairly new, and as a society we’re still coming to grips with it. In retrospect, it’s quite amazing how casual we’ve been about head injuries, with high schoolers routinely told to “walk it off” after a hard hit. Such an approach was rarely questioned. Now, however, awareness of CTE is beginning to affect how we perceive participation in many activities, ranging from firefighting to military service. This is leading to a reassessment of high school sports and just what risks may be involved.
To begin with, the current body of medical knowledge holds that CTE results from hard blows to the head — not just once or twice but many times. When one sees it in, say professional football players, we’re talking about incredibly powerful hits from huge, extremely strong athletes. So if you slip on some ice and hit your head you shouldn’t assume you’re going to get CTE a few years hence.
It’s very difficult to know what sort of damage a teenager sustains while partaking in high school sports. Not everyone sustains hard blows to the head, and not everyone gets them frequently. However, a new study suggests that just one season of high school football may be enough to cause the kind of brain abnormalities associated with CTE in later life. However, these findings are preliminary, and should not be taken as directly causing CTE or other chronic brain problems. All research is still relatively new; more time is needed to fully understand the interaction between blows to the head and any resulting injuries.
One potentially heartening study may bring a bit of hope. If you think back to your classmates in high school, how many went on to have early-onset dementia or signs of traumatic brain injury? Is there even one? Well, the Mayo Clinic recently published a study that looked at students who took part in high school sports in the 1940s and 1950s and found that, on average, they were no more likely to have brain issues later in life. This suggests that, while there may be risks involved (and data is still being gathered on that), there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. After all, high school athletics are known to offer a long list of benefits to physical and mental health. In addition to improving overall physical health, being active also helps combat stress, and often boosts grades.
In other words, there is, as yet, no reason to worry. However, in the long term, there may, depending on research, be changes in future to high school sports. For now, keep at it, have fun — but exercise caution.
When young people are home for the holidays, they might be tempted to binge-watch something awesome. In truth, it’s still not known whether binge-watching boosts learning, harms it or has no effect at all. One thing’s for sure, however: consuming programs loaded with educational content is beneficial. It shouldn’t be forced, and if at all possible it should be a shared experience, with parents watching with kids. But the Internet is bursting at the seams with amazing video content. Just be aware of the suggested recommendations on screen time from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
1. NASA Live Streaming
Nobody does video imagery like the good old space program. Among their offerings is a YouTube channel that contains lectures, presentations and documentaries, plus a multimedia page with other assorted content from their many activities (Flash required). They also have a wonderful Ustream page that features a live stream from the International Space Station — sometimes it’s dark, even black, as the station passes over the night side of our planet, but it can also be spectacular. You might be able to find the ISS stream on smart TVs and plug-in boxes like Apple TV or Amazon Fire.
2. C.G.P. Grey’s YouTube Channel
CGP Grey is a very busy individual. An educator with dual Irish/US citizenship, you’ll find a homepage, multiple podcasts, and a YouTube channel. The YouTube channel in particular is just amazing, featuring many short videos that explain everything from the Star Trek transporters (“beam me up, Scotty!”) to who owns Antarctica. Educational and entertaining, Grey’s content is definitely worth checking out.
Yes, okay, a YouTube channel about math sounds horrendously boring. But the truth is, there’s so much more to mathematics than equations on a blackboard. The Numberphile channel goes to great lengths to demonstrate and explain mathematical concepts. Whether your youngster loves math or hates it, they’ll benefit from watching Numberphile.
High school is full of subjects, some of which can be a real struggle to grasp. Sitting in class and trying to follow along can be such a challenge. CrashCourse to the rescue! They have an amazing collection of videos that explain a vast array of concepts in everything ranging from math to history to economics to literature. It’s a great way to introduce youngsters to subjects they’ll be studying in future semesters, or to just dip their toes in the educational waters to find what interests them.
5. MIT’s News Channel
This one’s for the geeks! The renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is home to some of the most advanced scientific and technological research on the planet. They offer course materials for free, and their news channel is guaranteed to fascinate your science/tech nerd. The news channel consists of short videos that explain some of the bleeding-edge research taking place at the university. A definite must for anyone considering a STEM career.
These streaming outlets are, of course, just a small sampling of what’s available online. This list should be sufficient to get anyone started on finding amazing content while home for the holidays, but always remember there’s a lot more!