Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tutoring and Teaching Tips For Parents: Building the Environment of Learning

LEARNING requires two things: Attitude & Attempt.

Learning requires an attitude that says, "I will try" and it requires an approach that allows and encourages mistakes. Try telling your kids: "Let's see how many mistakes you can make" instead of saying, "Let's see if you can get this right."

Building an "Environment of Learning" in your home requires a NEW and DIFFERENT approach to teaching, tutoring and mentoring your children. Illiteracy is more than an inability to read, but rather an inability to comprehend what is being read, or what is being taught. To conquer what I call mathematical illiteracy, it will require a different approach to mastering mathematical skills.

Teaching can easily conjure negativity from a student, even from adults, because teaching can easily be misconstrued as "telling me what to do." If you are going to establish a new method, philosophy and approach to helping your child (or children/adults/pupils) learn, then you need to learn how to remove negative stigmas associated with 'telling people what to do.' When you opt to use a mentoring or coaching approach to teaching, you are thereby allowing yourself and your student(s) to receive the information in a more positive way because mentors and coaches HELP without lecturing. A coach or mentor will show us what we did wrong, by encouraging and establishing a faith in our ability to get it right. Lecturing loses focus and lecturing can easily tune people out. None of us like being "told what to do." But, showing someone HOW and WHY to do something, while encouraging mistakes, because you know in time they will get it right, helps relieve the tension and stress associated with having to be perfect all the time.

I encourage my pupils to make as many mistakes as they wish, thereby freeing their mind and focus. Encouraging someone to try something, without fear of reprimand for "not doing it right" helps maintain the positive--I can do it!--attitude and it encourages multiple attempts at failure, which is really a key ingredient to success. You cannot succeed at anything until you have done it wrong so many times, that it becomes impossible later for you to get it wrong. As I am fond of saying, "We learn how to ride a bike because we have fallen so many times." Also, "you never learn how to hit the ball, until you become the kid who is always striking out."

When you encourage a student to make mistakes, by showing them how and why something is or isn't WORKING (as opposed to telling someone how or why something isn't RIGHT) you give them back the creative freedom to LEARN. Allowing a child to think for themselves is critical to retaining the knowledge necessary to comprehend something. We only learn the stove is hot, not after we've been told it is, but after we've touched it. A student/child/adult learner needs to be shown how to do something, and then given a free pass to try it, make a mistake, make adjustments, adapt and correct it, with your mentoring and coaching. This is the embodiment of learning.

Allowing a child/student/pupil to challenge you in your process is just as vital. We have become a society of "do what I say, because I said so" when in reality, we need to change this approach, especially in mathematics, because like fundamental math (problems) there is always more than one way to get the right answer. Encouraging a child to challenge the process teaches them how to become visionaries, to see things differently, try a new method, and discover a way that works best, all for the sake of mastering an element--with homework, in the classroom or in Life.

I challenge and encourage you to break loose of the philosophy that a child has to do homework because "you said so" but rather encourage your child/student/pupil to make mistakes, with you by their side, coaching them, mentoring them and challenging them to think freely or creatively, all for the sake of proper learning.

...building an environment of learning, one household at a time...

~Bobby Ozuna
Vice-President/Co-Founder, READ3Zero Non-Profit Literacy Foundation
Writer. Motivational Speaker. Tutor


Melanie said...

I have a question.. what do you do if a child is a perfectionist? My youngest has been one since birth. I've encouraged her to make mistakes. I've tried to explain that making mistakes is learning too. I just can't seem to break her of that mold she put herself in. The other two respond well to your teaching methods.

Author, Public Speaker & Internet Talk Show Host, Bobby Ozuna said...

How do you validate [that] a child actually IS a perfectionist? How do you distinguish between a child being a perfectionist and a child just trying really hard to do it right every time? That clarification will help me, help offer some insight.


Melanie said...

If she makes mistakes, she will destroy the work and start over from scratch. If she makes a mistake on a paper, she's furious with herself. I've never put pressure on my children. I tell them no one is perfect and mistakes are part of learning. Holly is very critical of herself with everything but especially school work. I've tried my best to let her know as long as she tries, I'm happy. She doesn't have to try really hard to do it right..this child does it right every time. She's very intelligent. She's a 4th grader reading at 7th grade level and understanding it. She does 6th grade math and because she doesn't like Science, she studies even harder for it. She continues to amaze her teachers with the work she does. She gets an A on a paper and she's furious wanting to know how she can get an A+. Me I tell her an A is terrific!

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