My students are my inspiration.
The best way to show my Inspired Approach to Learning is to share the unique stories of my students.
Here is a sampling of my students' success stories where you can see my various creative approaches and my students' reciprocal diligence and resilience. I live for transformations like these. Please read and get to know these winning students
(Names have been changed to protect privacy.)
Inspired approach: Read and write for fun
Paul was neither a big reader nor a focused writer when I met him as a freshman. He would begin reading books but quickly lose interest and found required reading to be an absolute chore. Writing papers was an agonizing, angst-filled process. To keep him interested in books, I would have him illustrate scenes or characters because he liked to draw. When the Hunger Games series came out, I recommended the books to him because the writing’s imagery was vivid and the story very suspenseful. He plowed through them with enthusiasm and then spontaneously began writing pages and pages of fan fiction. Since good writing comes with practice, I encouraged the fan-fiction writing by reading and commenting on every single page. 250 pages of commentary later, I had an avid reader and enthusiastic writer! Paul is now at University of Pennsylvania, has published a personal essay online, and interns in marketing, writing copy during his summers.
Inspired approach: Prepare and connect
Elle was struggling with her analytical essays for her 9th grade English teacher. The books’ protagonists were frequently boys or men grappling with issues she did not relate to or understand. No matter how hard she tried, her grades never crept above a B-. Her last reading assignment was Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and the paper topic was on the fall of Rome. Emily confessed that the only scenes that interested her were the moments between married couples: Julius and Calpurnia and Brutus and Portia. Although she was apprehensive, I convinced her to use the marriages' dynamics and problems as a lens for interpreting the dissolution of the empire. Being nervous about a risky but meaningful topic to her, she started the essay far in advance, sharing drafts with me and reviewing many versions. Unsure of how her paper would be received, she tentatively turned it in. You can’t imagine Elle's excitement when it was turned back with an A-!
Inspired approach: Overcome with confidence
I started working with Alicia in her first foray back to school after a hiatus. School had not been an easy experience due, in large part, to her Dyslexia, but she decided continue her education at community college to pursue her dream of working with animals. She needed support in English 101. All assessments in the course were the dreaded, anxiety-producing, in-class essay, and many of the reading assignments felt inaccessible to her. As we read and commented on her readings together, Alicia realized that she had a lot to say about the texts. But the words to express her complex and nuanced insights often eluded her, and she doubted and second-guessed her points. Over time, with my and her professor's encouragement, she grew more confident in her ideas and began to find her voice. Her main struggle was completing the entire five-paragraph essay in class. She would write some in class and then opt to bring the essay home to revise it with my support. When she learned that the final would require her to complete the entire essay without the option to revise, she became panicked. I told her I was 100% confident she could do it. She looked at me like I was nuts. The final essay was not going to be easy. It was on difficult texts, and the question was not given in advance. We reviewed and discussed the texts again and again in the weeks leading up to the exam, as well as late into the evening the night before, preparing possible outlines and annotating key passages. I left Alicia confident that she was well prepared and hoping her nerves wouldn't get in her way. Several weeks later I received an unexpected text from Alicia It was a picture of the corner of her final essay with a big A- in red ink. That said it all.
Inspired approach: Make a game of it
Joe was not a fan of French in 8th grade. He rushed through his homework and often failed his quizzes and tests. He struggled with learning how to apply grammar rules to basic syntax, and no amount of exercises or memorizing seemed to make a difference. I’d leave sessions before his quiz confident that he knew the material, and the quiz would come back as if a different student had taken it, riddled with mistakes and blank spaces. As an active, movement-oriented, aural and oral learner, I decided to press pause on the workbook and teach him new concepts and rules by listening and speaking with movement. Learning the names of body parts and how to describe spatial relationships became a game of Simon Says. We held direct and indirect objects in our hands as we discussed them and repeated the same exchange until the words came automatically. I began speaking to him all the time, describing my day and asking him about his. In our conversations, I used upcoming grammatical concepts so they were familiar when they appeared in the curriculum. Then I had a strategic conversation with his parents within earshot, complimenting his ear and talent with the language. His grades gradually crept from Cs to Bs to As, and he began speaking French for fun all the time. It became his easiest subject, freeing time and mental space to focus on new challenges.
Inspired approach: Flipping the script
Daniel was a smart, frustrated sophomore. He had been expelled from previous schools and acted out regularly. Although quite a talented writer, he was getting Cs and Ds in his English course. His teacher gave extremely detail-oriented exams that required extensive studying of the key scenes, characters, and language of each novel. When we first began to discuss the material, Daniel would prickle under my probing questions and rebuff my efforts with one word answers and a surly attitude. Sensing his defensiveness, I asked him for some writing samples. In front of him, I read through his work and found one piece that was particularly clear, personal and insightful. I looked him in the eye and simply said, “This is excellent.” A look of surprise flashed across his face, and from that moment onward, our discussions improved. But I still struggled with getting him to review on his own. He still occasionally recoiled from my questions and fell behind in the reading. Finally after a particularly moody and taciturn session, I told him that he would have the questions next session. I would finish the book Angela’s Ashes and come having memorized as many obscure details as I could. It was his job to quiz me, and, I challenged him -- I’m not easy to stump. A completely different student welcomed me at our next session. He was focused, prepared, and eager to meet the challenge. His notes sat in front of him, his book was dog eared and annotated. Our session was lively and dare-I-say fun?! He aced the test.
Inspired approach: Support for self esteem
Mae was an 8th grader, transferring to a new high school, when I met her. Diagnosed with ADD, she struggled to keep track of anything. Her backpack was a mess; her grades suffered from lost assignments, forgotten calculators, and not following instructions. And while her grades declined, her self-esteem plummeted. She knew that she was constantly disappointing her teachers and parents but didn’t know how to change or how to ask for help. My initial approach with Mae was not to change her habits but to get her to set realistic expectations for herself and then build her supports around them. With this philosophy, we approached her most important decision: where to go for high school. Mae realized that she struggles to keep track of paper assignments but does very well when everything is posted online with electronic copies. In addition, she wanted to find a school with students who shared her interests. She eventually chose her school for its iPad program, internet-accessible curriculum, emphasis on electronic texts and its careful consideration of her interests during her visit. Throughout her high school career, we worked on her advocating for her needs and seeking out the right support for success. She went from earning Cs to straight-A report cards. Her confidence and self-esteem rebounded, and she took on challenging, rewarding projects, such as creating her own graphic novel. Mae is now loving her college career at Skidmore, studying art history and gender studies.