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My favorite education quote comes from William Butler Yeats, who said, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." As educators we are often more concerned filling our students with facts, figures, names, dates, and theorems than we are with sparking in our students an interest in learning the subject at hand. Shame on us! Teaching is the art of imparting information. However, I think we put too much emphasis on imparting the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and ”how” of a given subject; and far too little emphasis on the why. If, while ensuring that our students have the information required to understand a subject, we manage to illicit from them the question "why," we have succeeded as teachers. If our students aren’t asking “why,” our teaching is mere ritual with no meaning.

When I was in high school my study habits were terrible. Looking back now, I'm not really sure how I did as well in school as I did. My lack of good study habits caught up to me in my freshman year of college. Because I was putting myself through college, I blamed my poor scholastic performance on having to work to pay for tuition, books, food, etc. One day, between classes, I was playing cards with some friends in the commons and complaining about being so busy that I didn't have time to study. (I know . . . wait for it.) My English Lit professor, Mr. Sidney Bender, was walking by and overheard the conversation. He stopped, turned around, looked straight at me, and said, "You, Sir, are an idiot." Now, you have to understand that Mr.Bender was my favorite professor, and his was the one class I knew I was going to ace. So, having him call me an idiot got my attention. Being quick witted, I replied, "What?" He strode back to the table, pulled the cards... read more

Did you ever wonder why some classes are easier for you than others; or why you like some teachers more than others? A large part of the reason has to do with how you learn. Researchers tell us that are seven different learning styles; however, these styles overlap. Your particular learning style may actually be a combination of three or four styles. Let's look at the basic styles, and then we'll discuss how you can understand how you learn best. The seven styles are visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, and solitary. If you are a visual learner, you learn better when the instructor uses pictures and images. If you are an aural learner, you learn better when the instructor uses sounds or music. If you are a verbal learner, you learn better when the instructor uses the spoken or written word. If you are a physical learner, you learn better when the instructor allows you to use your hands and your body. If you are a logical learner, you learn better when the... read more

My wife swears that she didn't get the "math gene." What she means by that is that mathematical concepts are not a part of her natural thinking processes. I disagree. Math is a way of expressing concepts that we all use every day. For example, my wife can prepare a meal from a recipe book. Recipes are mathematical equations of proportion expressed in the form of ingredient amounts. Hence, she understands and uses math every time she uses a recipe. My wife can also half or double a recipe if she needs to. The ingredient amounts change, but the proportions remain constant. Shopping is another every-day activity where we use math. If we know we have $100 to spend on a shopping trip, we use math to determine what we can buy during that trip. The mathematical equation might look like this ($20 + 7%) + ($50 + 7%) + $20 < $100. The left side of this equation means that you bought a $20 and a $50 item, both of which you would need to pay sales tax on at... read more

PC magazine defines "digispeak" as the use of "acronyms as a shorthand for phrases in e-mail, instant messages, texting and chat." Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced, technological society, digispeak has become so common that it has crept into more formal forms of communication such as writing. This is especially true of those who aren't old enough to remember when email did not exist. This acronymic invasion of the written word has somehow cheapened the craft of writing. Don’t get me wrong, I text and IM with the best of them; but, when I sit down to "write" something, I do so with a certain reverence for the written word. When I sit down to write, I want the end result to be artful, engaging, and yes ... beautiful. So, what’s the answer? Do I just accept digispeak as a sign of the times; or do I hold fast to the belief that writing is a craft worthy of being studied, developed, and practiced ... without requiring the reader to interpret endless... read more

When I was in elementary school, the subject of vocabulary was just plain boring. I was a good student, but my grades in vocabulary revealed that I wasn't really interested in that subject. So, my grandmother gave me a book to read that was two full grades above my reading level. She chose a book that would interest me, and told me I could only read it when I was at her house. I liked to read, and the book was exciting and well written. The problem was that I didn't know one out of every twenty words I read. I would ask my grandmother what a word meant (which was her plan all along), and she would make me guess its meaning from the context of the sentence. If I was correct, I could continue reading. If I was wrong, I had to look the word up in the dictionary and read the entire definition to her. The end result, from my young perspective, was that I got very good at determining the meaning of an unknown word from the context in which it appeared. The end result, from my grandmother's... read more

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