Sharp Pencils and Struggling Students

By Dani Yanssens

I LOVE sharp pencils! They make me feel happy and energetic and I immediately want to create something! Every task seems more manageable when I have a sharp pencil in my hand. indexTo me, sharp pencils represent the beginning of the school year – a new start. A fresh perspective on what is to come. As a teacher, things like sharp pencils, decorating my classroom for the new school year and a new pack of lined paper all represent a wonderful time of year. I always loved school and couldn’t wait to get back, both as a student and a teacher. In my current profession I have been reminded often that there are many students who don’t feel the same way. Homework and tests do not come easily to everyone. Those kids who often fail in traditional courses and don’t have support or reassurance from those who are close to them can see school can be a horrific place. Students who struggle from learning disabilities, have never learned to read for comprehension or have missed so much school that they lag far behind their peers are frustrated in school and often feel like failures. To compound on their difficulties, they are often teased and criticized by other students, and unfortunately sometimes by teachers and family members. pencils1Most of our students struggled academically, socially or emotionally throughout their education before enrolling with us. They are not excited to be attending any school, ever. While doing some new teacher training recently, one of our current students Skyped in to talk to the teachers about online high school from a student’s perspective. He reminded us all of a valuable lesson when working with at-risk kids. He told us all that the biggest thing to remember when working with our online students, is to “be patient”. He said that school does not come easily to most of our students, they have a hard time “getting things” and used himself as an example. He thanked his current teachers for being patient with him and making him feel like an important part of our school. As you can imagine, many of us were brought to tears.Group of sharp pencils.

Be patient and kind with your at-risk students. They will learn, just not at the same rate as other kids. As a lover of sharp pencils, I sometimes forget that there are students who are not as excited to be in school as I am, but with the right kind of care and encouragement, maybe they will be next year.

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for MyVirtualAcademy.com – Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.


Keeping up with “The Information Evolution”

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” ~ John Dewey

By: Danielle Yanssens

I remember a very few short years ago, my husband was really fighting getting a smart phone. He is a bit old school, and felt it was an unnecessary expense. We were out with friends and they insisted that once he did break down and get one he would find that it would become essential. Well, fast forward a few years and there he is, smart phone in hand using it as every bit of the mini-computer that it is.
The quote above, written by John Dewey nearly a century ago, struck me as incredibly current. I recently attended the Schoology NEXT conference and there was a running theme among all of their lectures. Technology has changed the way every industry conducts business, but education essentially continues to operate as it did 100 years ago. Fareed Zakaria, author and host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, was a particularly inspiring keynote speaker. My favorite quote from him was “We are in an Information Evolution, not an Information Revolution.” According to Zakaria, our phones have more computing power than the NASA Apollo Mission to the moon, times 100, and this will double in the next 18 months. Technology is constantly changing and we as educators need to not only change with technology, but also continuously learn as technology continuously changes.


What happens to education with these changes? I see the possibilities as endless and extraordinary! The amount of information available at our students’ fingertips should be used to expand and empower their learning. Technology can be used to reach the educational needs of students living in poverty, struggling with learning disabilities and needing alternative education options. We need to offer the option of virtual school and online high school courses to all students. Online learning needs to be encompassed in all aspects of education to give our students the opportunity to be competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s job market. To stay up to date with changes in technology in education follow EdTechReview at http://edtechreview.in/.
Fareed Zakaria is the Emmy-nominated host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, contributing editor for The Atlantic, A columnist for the Washington Post, and the best-selling author of The Post-American World and The Future of Freedom.