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Centerpointe Research

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Good Teachers, Bad Teachers

education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I was not an education major; but my graduate education in my subject matter qualified? me to teach college in that area.  My experience as a student, eventually taught me what I didn’t know when I first started school.  Naively, when I was young, I expected that my teachers not only knew their subject matter, but they also knew how to teach it.  Initially I felt that if I failed to master the subject matter, it was my fault.  Then as I became a student in high school, I learned (what almost all students learn at that point)  that you could easily get the teacher off the subject he or she was teaching and on to their “favorite” subject whether it was the Vietnam war or something else.  This was the easy way out of having to listen to a boring lecture on some subject we didn’t like anyway.  For those of us going on to college, this was a disservice as we might be expected to have learned certain things before we took certain college classes.  This idea occurred to me when I was a high school student and I began to feel at least vaguely uneasy when some students would try to distract the teacher in this way.

Problems like this continued on into graduate school where some teachers, in what was supposed to be an overview of findings in a certain area, focused only on the research that they were interested in and/or agreed with.  Sometimes they were wrong and things that needed to be covered especially if you were going to eventually work in the general or applied field were not covered or were “proven” by them to not be scientifically based.  Even worse were the professors who during the “hippie” era decided to turn the class over to the control and direction of the students who were also usually allowed to assign their own grades as well.  Scarey?  I thought so at the time.  Fortunately I had some more responsible teachers whose insights into the subject matter they taught helped me discover things about the area studied that I would not have discovered by myself or in most classes taught in that area. Thank God for good teachers.

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Success is Scarey

anxiety

anxiety (Photo credit: FlickrJunkie)

Did you ever feel anxious, nervous, and vaguely uneasy when you should have been excited and happy?  Have you ever felt that if you succeeded, you couldn’t live up to other people’s expectations?  Did you ever say to yourself,”I was just lucky that time.”  Have you been fearful of success?  It can be just as anxiety arousing as failure.

Sometimes we are not very sure of ourselves when we do something new.   We fear that by doing so we leave ourselves open to criticism and very vulnerable.  In our minds, one critical comment can outweigh dozens of complementary ones.  One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever heard is to surround yourself with people who help build you up when beginning a new venture as most of us need this reassurance from others at this critical time in the development of a new enterprise.

Growing up our parents often felt we needed a critical balance between being encouraged to try new things and to develop our talents and being given constructive criticism to help us stay more realistic about what we can do and to keep us from catastrophic failure.  However, how many times did Abraham Lincoln fail before he succeeded?  How many scientists try many, many different variations of different variables before they make an amazing scientific discovery?

If we succeed, will we be able to live up to other people’s expectations?  Were we just a flash in the pan?  Do people really only have one best-selling novel in them?  Making it in this world does not usually involve just achieving one thing and then resting on your laurels.

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Why Have Children?

Happy Children Playing Kids

This not a treatise in favor of birth control; but a gentle reminder that some decisions, decisions like this, are life changing.  I have had friends who decided not to have children and focus instead on their marriage (if they made that choice) and career.  Often they traveled far and wide and in general enjoyed life.  Some also had close relationships with nieces and/or nephews or with their friends’ children.

When people  decide to have children, it can add much joy to their lives and the lives of family members and friends.  Children are a gift to be appreciated and valued; but this does not mean that raising children is all fun and games.  Finding time to spend with your children is difficult in today’s society where it often takes two incomes to survive as a family.  Disciplining and regulating the lives of children is necessary, but not necessarily fun.  Providing them with the services, education, and care needed to be successful adults is time consuming and uses up resources the parent could use for themselves.

Unfortunately sometimes people do not decide to have children, the decision is made for them through, for example, the failure of birth control or carelessness about birth control precautions.  This is not going to be a discussion about the issue of abortion (about which I do have a personal position which I had to make at a certain point in my life) which really needs to be covered separately to do it justice.  It is a usually a life changing experience, no matter what the prospective parents decide to do.  If they don’t keep the child that decision will probably haunt them.  This can happen  for both men and women.  I have heard their stories.  Miscarriages have the same effect.  Most women count all the times that they conceived, not just the times they actually gave birth. Men, if they know about the pregnancy or pregnancies, may also feel concern about children that they might have had.

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Planning Your Education, Things I wish I had known

Graduate School of Education Diploma Ceremony

If you have an idea of a field that you would like to go into or are looking at graduate schools or post-graduate experiences, you should consider certain things.  Be sure as an undergraduate that the educational experiences offered in areas that you might want to major in are good ones.  Be sure that the school, if possible, is a good fit for you.  I got financial aid to go to a small private religious college that had a good academic reputation.  I was comfortable there because I had grown up in a rural area near a small town.  Of course the college was bigger than my high school; but it was not so big as to feel unfriendly.  As a christian school, it did not have a reputation as a party school and sororities while active did not isolate themselves in houses, but lived in the dorms with everybody else.  While no degrees were offered besides a bachelors, it had a very active psychology department which offered practical experiences.  Sometimes schools with graduate programs do not offer good experiences for undergraduates and the classes are often taught by graduate students.

Choosing a graduate school is very important, not only do you want one that has a good reputation in the field you will be studying, but also it should offer studies that will be meaningful to you and that you will like participating in.  In schools with a major professor system and/or offering research assistant positions to help you finance your education, you should investigate and see what kind of research is being done at that school and if you would be comfortable doing that type of research.  People often do their masters thesis in an area of research that their major professor is involved in.  It is not a good introduction to doing work in your field if you don’t like what you are doing or if you are not very talented at making new discoveries in that field of research.

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The Value of other Points of view

Kubler-Ross-Collage
Kubler-Ross-Collage (Photo credit: Peta-de-Aztlan)

History can benefit from including other points of view than just that of the writer.  This is where being involved in debate as an activity in school (where people practice taking both sides of an issue) can be a help to a person going out into the world.  It also helps to have the experience of living in a certain society that is not your own especially if it is in another country.  If you can’t do that then taking a job that you have never done before especially one that you perceive as undesirable or training for a career which involves a “boot camp” experience, can change your mind about a lot of things.  You might find out that people in these types of jobs or careers have some very valuable qualities that they develop by working in these fields.  Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (a psychiatrist who pioneered in the area of death and dying) once spoke to a woman in a hospital whose job was considered a necessary adjunct to patient care, but not requiring any medical training or nursing skills, and found that this woman had a profoundly moving way of being there for dying patients which Dr. Kubler-Ross deeply admired.

When working with people as individuals or groups, taking the perspective of an academic studying them from an objective stance and viewing them as something to be studied, but not people who have everyday “normal” lives, can leave out certain variables that are crucial to the understanding of how and why these people do things.  I used to think (maybe I learned this in school) that people in ancient cultures were primitive compared to our civilization now.  I shuttered at the thought of living in such barbarous times.  As I learned more and gained more perspective, I found that people in those cultures had valuable information that was lost over time and would be valuable to us in the present.  Also some of them had a more peaceful giving nature than most of us have now.

Kubler-Ross on Death

Kubler-Ross on Death (Photo credit: mtsofan)

 

 

 

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History? Truth or Fiction Part Two

Social Theory of International Politics

When I first was in school, I thought that history was cut and dried.  It was a subject that involved memorization of the “facts” presented.  It was not until I learned to think for myself that I began to realize that there may be more than one way to interpret a certain set of facts and even later I realized that important information can be left out.  A current example of this would be that of the two opposing political camps supporting the candidates for president different takes on often the same sets of information.  Also they may choose to focus on different sets of “facts”.

Often a country’s government may prefer one view of an historical event over another and, if they have any control of the media, may present a very biased point of view.  This is  very true of some very totalitarian governments in our world today.   In these cases, not only current news is censored; but also often historical accounts.   Usually we call this propaganda.  It happens anytime when one one group’s point of view is either left out or misrepresented.  Not only governments can do this, but also experts on some academic subject or proponents of some scientific or social theory.

This is where psychology fits in.  How we make up our minds and view the world is very important in effecting how we behave.  Psychology is the science of human behavior.  Psychology should study all the important variables effecting behavior, not just those supporting one particular theory. It is important to also be aware that psychologists usually design their experiments to account for any type of bias that they can anticipate. Recently psychologists have been acknowledging the effect that observing (and measuring) a variable can have on the results found.

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History! Truth or Fiction? Part One

Cover of "The Devil in the White City:  M...

At one time history was not my favorite subject.  You had to remember all those names and dates; but still it seemed that the writers of the history books had it all together.  I wondered why people didn’t realize that that was what was happening at the time it was going on.  Hindsight was always seemed to be better than foresight.    I almost always took these people’s opinions as the truth back then.  I didn’t know then what I know now.  History books are not always objective nor are they always based on unbiased sources.  They are written by experts so they should know what they are talking about, right?  Maybe not….

In college, I first heard about using (as much as possible) original source material to find out what was actually happening at that time in history and/or what people thought about it then.  It could be reports of speeches actually given at the time the historical event was happening or actual written or printed materials from that time.  I became interested in reading novels set in various periods of history especially those that seemed to give an inside view of what it was like to live at that time.  I recently read, The Devil in the White City, which was an account of things that happened at the time of the Colombian Exposition in Chicago at the end of the 19th century based on factual sources of information from this time.  I was impressed at the caliber of the work involved and the breathe of the sources and felt that after I read the book that I had a good idea of what really happened at that time in history.  I did not feel that the author had a particular ax to grind and/or was focusing only on material that would get his point of view across and ignoring other material.  Think for yourself.  Examine different points of view.

 

 

 

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How We Learn

English: Level/Time of competence when learnin...

Two things that can help us learn:  good teachers and connection of the content to something we have learned in the past.  Having had a lot of education experiences, I have experienced both and learning is a very frustrating experience when you don’t have either.

Having studied writing, drawing, sculpture, as well as many other things, I found that while the teacher may be a good writer, a good artist, or a good musician he or she may not be able to develop those talents in others.  I have taken classes in these subjects where I was to practice doing these things that the teachers were able to do very well.; but I got no instructions on basic techniques like the use of perspective in drawing or  how to use various media like watercolors, pastels, or acrylics.  I learned to play the piano with practice, but I was not taught music theory.  Currently I am singing in a choir and learning new things about chorus work from a director for the first time who knows everything about choral work and voice.   In psychology, I had an instructor who was very famous for her research in the area that the course was to cover.  She could not teach what she knew about her work.  It was a very frustrating experience to be in her class and we did not do very well on her exams in spite of the fact that we, her pupils, were graduate students in psychology who had to successfully compete against other applicants for our positions in our class at the big ten school.

I have had the experience of learning more about a subject that I had had the good fortune of having previously studied and it was easy to integrate new knowledge with old.  I have also floundered and struggled learning a subject that I had not heard about before. When a teacher gives examples and can integrate them with people’s everyday experience, it is much easier to learn a new subject. It is also true that some people have a knack for certain kinds of subjects. I never got the hang of calculus although I had done just fine in other math classes that had been required to be taken before it.

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Constructive? Worrying! Part Three

Resolution - better time management

Sometimes we worry constantly about a task we have left undone, but have not managed to tackle.  This has to do sometimes with problems we have in making decisions.  This is very true about something we have put off many times or have procrastinated on.  Sometimes you should let something go and this releases energy to do other things.  A person had medical insurance and he had to save his receipts and fill out his own insurance forms and file them to get reimbursed.  This wasn’t done by the doctor’s office.  This was such an onerous task for this person that he had quite a bit of money tied up in this; but by this time all the paperwork involved seemed enormous and almost impossible to do because so much time had passed.  It was suggested to this person that within a certain amount of time this mound of paperwork should be tackled and if it wasn’t, it should be thrown away and forgotten.  Guess what he did?  He did it.  The arbitrary deadline worked.

Sometimes we fill our minds with worrying thoughts of things we should do as things remind us of them.  There are two things you can do to stop worrying about them.  One is to make a list of these things perhaps on a dry erase board where you can see them and check them when you have time to do them.  Also it is nice to be able to cross these things off the list so you can see what you have accomplished.  Another thing you could do is to do things the first time you are reminded of them.  We have a lot of thoughts often uselessly running around in our heads about things that need to be done but we put them off and thus waste time thinking of things we don’t do.  It is better to do things when we think of them and thus we can forget about them and put our minds on something else.  This is not always practical, but it is useful when picking up the house or getting organized to leave  to do errands.  It is better for the mind to do things when you think of them as it gives you a strong feeling of accomplishment.

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Constructive? Worrying! Part Two

Don't Worry (Modern Talking song)

Another way to worry constructively, is to break problems down into parts, things that you can do something about and things you can do nothing about.  For example, if you are worried about natural disasters, there are things you can prepare for and things you can’t prepare for.  There are things you have control over and things you don’t have control over.  Sometimes we worry so much about things that we are surprised when they actually do happen and don’t meet our drastic expectations that we had when we were worrying about them.

We often are aware of something that is probably going to cause a future problem such as the amount of mileage on your current set of tires.  Wouldn’t be better to find out from a place that sells tires how many miles you can expect to get on your current set and when you should think about replacing them than to worry needlessly about a set of tires that are not nearly worn out yet.   You can check your mileage and when you get closer to the maximum mileage for your tires you can plan your budget to take care of this upcoming expense.

I have set dates or times for when I am going to worry about something and I tell myself that there is nothing I can do about the problem til then. It is as simple as being concerned about a family member who has gone out for the evening. Depending on their age, you mentally set a time for when they should reasonably be home and maybe add another half hour or even an hour to that time for a cushion. This leaves room for something to happen that was unexpected that would cause the person to be later than you expected them to be.

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