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On Becoming a Better Student (abridged)

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1 On Becoming a Better Student (abridged)
Donna Farhi Schuster

2 Pre-reading Questions:
As a student, what is your expectation of teachers? Do you expect them to be omniscient and omnipotent, or as human as you are? What do you think are the personality traits of a fine student?

3 Read paragraphs 1-2, answer the following questions:
What do students expect from their teachers? Why does the writer mention the students’ expectations for their teachers first? reference

4 Students expect their teachers to be enthusiastic, reliable and knowledgeable.
This is an essay on how to become a better student, but the writer starts with the students; expectations for their teachers. It seems that she is beating around the bushes, but actually she intends to redress some of their views. Students are required to realize that learning is not meant to be a give-and-take process. What the students should get from school education is the cultivation of the ability to learn through their own observation and investigation. This leads to the discussion of the factors that will make a good student.

5 Paragraph 1 As students we expect a great deal from our teachers. We expect them to be enthusiastic. We expect them reliable. We may even have expectations that they be endless repositories of skill and knowledge from which we may partake at will.

6 Paragraph 2 As a teacher I have come to feel weighted by these expectations and have begun to see that it is really not possible to teach. All the words and theories and techniques are of no use to students who have yet to open themselves with receptivity and to take it upon themselves to practice. So in a sense I have given up trying to “teach,” for I’ve come to believe that the greatest thing I can offer my students is to help them learn how to find themselves through their own investigation.

7 Read paragraphs 3-9, answer the following questions:
What is an “investigative spirit”? According to the writer, what should study mean? Why does the writer say that a creative person uses the “failure” as a stepping stone? Why is pushing or forcing considered a pitfall? reference

8 Reference: It is the spirit that will spur students to investigate the known as well as explore the unknown. With it, they are apt to make observations and think from different perspectives and conclude upon their own observations. According to the writer, study should not aim at achievements. Rather, it should be an infinite process, a process that goes on throughout one’s life.

9 The writer encourages exploring spirit
The writer encourages exploring spirit. If one is only complacent with the accepted answer, he may never fail, but he cannot score any more achievements. Only upon the strength of his own investigation will he enjoy more findings. But of course, in his trials, he may experience failure. Failure will teach him about the unknown and lead ot the other possible solutions. Failure, in this sense, is the mother of success.

10 Many advanced learners are too anxious for new achievements
Many advanced learners are too anxious for new achievements. They tend to try very hard in one area. Without realizing the fact that different fields of knowledge are related and that profound knowledge must be accumulated step by step. By pushing or forcing, they may gain little although they’ve strained themselves.

11 Paragraph 3 Many factors come together to make a fine student. Find someone you think is extraordinary, and you will find many, if not all, of the following qualities. People who learn a great deal in what seems like a very short time embody these qualities.

12 Paragraph 4 Curiosity Such people are tremendously curious. The whole world is of interest to them, and they observe what others do not. Nobel Prize-winning physician Albert Szent-Gyorgyi put it well when he said, “discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”

13 With this curiosity comes an “investigative spirit;” the learning is not so much the acquisition of information as it is an investigation — a questioning, a turning over of the object of study to see all sides and facets. It is not knowing in the sense of having a rigid opinion, but the ability to look again at another time, in a different light, as Szent-Gyorgyi suggests, and to form a new understanding based on that observation.

14 Paragraph 5 Discipline Any discipline — but especially those with great subtlety and complexity, like yoga or t’ai chi — can be a lifelong pursuit. Persistence, consistency, and discipline are required. Without these, our learning is but froth without substance. There are no shortcuts.

15 The fruit of these seemingly dry qualities (which we prefer to admire in others) is the satisfaction of having tasted the fullness of completion, or the thrill of meeting a difficult challenge with success. Perhaps, though, our culture is in need of redefining what it means to study. If we can look at our chosen discipline or craft a san ongoing process rather than as a discrete accomplishment, the potential for learning can be infinite. With this attitude we may find ourselves treating even the most mundane discovery with wide-eyed wonder and joy

16 Paragraph 6 Risk-Taking Why is it, then, that so few people live up to their true potential? Beyond the well-paved roads and secure structures we usually build for ourselves lie demons, unsure footing — and unfelt pleasures. To be a student is to take risks. Yet most education discourages people from venturing far enough to take risks to make mistakes. [S1]“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods,” observes educator Neil Postman.

17 What kind of punctuation mark do you represent
What kind of punctuation mark do you represent? Do you find yourself looking for tidy answers that five you a feeling of security? By learning to find the one right answer, we may have relinquished our ability to find other answers and solutions. We learn, then, not to put ourselves into situations where we might fail, because failure has tremendous social stigma. When we try different approaches and do things that have no precedence in our experience, we will surely make mistakes. A creative person uses these “failures” as stepping stones.

18 Paragraph 7 Initiative Can we begin, then, to see that our teachers are guides on our journey, but that the journey itself is our own responsibility? There is nothing quite so satisfying as undergoing a difficult process and after long hard work discovering the true nature of that process. It could be as simple as throwing a perfect pot, or as complex as formulating a new theory of physics.

19 The satisfaction we feel will be directly proportional to amount of work we do by ourselves to achieve our goal successful students do not expect to be spoon-fed, but take their own initiative. Wanting answers from my teacher has often been a way for me to avoid taking the initiative to discover my own answers through my own practice.

20 Paragraph 8 Enthusiasm To learn, then, is to open oneself. Jim Spira, director of the Institute for Educational Therapy in Berkeley, California, asks his students to prepare themselves to learn in this way: “Drop your prior knowledge… [and] attempt to grasp the new framework in its own context.”

21 The student complains, “But I know what is important
The student complains, “But I know what is important.” If what you know is important, then it should be there when you finish the course. If you continually “hold on to it,” then you’ll only see what is presented in terms of the old knowledge/framework and never really grow in new ways.

22 Paragraph 9 Finally, as we each advance on our own unique journey let us live each day as beginners. [S2]Being “advanced” has its own pitfalls — among them complacency and pushing or forcing. To go deeper may mean to be still, to progress more patiently, or to devote more time to other areas of our lives as yet green and immature. As F. M. Alexander, of the Alexander technique, once said to his students as they strained and labored, “Give up trying too hard, but never give up.”

23 Read paragraph 10, answer the following questions:
What do you think of these tips? What other tips would you like to add to the list? open for discussion

24 Paragraph 10 The information that follows is designed as a guide. The author welcomes correspondence from those who can add to it. Be attentive. Teachers will usually go out of their way to help a self-motivated and interested student. Be seen. If you want the teacher to know that you are serious, sit or stand in the front of the class. Make eye contact and introduce yourself, either before or after class.

25 Be on time. Consistent lateness is a sign of disrespect
Be on time. Consistent lateness is a sign of disrespect. If you take your teacher’s skill so lightly, why should he or she take you seriously? Missing the beginning of class can also be physically dangerous if you have missed explanations and work meant to prepare you for more difficult movements. Be consistent. The quality of any class improves when there is a collective commitment to regular attendance. In this way you can gain a cumulative knowledge and progress at a more rapid pace. On a more practical level, your attendance may be your teacher’s livelihood.

26 Listen with your whole body
Listen with your whole body. We have come to treat words like the background noise of a radio. Plant words in the pertinent area of your body so that information can be “embodied.” Appreciate constructive criticism. Remember why you’re there — to break through restrictive habit patterns and to change. Teachers usually reserve the most scathing criticism for their most promising students!

27 Questions can help clarify and enrich both teacher and student if the student’s questions are pertinent. If, on the contrary, the student is asking questions because he or she is late or inattentive, the student is being disrespectful to the teacher and fellow classmates and is consequently lowering the quality of the class. Highly personal questions with little relevance to the subject at hand are best asked after class.

28 You have the right to disagree — but you do not always have the right to express it. Sometimes it is appropriate to challenge a teacher. It is unethical, however, to argue with a teacher or badger a teacher in public. If you thoroughly object to what is being taught, you are free to leave and learn elsewhere. Let your teacher know how much you appreciate him or her. Teachers need encouragement like everyone else. Giving them feedback when something has proved particularly beneficial or injurious to you can help them improve the quality of their teaching.

29 partake: (often humorous) to eat or drink, especially something offered
“Would you care to partake of a little wine with us?” “No, thank you. I don’t partake.” (= don’t drink alcohol)

30 at will: (informal) as one wishes
You can use my car at will (= any time you want to). cf. with a will: energetically; with eager interest They worked with a will and had cleared a path by 9:00 a.m.

31 Nobel Prize-winning physician Albert Szent-Gyorgyi put it well when he said…
put : to say; to express… in words She wanted to tell her parents that she was planning to live on her own, but she didn’t know how to put it. Everyone should have a chance to put their point of view.

32 discipline: training, especially of the mind and character, aimed at producing self-control, obedience, etc. Any discipline — but especially those with great subtlety and complexity, like yoga or t’ai chi — can be a lifelong pursuit. Yoga is a good discipline for learning to relax.

33 the quality of being able to behave in a strictly controlled way which involves obeying particular rules or standards Persistence, consistency, and discipline are required. The test-takers showed perfect discipline during the examination a branch of knowledge; a subject of study If we can look at our chosen discipline or craft as an ongoing process rather than as a discrete accomplishment, the potential for learning can be infinite. I am working for people from a wide range of scientific disciplines.

34 Without these, our leaning is but froth without substance.
but: (formal) only She is but a beginner. One cannot but do something: = One can only do something. I could not but admit that you were right and I was wrong.

35 discrete & discreet The two words are frequently confused due to their similarity in pronunciation and spelling. These small companies now have their own discrete (=independent, separate) identity. We must be extremely discreet (=careful in what we do and say); the police suspect something.

36 live up to: to behave in accordance with (what is expected); to achieve or keep (high standards)
Did the concert live up to your expectations?(=Was it as good as you had expected?) You disappointed us by failing to live up to your principles.

37 approach: n. way of dealing with a thing or person
a new approach to foreign language teaching Kelly is always very logical in her approach (= the way she deal with things). v. to begin to consider or deal with There are quite a few ways of approaching the problem. I must tell her that I can’t go to her wedding ceremony, but I don’t quite know how to approach the subject.

38 precedence: the condition of being dealt with before other things
Business people often think that fluency and communication take/have precedence over grammar when speaking. Let’s deal with the question in order of precedence(= the important ones first).

39 Related words: v. precede n. precedent a. precedented unprecedented
precede: to come or go before something in time, order, rank, etc. Bill Clinton preceded George W. Bush as President of the United States.

40 precedent: earlier decision case, event, etc
precedent: earlier decision case, event, etc. that is regarded as an example or rule for what comes later to create/establish/set/serve as a precedent for something The queen has broken with precedent by sending her children to ordinary schools.

41 precedented: having or supported by a precedent
It was a decision not precedented in English law. unprecedented: without precedent; never having happened, been done or been known before a situation unprecedented in the history of the town The twentieth century witnessed environmental destruction on an unprecedented scale.

42 prior: coming or planned before
She was unable to attend the reception because of a prior engagement(= before she was invited to the reception, she had arranged to do something else which would prevent her from going to the reception). prior to: (formal) before The contract will be signed prior to the ceremony. There are plenty of arrangements to make prior to departure

43 pitfall: a mistake that may easily be made
The English numbers and figures provide many pitfalls for Chinese learners. Can forward planning help avoid stressful pitfalls?

44 complacency: (disapproving) a feeling of calm satisfaction with one’s own abilities or situation that prevents one from trying harder What worries the principal about these students is their complacency — they seem to have no desire to expand their horizons. I see no reason for the government’s complacency.

45 complacent a. I dislike his complacent attitude/smile. complacently ad. I dislike it when he smiles complacently.

46 correspondence: the act of exchanging letters; the letters exchanged between people
To take/do a correspondence course(=a course of lessons in which information and work are exchanged by post) The authoress seldom mentions her renowned husband in her correspondence.

47 correspondent: a person with whom another person exchanges letters regularly a newspaper or television reporter, especially one who specializes in a particular type of news a war/diplomatic/health/environment correspondent

48 She was very kind to us and seemed to go out of her way to help us.
go out of one’s way (to do something): to take the trouble to do something; to make a special effort, especially in spite of difficulties She was very kind to us and seemed to go out of her way to help us. They went out of their way to make things difficult for their rivals.

49 Some other verb phrases formed with “go” and “way” go a long way towards something/doing something go one’s own way go somebody’s way go a long way towards something/doing something: to help greatly in achieving something The government’s measures went a long way towards solving the housing problems

50 go one’s own way: to act independently or as one chooses, especially against the advice of others
Redmond is a loner. Whatever you suggest, he goes his own way. go somebody’s way (1) to travel in the same direction as somebody I’m going her way so I can give her a lift. (2) (of events, etc.) be favorable to somebody We are so glad that things certainly seem to be going our way.

51 cumulative interest payable on a debt
cumulative: (also accumulative) increasing steadily in amount or degree by one addition after another cumulative interest payable on a debt The cumulative effect of using so many chemicals on the land could be disastrous.

52 badger: to repeatedly tell (somebody) to do something or ask (somebody) questions
The little girl badgered her father into buying her a pony. The reporters were requested to stop badgering the chairman with questions.

53 paraphrase of two sentences:
When they start school, children are curious and ready to try every means to explore the unknown. However, they end up losing the pioneering spirit after years of formal education. “Advanced” learners are likely to make some mistakes. For example, they may become excessively satisfied with their progress or, on the contrary, put too much pressure on themselves to score further achievements.

54 Translation: He felt heavily weighted with such high expectations from his parents. He interpreted the incident in a favorable light. I detest him, for he often goes out of his way to backbite others. Many religious teachings urge people to transcend the mundane success.

55 Personal initiative is one of the essential elements in promoting your career.
I don’t think it is a good method of teaching to spoon-feed students. I will spare no efforts to accomplish the task by the end of the next month, for I don’t want to suffer from the stigma of having broken my promise. I’ve got much information pertinent to the new policies in education.

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