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Hats off to the USO

March 27, 2009 | MWR | RSS 2.0

Hats off the the United Service Organizations (USO).  They’re the folks who arrange for musicians, comedians, and other celebrity-types to visit our service members overseas to help keep morale up.  In that vein, I present to you Rob:

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Listen to the little guy

March 23, 2009 | Motivating students | RSS 2.0

“Give me enough ribbon to cover their tunics, and I can conquer the world!”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon had it right – it’s amazing what people will do for you when you recognize their accomplishments.  I’m not saying that medals are the reason that troops serve their country, but recognizing performance is extremely important.  For awhile I was surprised at how much 17-year olds liked seeing a sticker on their paper – but then I remembered how much I enjoyed collecting those stickers on the cover of my graphing calculator back in high school. Be sure to honor your kids in some way when they do great things (academically or personally).  It could be simple things like stickers and high fives.

Don’t forget, however, that no leader says to his troops “If you take out that maching gun nest, I’ll give you a Bronze Star.”  These recognitions have the most impact when they aren’t offered ahead of performance.

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MANDATORY study hall

March 21, 2009 | Administration, Scheduling | RSS 2.0

My first semester at the Defense Langauge Institute we were “drinking from a fire hose” – 8 hours a day we heard, spoke, and read our target language (French in my case).  I had an advantage – I took French from eigth to tenth grade, so for me DLI’s first semester was like a refresher course (plus learning how to say things like “aircraft carrier” and “infantry” – didn’t learn that in high school).  I can’t imagine what it was like for the people learning Farsi, Chinese, Arabic, etc.

In order to ensure success, our instructors placed us on mandatory study hall for the first eight weeks.  Each Tuesday and Thursday we spent two hours under the guidance of one of our instructors getting extra practice and working on assignments.  After eight weeks, if our grades were high enough, we could get do the normal student thing and just do our homework in the dorm….er, barracks.

My school has something similar, but it needs tweaking.  We currently restrict any student failing two or more courses from particiapting in extra-curricular activities.  That’s all well and good, but I think it’s time to move the remedial period from the end of the day to a time when the students are required to be in the building.  Students who are passing all their courses could still use that time for their club meetings, but our at-risk kids would need to spend the time catching up on work, studying, getting extra practice, and whatever else will get them above the 65% mark.

Many of the kids who are failing are in a downward spiral.  Perhaps its time for a drastic change to help get them flying level again.

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