Take the Red Pill

And see how deep the rabbit hole goes...

Today’s Tuesday Tip is a redux of a previous article. Click here to read that. If you have ever seen the matrix, then you know that Morpheus offers Neo a choice between the red pill and the blue pill.

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Blue Pill

Taking the blue pill represents maintaining the status quo. It means living the life that we’ve become accustomed to, good or bad. Many people do not like change, so they listen to the deceptions that life is just one big pot luck and that some people were just born lucky. That may be, but living the continued deception will not change one’s luck.

The blue pill is for people who like to play it safe, never wanting to venture from their comfort zone. Take it and you go on believing whatever it is you want to believe. Some may say that blue-pill people live happy in their ignorance, just as Neo was doing before Morpheus found him in the Matrix.

Red Pill

The red pill represents fundamental truth — the good, the bad, and the ugly. As a professional educator, I think of the red pill as a metaphor for choosing to educate oneself. The red pill represents knowledge acquisition along with the blood, sweat and tears associated with said acquisition. Like Morpheus, I make no promises to my students; I only offer the truth.

The red pill is for people who are willing to go outside their comfort zone to take a calculated risk at something better by earning an education. Some may say that red pill people live happy in knowing the truth regardless of what happens.

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So what will you choose? Do you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes?

Learn. Do. Repeat.

Do Your Homework

Tuesday Tip of the Week

This just in… Students who do their assignments (especially in math) do better on assessments. Go figure! Yet in spite of this tried-and-true fact, most students still opt not to complete assignments. Why?

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Practicing for game day…

There’s “doing your homework” and then there’s doing your homework. “Doing your homework” means going through the motions by merely “filling in the squares” with the provided answers. Ah… if only simian capabilities were an academic standard!

Meanwhile, doing your homework means doing every problem every day. Moreover, it means showing your solution process on every problem, thereby experiencing the blood, sweat, and tears of the learning process.

The provided answers are supposed to be used to check your solutions. When you are wrong, you are supposed to do error analysis… not copy the correct answer, move on, and fool yourself into thinking you actually learned anything.

Many students say, “I don’t need to show work. I do it all in my head/calculator.” The only problem is that when these students are tasked with computing a correct answer on an exam, they mysteriously undergo a temporary degradation of skill sets. Equally mysterious is how these skills are recovered in time to “complete” the next assignment.

Folks, if you don’t “do your homework,” you may think you’re fooling your teacher. However, in reality, you’re only fooling yourself. In life, this amounts to stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Think about this. Homework is just 10% of your overall grade, while tests and quizzes comprise 85%. (Participation accounts for the other 5%. But let’s face it, if you’re not participating, you’re not learning.)

Do your homework!

Game day…

Game day is when athletes learn whether their training sessions have paid off. Mathletes are no different. Test day reveals whether the mathletes have properly trained (i.e., practiced with homework) in the days and weeks leading up to the exam. But here are some of the more common excuses for poor performance when mathletes have not trained hard enough.

Teacher doesn’t teach it right.

Many will rationalize. “That teacher is not teaching it right. A lot of us failed.” Having several failures does not indicate that your teacher is no good. It is more likely to indicate that many students did not study.

I don’t test well.

This is the swan song of the irretrievably lazy. What’s your name? What’s your address? What’s your phone number? How old are you? I often ask, “Why is it that no one fails this test?” The inevitable reply is, “But Mr. Noldy, we know that stuff.” DING! DING! DING! When you know stuff, you pass tests on stuff.

I didn’t have time.

We all have the same 24 hours. How is it that some students manage to participate in organized athletics, excel in musical endeavors, volunteer time outside of school, and still do well academically? Meanwhile, other students seem to always be too busy to study. Intentional activity leads to achievement. Busy work (i.e., Netflix, Facebook, SnapChat, etc.) does not.

Conclusion

Remember that learning is a verb. Learning is something you do, not something that happens to you by being in the presence of educated people. How do you think your teachers learned the content they teach? Do you think the stork brought them to their parents with a pre-installed knowledge base? You know the answer… They mastered it through hard work and time on task.

When was a time you felt proud for an assignment?

The Obstacle is the Way (San Francisco: Tim Ferriss, 2014)

Note: This is the second installment of a new monthly feature where I review books that I think would be great reads for students.

What do Abraham Lincoln, John D. Rockefeller, and Steve Jobs have in common?  Stoicism. Each of these men achieved greatness while enduring immense hardships. And they did it without complaining. Each made decisions based on deep-rooted principles, removing any tendency to be emotive in their processes.

The admirable trait of stoicism was written about by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was the last of the Five Good Emperors. Aurelius was not the first to write about this notion, but he is perhaps best known Stoic philosopher. Meditations is still viewed as a literary testament to his philosophical thinking.

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Stoicism is exemplified in having the intestinal fortitude to persist through the obstacles in our way.  It’s about clear thinking. The practice of stoicism has allowed men like Steve Jobs to recognize that the very obstacle was the path to the solution to a problem.  The stoic recognizes that the best solution to a problem is often found in going through the “messy middle.”  Reaching goals is hard, otherwise they wouldn’t be worth achieving. No one aspires to mediocrity, right?

What does this have to do with students? The solution to their problems often lies in confronting the very obstacle that they are trying to avoid. Suppose you hate a subject. Math seems to be a favorite subject to dislike. If you absolutely hate math, the best way to cope is to analyze and confront your difficulties. (Sorry, the teacher doesn’t teach it right does not count.) Unfortunately, trying to remove the obstacle is a leftist model that many university students are all too familiar with these days.

The points is, if you struggle in a particular subject, your struggle is most certainly not with the content provider; it is with the hard work of learning the content. School is hard work. One of the reasons that having an education is so coveted is because it tells the rest of the world that you did something challenging, that you have faced obstacles and comes through a success. And an education is the one thing you own that no one can take.

Author Ryan Holiday delivers a compelling indictment of societal expectations on our youth. I am reminded of the student who thinks that hating something enough will make it go away and not be true. Of course, the truth is undefeated, and no amount of commiserating is ever going to alter truth.

What obstacles have you overcome? What achievement to you attribute to the your staying the course and facing down a tough obstacle?

3 False Paradigms

Over the decades, I have encountered my fair share of Resistance, but I have been able to categorize almost all student resistance into three paradigms. Paradigm is a mindset that overrides all other decision-making. Unfortunately, these paradigms are a pernicious lie. Students can do anything they anything they train their mind on. The instant they decide, change happens. Change is not slow and arduous; it merely requires exercising that decision-making muscle, known as the brain.

1. My teacher isn’t any good.

I’m not sure when the definition of a “good teacher” became one whose students could learn without effort. We get out of life what we put into it. Make no mistake… if a student is suffering academically, it is almost always due to a lack of effort on the student’s part, not a lack of teaching on the instructor’s part.

2. I’m not smart enough.

In my opinion, this excuse (yes, it’s an excuse) is offered up as a justification for getting bad grades. If a students is not capable, she thinks she will evoke sympathy. They’ll feel sorry for me, because I’m just unlucky and was born dumb. However, professional educators see this for what it is — a lazy student setting up plausible deniability for lousy grades. No one will feel sorry for someone who is lazy, because laziness is a choice. By invoking the “dumb card,” a student hopes to avoid accountability for her bad grades.

3. I’m a victim.

This is perhaps the most destructive mindset a student can have. Bad things are going to happen. Pain is inevitable. Misery is not. That means that while a person cannot always control what happens, they do get to choose how to respond. Too many students view failure as the definition of who they are. A failure may have happened to them, but it does not define who they are. Grades are a thermometer, not a thermostat.

The next time, you feel inclined toward one of these paradigms, catch yourself. It requires conscious thought in the beginning, but once you change, your academics will change.

Rachel’s Challenge Redux

Part of the Redskin Way

A few years ago, the Rachel’s Challenge organization visited our school. Students and staff felt hopeful as we listened to Rachel’s story and signed the big banner showing our committment to Rachels’s Challenge, though I’m not sure what ever became of that banner.

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For students who are new to SHS in the last 4 years, Rachel Scott was the first casualty of the 1999 Columbine tragedy. But before that, she was a creative. She was a true believer who issued classmates these five challenges. I challenge our underclassmen to accept Rachel’s challenge and for sophomore, juniors and seniors to examine themselves and recommit. Now let’s dive deeper into the meaning of each challenge.

Mr. Noldy’s Algebra student with the highest final average earns an iPad to start their summer.

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Date: August 25, 2015—June 3, 2006
Event: iPad Giveaway
Sponsor: Planet Numeracy
Public: Public