Archive for the 'Educational Insights' Category

It Starts with TEACHERS

Boys Boarding School Dean - Denise Savidge

by Denise Savidge, Academic Dean at Cherokee Creek Boys School

Recently, we were asked a very interesting question: “What are you doing at Cherokee Creek to reverse the statistic that 70% of all “D’s” and “F’s” in schools are given to boys?”

Let me answer that question by addressing what happens in a scenario in which a boy who has been floundering with “D’s” and “F’s” in another school, has become a student at CCBS, and is now under the watchful and supportive care of our wonderful teachers.

Success in the classroom starts with TEACHERS…

Boys Boarding School TeacherTeachers who operate under a strengths-based model, seeking out what natural “smarts” a child already possesses.*

Teachers who go out of their way to meet a student at his individual level — or self-perceived level — and then support and scaffold until that level is consistently raised.

Teachers who understand that it is easier for a student to repeat success once he has hit that first successful moment and been praised and encouraged for doing so.

Teachers who have the luxury of teaching to reasonable class sizes and aren’t under the constant pressure of standardized testing or worrying about their jobs being attached to “making numbers.”

Boys Boarding School CoachTeachers who are appreciated and valued for their ability to build relationships with their students first and worry about missing assignments next (but not forgetting them).

Teachers who can count on second-shift staff to follow-up on missing assignments, holding them accountable for getting it done before they can do fun, after-school stuff (in loco parentis).

Teachers who design lessons that can be completed in a class period and don’t send home meaningless and repetitive drill sheets for homework.

Teachers who smile, realizing that the attitude they bring to the classroom can make or break their students’ day.

Boys Boarding School TherapistTeachers who are allowed to not only high-five or pat backs, but can appropriately hug a student and tell them how proud they are without fear of “no touching” rules and reprimands.

Teachers who care about making schoolwork fun, engaging, discussion-worthy, relevant, and boy-friendly.

Teachers who allow students to have a vote in what they read, what they learn, and how to prove their knowledge once the lesson is over.

Teachers who understand that all behavior is communication and choose to root out the underlying issue rather than take it personally.

Teachers who value the child who can create a PowerPoint better than he can fill in bubbles, proving that he really does understand why Atticus Finch chose to defend Tom Robinson.

Boys Boarding School StaffTeachers who find “zero-tolerance” policies ridiculous and give second, third, and thirtieth chances … because middle school boys need them.

Teachers who are given ample time to plan, communicate with other staff, and engage with students outside of teaching hours.

Teachers who allow students to “take space” for anxiety or energy needs by moving around the classroom, wiggling on a yoga ball, or throwing basketballs just outside the door.

Teachers who make it a standard operating procedure to care about their students and find ways for their students to experience success, no matter how small, and remember to tell them before they leave the classroom for the day.

To summarize… at Cherokee Creek Boys School, we run our classrooms the way we believe all classrooms should be run: With the idea that each boy has a special gift and can succeed once he discovers it.

*from Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences @OfficialMIOasis

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True,Educational Insights and have Comments Off on It Starts with TEACHERS

Like Riding a Bike…

by Denise Savidge, Academic Dean, Cherokee Creek Boys Boarding School

Denise Savidge - Academic Dean - Cherokee Creek Boys Boarding School

Denise Savidge

There is an old saying: “It’s like riding a bike.” Meaning that once you’ve learned the skill of balancing and pedaling, it is ingrained in your mind and you can never forget how to do it. Or can you?

A video that has now reached more than 8 million views tells the story of The Backwards Brain Bicycle – a brain challenge created with a regular bicycle and the addition of two gears. The two gears serve to reverse the steering mechanism so that turning the handlebars to the right makes the front wheel turn left and vice versa. The narrator is Destin Sandlin, an American engineer and the host of Smarter Every Day, which is an educational video series on YouTube. His frustration in learning to ride the new bike is evident.

Like Riding a Bike video

It would seem that making the switch in your brain would be simple – just remember to turn the opposite of the direction you want to go. It can’t be that difficult once you’ve mastered the regular steering concept. As the narrator points out, having the knowledge of what to do and doing it are two different things.

The attempts caught on video are hilarious and entertaining, but tell us a lot about knowledge, understanding, and neuroplasticity.  Adult learners seem to have the most difficulty “unlearning” something they know. It took Destin 8 months to master the bicycle enough to navigate with few wobbles.

His young son, who has been riding a bike only three years, mastered the necessary technique in two weeks. Call it habit or ingrained learning, once you do something a certain way for a period of time, it is harder to change the longer  that period of practice is. A young brain’s neuroplasticity – ability to change the pathways of information regarding skills, behaviors, and emotions – makes learning and unlearning easier for children.

As you watch the video, think to yourself “How long have you been riding your bicycle? How long would it take you to unlearn it? Would you give up mastering it? And what if you substituted a behavior or bad habit for the word ‘bicycle’?” As adults, we may not be patient enough with ourselves to unlearn and relearn the tasks we need to take on in life.

Which brings to mind the other old saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Or in this case, you can … but it may take an awful lot longer.

posted by jleslie in Educational Insights and have Comments Off on Like Riding a Bike…

For Some Children with Communication Challenges, Seeing is Knowing

Written By: Marilee Emerson

Marilee is a consultant to CCBS

Marilee is a consultant to Cherokee Creek Boys School

One of the first questions I ask when I inquire about an individual’s communication is, “What is the most reliable way your child/student receives information?”

The vast majority of responses point to a visual channel, i.e., printed to-do lists or schedules, a picture of the end project, or photographs.

Through the years, one of the things that I’ve learned, both the hard way and easy way, is that sharing information verbally makes the information transient. Once you say it, it’s gone.

Visual information (written words, pictures, or objects) on the other hand is static. It sticks around so you can reference it, if needed.

Speaking is, of course, the quickest and most convenient way of sharing information. But, in this highly distractible world we live in, it is often wise to “back up” your verbal communication. For example, using a note, a memo, a voice recording will make the spoken words more permanent.

But, for children with communication challenges, “backing up” spoken information maybe be a necessary part of their everyday learning experience.

In fact, visual information may be the primary way to communicate; verbal sharing of information would be the back up.

It’s GREAT to be alive in the 21st century. Here’s why: Technology has made the task of supporting communication much, much easier.

One of the most helpful actions we can take for others is to clarify expectations, especially if a new task or experience is forthcoming.

Think proactive preparation. Ask yourself, “What does my child/my student need to know to be successful in this up-coming situation?

Notice I said, “…need to know…” This doesn’t mean you should prepare the child for every aspect of the situation. Rather, I recommend focusing on the areas of the situation that will make him most successful. This is often referred to as “priming.”

You can share your expectations for a variety of activities, i.e., school and community involvement, travel, social events, religious ceremonies, and doctors appointments.

Depending on your child (whom you know best), you should consider how much information to share and what’s the best format to use.

Before the Internet was so pervasive, (Yes, I’ve been teaching that long!), you might have used pictures from magazines, drawings of stick figures or Polaroid pictures. But now, you have amazing resources at our fingertips.

mom and son on computerBelow are my top 3 resources for sharing expectations:

1. Google Images– You can find almost ANYTHING on Google. I find that Internet images are good for showing specific locations, or finding brand logos and generic pictures.

2. Digital Cameras-Nowadays, if you have a cell phone, you have a camera, too. Digital pictures you take are good for illustrating step-by-step sequences or generating lists.

3. YouTube videos-Videos are another great resource. Of course, you’ll want to preview the videos before you share them. Videos are helpful for priming more involved experiences such as going to the dentist for the first time; first time flying in an airplane; how to brush teeth, make popcorn or any number of activities.

Note: If your child is overwhelmed with the narration, you can view the video without the sound. You can also make your own videos, without narration.

With so many choices for accessible visuals, it’s much easier to support learning new expectations than ever before.

I encourage you to try, even if it’s at the most basic level, and observe how your child responds to priming of expectations.

Once you know what works, experiment with other applications for growth and learning. That’s when ‘seeing is knowing’ becomes really exciting.

Have you used visuals with your child to prime him for new expectations? Please share your experiences with me or on the MyMarilee Facebook Page.

Let’s start a conversation.


Marilee Emerson is an educator who is passionate about helping families through challenging transitions. She helps parents of children with disabilities and learning differences know what they need to do next, so they can create better lives for their children and families. Her weekly newsletter Note from Marilee is full of practical tips and helpful perspectives. If you are ready to take your next best step for your child and family, sign up for a FREE subscription at

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True,Educational Insights and have Comments (2)