• Terry’s story: A timely teacher-student connection

    by Terry Austin

    woman sitting on a couch with her laptop and book taking notes, a boy sat on the couch with a pad in his hands

    Understanding that your students are more than just a grade is one thing; going the extra step to show them you care about them as people is another entirely.

    Dr. Terry Austin has been an instructor at Temple College in Temple, Texas for more than 15 years, during which time he’s championed the use of digital learning platforms in his biology and A&P classes.

    Terry found out just how important these resources can be for him and students — and for a reason you might not expect.

    Warning signs

    During his Anatomy & Physiology class, Terry noticed something odd about one of his student’s Early Alerts reports within the Mastering® A&P platform.

    Crista had been doing well. Really well. Her first exam score was in the mid-90s and all her work in the course was great. His dashboard showed her solidly in the green or “low-risk” category. But that unexpectedly changed.

    “All of a sudden, kind of out of nowhere, she seemed to fall off a cliff,” said Terry. “She fell pretty quickly into the yellow (medium-risk) and even red (high-risk) category, and it felt like there must be something else going on.”

    Normally, you’d expect a noticeable drop in grade to trigger an alert, but this was something different.

    “Her Mastering grade didn’t really drop at all, but Early Alerts noticed something going on. That’s what really triggered me to want to reach out. It felt like talking to her was probably the best idea.”

    The human connection

    Crista was a little shocked to receive Terry’s call.

    “Her reaction when I first reached out was a little bit of a startle. I don’t think she was expecting to get a phone call from her professor,” said Terry. “She was almost in tears when I answered — she was really concerned.”

    After reassuring her that her grade was just fine, he explained that there was an alert in Mastering telling him that something might be amiss.

    He soon found out what that was.

    Crista and her husband had been in the hospital the previous weekend with their son, who had broken his arm. A surgery and complications had kept her there for several days. Her husband had brought her laptop to the hospital, and she tried to keep up with her coursework while sitting anxiously beside her son’s bed.

    It also became clear why the system had created an alert for Crista.

    "She was distracted,” said Terry. "Her correct on first try score dropped, the attempts it took her to get the correct answers rose, but her grade stayed solid.”

    That’s what triggered an “aha” moment for Terry.

    “If I was looking at nothing but her grade, I never would’ve known anything was going on. The ability to see the need to make an outreach really was empowering.”

    Crista’s reaction to his reaching out to make a connection with her as a person — not just a student — drove that feeling home, and also made her see Terry as something more than just a teacher. It went beyond just gratitude.

    "It really did seem like a gushing appreciation that somebody seemed to care enough to make sure she was OK.”

    With great power...

    Terry now likens his experience to a popular comic book trope.

    “For me, it did feel like that super power moment. I got that ability to see into a troubled moment in her life, I got the chance to reach out, and I guess — maybe more importantly — I took that chance.”

    Not only was he able to reassure Crista that her grade was all right, but he was able to reassure himself that she was all right.

    “Her grades were fine — I knew she was OK as a student — but I also knew looking at that shift from green to yellow — something had caused that to happen. It felt really nice being able to reach out and know that she was OK.”

    Terry says that this experience did truly change the way he looks at his students.

    “It’s a reminder for me that my students are far more than just their grades. It was an insight and really an awakening that there’s more going on with my students than just that grade in the moment. It’s a reminder that there’s a person behind that grade, it’s not just a number.”

    He finds that this technology is like having a window to peek through; to have an idea whether everything is all right, or whether he might need to reach out again.

    As for that feeling of having a super power?

    “It's one of those moments that kind of comes with great responsibility. And it would be nice to think instructors don’t ignore the opportunity being handed to them.”

    Learn more about the Early Alerts technology in this story.  

     

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  • 5 role models and the lessons they continue to teach generations

    by Pearson

    blog image alt text

    We teamed up with researchers from Nesta and the Oxford Martin School to understand the top skills that every student will need to flourish in their careers — learning strategies, psychology, instructing, social perceptiveness, and sociology and anthropology. See how leaders throughout history have best exemplified these skills while making an impact on our lives through their actions, ideals, and messages  — whether we knew it or not.

    Learning Strategies: Fred Rogers

    On May 9, 1969, during an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers asked black police officer, Officer Clemmons, to cool his feet in his wading pool. At first, Clemmons declined, saying he didn’t have a towel, but Rogers offered his. This small act broke the color barrier that existed at the time as racial tensions were rising. By sharing both the water and the towel, the men exposed the bigotry of not allowing black people access to pools and other establishments.

    In 2018, Clemmons said, “It was a definite call to social action on Fred’s part. That was his way of speaking about race relations in America.” This small act is just one example of the messages of love, kindness, and acceptance that Rogers taught children (and adults), while at the same time sending a much larger message to the public via media. 1

    Psychology: Dr. Joyce Brothers

    During the 1960’s, sexual satisfaction and menopause were considered taboo subjects for television and radio, but Dr. Joyce Brothers knew they were front and center in women’s minds. As a result, she started her television show, where she gave out psychological advice on relationships, family, sexuality, and self-empowerment, while also answering audience questions.

    Brothers created the “The Brothers System,” which stresses that if a woman is self-loving and takes care of her own needs, then she will be able to better care for her husband and family. She also encouraged equal relationships that allow for wives to ask their husbands for what they need to be personally satisfied in a marriage. 2

    Instructing: Anne Sullivan

    When Anne Sullivan was only 20 years old, she helped Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, make associations between words and physical objects. Sullivan finger-spelled the word “water” on Keller’s hand as she ran water over her other hand. Keller made a major breakthrough, connecting the concept of sign language with the objects around her. With Sullivan’s help, Keller was able to learn almost 600 words, most of the multiplication tables, and how to read Braille in only a few months. 3

    Social Perceptiveness: Nelson Mandela

    During the 1950s Steve Bloom’s parents, who were anti-apartheid activists, knew Nelson Mandela. They told their son the story of the time Mandela saw a white woman stranded with her broken car in Johannesburg. He stopped and offered his help. After he was able to fix her car, she thanked him by offering a sixpence. He declined, saying he was just happy to help. She asked why a black man would help her if it wasn’t for the money. “Because you were stranded at the side of the road,” he replied. Mandela’s life as an anti-apartheid activist, politician and philanthropist was full of moments of kindness, humility, and courage like this one. 4

    Sociology & Anthropology: Dr. Jane Goodall

    While studying chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960, Jane Goodall saw a large male chimpanzee take a twig, bend it, strip it of its leaves, stick it into the nest, and spoon termites into his mouth. This was the first time any creature, besides a human, was seen making and using a tool.

    “It was hard for me to believe,” she recalls. “At that time, it was thought that humans, and only humans, used and made tools. I had been told from school onwards that the best definition of a human being was man the tool-maker — yet I had just watched a chimp tool-maker in action.”

    As her work continued, Goodall found that chimpanzees (our nearest evolutionary cousins) also embraced, hugged, and kissed each other, as well as experienced adolescence, developed powerful mother-and-child bonds, and used political chicanery to get what they wanted. It is thanks to Goodall and her work that we now know the many similarities between humans and chimps and have much greater knowledge of chimpanzee behavior. 5

    Contemporary role models

    Today, people in various fields are exhibiting these same skills and making their own impact.
    Learn more about these skills and the modern people we can look to as examples.

     

    Sources:

    1. Kettler, Sara. “Fred Rogers Took a Stand Against Racial Inequality When He Invited a Black Character to Join Him in a Pool,” Biography, May 24, 2019.
    2. Isaacs, Shalyn. “Joyce Brothers,”Feminist Voices, 2016.
    3. Biography.com Editors.“Anne Sullivan Biography,” Biography,April 12, 2019.
    4. Paramaguru, Kharunya. “5 Great Stories About Nelson Mandela’s Humility, Kindness and Courage,” Time, December 06, 2013.
    5. McKie, Robin. “Chimps with everything: Jane Goodall’s 50 years in the jungle,” The Guardian, June 26, 2010.

     

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