"Make the Grade" by Lesley Schwartz Martin
c.2013, Zest Books $14.99 / $18.99 Canada 143 pages
Your grades were an embarrassment last year.
Sometime over this summer, though, you realized something that everybody had been saying for eons: you can do better. You have potential, so you’ve decided that you’re going to study harder, work smarter, and get good grades.
Problem is, you don’t know where to start. How do the best students get the best marks? In "Make the Grade" by Lesley Schwartz Martin you’ll find out how, and how you can do it, too.
There are kids in your class who seem like a different species. They’re super-smart, get good grades, and they make it look easy. The thing to remember is that if you can learn to prioritize and follow through, you can get better grades, too. Bonus: the skills you learn will help you when you look for a job or go to college.
Your starting place is with goal-making. Figure out where you want to be in school by using SMART goals: be Specific, make it Measurable, make your goals Achievable, make them Relevant, and make them be Time-Based by setting a deadline.
Next, take a look at your current schedule. Write it all down, then take a hard look at it. When are you doing homework? Do you have enough time for sleep, hanging out with friends, watching TV, recharging? If not, then (this is gonna hurt!) what can you drop or put off – at least temporarily?
Next, get your parents on board. Tell them that you want to do whatever you can to get better grades and how you’ll do it. This will "reduce your parents’ anxiety and nip interrogations in the bud." Then tell your teachers, too.
Even after all this, there might be problems, though…
What if you’re absolutely not interested in a certain subject? What if you positively can not stand the teacher? What if you get lost in class or fall behind? Is there a fail-safe way of making sure that you remember what your instructor said? How do the smart kids stay organized? Can you learn to do better on tests? And finally, what’s the best single thing you can do to improve your memory?
No doubt about it, "Make the Grade" is pretty basic.
For students with room for improvement, though, I think that’s perfect. Author Lesley Schwartz Martin takes readers step-by-step from goal-setting to grade-getting – including the harder parts, like paring a schedule or dealing with personality conflicts between students and teachers.
Though there are minor glitches in this book, I was impressed by that latter point; many how-to’s of this sort don’t touch upon such truths. I was also glad to see lots of tiny, easy-to-implement tips that, when done, can seem like big progress. These things make this a happy book to give to a student who’s struggling and vows that that’ll end.
While this book is meant more for high-schoolers, I think a determined middle-schooler will get a lot out of it, too. Overall, for that student, "Make the Grade" gets a solid B+.
"Real Talk for Real Teachers" by Rafe Esquith
c.2013, Viking $26.95 / $28.50 Canada 319 pages
Nobody can ever say that you don’t have class.
Nope, you’ve got a big one this year, and it contains more kids than you’ve ever taught before. More possibilities and responsibilities, more eager faces.
For them, you’ve organized your classroom and arranged it twice. You’ve packed in supplies, finished behind-the-scenes paperwork, and made reams of lesson plans. You’re ready for your pupils… aren’t you?
Even veteran teachers ask that question, and in the new book "Real Talk for Real Teachers" by Rafe Esquith, you’ll get some classy answers.
When you’re a brand-new teacher, the vision you have of your very first classroom probably resembles a Hollywood movie: you’ll get a roomful of problem kids but you’ll somehow connect with them and turn them into scholars.
Esquith, a thirty-year veteran, says it doesn’t happen that way. You’ll have students you can help, and students that will make you doubt your career choice – which leads to his first advice: "You are going to have bad days." They’re inevitable because kids aren’t usually "golden drops of sunshine," the job can be stressful, everything you plan "sooner or later falls apart" and "teaching hurts."
And yet, there are reasons to smile – so do it. Make sure students know they can ask you anything, without ridicule. Hold them to high standards, but let them make their own decisions. Know that interesting lessons are "the most effective way to keep a class in order…" and keep in mind that homework can sometimes kill the joy of learning.
When helping a child who needs it, remember that certain lessons are more important than others. Don’t hold achievers back while working with kids who are behind. And understand that there are times when some kids should be left behind.
Choose your battles wisely behind the scenes, Esquith says; know when to fight and when to wait. Accept that your influence on a child doesn’t trump that of the child’s family or circumstances. Learn to deal with haters. And remember that, in the classroom, one size doesn’t fit all because students are not all created equal.
Though it may seem like "Real Talk for Real Teachers" has a very narrow audience in its focus on first- or second-year teachers, I think there’s also a surprisingly large group of readers who need this book: parents.
There is, in fact, quite a lot of information that will help parents become their child’s best cheerleader and their child’s teacher’s best ally. Author Rafe Esquith offers neophyte (and veteran) teachers advice on reaching for joy in the classroom and coping with ever-increasing bureaucracy, both of which open eyes and windows for parents who want to enhance their child’s education. That, and the illustrational anecdotes contained between these covers, can only help, inside the classroom and out.
Bring a lot of bookmarks when you read this book, because it’s packed with info that you’ll want to remember. If you’re a teacher or have kids that will have one soon, get "Real Talk for Real Teachers" – and don’t be tardy.
(The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.)