IT'S USEFUL AT TIMES TO HAVE A FRESH PERSPECTIVE TO “MAKE THE GRADE.” WITH THIS IN MIND WE HERE AT OUTLOOK-12 HAVE CREATED A SPECIAL COLUMN WHERE YOU, OUR READERS, CAN WRITE TO US WITH YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL QUESTIONS AND GET PERSPECTIVE AND INSIGHTS FROM OUR RESIDENT AWARD-WINNING EDUCATION VETERAN AND CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST GARY COOPER. AN EDUCATOR FOR MORE THAN 45 YEARS, GARY HAS TAUGHT STUDENTS FROM NURSERY SCHOOL TO COLLEGE AND IS ALSO A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR.
Q: Dear Mr. Cooper. I’m a middle school teacher, and although I like what I do, I really have been feeling like I want to become a guidance counselor. I like the idea of working one-on-one with students in a way where I can really focus on their problems. But on the other hand, I do like working with a class. There’s a real rush when I see that light bulb go on when a student suddenly gets something I teach them. So, I guess I’m just not sure what I want to do next. I see you’ve been both a teacher and a guidance counselor. I could definitely use your perspective on this.
A: As soon as possible begin taking classes to earn your degree and certification in guidance counseling. Classes will prepare you for the basic dos and don’ts in counseling students. Most preparation for your Master’s degree in guidance counseling will provide opportunities to hone your skills to serve as a guidance counselor. Remember, if you are given the chance to be a guidance counselor, and for whatever reason it doesn’t pan out, you can always return to the classroom.
Q: Mr. Cooper, I am a parent of three boys in an exclusive private school. During the last six years, the school has had four different headmasters/principals. Each brought a completely different approach to running the school, so now my sons are confused about how they are supposed to conduct themselves in school. What can I do?
A: Stability is an essential ingredient in the operation of any institution of learning. You neglected to inform me of whether these headmasters were fired or chose to depart on their own. Identify a good candidate for this position; the overall school community should support this individual. The principal is the most important person of the staff and faculty. A good principal will raise all boats. On the other hand, a weak principal could undermine the learning process throughout the school. Whatever it’s worth, I’ve known many very successful principals over the course of my career, and almost all have told me that the most significant position under the principal is a good guidance counselor. So I advise you to tell your three sons to try to adjust to the roles and regulations of the school and to seek out the school’s guidance counselor to help them make these adjustments.
Q: To Gary Cooper. First, let me just say that as a fan of westerns, I like your name. Second, I really need some help with my class. I’ve been teaching sixth grade math for 20 years now, and I’ve kept basically the same lesson plan. Up until this year, that plan has worked fine, but for some reason my classes this year are not keeping up with my previous classes’ performances. I’ve tried making adjustments, of course, but they are still struggling. What else can I do?
A: First, thank you, I used to show my older students the Gary Cooper movie “High Noon,” and they always asked during the opening credits if I was starring in the movie. For some it was the first time that they had ever encountered two people with the same first and last name. Second, I think there’s a simple solution to your dilemma. Keep your lesson plans, but change your tactics. I suggest you purchase enough white boards for an entire class. In addition, purchase markers and individual white-board erasers for the class. When teaching a new concept, teach the process of doing the problem step-by-step. Then have your students attempt to do the problem independently. When they are done, have them turn the board face down on the desk, and then you demonstrate how the problem should be done. Finally, have the class reveal their work. Repeat this procedure until about one-third of the class knows what to do. This method of instruction provides you with the ability to evaluate and correct student’s work informally. I have found this method of instruction raises student’s ability dramatically.
If you would like to write to Gary for advice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org