The teaching experience at the Academy for me is rewarding because I know that a student's individual needs are being met. It is impossible for a student to "hide in the back of the room" when they don't know the material. I am able to bond with the girls in a way that makes them comfortable enough to ask the questions that would frequently go unasked in a classroom of peers. When the term ends I feel every confidence that these girls are going to be able to return to their home schools on track if not ahead of their classmates. It is the most rewarding teaching experience a person could ever have.
-Andrea Fournier, English
One to one teaching meets students' needs more precisely and individually. Instead of teaching to the average student and being governed by the calendar and clock, we can teach to a particular student by identifying their unique needs, and alter the schedule, at least a little, as their learning requires.
The student cannot hide and is 100% accountable. The student can freely ask questions and get immediate feedback. I originally thought that the same amount of material could be covered more quickly, but have changed my mind on that; instead, I would say more thoroughly.
Just as a student is more accountable, the teacher is also. You can't just bluff or lecture or be boring. I've come to look at the grade as a reflection of my work in addition to an evaluation of the student. In a 1:1 situation anything lower than an A means I didn't do my job well enough (assuming the student was invested at all). In this role, I've also come to appreciate the life (and associated time commitments) that the student has outside of school.
I've learned that hockey players (maybe all people) respond best to coaching rather than lecturing or directing. Choose a skill to focus on, do some drills, offer constructive criticism, celebrate the win, develop a sense of team. The girls I've worked with have all wanted to learn. They seem to really appreciate being free of the boredom and routine of a regular classroom and enjoy the opportunity for individual attention. But success depends on the student being willing to make more than a little effort. Even though they may have come to play hockey, I would like them to leave thinking that it was a great way to learn biology, too, and that we both worked hard and were rewarded for it.
Specificity is the biggest difference between the classroom model and the 1:1 model of teaching. Teaching in the classroom is often like broadcasting. The signal goes out widely, may be received, may register, and may be recalled, but who really knows. 1:1 teaching feels much more definite. The signal going out is more fine-tuned and personal, you immediately know if it is being received, you can figure out fun ways for it to get registered, and you can work on it until it can be recalled.
-Diana Osborn, Biology
I think that a teacher can learn the strengths and weaknesses of the student much more quickly and tailor the lessons with that in mind. The student stays more focused in a 1:1 situation and can receive much more immediate feedback and reteaching if needed. I tended to do much more reteaching if it was needed than I did in a regular classroom situation. I think that, in general, students feel more invested in their learning because they are the main focus and they don't have as many distractions as they would in a classroom situation.
-Valerie Bluhm, Mathematics
Within a traditional classroom there are a number of natural distracters to the learning process. In particular, females perform poorer in co-ed classes in the sciences and math. With single sex classes there continues to be a social component within the class. Students become keenly aware of the strengths and weakness of their peers. The stresses of fitting into a particular social group can be just as distracting as in a co-ed setting. Students may not strive to do their best if the social climate is negative towards academic achievement. Girls who are more concerned with academics rather than the current fashions may also be singled out as social misfits, thus creating the stress we call peer pressure.
Secondly, a classroom teacher generally gears the academics to the average ability of the class. Those able to excel are sometimes held back by those in the class less capable. With the one to one teacher student ratio, all social competition is eliminated. Each student works with the teacher at a pace that she finds academically challenging, yet achievable. The student's academics from their school of origin can be enriched and enhanced, thus providing amore complete educational experience. For students who struggle with learning disabilities, one on one teaching provides a safe environment for the student to learn helpful strategies to increase their academic performance.
Students are encouraged to talk with their teachers specifically about what is challenging for them; often an opportunity that many teens will not take in a larger setting. The collegian expectation of academic accountability, such as being prepared for each class, is also an expectation of the unique one on one teaching format. Students quickly learn to come to class ready to talk about what they have learned through the previous night’s study and reflection.
-Alexandra Garven, Psychology
The advantages that I see in our 1:1 teaching are that the girls all have very different expectations from their home schools, and are at different grade levels. Teachers have the opportunity to become familiar with students' weaknesses and strengths which is not so easy in the regular classroom. Teachers also get to know students on a personal level. 1:1 teaching provides students the freedom to ask questions that might not be asked in a large class setting.
-Ida Mae Anderson, English
The tutorial system allows for a quick diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses and allows for a variety of techniques to address those strengths and weaknesses. This is especially true in foreign languages where you are dealing with four distinct but interrelated skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The tutorial approach allows students to understand the spoken language in a non-threatening way and be able to respond as well. Readings and picture sequences can be discussed at length and written assignments can follow directly from these discussions. I have also found marked improvement in pronunciation and speaking proficiency as well as an increase in confidence and risk-taking when using the language. Students become active not passive, and they enjoy experimenting with the language.
Real communication is the key to language learning and the one on one format provides real opportunities to use the language. When students can see immediate improvement and get immediate remedial help in problem areas, they see how useful a language can be.
-Roland Bergeron, Foreign Languages
The tutorial system allowed me to adapt my lessons to the individual student, always keeping in mind her strengths and weaknesses, as well likes and dislikes. In this way, I was able to design lessons and assignments that were, hopefully, both challenging and enjoyable for the students. The idea was to bring out their talents, and at the same time guide them through tasks that did not come as easily. I found the one to one setting excellent in this second regard, because it provided an opportunity for discussion not only on why a student struggled with the particular assignment, but also on the importance and relevance of the task in question. For example, one of my students disliked writing thesis papers even though she was very capable, so we began by looking at how paper writing is part of history. We spent at least a whole class just putting the assignment into context, and looking as well at the art of writing history using a book by Barbara Tuchman. For another student who struggled with thesis papers, I might have approached the assignment in a completely different way.
I also liked the 1:1 setting because the relationship between student and teacher was less marked, and the learning experience more shared. In this sense classes more resembled college tutorials than traditional high school classes. I liked this aspect of the program because it seemed to be a more democratic way of approaching education. The “teacher,” in other words, was not the ultimate authority on the subject but rather an equal voice in the discussion.
I have always been a fan of differentiated instruction, and my experience at NAHA has highlighted its importance. Students learn in incredibly different ways. As an educator I believe strongly that students need to be challenged in areas where they struggle as well as in areas where they are more comfortable. In my experience, students shy away from something often because they are insecure and feel themselves incapable. Teaching, then, becomes a careful balance of instruction and encouragement--helping the student use her strengths to work on areas that seem more daunting. In approaching an entire classroom of students, this is no doubt a challenging task, but my experiences at NAHA have impressed upon me how incredibly important it is to look closely at the individual student--to continually find ways of challenging her intellectually while at the same time nurturing her confidence.
-Lindsay Hosmer, Social Studies
The one on one teaching format provides the opportunity to focus on a student's strengths and weaknesses which is difficult in a classroom setting with 20 other students. For students who might not get much attention, the teacher can provide praise and encouragement to get them through difficult tasks. Students have told me that they finally learned how to read the text, developed the ability to understand the material, and learned how to study for tests. I can also help students realize the importance of doing a complete job. They learn to analyze questions in depth and provide a thoughtful, well-reasoned response. Most importantly, I can teach for understanding not just memorization.
-Linda Kristin, Social Studies
It was a pleasure working with you and your teachers. You are all very professional and our teachers feel very confident with the course work provided. Kudos to you all...I look forward to working with you next year...
-Dr. William Joosten, Guidance Counselor, Pascack Valley High School [comment regarding his school's experience with a student enrolled in the seasonal program at NAHA]