This is the second post in a series based on the book Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn Jackson.

Jackson's first principle of great teaching is "Start where your students are." As I stated in the initial post of this series,

"I need the most help in improving on principles 1 and 7."
When I first saw the topic of this principle/chapter of the book, I thought to myself, "here comes another rant about building upon students' pre-requisite knowledge." I was anticipating a lecture on using assessments to assess students' misconceptions before instruction or even some tips on how to better embrace the constructivist learning theory. I was familiar with the assertion that...
"When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge." - Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
I have my own philosophy of how this idea caters to some, but not all, aspects of math education, but those details are better described in a separate post. Wow, was I wrong about the direction the author was going with this principle. She touched on content and procedural knowledge and the need to
"ask students to explain how that concept might be relevant to their own lives." (p. 37)
but she also extended her thoughts to soft skills such as how to take notes, find information, study for tests and come in for extra help. A big "aha" I had from this chapter was how master teachers help students develop these "non-cognitive skills" as well. I was surprised to read example after example of teachers who did the "little things" to enable their students to experience success. The author makes it seem so simple to do...
"She didn't waste time trying to motivate her students to do well. Instead, she created a classroom culture around trying hard and working together to accomplish goals." (p. 46)
All of this "classroom culture" stuff makes sense to me, but implementing it is admittedly a challenge and something I need to think more about. Because this is an area of growth for me, I have decided to make a short list of measurable goals to address this principle as it relates to non-cognitive skills during the upcoming school year.
  1. Model four different test-preparation study strategies during the first nine weeks of school to my math students.
  2. Create a schedule so that each student comes in for "extra help" once during the first nine weeks of school. This goal will hopefully encourage students who wouldn't otherwise seek help outside of class to see the value of one-on-one instruction and remediation.
What strategies have you used in your classroom to help students develop "non-cognitive" skills?