I’ve got a column running in the Christian Science Monitor today. I don’t like the headline, but what the heck. I should learn not be such a control freak.

About Joanne


  1. Mike McKeown says:

    So what was the switch that turned on the light?

    Will it work with other students?

  2. PJ/Maryland says:

    Joanne, just out of curiousity, what headline would you have preferred? (Does the CSM ask you to submit one?)

    Do you think, as Mike says above, that “a switch” was involved? The way you tell the story, it sounds like Selma’s conversion was sudden, even though it took years for her to work her way up to grade-level.

    On the other hand, your description of the school’s philosophy suggests that the pressure of daily homework et al is what brings about the transformation (when it does). Could you elaborate on this?

  3. I’d bet on insistence and persistence. Solves an incredible number of issues. Human and otherwise.


  4. CSU-MB helped me on my way to a graduate degree.

    Except, at the time it was under different management. It was called Fort Ord – Home of the 7th Infantry Division (Light).

  5. How about “Dull Doll Ditches Ditzy Disposition for Determination, Drive and Distinction”?

  6. Sid,

    I’m guessing that, at the time, they had very effective methods for encouragement?

  7. “From Dolly to Scholar: one Student’s JOurney.”
    I used write promos for a living.
    The makeup correlation is the truth!

  8. Huzzah for helping Selma, and the 7ID.

  9. I didn’t like the “tutor’s victory” bit. It wasn’t my victory. If anything, I was holding her back by doing her work for her.
    The school works very hard to get students to buckle down. Some resist for a few months; others take a full year to get with the program. And quite a few never make the commitment.

    What’s surprising is that the kids who aren’t working or passing their courses are very reluctant to go to an easier school. They like the attention, even in the form of nagging to do homework. And I think they have a belief that they’ll magically become good students without any effort on their own part.

  10. It sounds as though Selma was never expected to do anything before 9th grade.

  11. Joanne,
    To follow up on your last post I recently read an article by J. Scott Armstrong where he posits that part of the problem is the whole “student as consumer” attitude. The students believe the customer is always so all the effort should be made by the supplier in order to benefit the consumer. There is also academic research showing that when subjects are told they will evaluate something later they are more critical in their evaluation and less likely to enjoy it.

    For more by Dr. Armstrong you can go to if you are interested.

  12. The headline is very poor. The article is very good.

    I look forward to seeing the data on how many of the DCP students graduate from college.

  13. BTW, Selma just got in to her first-choice college, which has the nursing program she wants.

  14. David Harr says:

    This is exactly like what has happened to my daughter during the last 7 months. Since my daughter wants to be an artist, I know that the best course for her is to attend a 4 year college, preferably a UC, or possibly a CalState. So, we enrolled her in all college prep classes. However, after about 4 weeks into 9th grade, she had a “D” average. At that point, I decided that it was time for her to get serious about school. In preparation for high school, she and I had spent a good part of the summer reviewing math, three or more hours a day. So, my wife and I instituted restrictions on computers, televisions and video games during the week, and we reinstituted the same sort of study regimen we had followed during the summer. She was absolutely forbidden to do any of those things. In addition, we worked with her as much as necessary to get her grades up. Although her quarter grades were only a D+ average, by the time she got to the semester point, her semester average was a B-. She appears to be well on her way to getting a better than B average for this next semester. However, the key was getting her to understand the importance of school and, although we were there to help her, make her realize that SHE was the one that had to learn the material. It was amazing to watch her attitude change as she started succeeding, and realized that good grades were within her grasp.

  15. David … how many parents do you think are willing to do what you did … most drop them off at the school house door and want the teachers to do your job. Teachers certainly provide the guidance and motivation that they can, but cannot do what you were able to do with your own child. Unfortunately many parents cannot do what you did, some are single parents and do what they can, but two heads are better than one, some are simply too weak and unable to provide that kind of suppport. And, some just don’t get it … education is simply not highh enough on their priority list.

    I know this sounds like a teacher complaining about the lack of support from ‘some’ parents ….. well very very perceptive …. it is.

  16. David, I can’t impose restrictions or anything, but I do have a number of students who come see me after school (it’s a wonder I get any grading done at all). They all failed or had a D- 1st semester, but all are doing much better now. Took me forever to convince them to come see me (it helped to have their vice principals on board who let them serve detentions with me), but when they learned that I wouldn’t a) rat them out to their peer group, thus marring their rep, and b) that they liked the extra attention, it has worked. For some kids. I think for most of the kids I do this with, the home life isn’t so hot.