Helping the Back-to-School Blues

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Yes! Let’s get back into the classroom!

It’s official!  School is back for the year, and many students get ready to enter their halls of learning to expand their knowledge base and grow to be contributing members of society… Wait, doesn’t sound like your child?  You are not the only one.  Most children dread going back into the classroom after getting such a long mental break.

What seems to be the lack of enthusiasm?  Is it the fact that many schools have lost the ability to treat learning as an adventure and treat learning more like task-based testing factories?  Maybe.  Is it that teachers are more interested in making it through the year than helping your child make the grade?  Could be.  Or, is your child more concerned with their social status than they are with their GPA?  There are so many reasons why children have an issue with going back to school.  How can we as concerned parents and educators ease the thorn of the back-to-school season?  Here are a few ideas.

For Parents:

  • Throw a back-to-school celebration – If you make going back to school look like a celebration, it may not seem so bad.  This is a time where you can celebrate their past accomplishments and help them set new goals for the year.  By making it a small party, it makes school appear like a place to succeed, and not just a place that sucks.
  • Be concerned (not obsessed) with their first few weeks – Yes, you have a lot on your schedule.  But, if you simply use the first few days as a conversation piece, you may see that your child likes the extra attention and interest you are showing in their lives.  Don’t go overboard!  Make it a conversation, not an interrogation.  Many people like good conversation; I don’t know too many people who like to get the third degree.
  •  Let them be with their friends – Just because the summer is over doesn’t mean that they are on lock down.  It’s still warm outside, the sun is still shining, let them play.  This gives them a chance to let go of the summer gradually and ease into a regimented schedule. Yes, they need to do all homework first, but if they’ve been doing any summer bridge work over the summer like they’re supposed to, they’ll be no stranger to the concept of work before play.

For Teachers:

  • Ice Breaker Activities – Yes, the beginning of the year is to set the climate for the rest of the year, but don’t use the entire first week of school as a boot camp to set the norms of your class.  There is a time for setting class norms, and a time for breaking the ice in a new classroom.  Play some group games, get the class involved in a group activity early.  Of course you have to set tone of the year, but from my experience, the year always went smoother after easing the students in to the year, not slapping them with a lot of procedures or tests in the first few days. If you need some more ideas, try this link from Scholastic
  • Get an email list of all your parents (and use it) – This is a no-brainer.  Sending a welcome email to all the parents welcoming them into the year opens the lines of communication among you and your parents.  Now, you can send assignments home, get feedback, report discipline issues, get permission slips, and a host of other advantages.  Do I have to mention instant documentation? This takes some of the pressure off of you as a teacher to be accountable and transparent to your parents.  It also makes it easier to teach your students (and parents) accountability (ask me how) .  Lastly, It enables trust between you and your parents… priceless.  Many teachers say they don’t have time for all that.  I say:  Better over-inform them and be left alone than be untouchable and hounded by parents when they are already frustrated.  I learned that the hard way.
  • Schools should organize a back to school rally (with actual fun things to do) – Kids would love coming back to school if they know that they get to have fun during the first day/week.  I know it goes against the entire philosophy of setting a demure atmosphere of learning and rules, but if some time is set aside for a communal celebration about education and school, it will create the school wide-climate that school is actually a fun place to be —  at least for a little while.  Organize a pep rally about education and get everyone involved.

School is a serious undertaking, but if we keep painting it as a horrible place to be, the negative stigma will continue.  If we want education to improve, we must show students that education is a privilege, not a jail sentence.  Get them to enjoy the process now before they grow into adults and have to conform into a mundane 9 to 5 later and get no such thing as a summer break (unless they become educators themselves… lol) .

– J.L.Burt


Teach Them To Give

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In the upcoming holiday seasons, many parents will now give thought to planning special events, family get-togethers, gift-giving, and many other traditions that can get a little stressful.  There’s so much to do!

When it comes to my wife and I, trying to balance getting our children the things they want for Thanksgiving and Christmas while teaching them the spirit of giving and love, can be quite difficult.  This season, we’ve decided to change the agenda a little.  Instead of entertaining our children’s pleas for the things they desire, we told them we were going to be givers this season.  Mind you, when we first told them this, we thought we were going to be met with cries and pangs of opposition, but we were quite shocked when we saw how receptive they were to it.  The idea of putting together baskets for the community and dropping them off to families in need appealed to them immensely.  Our daughter even gave out a little cheer knowing that she would have the chance to something nice for someone else.

This season, introduce the idea of sharing time with your children.  Having them experience putting smiles on peoples’ faces and showing love to others is one way way we can cultivate a culture of giving instead of getting.  Please remember that education not only has to do with teaching your child academic subjects, it is how we instruct our children to be model citizens in society.  Teaching them compassion and humility for other’s needs is part of the educational process.

Studying: Rediscovering a Lost Art

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We all must study for success.

As students return to school each year, a question that is never asked is: Does my student know how to be a student? Many students go to school grade after grade and attempt to learn math, science, reading, and English, but they never learn the basics of how to be a student.

Time management, study skills, test-taking skills, and note-taking skills are untaught subjects in school, yet we expect students to perform well without ever truly being taught these skills. One way to look at the importance of studying is like eating. The body must eat in order to get the nutrients it needs, yet if you don’t digest the food, you get no nutrients from it. The same goes for learning. A teacher can feed all the information they want to a student, yet if the student does not study to digest the information, no knowledge is gained from it.

The bottom line: The main responsibility of a student is not to learn; that is a given which is actually a result from committing to their true responsibility — to study. A student‘s main job is to study. They are made from the same root, and they are indisputably connected.

If your student is not studying, they are not doing their job. Grades K-6 should at least spend 30 minutes studying their homework after it is completed. Grades 7-College should spend at least an hour.

 For various tips on effective studying and study skills, contact us to schedule an free appointment, or click here:

Jamal L. Burt

EBO Educational Services, LLC


Teachers, Parents, & Students: The Trinity of Education

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The Trinity of Academic Excellence

For thousands of years we have understood the purpose of education is to prepare a person to be ready for society.  We also understand a person who is ready mentally, physically, and spiritually, is a person that is well balanced with enough stability survive and often succeed in their goals.  The three facets of mind, body, and soul are represented in many areas of life as they often demonstrate a sense of completion and wholeness of being.  For example, in the tenets of the Christian faith, having an awareness of the Holy Trinity of God (mind), Jesus (body), and the Holy Spirit (soul) provides the way to a complete faith, a complete salvation.  Although the understanding of the balance of the mind, body, and soul is a basic, universal concept, the world of education often forgets this simple idea.  The truth is, the concept of mind, body, and soul needs to become a staple for education to be effective.  The trinity of education should be: teacher (the mind), student (the body), and parent (the soul).  This concept is not new in the world of education, but its practice seems to have decayed in public (and sometimes private) education abroad.  The connection of teacher, student, and parent is necessary for education to be worth the value everyone wants it to be.

The teacher, or educator, is the mind of the whole education process.  As early as primary and elementary education, they provide the materials and information to be processed, dissected, and learned by the students. They are the crafters of the intellectual training and create the world where learning can take place effectively.  This world often mirrors actual society on a smaller scale all the way up until college, the last formal level of a student’s learning.

Students represent the body of the trinity.  They are the vessels that carry the knowledge given by the teacher like the way the body follows the commands of the mind.  How the mind interprets the information and perceives the situation, the body sets the parameters of how the information can be carried out.  The body houses the mind and soul; whatever the body does is an outward manifestation of what has been put into the mind and soul.

The parent (which could also be seen as the family), the final part of the trinity, puts the soul of the student in place.  The spirit of a student comes into play before they ever step foot in a classroom.  A child’s temperament, stability, and emotional well being are all set by how the parents or guardians run the household from the time of the child’s birth.  Plus, since a child is the product of their parent, the spirit of a child often mirrors the spirit of the parent.  The child is an extension of the family’s bloodline into the future, carrying the spirit of the family with them.

In order for an education to be an optimal situation for a student, all parts of the trinity should be strong and in place.  The best case scenario is a student that has a keen mind and a strong spirit.  Such a student is able to meet challenges whether they are intellectual or physical, and their spirit should be strong enough to help them persevere and help their fellow man in the process.  The problem is that either one or more of these three facets are not as strong as they should be to provide for our students’ best interests.  Either the teacher or administrators are disconnected from the student and/or parent, so the parent has no clear idea of the academic issue with their student until it is too late.  Parents who are left out of the loop begin to mistrust the educational process because they feel they can’t rely on the school to inform them of problems that arise in their child’s learning.  When students already have a disconnection with the teacher in addition to seeing the disconnection their parent has with the school, most students will take advantage of the miscommunication and bask in the lack of being held to accountability of proper performance.  The result, students often misbehave and/or assignments don’t get completed.  Many of these types of problems exist nowadays in education; however they can be avoided.

Here are a few ways to improve teacher, parent, and student relations:

  • Communication of Expectations:  Teachers must continually communicate expectations of assignments, behavior, and assessments to parents.  Parents must be receptive and in tune of what’s expected.  Both teachers and parents must convey the expectations to the student and demand they be carried out.  Teachers and parents have to be a united front for students to be accountable.  Email & texting should make this easy.  Teachers, compile an email list for all of your parents at the beginning of the year.  Then, use the list regularly.
  • Conferences w/ Student Present:  What better way to impress upon a student that they have to be accountable than to have them face the teacher and parent together?  Any disconnect between the three will be brought to light if this is done enough.
  • Parent Appearances at the School:  This one keeps teachers accountable.  If a teacher knows that they can be watched or seen at any time by parents, they will be more apt to run a tighter ship.  In addition, your child will tighten up if you make random, regular guest appearances.   Parents, become involved and volunteer your time at a school.  Your presence makes a difference.
  • Study, Study, Study:  Do not fall for the “I don’t have any homework” line.  Just because they aren’t bringing books home doesn’t mean they can’t study or do an assignment to help them learn.  Google has information and free worksheets on ANY subject.  Put them online and make them study what they are learning in school.  The main job of a student is to study.  They should be doing it more than anything else.

There are many more ways to improve the relationships of teachers, parents, and students to turn around academic performance.  A few resource links are Parent-Teacher Communication, Keeping Parents Informed and Involved All Year Long (Great creative ways to keep the lines of communication open), and Effective Parent-Teacher Communication (a printable handout for teachers and parents with great bulletpoints).

We owe it to our community to be invested in education.  If you are interested in finding out more, contact me at, or contact EBO:

Jamal L. Burt, M.Ed.

EBO Educational Services, LLC

Office:    770-288-8595

Fax:        404-393-5128

How is the state of U.S. Education?

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Summer Tutoring: A Great Idea

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As we end the current school year, like every year, we find ourselves waving good bye to quite a few students for the summer.  Understanding the need for rest and relaxation, we aren’t surprised.  But, as many parents contemplate whether or not this is a good idea, I am often asked, “Should we take a break over the summer?”  The answer is a resounding NO!!!

The reasons are simple and clear:

Work ethic is lost.

Finally, students have become used to being academically challenged.  They have spent a whole year doing homework, practicing for tests, and using their brains to get them through the day.  All of a sudden, they are just allowed to stop being academically stimulated.  During the summer, the little brain exercise they could get is suspended.  This is very detrimental to a child especially if the child already struggles with school.  They have built this tolerance to doing school work, but after the summer, the tolerance is lost and they become lazy towards their learning all over again.

Children simply forget.

If you have children, or know any children, one thing most parents understand about kids is that they forget.  They can remember the latest song lyrics, or the characters of their favorite TV show, but if you ask them to find the volume of a cylinder, or recite their multiplication tables, they have a problem.  I love my son to no end, but I also know that most of the time, he can’t remember anything more than a minute past his own face.  Now, give him a month or two.  The concept is long gone.  If your child is not like this, consider yourself lucky.  Your child probably doesn’t need tutoring.

If they are already behind, you are losing the chance to catch up.

Parents often hire a tutor to get them caught up to the skill level they are supposed to be.  If  a child is still behind by the time summer hits, wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep them engrossed during the summer and possibly get them where they need to be before the next year?  During summer, they have no other distractions, and they can focus on one thing catching up.  A worse scenario is to start the next year still behind and have the teachers pull the class ahead, leaving the student behind in the process.  At that point, the child is back where they started, but they could have avoided this if they took the chance to catch up or even get ahead during the summer.

America is falling behind.

In the current global economy, many of the available jobs that are open are high-skilled, high-intellect jobs.  Americans are losing out to other countries in these jobs because the other countries are out-performing us academically.  If you take a look at some of these countries like Singapore and Finland, there is no such thing as summer break.  Their students are used to rigorous academic study because they are conditioned to be students all year round.  This also means that they are used to working all year round, kind of like the way they will have to work as adults. We have to start reconditioning the mental work ethic of our children, or we will continue to fall further behind in the rankings.  Just watch “Waiting for Superman” from director Davis Guggenheim, a documentary that gives some startling information about the state of education in America.  It was unsettling.  A solution presented among others in the movie is that our students need to be going to school for a longer time during the year, not taking two-month breaks.  Many schools are doing this and are creating excellent results.

The best way to keep a child’s intellectual stamina up and to increase their learning retention is to keep them learning.  If you have hired a tutor you are pleased with I recommend you keep them in tutoring to protect your investment.  Otherwise you may be starting from scratch when they come back.

Please check out this article from the National Summer Learning Association for some of the research on Summer Learning Loss.   Remember that the children need all we can give them before it is too late.  Extra tutoring can only help them, not hurt them.  More education will build them more opportunity.

– Jamal L. Burt

What Tutoring is Not…

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Why do most people hire a personal trainer?  There are various reasons, but the main reason to hire them is to push you past your own physical and mental limitations so that you can achieve the level of physical fitness you desire.  It means you are willing to change your eating habits, commit to a schedule, and surrender your pride to allow the trainer to command you past the point where you would normally have quit.  If you don’t go along with the plan that the trainer prescribes, you shouldn’t expect to get the results you desire.

The funny thing is most parents do not come into tutoring with the same mentality as hiring a personal trainer.  I constantly explain to my clients that a tutor is like having a personal trainer for your mind, yet many parents and students come with the wrong idea of what the purpose of good tutoring is.  Repeatedly, I have seen parents and students set themselves up for failure no matter how good their tutor is simply because they are unclear of the pitfalls.  I would like to clarify some of the main pitfalls by giving a few examples of what not to expect from effective tutoring.

Effective Tutoring is not:

A short-term fix for a long-term problem:          

Would you expect a morbidly obese person who overeats constantly to become a buff swimsuit ready model in a month’s time?  Yeah, right.  Maybe if they work the P90-X workout with double the intensity.  So why do some parents think they can bring a child that has been failing all year to a tutor with a month or two left to go in the school year and think that they are going to see drastic changes, especially if the child has a low work ethic to begin with?

Chances are, your child has been missing fundamental skills in that subject for a while, so it’s going to take a while to find and fill in the gaps of their skills.  If they’ve been failing for a while, you probably should have acted sooner.  Prepare to hire a tutor for the long haul.   Anyone who promises otherwise is probably lying to you.

It is not – A substitute for independent study and homework time:           

If you expect to lose weight, you have to do what is expected even when you are away from your trainer.  Your eating habits, sleep habits, and way of life have to change towards habits of health.  If not, all the training in the world will be undermined by your bad diet or lack of nutrients you are putting in your own body.

Too many times have students either waited to do their homework during their tutoring sessions, or left the sessions and never study what was covered during the session until they come back.  Instead of focusing on the skills they are behind in, they are looking for a quick fix to help them pass the next assignment.  Great, they get an A on the math project, but little Johnny still doesn’t know six times seven even after he counts on his fingers.  You can feed and feed a body with all the nutrients you want, but if you don’t allow digestion, your body gets nothing out of it.  Same goes with feeding knowledge into the brain… you have to study to digest it.

It is not – To be considered optional… especially if you are paying for it.

You go to the doctor and he tells you that you are going to have a massive stroke in exactly 2 months unless you take a pill and do 10 push-ups a day.  The good news is you already paid for the pill, you just have to take it and do the push-ups.  He prescribes the dosage to you and says to fill the prescription immediately; just a little work on your part. Would you follow his directions?   I hope you would.

Now for the tutoring perspective:  You hire a tutor because you know your child is going to fail if he or she doesn’t get help.  How effective is prescribing work to a student to reinforce a lesson and the student comes back to the next session without it done?  What if they never even look at it?  These students regard what they are doing at tutoring to be optional (so is failing if you want it to be).  What is even worse is that the parent is paying for it and they condone this ambivalence.  Then, when the child doesn’t pass or the grade stays the same, the parent wonders what went wrong.  Wait, didn’t you pay for the program to help train your child to do better?  What happened to the work that was assigned since – oh… they never did it.  As cliché as it sounds, we all know how a little bit of effort can go a long way.

These and many more things can be mentioned as the wrong way to look at tutoring, but the things mentioned in this article highlight some of the major issues.  After seeing many students come and go, and seeing many stay and grow, I understand that true tutoring is a process of training and dedication that needs time to be truly effective.  I have seen so many students actually benefit from tutoring and leave with fully buffed brains, carrying the skills they have learned into the future because they used it as it is meant to be used: As a support for their own efforts, not a substitution.  If your child goes to private school, does that mean all you have to do is pay and let the school do the rest?  No.  You have to be just as active as you would if your child went to public school if your child is going to get the best out of their education.  Any parent with the mindset of “I paid for it, and that’s all I have to do” is not only hindering the tutoring process, but they are hindering their child’s education as a whole.

– Jamal L. Burt

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