Pat is watching her carefully. She sees
that her student is a tactile learner. She has to touch and feel before she can understand the concept. Knowing this, Pat can take her from here to abstract learning, developing that part of the brain as well. When that bridge is crossed, Cassy will fit right into the classroom.
Pat has seen other students make this leap, too. She has assisted students to get ready for ACT tests, for instance, and has seen them go up four, five or six points. One girl was failing when she first came to Pat for help, and now, in high school, she is on the honor roll.
Pat taught at New Holstein Elementary School for 27 years. When she retired, she opened her learning center, which she has been doing for an additional 10 years. Altogether, Pat has 48 years of experience teaching all ages of students, from first grade to college. Some of her students, like Cassy, are the children of her former students. She sometimes continues to work with the parents, too, who are taking college level courses. And she also teaches math at Lakeshore Technical College.
Old ways were not working
During her years in the New Holstein school system, Pat noticed that the way she had been taught to teach wasn’t working. She began to see that not all students learned in the same way, that learning activities had to vary with the individual if they were going to be effective at all.
She remembers the mother of one of her students who asked her why she
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wasn’t giving her students worksheets.
“Because they’re not working,” Pat said.
“Well, I had worksheets,” said the
“Did they help you?” Pat asked. “No,” the mother said.
Pat believes in using methods that actually help students learn, rather than using something just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”
“If you do something the same way, you’ll get the same result,” she said.
One student Pat tutors is a high school boy who has trouble with math. His goal is to pass the course.
“I didn’t know what the teacher was talking about,” he told Pat. “I’m lost.”
Pat said this young man needed to find a pattern. He needed to find a way to connect one thing to the next so that when he did a test, he could think back, “Oh, this is like this other problem” and remember how to do it.
Some students need to discuss a problem before they remember it. They are what Pat calls social learners.
Pat asked one mother how her daughter was studying.
“She studies upstairs by herself,” the mother said.
“She might as well go outside and play,” said Pat, “because it’s doing her no good at all. She can’t comprehend that way. She has to be talking about it.”
The girl blossomed when she had the opportunity to do just that under Pat’s guidance.
Some students learn best while listening to music. Mozart, for instance, helps with math, while other types of music prepare the brain to write.
Other students are highly influenced by the relaxing home atmosphere where Pat tutors them. These children sometimes feel tense in the classroom where they have to compete with their peers or contend with social pressures. The chance they might feel humiliated prevents them from learning.
Boys generally hands-on learners
And then there are the hands-on learners. These are often boys, though some girls also grasp concepts better this way.
One boy was expected to take notes while the teacher lectured. It wasn’t working for him.
“He’s not a note taker,” Pat said. “If we start lecturing to boys, we might as well forget it because they’re thinking about something else. They have to experience it. They have to do it. They have to make it. They have to see it.”
Pat has done a lot of research on the subject of how the brain works. She knows that a teacher can go over and over the same style of teaching, but unless she helps the student to start where his strength is and develop the untapped part of his brain from there, the student will not progress any further. So Pat tailors various computer programs and activities to the individual student to help him focus and develop. She develops an individual program for each child.
In the future, for instance, Cassy will no longer need the blocks. She will learn to understand the abstract figures as she moves from the visual to developing another part of her brain. In addition, she’ll develop confidence, which will motivate her to learn even more.
Sometimes Pat can see it happen, that light bulb moment.
“And that’s the fun part of it,” she said. “To see them go, ‘Oh yeah, I get it, I get it. I understand now.”
“That’s why I love teaching.” Pat Tyunaitis of Miss T’s Learning
Center can be reached at (920) 795-1457.