RE@L Commentary: Excerpts From KQED-Mind/Shift: "A Mindset Shift to Continue Supporting the Most Frustrating Kids" - BY Alex Shevrin

RE@L Commentary

RE@L Commentary

The operative question to many us still is: “How can I teach in the midst of unexpected chaos or disengagement? How can I keep my passion to help all kids learn when so many are passionate about their non-learning?” That’s the same question that we at RE@L wrestle with as we create software products and resources to meet the needs of all learners.

mastehead-mindshiftOne of our frequent RE@L Guest Bloggers, Head Teacher at Powell Butte Charter Schoool, Jackie Murdoch LaFrenz, forwarded this instructive and powerful story from MindShift, an online publication which “…report[s] on shifts in how educators practice their craft as they apply innovative ideas to help students learn, while meeting the rigorous demands of their standards and curriculum.”

We, at RE@L, share that goal.


Click on the red link above to read the entire story. There are many useful tips on “lasting” offered by guest author, Alex Shevrin, pictured at the right.

“Supporting all learners” is a real challenge, more so today than ever, given our dwindling resources to do something about it: time, money, and more help.

We’re already spending billions on alternative schools, special-needs learning, including a host of paraprofessionals who work hard to help teachers motivate students to want to learn, or at the very least, not disrupt those who do. These issues also confront mainstream schools.

It’s even more frustrating today with much larger classes, little professional development for teachers, and many single parents who don’t have time to help out.

What’s worse, we keep grouping most of our students by age instead of needs. It makes no sense for students to be placed in a classroom of readers if they can’t read, or do simple math, or write more than a few words. For many their only choice is to nap or disrupt.

Horace Mann

Horace Mann – The Founder of American Schools

Horace Mann, the father of American education as we now know it, almost 200 years ago, envisioned a classroom where students worked together and learned from each other, no matter their age.

Yes, the K12 system needs changing. Students should be grouped more by their learning needs instead of how old they are. So, what we ask can we do now?

We need sit-down, repeated caring dialogues with these frustrated learners….sessions that relight their spark to learn. Those kids had that sparked once, back when they were learning to walk and talk. Somehow, the spark got doused and again must be relit.

In addition to caring teachers, there are parents, mentors and grandparents who can help make motivation happen again for these young learners.

We were, each of us, born to learn. We need some more allies who really care, if we expect these kids to learn.

Unknown-2Until we and our frustrated learners are able to make that happen, we will continue to get the results of that old, sad saw: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” I heard one, caring teacher many years ago, add this insight, “They won’t drink unless you salt their hay.”

We need to add some seasoning to stoke their learning appetites.

OnTheTrail1RE@L can help “salt their hay.” New learning-games can be a powerful combination, both sweet and salty, like Reese’s Pieces. Kids love ‘em, just as they love to play games and learn from them. Take Oregon Trail™ for example. There are hundreds of thousands of former kids, now adults, who learned dysentery can ruin your chances to make it to Oregon, but also learned strategies to increase your chances to reach your goals. Like life.

STEM Case Studies

Hands-on, project-based, STEAM-powered, often collaborative learning can re-spark the lives of these frustrated kids. The best part is that learning games can even motivate the young players to better read and understand. RE@L’s, learning game-based software will continue that focus on more effective learning, and more resources for better teaching.

We at RE@L think that the successful teacher who mentioned “salting the hay” years ago,  must now put some of those Reese’s Pieces or M&M’s, on the desk of those kids who need a little sugar-start.

Sal the HayWe know too much salt isn’t good for us, but we also know a few crystals of sweetness and caring can make it happen. RE@L’s aim is to provide learning software and resources that will fire up both students and teachers alike.

Whatever works beyond the jump-start to moving learners forward,RE@L strives to make happen too.

Unknown-1Nike, the maker of athletic shoes, had a poster many years ago that added this advice: “There is no finish line!” It pictured a distance runner with a long way to go. We must never give up on our goals.

We have a long way to go. Let’s get at it!


RE@L thanks Jackie Murdoch LaFrenz for passing on this fine story. We’ve passed it on to you. Now you can pass it on to others, too. That’s where hope for change becomes real change.

We also encourage you to follow MindShift. it’s worth your bookmarking, reading and reflecting!


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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.