How to “Crush School”
July 20, 2016
by Mindprint Staff
There’s a new book coming out this month, that might just have the missing ingredient to increase student motivation and efficiency. The author, Oskar Cymerman, is a high school chemistry teacher. If you have any doubt of his ability to understand and motivate teenagers, just know that this year he will become the first teacher in his school to “Starbucks” his classroom.
Here are excerpts from our conversation with Oskar about his forthcoming book:
Mindprint: Why did you decide to write your book “Crush School“?
Oskar: I wrote the book to help students learn how to learn. As teachers, we tell students how to learn or study, and while many of these strategies are effective, we rarely explain why they work. The “why” is extremely important to the students and should not be overlooked. Knowing what happens in the brain provides the concrete understanding that motivates students to use the strategies.
Mindprint: You say students should use, not read, this book. Tell us more.
Oskar: The answer is threefold. For one, the book is not a book in the traditional sense. It’s a guide to learning any subject. As such, I want students to mark it up — underline, highlight, write notes in the margins. Skip around to the sections you find useful RIGHT NOW! Do you have a test coming up? Go to Bonus #1- Crush School Test Checklist, which is all about how to prep for exams. Second, in order for the techniques to be effective, the information must be processed and applied by the brain many times. Reading alone is not enough. I talk about neural connection strengthening and reiterate throughout the book that for that to occur the information has to be used in multiple ways (interleaving or as I call it “mixing it up”) and multiple times (spaced repetition, recall rather than rereading etc.). Finally, as I say in the book, having knowledge and not using it is like not having it at all. So, if you spent the few bucks to buy the book, use the dang thing to your benefit! Don’t just expect to become excellent with mediocre effort. The book gives you the tools, but it’s up to you to use them.
Mindprint: The Introduction says that the book is for all students, middle school through college. We get that. But really, which students will benefit most from using it?
Oskar: I’m a high school teacher, so I suppose the idea for the book originated from my own classroom observations and reflections on what students struggle with. However, I want to get this message out to all students: YOU CAN LEARN ANYTHING NO MATTER WHERE YOU START. A daughter of my friend, who’s going to be a fifth grader, just read the book and loved it. With help from the parents, younger students can use the book, learn the strategies, and “crush school,” which of course is a metaphor for becoming a rock star student. I also asked a 4th year University of Minnesota mechanical engineering engineering student to read it. He was a great student in high school, but he commented that the book includes strategies he did not know about. He also appreciated the brain science as it lead to better understanding of how we learn.
I guess my point is that as long as you’re human you can use the book, because it focuses on how the human mind learns.
Mindprint: You give many good strategies in the book. Is there any universal strategy you wish all students would adopt?
Oskar: Yes. Active learning. I know I cheated on this answer, because active learning can be done in many ways. But, I think that’s the key message of the book: To truly learn and feel confident about it, the student must make learning and studying an active process. Don’t just keep re-reading the information or watching the video or the presentation. Make your mind go to work on these things!
Mindprint: Let’s cut to the chase. How do parents get their kids to use this book?
Oskar: “Crush School” is unique. It is written in student language. I use storytelling and examples of classroom situations students often find themselves in and explain them from both the student and teacher points of view. It is straightforward but not “dumbed-down”. Each chapter is short. The book is unlike anything out there! I know, I googled it! While it can be used by teachers, it was written for students specifically. It is relevant to teen life and humor. Not to worry, though, it is still appropriate.
Are you ready to help your kid “Crush School“? Initially, the book will be released in the digital format on July 28th. The printed copy will be an 8×10 book/guide coming soon.
More about Oskar: Oskar Cymerman is a high school chemistry and Project Lead The Way teacher at Woodbury High School, an urban public in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He is an active twitter user and blogs for his own website focus2achieve.com and for the BAM Radio Network blog “EDWords.”
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