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School Teaches Us to Hate Subjects

On 12, Dec 2013 | One Comment | In Education | By Daniel Kao

Ever since my shenanigan in kindergarten, I thought that I didn’t enjoy reading. In fact, most of my elementary school years I would stay as far away from books as I possibly could. I would only read when I was forced to for my English classes, because something in my mind told me that I wasn’t good at reading and that I didn’t enjoy it.

One day in high school, I picked up a self-help book, started reading the opinions and thoughts of authors on life, and I haven’t stopped reading since. Now, I read voraciously. I’ve been devouring whatever books I can get my hands on to try to see and be aware of as many perspectives as I possibly can. I can hardly read fast enough to keep up with the rate that I find new books to read.

What happened? You could argue that it was merely a point in my life that I found what I truly was passionate about, but a lot of my hesitation in reading stems deeper than merely not knowing what I wanted to learn.

Schools are set up to reward people who get good grades, and patronize people who get poor grades. People who do well in a certain subject gain the recognition and praise for doing well, therefore boosting their confidence in their ability to perform in the subject area. But people who do poorly in a certain subject often adapt a negative feeling toward the subject, simply because they didn’t receive a good grade in the subject.

How many times have you heard a student say “I hate math”?

Have you ever wondered if that student actually hates the subject of math, or if what they actually hate is that they received a poor grade in math?

By learning in a system that gives grades and places such a high value on the grade, the system teaches students to hate certain subjects as a defense mechanism to make them feel better for not doing so well.

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a grading system. I believe that being able to chart and measure a student’s progress is a good thing. But the way that the current system of grades is set up can instill some pretty negative side effects into the very people that we’re trying to teach.

What if we were able to promote a system that inspires children to learn and explore the areas that they don’t score well in?

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

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A Letter to My Teachers

On 11, Feb 2013 | No Comments | In Education | By Daniel Kao

Dear Teachers,

I’ve grown up with you, you have often the first person I see in the mornings, and on some days I’ve spent more time with you in your classrooms than with my family in my own home. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made to teach me to the best of your ability. Each one of you has had an impact on the way that I see life, and contributed to the person I am today.

I thank you for being so consistent in the classroom, even on days when you weren’t in high spirits but still spent the effort and time to teach class. Thank you for taking the time to review our work, and for the times that you gave real and honest feedback to us.

I thank you for being so motivated, even when we have shown little or no interest in lectures by sleeping, texting, or talking, or even speaking slanderous words behind your back. It takes guts to do that, and I’m sure we don’t realize or acknowledge how much you have to sacrifice of yourself in order to teach us.

I appreciate you for all that you’ve sacrificed and who you are, and my interactions with you in the classroom have been the inspiration for my dream to come around and empower you to connect and teach your students on a whole new level. You’ve instilled in me a great value for education, and a real heart to believe in younger generations and inspire them to truly become themselves.

My dream is to bring a revolution to the way that you relate to and teach your students, not because I am angry or bitter, but because of a genuine desire to improve education to be more relevant to students, teachers, industries, and families. I dream of making your jobs even more fulfilling by building a system that encourages human connection and feedback, where trust becomes a path for you to have even greater impacts on the lives of your students.

My dream is to bring genuine trust and respect to parent-student-teacher relationships, so that teaching and tutoring fosters a human connection that extends deeper than simply the subject material. Because as I’ve realized in the last eighteen years, learning is just as much of an emotional process as a mental process if not more.

I know that it hurts you at times to give your students low grades because you believe in their potential to truly learn, but many times that has been lost in communication. I want to create a system where you are free to express that in order to inspire students, and make them look deeper than the letter grade on the surface.

But I can’t do this alone. I need your help. Just as I needed your help to understand academic concepts in your classes, I need your support at a time like this in order to bring a true revolution to the way schools are run.

This is dedicated to you.

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What College is For

On 15, Jan 2013 | No Comments | In Education | By Daniel Kao

I recently got together with an high school friend to put together a short article on college.

Even though more people than ever are receiving a higher education, there still hasn’t been a true democratization of college. This is ironic, because we have all the tools to make such a change. The biggest difference between the past and the present is how drastically communication has improved.

At this point, there are two visions of the future. One would continue down the path of escalation and hyper-individualism, where human beings steadily become more machinelike, starting from taking college prep courses in elementary school and ending with being hooked up to an IV at work, continually ingesting a cocktail of Adderall and Ritalin and other cognitive enhancers just to be able to hold onto your job. When everyone is struggling to place themselves above the rest, every man is an island, with no opportunity for collaboration.

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The Disturbing Reality: How I Learned More at one TEDx Conference than a Quarter in College

On 10, Dec 2012 | One Comment | In Education | By Daniel Kao

It’s been about a week since I attended TEDx San Diego, and I’m still thinking about the inspiration and ideas that were shared at the conference.

TEDx San Diego

In case you aren’t familiar with TED talks that are slowly popping up everywhere, feel free to check them out. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

I stumbled across TEDx San Diego while browsing the internet one day, and decided that I would like to go to one of these conferences at some point in my life. Coming across the TEDx San Diego page, I promptly noticed that I would be in San Diego at that time, and filled out an application. (Yes, you must apply in order to attend a TEDx Conference)

I applied, thinking that I probably wouldn’t get in seeing as I had applied late, and probably wasn’t the hyper-entrepreneur that other people probably were. But when I received the acceptance letter, I quickly paid my $100 for a ticket.

TEDx was incredible. To say the least. The way that the speakers engaged with the audience on levels ranging from emotional to intellectual was nothing short of mindblowing.

I learned about and connected with people who had inspirational life stories, people who were making a difference socially in the world, people who were researching new technologies such as thought controlled computing, and people who were musical prodigies. There were people who were teaching entrepreneurship in prisons, people who were educating homeless children, authors who wrote countless bestseller books, researchers learning about indigenous African tribes, engineers who are creating contact lenses with a computer chip on them, and so many more.

It felt amazing sitting in an auditorium surrounded by people who were so captivated and willing to learn and understand what each speaker was talking about. Each session lasted approximately an hour and a half, but the day felt like it went by in a breath.

It was a seven hour conference packed with 33 talks, all of which struck different intellectual and emotional chords.
Read more…

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