Mastering the Art of English


  You’re a student in English. Your grades in that class are plummeting, and you understand nothing. Your work fails to get more than a 50 percent and you have no idea why. Nothing that the teacher tells you in class makes sense. Nothing you do is good enough for the A you desperately want. What are you supposed to do?

  Donna Goodwin, a professional learning specialist at Highlands Ranch, has a simple but difficult solution: ask for help.

  “It’s pretty easy to go, ‘Ugh I don’t know it’, and just move on. ‘Ugh I’ll take a bad grade’, and move on,” she said, “and so somehow we need to work on motivating kids to go, ‘I don’t know it, and I want to know it’.”

  Danielle Black admits that sometimes it can be hard to ask for help from a teacher. “It’s easier to ask questions when you’re close to them. You feel like you are friends, sometimes even family, and then it is easier to talk to them. If you are strangers then it is harder and you feel less comfortable, and less likely to ask for help.”

  To address this issue, Goodwin has made a few changes, such as making herself more available and connecting with students to make sure they trust her enough to want to ask for help. Goodwin has also changed her teaching style and is currently testing out a new way of teaching English to her students.

  Goodwin’s modified teaching style comes from her past. She herself has always loved English literature and reading in general, and when she got to college, those classes and teachers were what she loved the most.

  “The ones that really appealed to me,” she said, “were the ones that would just discuss what we wanted to discuss. So they started us off with a question but then they kind of let us direct the discussion and really asked us how we felt about whatever we were reading or doing.”

  Goodwin tries to apply this to her own classes, but she believes helping freshmen get into a deep discussion is no piece of cake. Yet, Goodwin still makes an effort to really get her freshmen classes into discussions and going deeper into topics than they usually do, and she has started her new way of teaching this year.

“I’m starting out slow,” she explains. “What I’ve done is I’ve been asking questions and then I flipped it to saying, ‘Alright, you ask questions’…And then I am going to flip it and say, ‘Now you guys ask questions of each other’.”

  However, Goodwin realizes that not all kids are the same, and even her new way of teaching can not help all students. Some students get confused, and that is when Goodwin presses them to ask for help once more.

  “Ask for help,” she said, “Go in and say, ‘Hey, I don’t get it’. Because if I can get 10 minutes with somebody, one on one, I can at least get us a step closer.”

Kathryn Lopez, Guest Reporter

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Donna Goodwin teaching an English class PhotoCo: Kathryn Lopez