Alumni

Learning Specialist

Patrick Atkerson, Ph.D.  Learning Specialist

patkerson@sa-academy.org or ext. 255

Patrick Atkerson has worked as a certified teacher for almost two decades. He has worked in both public and private schools teaching students in grades third through eighth. Patrick has received many awards and certificates through his teaching career and brings with him a wealth of knowledge in understanding schools, children, families, and how they interrelate. Patrick holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, a Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum Design, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education. Patrick remains in the classroom as a math teacher for fifth grade students while also serving San Antonio Academy as the school's Learning Specialist. As Learning Specialist, he monitors and analyzes academic performance of all Academy boys and coordinates efforts to better serve the needs of students who struggle academically. 

Articles by Patrick Atkerson, Ph.D., Learning Specialist

10 Habits of a Successful San Antonio Academy Student

Good study habits are important for all students to develop as early as possible. So what are habits? Habits are behaviors that are repeated so often they become automatic. Think about that. Every good habit your son develops now becomes a behavior you won't argue about later. The earlier your son begins to practice good study behaviors the sooner they become habits. This will make a more peaceful home for everyone. 

Study habits are not intuitive. In order for your son to develop good study habits, it requires the participation of both the adult and the student. Adults serve as the guide for structure and accountability in order for the behaviors to become habits. Your son must be a part of the planning to learn he has control over decisions and help him understand that there are always both positive and negative consequences to every action. Adults set the stage and run the show behind the curtain. 

As a parent, it is your job to provide the tools he needs to become independent. Self-confidence is the most important part of becoming independent. You allow your son to learn self-confidence as he completes tasks and evaluates the results of his decisions. There is truth to the saying failure is a much better teacher than success, so don't rescue him from every mistake. Providing the tools of confidence, initiative and introspection while he is young allows him the time to practice, so that he grows into the man you want him to become. 

Below is a list of ten tips that will give you ideas about how to help your son develop good study habits, develop self-confidence, and become more independent. 

  1. Start with a plan and get organized. Help your son make a plan for what he is going to do and when he will to do it. Use a large wall calendar to mark when projects are due and when tests are scheduled. Also record important activities i.e. football games, soccer practice, birthday parties. Having a visual list of things will help your son see the big picture. He can plan and write what days and time he will study for the tests/projects. Long term planning has to be taught and reinforced. 
  2. KISS (Keep It Simple silly). Don't multitask. Studies have shown that multitasking in males is not effective. We deceive ourselves into thinking we are working on two things simultaneously, but our mind can focus on one thing at time. Our brain is switching between things, which means we are splitting our attention rather than focusing it. So don't be fooled , having the television on while he is studying does not work well. Some people find that white-noise from the radio helps block out other distractions, but working on two projects that require attention at one time WILL NOT improve performance or speed up the results. 
  3. Divide up the work. I am not betraying a teacher secret code when I say studying isn't fun. A study marathon will only make school more frustrating. Help your son divide work into manageable chunks. Maybe even build in a reward when a chunk is finished. See tip number 1 to help with planning long term chunks. 
  4. Sleep and eat. Don't underestimate the importance of sleep or eating a balanced diet. Ever since he was two years old, you have known your son becomes cranky when he doesn't get enough sleep or is hungry, so why would you expect him to perform well at school when he is hungry. Growing boys need more than the seven hours that adults need. There have been several recent studies that are showing sleep is important for mental health and memory. One benefit of sleep suggested is that while a person sleeps the flow of CSF increases and literally washes the brain, removing damaging toxins that build up over the day. For more information, see this article from the National Institute of Health.  Getting a good night's rest will sharpen his focus and improve his working memory. Remove electronic devices that make noises or light up from your son's bedroom. These disrupt sleep patterns. 
  5. Set a schedule and stick to it. What does his day look like? Does he work better right after school or after he has eaten dinner? Is he more productive in 90-minute blocks or does he do better in short half-hour spurts? Find a schedule that works for him and you, and then do your best to help him stick to it. See tip number one for more. 
  6. Take notes. Taking notes will not only keep him more engaged during class, but will also help narrow down what he needs to study when exam time rolls around. It's much easier to reread notes than to reread an entire textbook! It has been suggested using handwritten notes helps students retain information better than typing notes. For more information, check out this article from The Atlantic
  7. Study. This one might be obvious, but did you know that there's a right and wrong way to study. Use tip number one to spread out and plan review times. Review material several days ahead of time, in small chunks and in different manners (for example: write flashcards one day and take practice tests the next). Cramming increases stress and lowers long term retention. 
  8. Manage a study space and materials. Find a place that will maximize his productivity. The kitchen counter may be convenient, but if there is too much commotion your son will have trouble focusing (see tip number 2). Look for places help him make a realistic plan to overcome those things. Shipping little sister to Timbuktu is not realistic. Have materials close by: paper, pens, note cards, compass. Anticipate what your son may need and have it ready. 
  9. Find a study group. Sitting down with a group of people who are learning the same things is a great way to go over confusing class material or  prepare for a big test. They can quiz each other, reteach material, and make sure that everyone is on the same page. After all, teaching someone else is the best way to learn. 
  10. Have Grit. Encourage your son to show up to school. Don't let allergies or a restless night keep him out of the classroom. Encourage him to be persistent, ask questions, persevere by struggling through hard problems. Don't rescue him from every struggle. The struggles are how we learn. Help your son grow unpleasant experiences. When things don't go as he planned whether it a low grade, conduct referral, or some other disappointment don't make excuses for him. Help him think about what he could differently to change the outcome. Rather than assigning blame help him see he has control over his life and his circumstances. With this maturity, he will learn to deal with disappointment appropriately and be able to accomplish his goals.