Giving Teens The Advantage
The decline of the ability of the American educational system to effectively educate American youth has been noted and anguished over for decades. Many students pass through the system without having had the opportunity to reach their full potential. A few of them realize that the educational system has let them down; most are plagued by a sense of personal inadequacy.
Learning to Learn
For the past 25 years, Optimum has been on a mission to turn round that dark side of learning. I have cracked the code to standardized testing and can show students how to get into top schools like Berkeley and Stanford. In particular, I am showing students how to get better grades by learning to learn. Many students fail because they find themselves caught between teachers, parents, and extracurricular activities, having no training or direction in how to merge what they have learned with the lives they are leading. I believe in attacking the problem at its roots and equipping students to integrate learning into their lives.
Students frequently display dramatic turnarounds. I recently helped a student, who had failed high school Algebra, to complete an entire second semester of the same course. He ended up scoring a final of 96% after only eight days of working with Optimum. The remarkable achievement came, in part, because I created a space in which it was safe for the student to ask questions so that he could thoroughly master the material instead of pretending a comprehension he did not actually possess.
Teachers and administrators are often limited by their lack of funding or resources, so personalized attention to each individual’s need is sacrificed in the interest of moving the class forward. These students fail to develop the ability to identify what they don’t understand. Only when they confidently understand what knowledge they lack, can they figure out how to learn it. As a philosophy professor, George Boas, observed, “Education is learning what you didn’t know you didn’t know.”
I have found that the process of learning is not simply about acquiring masses of information because life is more like Google than it is like the Encyclopedia Britannica. Nothing is laid out neatly for students’ convenience, but people who can comfortably identify, find and integrate the information they do not know into knowledge they already possess can learn anything.
I strive to assist teenagers in their life journeys by developing their internal and external resources and qualities. On an internal level, I assist them in achieving greater levels of success in their academic studies, professional careers, and sense of personal fulfillment. On an external level, students learn how to manage themselves independently, to become self-propelling human beings, and have resources that will assist them in making the world a better place.
At Optimum, we believe students simply need to learn how to learn. The acquisition of specific information is not as important as the skills needed to self-motivate, self-manage, feed one’s curiosity while continuing to learn. Teens who develop these long term skills are the ones who get better grades, enjoy a higher level of focus, passion, and drive—and ultimately achieve greater success in school and in life.
I also work with parents by assisting them in navigating the school system and becoming effective resources for their children’s development. Some parents try too hard to force their children to succeed. I show such parents that by doing less they can sometimes help their children accomplish more. On the other hand, I also help under-involved parents become engaged at an appropriate level in their children’s learning.
My Own Learning
My parents were both teachers and raised me in an environment that valued education and intellectual life; they taught me the importance of community, and that it is up to each individual to try to make a positive impact upon the world.
My folks met and married while members of the Peace Corps teaching in Nigeria back in the early 1960’s. Both have a passion for history, teaching, community, and service. Throughout my childhood, my mom was an editor for a San Francisco neighborhood newsletter, called “Miraloma Life,” that my friends and I delivered by hand to 10,000 people for many years. The newsletter included community activities and resources—listing my brother, my sister, and me for babysitting services. My parents continually involved me in community activities—from recycling to Boy Scouts. They have inspired me throughout my life with their ethic of changing the world through education, at times, through large-scale community action, but often one person at a time.
Following graduation, I spent a year in Europe teaching English in Spain and Germany. When I returned to California I spent two years in Richmond schools teaching junior high one year and high school the next. These inner city schools provided personal challenges, but I discovered that I really love teaching and having a positive influence on students’ lives.
I eventually completed two Bachelor’s degrees, from U.C. Berkeley and the University of Oregon, in English and General Services with minors in Chemistry, Biology, Spanish, and Film. I later earned a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan, where I taught undergraduate classes.
While attending school in Oregon I taught in a local community college, at a major SAT test prep center, and at a multiple subjects tutoring center. These experiences developed my awareness that tutoring was what I loved most. Traditional teaching required me to spend too much time on classroom management tasks and not on the teaching, which was becoming my real passion.
While working with a single student, I could effectively spend all of my time actually teaching. Plus, I developed a great passion for watching students come to new understandings and insights—helping them to develop themselves personally through what they were learning.
Even in my own educational experiences, I turned away from the medical career path because I did not like the culture of learning that was going on. I believe learning should be enjoyable—an end in itself, to some extent, and not merely a matter of mastering material in order to successfully compete for an academic or professional objective.
A Better Way to Learn
A Masters Degree in social work allowed me to integrate my knowledge of education and psychology into my own style of tutoring. I created a curriculum focusing on what I called “The Ecology of Learning” and developed a pyramid of seven levels of learning that guides the educational process in addressing the whole person. These seven levels include:
- Value—Personal commitment, responsibility, integrity, and a desire to succeed
- Skills—Organization, communication, study, and time management.
- Social requirements—Study space, family and friend Support, and resources
- Elimination of blocks—Intellectual confidence, managing learning disabilities, overcoming test anxiety, and emotional groundedness.
- Content Mastery
- Subject-specific reasoning process
- Academic success
The reason many educational systems fall short is that they fail to address the first four fundamental levels, assuming that students come to class ready to absorb and learn. My role is to help students thrive in the face of a system where odds are stacked against them—and to give them the level of instruction that I wished I had had at that age. My job is to complement the learning that takes place in the classroom and the home by filling in the gaps. Plus, I provide a space for learning and a process for integrating the acquired knowledge. I strive to ultimately reactivate curiosity and love of learning in all my students.
My extensive academic background has served to enable me to help teens prepare for and succeed in high school and college—including all levels of math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, English, Spanish, French, and History.
I also provide integrated college-admissions consulting, helping kids with expert and personalized SAT prep so they achieve their personal best.
I do both remedial and enrichment instruction and also work with kids who have ADD, ADHD, and various learning disabilities. I have learned that the key is to treat them as individuals. Since one size never fits all. I help each of them to understand how to organize their learning so they will find the ways in which their particular disability impacts their learning process. I then work with them to devise methods to overcome their personal challenges.
I have guided students through home study courses as well. I work in an online collaboration with self-paced online courses and using my curricula together with theirs, assist students in completing entire courses in an accelerated time-frame.
I eventually plan to train a network of Optimum Education Specialists around the US in my approach to tutoring. In addition to my online SAT and ACT courses, I am in the process of completing a book about how to master the SAT, another for parents about how to provide academic support for their children, and still another on how to write college admissions essays. Plus, I am developing my career as a speaker at schools and other institutions where I can help young people change their lives.
Life is good! Helping young people make their way through the tangled web of modern life to levels of genuine academic, professional, and personal excellence always gives me a boost. Plus, I always have my little Boston Terrier, Bella, to make me laugh.
For more information or to request a Free 60-minute consultation please email me at Daniel@OptimumES.com, or call (925) 219-8516.
I look forward to speaking with you and discussing how to transform your child’s life and open up a world of possibilities to them.
-Daniel Herzberg, MSW, PHD(c)
Owner, Optimum Educational Solutions
Optimum Educational Solutions
25A Crescent Drive #141,