This article is the third in a series of five study tips to get you ready for taking the Praxis Core tests.
Different folks are taking the Praxis Core exams for different state’s requirements. For some folks, meeting the requirements in their state will be easy; for others, it will be a do-able challenge; for others, it will be a stretch. What I have to say here is important for everyone on this spectrum.
My advice is to strive for excellence. First of all, no matter how approachable it may seem, the Praxis Core is a challenge, and it is good never to underestimate any challenge. More importantly, these tests form an important initial step in your professional career, and your ability to bring your best to each aspect of your preparation is one of the ways that you commit yourself to this career. The philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Or, from a more modern source, the financial coach T Harv Eker said, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” I would encourage you to embrace the habits of excellence in preparing for the Praxis Core as a way of committing yourself to the best you can do. I would love to see that commitment inform every aspect of your teaching career.
Learning from your Mistakes
One of the habits of excellence is to learn from your mistakes. The very best student is the one who never makes the same mistake twice. This is hard ideal, but think about this: how carefully would you have to study the solutions to problems to ensure that you never would make that particular mistake again? This is an ideal for which to strive as you practice.
You see, for children and immature folks, making mistakes is unpleasant and can be interpret as a message that “something is wrong with me!” For folks with a more mature self-image, another perspective becomes possible. Each mistake is a chance to improve one’s self, a chance to understand something at a new level. If you can generate genuine enthusiasm about learning from mistakes, your understanding will advance like wildfire.
If you find your making many mistakes at the beginning of your studies, you may find it helpful to make an error log. An error log is a physical notebook or computer file in which you record each and every mistake you make. You record the date & time of the mistake. You record the page number (of a problem in a book) or the URL (of a web problem), so you can find the same problem again later. Most important, in an error log, you should write out exactly what idea you didn’t understand and exactly what you should have done. It should be as explicit and detailed as possible. You see, when you are forcing yourself to articulate your mistake explicitly in words, you are drawing on different parts of your brain, and these cross-connections in your brain re-inforce deeper understanding. Part of the point is the benefit you derive just from creating the entry, and part of the point is the ability to track patterns of your mistakes over time. An error log can make very clear what areas require additional review.
If you want to be the best teacher you can be, then I would advise committing yourself to doing the best on every step of the journey there. Even if you could get by on the Praxis Core with less effort, I would encourage you to approach it with your very best effort. As Aristotle suggested, the path toward becoming the best we can be lies precisely in doing our best in all things. Your future students deserve no less.
Keep an eye out for the fourth Praxis Study Guide tip.