Stop Teaching Me!

 Posted by at 8:04 am
Sep 022017
 

Getting students engaged in their own (and their classmates’) education opens up a world of opportunity for reaching today’s real estate student.

Thus sayeth Bruce Moyer, a North Carolina Real Estate Instructor, in a recent issue of Dearborn Real Estate Education’s newsletter. Before you respond “Keen grasp of the obvious,” the context for his statement is an attempt to answer the question “Are students’ attention spans shrinking?” I rather enjoyed the way he handled the question. A short interpretation of his answer is that he renders the question somewhat invalid by pointing out that today’s younger adult students have grown up learning differently. As an elementary/middle school substitute teacher, I can attest to the fact he’s correct.

One of the sadder comments I’ve heard recently in a real estate class came from a student who said, “I’m so tired of learning…” (She’d been maintaining an aggressive college schedule and some other “learning experiences,” including the real estate sales agent course.)

I wanted to respond, “I’ll bet you’re not tired of learning. I think you’re probably tired of being taught.” That’s more than a semantic difference.

While real estate education is not the only place we see it, the reality is we’ve been very slow to acknowledge the changes in learners and accept what has always been true–an engaged student is a learning student. I think that’s always been true. What’s different is that today’s real estate students are coming to our courses with different learning habits. One of many reasons I love teaching little kids is I get to see those differences in action. But make no mistake–it’s not about age. Kids are just little people who are not so different than us bigger ones. I have seen five-year-olds so engaged in something (reading a book, drawing a picture) they actually lose track of time.

When’s the last time you lost track of time in a real estate class?

Five years ago I announced that I was “giving up teaching.” It was admittedly a play on words, but the point was to explain a shift in my focus to “interactive learning.” I gave a lot of credit for the shift to the kids. I pointed out in the article that if a second grader asks me how to pronounce a word (a sign they are engaged in learning) I don’t just tell them. We work on it together, perhaps by breaking the word down, sounding it out, and considering the context. Those techniques maintain and perhaps increase the engagement and very likely increase the odds the lesson ends up in long-term memory.

So why are we clinging to an outdated real estate model that emphasizes the “sage on the stage” wherein the “best” instructors have the deepest knowledge of real estate law and practice, telling the students the answers? In fairness to sages everywhere, knowledge of the subject is important. I confess I enjoy seeing high ratings and positive comments on my evaluation sheets regarding “knowledge of instructor.” But it shouldn’t stop there.

I was drafted into substitute teaching a second-year Spanish class at our high school last year. As the kids were filing in and taking their seats, one in the first row challenged me. “Mr. Boomsma, do you even know Spanish?” I somewhat surprised myself when I replied, “No, but I know how to teach it. Let’s get started.” We actually had a good class with lots of “interactive” and “self-directed” learning. It was the other end of the spectrum–I was truly acting as the “guide on the side.” The only way I could answer questions was to work with the student on finding the answer.

Ultimately, being a sage or a guide is not an “either or” decision–it’s what works best for all the stakeholders. One of my public school teacher colleagues recently shared with me how she used a bandaid to explain to her class that she would be doing her very best to work with the different needs of each student and she expected those students to both understand and help her. As an advocate for schools and kids, I wish more people could see what many of today’s teachers are doing and some of the challenges they are facing.

She teaches fourth grade so if I live long enough I may see some of her students in a real estate class. I hope by then we’ve figured this out. Today and tomorrow’s learners are different and those differences need to be met with changes in instructor skill sets and teaching strategies.

In Dearborn’s Real Estate Education survey, “shrinking student attention spans” was rated “very challenging” by 31% of the respondents and an additional 56% classified it as “somewhat challenging.” But is that the real challenge? We all want success. In order to achieve it, we may have to give up teaching and focus on learning. That means we are going to need facilitation skills and an ability to introduce different classroom and learning management strategies. Our students’ mental abilities aren’t shrinking–they are learning differently and probably better. The challenge is whether or not we will expand to accommodate that.

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Feb 242017
 

One of the challenges we face in real estate courses is making certain our content is current. Come to think of it, that’s a challenge for real estate licensees as well!

There’s an old story claiming that someone once asked Albert Einstein for his phone number and he had to look it up. He supposedly remarked that “an intelligent person doesn’t store information, he knows where to find it.” That makes some sense and carries with it the importance of knowing what we don’t know so we do not give out false information. Einstein had the confidence required to admit he didn’t know the answer to what many would consider a fairly simple question.

So if I asked some number of licensees (particularly those who recently completed the sales agent or associate broker course about the Maine Nonresident Withholding Tax on real estate sales, I suspect many would give an incorrect answer because some rates changed for 2017. When Ben Franklin opined that “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he didn’t mean the amount would be certain–just the existence.

You’d be correct (well, nearly) if you cited the default calculation as 2.5% of the purchase price. “Nearly” is added because the withholding only applies if the sales price is $50,000 or more.

You might also remember there are some alternative calculations and that each requires a waiver from the Maine Department of Revenue. One of those calculations is based on a “small profit.” Those are the rates that have changed for 2017. With a waiver, the seller may be allowed to have the smaller of the two amounts (2.5% of the purchase price, 10.15% of the profit for residential) withheld.

If you think this is starting to get complicated, you get a sticker. Like Einstein, you may be concluding the best answer to the question “How much is the Maine Nonresident Withholding?” is “We’d better look it up.” Actually, an even better answer is “We’d better consult a tax specialist.” (If your client doesn’t have an accountant or tax advisor, like Einstein this might involve a phone book or its Internet equivalent.)

From an estimating point of view, the safe calculation is the default calculation of 2.5% of the sales price. After all, that is the most the seller will have withheld. If your client is a “do-it-yourself” type you can offer him or her the link to the Maine Revenue Services Website. It’s a very user-friendly place with lots of information and all the forms one may need. (Forms and information use the abbreviation REW-Real Estate Withholding.) Note that any request for a reduction in withholding must be made at least five days before closing.

While there’s no minimum on how helpful we should be with our clients, there may be some limitations when it comes to the amount of knowledge we have–particularly in areas such as taxes that extend beyond our area of expertise. Personally, I think a client who is a nonresident of Maine needs to know he or she may be facing at 2.5% withholding from proceeds at closing. We can and should also explain that there are alternative calculations, waivers, and exemptions and these should be discussed with a tax professional well before closing. In the interest of accuracy, perhaps “the less said, the better.”

Another option might be to provide all nonresident sellers with the Notification to Sellers of Withholding Requirement–it could become part of your listing packet and be included on your listing checklist.

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Dec 292016
 

It’s that time of year when cars occasionally need help getting started in the form of a jump or boost that puts more power into the process. If you’ve been “thinking” about a career in real estate, now is a good time to put some power to your thoughts and dreams by taking the Sales Agent Course starting on January 25, 2017 at the Ramada Inn in Bangor Maine. *

This is a live (and lively!) course… admittedly intense and demanding–most students concede they didn’t realize how much there is to learn. But our material and teaching methods have a proven track record. Alumni Renee Jarvis says, “I enjoyed the way Walter taught the subject matter so it would be understood and not just memorized.  I truly love Walter’s teaching style…”

For additional information, course dates, and to register online, visit the Arthur Gary School of Real Estate Website or call the school at 207 856-1712. If you have questions about course content or a career in real estate let me know–I’ll be happy to help!


* The state of Maine requires that a person pass the 55 hour Sales Agent course and a state exam, both with a 75% or better, in order to qualify for a Sales Agent license. Our 55 hour Sales Agent course covers all of the material required by Maine License Law and Rules to qualify for a Sales Agent license.

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Take a Course Schedule Survey!

 Posted by at 8:01 am
Nov 112016
 

im-right-1458410_1280Here’s your opportunity to contribute to how a course is scheduled. There are only five easy questions!

While this survey is specific to the course required to qualify for a broker’s license, it might give us some ideas for others! (The course is called “The Role of the Designated Broker,” but it is not just for those who are planning to be a designated broker. The course also applies to those seeking a broker’s license. For more information, see this post “Should I take the Designated Broker Course?”)

And no worries, this is not a poll about your political opinion or candidate preferences!

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