Summer Break

It's summer!  Well, at least for those of us involved with school.  Because most of our readers are parents at our school, we decided that we would begin taking the two months that school is out off from writing.  We'll be back in August.  Have a great summer!

                                                                              Michelle, Kay, and Bria


Looking at risk through the lens of business, it is both incredibly interesting and complex. Risk is defined as a situation that involves exposure to danger. In business, risk is looked at in a broader sense, being defined as anything that can prevent the company from achieving its objectives. At surface level, it seems as if businesses would want to completely avoid risky situations so as not to jeopardize their objective. At the same time, not all problems and risks are avoidable, so you have to learn how to take precautionary steps to minimize risk when it inevitably occurs. In the situation, and in your own life, it is important to practice risk management.

Risk management is mostly practiced within the accounting department of a company. Anytime an investment is made, there is risk associated at varying levels of severity. One must consider external factors such as the general market highs and lows, inflation, recession, etc. In the last decade, companies have expanded the process of risk management to account for other areas of their practice as well. We now see companies with expansive crisis communication plans in case of an emergency or tragic occurrence in which their company/product killed, injured or mistreated anyone. Other efforts in company-wide risk management include insurance, “best practices” guidelines for employees and speech/Q&A coaching for company spokespeople.

This all makes so much sense when you think about it. Companies don’t want to lose money, get sued or do anything that will negatively impact their reputation, so they plan ahead and identify issues before they arise to minimize damage. What about personal risk-management? Are we using these guidelines in our own lives? Probably not. Personally, I know that I don’t always think big picture for my own life. Generally, I know what targets I am aiming for, but there is a lot more room to be proactive and plan for potential risks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets caught up in the “day-to-day.” By taking a step back and assessing potential risk in your future, you have a chance to get ahead of it and put your best foot forward when the situation arises. For a lot of us that work really hard at our jobs, it’s easy to forget that the planning and strategic thinking we do for our businesses can and should also be applied to our own lives. I recently heard a great speaker at an event focused on women-owned businesses. She said, “How are you supposed to be the CEO of a company, if you aren’t the CEO of your own life?” That’s what I want to leave you with today. Remember that your own life is just as important, and your work life and you can use the same strategy that is used to progress businesses to help you achieve personal goals. It’s great to do a good job at work but remember to be strategic about your “big picture” situation and become the CEO of your life.

-          Bria

     I just returned from the biggest risk I take all year:  the honor society trip.  Each year on the weekend before the last week of school, I set off in one direction or another for an eight to nine-hour away destination with twelve to twenty kids.  Over the last eleven years we have visited San Antonio, Albuquerque, Austin, Dallas, Kansas City, and New Braunfels (numerous times).  This year, we returned to Huzzah Valley Resort in Missouri.  We had visited during the solar eclipse, and then my family returned there for Thanksgiving.  I knew the kids would enjoy a longer stay, so we combined the middle and high school societies and set out. 

    I know just spending four days with eighteen kids is what you all think is the risk, but I spend every day with kids… so that’s not a big deal.  The risk is floating six miles on a river raft, hiking through the hills, and spending the day at Six Flags with these kids.  We do a lot to minimize danger, but very few schools allow kids to really experience such things as we did this weekend.  I mean, I got swept right out of the boat by a small tree that had fallen across the river.  I wish I could have seen it because I know I would have laughed hard.  The kids were great.  “Mrs. Smith overboard!  Mrs. Smith overboard!”  The water was so shallow that all I had to do was stand up.  It was a great day of decision-making, team work, and true beauty.  We caught a small turtle, a small beautiful fish, and a crawdad, and let them go after looking at them for a few minutes.  We got stuck on beaver dams and learned how to rudder a raft. So much learning occurred. At Six Flags, I watched teen groups dressed in like t-shirts and corralled by a sponsor, and I thought, “Poor kids.  Who has fun like that?”  My kids stay in groups of like interest and spend the day challenging each other to try rides they never have.

    I completely understand why most schools do not take the risk, and believe me, there have been some who don’t allow their kids to go with me because of the risk.  The benefits of these trips so far outweigh the risks, though, that I do not plan to stop.  The teamwork required to navigate that 8-person raft down the river was amazing.  Some teams worked together, and some had major power plays.  Some of my kids are deathly afraid of water, but they were brave as all get out here!  And rollercoasters?  Many gifted kids are terrified.  But their friends convince them to try, and they come back ready to conquer the world.  There’s not a thing we do in the traditional school days that match these accomplishments. 

   Mommas, on this Mother’s Day, I would like to challenge you to take risks with your boys.  When it came time to clean up our cabins, it’s no surprise that the girls were mostly done before they went to bed last night, and the high schoolers had theirs done pretty quickly.  But the junior high boys had to be called back again and again to pick up trash and get items out of drawers and take their things to the bus.  I laughed because when I came in to check on them, they were folding their dirty sheets!  I let them know that those should be placed in a pile in the bathroom. What they didn’t know was astonishing. When I mentioned that they should already be helping to do their own laundry, one young man quickly retorted, “My mom says it isn’t worth the risk to her washing machine.”  Please, Moms, let your boys learn to do for themselves.  We allow the girls to. Why not the boys?  I find myself telling the boys that their wives cannot be “hot” and be their mothers. 

    You can literally find a reason to avoid almost everything on the internet.  My advice is to quit looking at the internet.  Bubble wrapping your kid cripples him.  Take a risk.  Your future daughter-in-law will thank you.

-          Michelle

            Risk has always meant “a family game” played enthusiastically by my husband and his side of our family.  I never learned to play it because games were very competitive in our household, and that led to many games being banned from family gatherings.  Granny Johnson forbade Monopoly to be played since it often lasted days or weeks…and always ended in some controversial move!

            My husband says I am not a risk taker.  He’s right.  I’ve always felt the “bird in the hand is better than two in the bush!”  He, on the other hand, is a risk taker.  Although many may feel that taking risks is a negative trait, I am well aware that Lawton Academy of Arts and Sciences would not exist if Jim wasn’t ready and able to take the risk.  He also would not have had the successful thirty-year mental health practice he started when everyone told him he was crazy for quitting his government job.  I believe he has always been successful in such risk taking because he was willing to hold down two and three jobs simultaneously if needed in the building process. 

            I do take risks in the field of curriculum development.  I was so tired of poor teaching practices being called “an educational experience,” that I risked my job and reputation as I designed new ways and means of reaching children through educational games, simulations, etc.  Much of this seems “old-hat” now, but it wasn’t when I began fifty-four years ago.  I proved over and over that a child can learn anything if it is put into his language level, and if it can be made into a game format. 

            I am very aware that my risk-taking was also buffered by wonderful school board members who encouraged me, and who did not demand that things be done “the way we always have done them.”  I delighted in getting children to take risks that would cause them to be “smarter than the average bear!”  They always tell people “that” is my goal for them…to make them smarter than the average bear.  I always laugh when one of the preschoolers looks up and asks, “Just how smart is an average bear?”

            I guess I also have assurance that good risks make life more interesting.  Progress just doesn’t fall out of the sky…someone has to take a risk!  As I have said so often in this blog space, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  If non-Christians only knew the power we have through prayer, they would never doubt God’s love again.  So, instead of thinking about taking risks in life, I consider that God has a plan for my life which I can discover through my relationship with Him.  That plan leads my efforts to success as I put my trust in Him and in the Bible I read daily.  The book of Proverbs is full of the wisdom God offers us.  Read it and you will find that we can be successful in life without counting on chance or taking foolish types of risks.

-          Kay


From a young age we are taught to tell the truth. As we grow older, we learn that sometimes it’s more appropriate to tell a lie. This makes sense because as a child the stakes are higher for lying and there are no consequences when telling the truth. Successful lying is a step towards manipulation and secrecy. We don’t want our children to have this skill because of the negative implications it will have on our relationship and their relationships with others.

We paint a picture of good people telling the truth and bad people lying so that our kids will always be honest with us. It makes our lives easier and it reinforces the moral compass that we instill in our children from a young age. Generally, it is a good idea to teach our children to be truthful, but it becomes confusing when they learn that there are some situations in which lying is the better option.

As we grow up, there are several instances in which telling the truth is no longer appropriate. Sometimes being honest with your superiors can get you in trouble, so you have to conceal your emotions and say what it best for that situation. Similarly, sometimes you have to lie to those you love to avoid hurting their feelings.

There are many situations in which complete honesty is not the best policy. As children mature emotionally, they will learn to better discern situations that do not call for honest opinions. This skill will help them navigate difficult situations and grow in their careers.

-          Bria

   I think truth nowadays is like beauty: it’s in the eye of the beholder. There was a time when lying was oh-so-bad. In a time such as now where people actually brand themselves, it’s just marketing. (I should explain “branding” quickly for those closer to my age. I’m told that young adults are trying to get their name to be associated with certain items or events… kind of like Eddie Bauer and Martha Stewart. When you say those names, you know the quality of the product. This new branding doesn’t require a product, though. That person might be the “go to” for vacation ideas or party themes, for instance.) Anyway, back to truth.

  As a principal, I am challenged with finding truth many times a week. Gifted students are particularly prone to lying. I have tells I look for when I’m skeptical about a story. I know, though, that, once a person lies about something a couple of times, it becomes his truth.  This makes my job very challenging.

   I have told many-a-parent that the lying gifted kids do often isn’t malicious. Rather, many do it just because it’s more creative than the truth. I once had a student tell me that his 54-page script accidentally fell in his dad’s shredder. I immediately replied, “Wow! Can I have the name of that shredder? Mine gets jammed on two pages!” The next day he confessed that he had just lost the script. I asked why he didn’t just say so, and he just shrugged and smiled.

    I’ve certainly seen an increase in lying, and I don’t think I can contribute it all to being at a school for the gifted. I think social media actually promotes lying. Because every thought a person puts out there falls victim to ridicule and disgust, I think kids have become afraid to be honest. At times I feel kids are searching for the response I want. If it’s not true, so what? They don’t appreciate me digging deeper when their answers just don’t add up.

    I think, as the parent of a gifted child, it is important to know that gifted kids tend to lie.  This doesn’t make them bad people.  Getting away with a lie is like a challenge, and some are drawn to that.  Others just think the truth is too boring.  Your child will have some kind of “tell,” though.  The quicker you learn it, the less likely you are to buy into a whopper.  In my experience, the lies a gifted teen tells you are far less harmful than the lies he tells himself.  That’s where you need to worry.  Feelings of low self-worth begin with lies a person believes about himself.  If you are one of the parents of a quiet teen – you know, the one who talks to you on the ride home and then shuts the door to his room all evening, you must establish a mandatory “visiting” time.  Dinner is the natural place.  If you allow your teen to cut himself off from the family, he is learning “truth” from the Internet society.  I don’t know about you, but that’s not my truth.   

-          Michelle

P.S.  I can have a post script, right?  I just read my daughter’s piece, and I have a whole new perspective on why so many gifted students lie:  could it be because they are mastering this “adult behavior” at an earlier age than their peers?  Hmmm.  They master other things earlier.  Why not this?  I’ll have to ponder this idea for a bit!

            Truth is a term with a very ambiguous meaning for most people today.  Pilot asked Jesus, ‘What is truth?”  We are bombarded from every side with facts reported to be “the truth.”  Yet, we no sooner finish reading one report giving us the “truth” about certain foods, drugs, practices, diets, etc. than we receive the latest “breaking news” that has a different truth about the same things.

            I do not believe in “situational ethics,” which allow the truth to be “fitted” to the situation at hand.  I also do not believe in ‘little white lies,” “fibs,” or “just kidding,” excuses for lies.  There is truth and its opposite: a lie.

            Years ago, my husband taught me how to use neurolinguistics to help determine when my student(s) were lying to me.  It proved to be a helpful bit of information as I always stumped the guilty student by knowing (s)he was lying to my face.  It saved a lot of arguing and wrangling over semantics.  However, with today’s children, it is more difficult.  I feel the problem is that if a child has not been brought up with a strong moral base of thinking, (s)he really does not see anything as “a lie.”  In fact, it is easy for these children to become convinced that the lie is really truth.

            So, how do we deal with it?  For me, I prepare the way by teaching my students from day one that God has given us a moral code (Ten Commandments) by which we are to live if we want a successful life.  I also reward students who tell the truth by forgoing their just punishment if they told the truth.  Thus far, that has worked for me.  I also share with them the one lie I told to my parents as a teen which caused my brother to get the blame for my action.  I shared how I owned up to the lie when my brother was nearing 50 years old.  He forgave me, as did my parents.  But I carried a lot of guilt over the years.

            Probably the worst thing to do is lie yourself to catch a liar.  I did this as a young superintendent when a student kept stealing the large candy bars one mother packed for her child’s lunch every day.

My custodian, my teacher, nor myself, could catch the thief.  We could never find the wrappers as evidence.  Finally, I told my students that the police department had put a special chemical in the candy that was missing that particular day.  It would show up on the teeth of the guilty student when we looked into their mouths with a special flashlight.  I left the room to get the special light for the search.  I had just left the room when the teacher came to get me.  The thief had confessed to her.  I dealt with the child who was very upset about the ten missing candy bars.  He did answer my most nagging question: “How did you hide the evidence?”  He confessed that he put the candy wrappers in the toilet tank before he ate the candy bar.  Sure enough, floating in the toilet tank were the wrappers of ten large candy bars!

Could I have solved the case with only truth?  I will never know.  But it sure made me a more “savy” administrator!”   

-          Kay

Under Pressure

How do you behave when under pressure? Some get overwhelmed and shut down, while others rise to the occasion. Grace under pressure is the most valuable life skill you can develop leading into your adult life. There will always be deadlines, there will always be circumstances that are out of your control. It is vital that you learn to act and react appropriately and push yourself to work within these situations to reach a positive outcome.

Some people are most motivated when under pressure. This causes them to procrastinate and create an emergency situation in which they are scrambling to finish a task or assignment. Although this works for some, I would not recommend this method because it leaves too much room for extraneous circumstances. You might have left yourself enough time to write that paper at home before you go to bed, but what happens when your internet goes down? Similarly, some projects that are put off until the last minute turn out to be much more complex and time consuming than originally anticipated. In this situation, even if you were to work through the night, that might not be enough time to complete the task, or if you do complete the task it is not up to par with the quality of work that you normally achieve.

In ideal situations there is enough pressure to motivate one to work hard on a task and complete it in a timely manner, but not too much pressure to prioritize turning in something over turning in quality work. Finding this balance at a young age will help you out in school and at work and it will make you incredibly efficient. When you are able to strike the perfect balance of pressure in your life, instead of crumbling under the pressure, you can make diamonds.

-          Bria

“Under pressure” is a phrase that reminds me of my Father-in-law’s old joke: “Do you know what an expert is?  Just a former drip under pressure!”   I do know the true meaning of the phrase since I’ve lived under pressure most of my life.  Yes, much of that pressure was self-inflicted, but never-the-less, it was real.

            As the oldest child in my family, I had the responsibility for the safety of my brother and sister when we were “latch key” kids after school until my mother got home from work.  My father was always gone over the road somewhere as a truck driver.  My siblings knew how to pressure me when I didn’t let them have their way instead of following Mom’s house rules.

            I felt great pressure as I was taken from my neighborhood school and sent to the gifted program in a far away, higher class neighborhood.  I tripled the length of my daily walk to school, and I felt the social pressure of being from the “wrong neighborhood.”  I likewise felt pressure about grades since my parents were no help to me with homework, etc. since neither had even a high school education.  In spite of it all, I did well.  I didn’t bow to the pressure.  I did, however, create new ways of meeting the needs I had to perform up to speed for the gifted program.

            Over my career as a school administrator, I have been pressured by many groups, many rules, and many deadlines.  Yet, I have loved my career.  In fact, I think all those pressures molded me into the person I am today.  Because I chose to teach full time while I was also the administrator, I felt the pressures my teachers endured.  I, too, was constantly pressured by a disgruntled parent to change the rules for his/her child.

            I believe I endured successfully because of two things.  First, I believed and took as my creed the Bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  The second thing was that I always put the good of the child first and foremost in any decision or action.  Often that decision caused me to suffer some pain from powers that be, but in the long run, it always turned out for the best.

            We are just weeks away from the summer break.  I always tell my staff that it will get worse before it gets better.  Children can smell the summer break, and they are chomping at the bit to spend every waking moment outside.  Yet, we must administer achievement tests this week.  We must also help them survive recess since they run with complete abandonment during these last weeks.  I think the lemmings have nothing on the students’ “self-destruct mood” during the last weeks of school.  So, I will grab more bandages, more antiseptic, and more aspirin for everyone.  In the end, we will all survive.  I speak from fifty-four years of experience.   

-          Kay

It’s musical season at our school.  Because the pavilion is outside, I have to have all five of my musicals/plays in the stretch of two months.  I watch the weather like a hawk.  Not too cold, but not too hot, God.  A gentle breeze would be nice; please no forty-mile-an-hour gusts like that one year.  And please, God, don’t let it rain.  When it rains, I have to move a play, and they’re already back-to-back!

    At the point of writing this, I have three done and two to go.  The PK, JrK, and K did their musical in a balmy 42°, and two weeks later, the 1st and 2nd graders sweated their musical out in 90° heat.  But, just like Goldilock’s inevitably “just right” third option, the 3rd – 5th graders had a gentle breeze and 70’s. 

   There have been many hours spent on sets and costuming. (I provide nearly all costumes because parents get competitive when it comes to costuming.) I find that my best progress is made a day or two out from the play.  That fits, right?  We gifted procrastinate, right?

   So, if I do it, why do I get so uptight that even my littlest actors wait till the last minute to memorize their lines?  Two days before this last play, I was literally feeding each and every line – word-for-word, mind you – to the cast.  It was painful at best.  Yet, when the performance came, they were fantastic.  Did I mention that those 3rd – 5th graders did a ninety-minute musical meant for high school actors?  They were fantastic, and I cued very few lines.

   Even though it drives planners crazy, gifted people actually respond beautifully to pressure and deadlines.  I’ve been doing musicals and plays with these kids for fifteen years now, and they have yet to disappoint me.  I tell them at the conclusion of an abysmal dress rehearsal, “I’m not worried.  You’re gifted and you like to succeed.  There’s no way you are going to fail in front of an audience.”  And, they succeed.

    Over the years, I’ve learned to place the dress rehearsal two days before the actual event.  This does two things:  1) Those planners who memorized their lines early ride the ones who don’t know their lines like crazy.  “Can I help you?”  “Do you have them yet?”  2)  After seeing that their approach did in fact cause them to fail, most do not want that same experience in front of a crowd of witnesses.  I say most, but I have literally only had one student who still didn’t get the message and blew his lines throughout the play.  His mother thought it was funny.  Hmmm. 

    If you are the parent of a gifted child, take the advice on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:  Don’t Panic.  I know you’d prefer that your child not wait till the last minute and hold everyone else’s schedule hostage to get that project done, but more often than not, that’s exactly how things are going to go.  Can’t take it?  Plan for it then.  When you know a major project is due, clear a couple of hours that night before.  He can hold that schedule hostage all he wants!  Need to collect data throughout, say for a science fair?  Post a schedule of “data-collecting” days with a consequence for not fulfilling them and make it due an hour before bed time.  I’m telling you, it’s not that we don’t want to do the work.  We just don’t want to do it yet

   We have often called gifted people the “jack of all trades and masters of none” in these articles.  I think it’s the resourcefulness of gifted people that cause them to respond so well to pressure.  So, the next time you’re tempted to spout some talking head’s latest warning about the effects of stress on junior, remember that your gifted tyke actually responds quite well to it… within reason, of course!

-          Michelle 

Monday Mornings

Monday mornings, it seems, bring out the best or the worst in people.  I am very aware of the different attitudes expressed by people as I greet our students and their parents every morning at school.  I have the before school extended day watch which begins at 7:00 a.m.  Even the little three-year-olds have definite opinions about Monday mornings!

            It seems the majority of people I meet would prefer to skip Mondays altogether…just go on to Tuesday…but I ask you, “Wouldn’t that make Tuesday morning a Monday morning anyway?”  So it goes on, a true tautology!  Why do so many people gripe and groan about the first day of the new work week?  I guess the main reason may be because they had so much fun relaxing over the two-day weekend that they didn’t want it to end.  Others may have had so much fun that they are too tired to think of putting in a full day’s work. 

            I typically dread Monday mornings because I work with young children.  I have seen the pattern of a majority of parents relaxing their authority over the weekends, thus making it hard for teachers to guide the students back to working within parameters.  Lack of a good night’s sleep for young children can bring tantrums, doldrums, grouchiness, and general malaise.

            One of the worst-case situations are with those students who are on medications for ADHD whose parents stop the medication over the weekends and then start them up again on Monday mornings.  I have yet to see that effort bring about any good feelings.  (I am not a proponent of ADHD drugs anyway, except in very rare extreme cases, but put them on or keep them off; not both.) 

            My usual solution for my students who come back a little more bossy than usual or a little more demanding than usual is, “You got away with it over the weekend, didn’t you?!  Well, I’m not your mother!”  They get the message pretty quickly and all is well again.

            Monday mornings signal another week is beginning and we have a limited number of them left in which to cover all we want to teach.  It is like a clock ticking on a time bomb.  It seems like there is just never enough time…even with all the time-saving devices we have in this world.  So, the old adage is again proven true, “Time waits on no man.”

            My husband and I have tried to remember that God said to rest on the seventh day.  When we don’t, we usually find ourselves so drained that it’s hard to regain adequate strength for the new week.  We are doing better at setting time aside beyond the usual church time, and we do find it works!

            The hardest Monday morning for me is the one after the school year is over and everyone is gone from the campus.  The halls and classrooms seem so empty and lonely without the usual din of children’s voices and laughter.  So, I take a deep breath, look into each room and do an instant replay in my mind of the best moments of the past year… then grab a broom or a box to begin the work necessary for school to begin on the first Monday of August!     

-          Kay

Monday mornings for me are very different than for most. In a previous life, Monday mornings meant a stressful return to the normal grind. Now, Monday morning is my down time. As an event planner, Monday is my off day. While the rest of the world works, I relax. The concept of Monday mornings is a universally dreaded idea, whether your Monday is actually on Monday or not, though. Even if you love your job, there is still a rough reality returning to work after time off.

In America, we work really hard. There is an increasingly diminishing concept of work/life balance. Because your email can go everywhere with you, you are often expected to take your work home with you. Even if you aren’t expected to take work home with you, you often do because of the “workaholic” culture. This is neither a healthy or sustainable lifestyle.

In other countries, work/life balance is a much different concept. The OECD Better Life Index ranks countries in order according to their work/life balance. In the rankings, the United States is 38th place in work/life balance. This index takes into consideration employees working long hours and leisure time, but also looks at factors such as gender balance in the workplace. Everything is measured on a 10-point scale, and the US barely made 5 points. My point here is that we work too hard, we don’t take enough time for ourselves, and it’s a problem that we should care more about.

The United States need to identify ways for our workforce to take breaks and have personal time. This time is crucial to not only mental health, but also productivity in our work. If we can create a better work/life balance, we won’t have to dread Mondays as much. We won’t have the awful return to a long work week. By working normal hours and taking breaks, Mondays can just be a day and not the worst day of the week.

-          Bria

     Monday mornings, the first day back after break, the first week of school after summer break… they’re all the same thing:  retraining days.  We teachers work so hard to establish order through routine.  It’s the only way one can work with that many individuals to get so much accomplished in a day.  It’s a “two steps forward, one step back” process, though, when interrupted. I know parents can say the same thing.  My child goes to bed at 9:00, but not last night.  You gave him a huge homework assignment.  Don’t blame me if he’s grumpy.

     On could argue that routines were made to be broken, but I find that students are more successful when they have a procedure by which things are normally done.  For example, if I have a writing assignment due every week by Sunday evening, my students are more successful at turning them in than if I randomly scheduled them throughout a quarter.  Coincidently, I am better at getting them graded if I have a routine.

    Routine equally helps the student with many extra-curricular events and the forgetful child.  Just like making a mechanical memory by writing a spelling word fifteen times, doing something routinely makes it a mechanical memory.  When I drive my husband’s truck, I inevitably put it in overdrive when trying to reverse.  I finally figured out that his gear lever being in the center consul reminded me of my stick shift I drove for years.  My mechanical memory was putting the stick in reverse!

    Establish too much adherence to routine, though, and problems also develop.  For instance, I had a child once who used to stay in the bathroom for twenty minutes.  When I confronted the mother with what was happening, she let me know that he liked to take off all his clothes if he was going to have a bowel movement, and the dressing and undressing took a while! You can imagine my advice to her.  Children cannot miss twenty minutes of class to go to the bathroom, nor should they strip at school!  

   So how do parents and teachers get on the same wave length when it comes to routines?  I think teaching your child routines for broad scenarios is most helpful.  For example, “be prepared.”  This not only helps your kid not pull a last-minute search for homework, shoes, and retainer just as you’re ready to leave for school, but it helps him enter class with all required materials, a sharpened pencil, and homework done. “Be respectful” addresses excessive talking and noises, disrespectful language, and common manners. 

   How do you know if your child is carrying routines from home to school and vice versa?  Look at how much trouble your child gets into at school.  If your child is constantly getting into trouble for behavior, you are not doing enough to establish good routines.  Time to step up. I have not met a kid yet who doesn’t appreciate the order in routines.  My classes are the most fun for everyone when I’m teaching, not disciplining.  That’s no fun for any of us!

-          Michelle 


    When I picked this topic, I really was only thinking about a current event in our lives:  Bria’s moving into a new apartment this weekend.  As I sit and ponder, though, I realize how truly large this topic is.  I could talk about the “moving” or perpetual state of movement kids seem to be in nowadays… or I could talk about movement along a progression… or I could just keep it obvious and true to my original intent:  moving,,, from one place to another.

    This is the time of year when everyone becomes aware of who is moving and who is staying.  In previous years, it was uncomfortable because some students were leaving our school but not moving from our town.  This could mean a number of things, but none of them good:  a) couldn’t afford the school anymore, b) didn’t like us anymore, c) found something better. Today, I am happy to report that almost all of our students who leave do so because they are moving out of our town.  Those staying are free to mourn their move and enjoy as much time left with them as possible. 

   Moving is very necessary these days.  People must go where their jobs take them.  Moving children can be tricky, but military children are proof that it can actually influence kids for the better.  The trick is to point out all the benefits of the move.  New friends, new opportunities, new connections.  And in this day and age, it is easy to retain the old friendships through Skype, online gaming, and chat apps. 

   Moving can be detrimental to a child, though, if the reasons are always derogatory.  When people tour our school, I listen carefully to the reasoning behind the desire to move to our school.  I recognize that there are things we do that the public schools do not (i.e., early promotion, full-time gifted education, etc.).  I don’t count it as derogatory when a parent points out disappointment with what he/she has.  As long as the parent is looking for opportunities for his/her child, I can work with him/her.  When a parent has nothing but gripes about individual treatment of his/her child, alarm bells start going off in my head.  This parent is looking for an environment that is tolerant to the behavior of his/her child specifically.  Over the years, I have found that those with big “sob stories,” will eventually end up leaving us with a big “sob story,” too. 

   Do not feel guilty if your job requires you to move your family.  Many of our military children have tried to figure out ways to stay at this school beyond their parents’ transfers.  It didn’t work, but I have received word from students still here with which they are in contact that they liked their next school fine and were doing well.  Attitude is such a big part of whether or not success is achieved!

   I would argue that moving is how we cause the greatest growth.  Students are welcome to stay at our school, as long as they are moving.  Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  The movement about which I am talking here is more related to progress.  I don’t want my students stationary.  I want them moving toward a goal.  If they are not, they are stagnating, and they won’t remain here long. 

   No matter where your kids attend, if they are moving toward a goal, there is little chance that physically moving will hurt them.  We military spouses aren’t necessarily geniuses; we are just doing what we have to do to raise healthy children in a very mobile lifestyle.  And most of excel at this. We are the kings and queens of optimism!

  Whether you are transient or the fourth generation of your family to live in the same house, helping your child to see the way ahead as optimistic and move along a path toward a goal are the right things to do to help him/her achieve success.  Those who move their children every time they are not given everything they want actually stop any movement their children might make toward a goal.  One more move is not made as well:  they never move out!

-          Michelle

                Moving is on many people’s minds at the moment.  We are very aware of the military duty assignments families receive about this time each year.  It always causes sadness as we think of not being able to see familiar faces and hear voices which we’ve grown to appreciate over the past year.  Yet, as we all know, “time stands still for no one.”  Even though moving may be a given in many lives, it still ranks very close to the top of the list of stress-causes.

                Our society has always been pretty mobile; thus, we are all aware of the phrases like “western movement.”  I know I have an inborn drive to travel and see different places.  I prefer the drive to a flight since driving allows us to stop and see things on not-so-well-traveled roads.  My husband and I have always enjoyed those serendipity experiences that we truly never forget.  However, even among the traveling, we find ourselves returning to old familiar places.  The attraction may be similar to a moth drawn to a light in the dark of night.  Maybe those places just make us relive warm, comforting moments.

                This time of year places extra burdens upon school personnel because we have to assist in the transition of students to new schools.  This is no small task.  Records have to be sent, explanations of differences in curriculum between states must be made, and on and on the paperwork goes.  I am proud of our record, though…we haven’t had one student sent back to us for failing to follow proper procedures! (I’m kidding of course!)

                This year we will have a moving experience of a different nature.  For the past two years we have had the children of visiting Kuwait soldiers.  These children have accomplished so much in the time they have been with us.  The girls have blossomed into very sweet and beautiful young ladies.  The young man has developed a sense of humor that we have learned to love.  It will be hard to see them leave.  My first grade students are really in disbelief that our Kuwait student will be going home to a desert area half-way across the planet.

                I wondered how it would be for these girls to step back into the role of an Islamic woman after the freedoms they have enjoyed here.  I just received word that my students will be attending an English speaking school…that’s good, since the first grader has forgotten a lot of the Arabic language.  My math student has expressed the desire to become a teacher in her country.  How exciting that is!  She has worked so hard to learn all she could.  Even her posture in my classes set her apart from the rest of my students.  It is easy to see that this education was worth far more than gold to her.  She really wanted it and had a burning desire to learn all she could.  How I wish more students in the U.S. felt that way.

                My granddaughter is moving to a new apartment, but still in Chicago.  I think the writing on the wall says my grandchildren will always live far away in a very large city.  Will I move to be closer to them?  No…I love these wide open spaces called Oklahoma where the skies are blue (most of the time) and you can see herds of elk, flocks of wild turkeys, and migrating pelicans and eagles any day by just driving twenty minutes from our home.  I grew up in the big city…I moved to Oklahoma after college…and I am here to stay!   

-          Kay


And as Kay alluded to, Bria is moving into a new apartment this weekend.  She will not be contributing an entry due to limited time to do so! 

Incentives can be used at any point of one’s life to positively influence behavior. In infancy we incentivize our babies and toddlers to learn and grow. Potty-training is often incentivized by rewards such as candy or prizes or fun activities that reward certain actions. Some children are similarly incentivized to get good grades and behave. As we get older, the incentives change. Throughout school many incentives are driven by progress and opportunity. Doing well in school means you get good grades. Students are incentivized to get good grades because good grades mean that they have a better chance of getting into a good school. This kind of incentive is based on achievement.

There are other types of incentives that you will face at this point of your life as well. If you have done well in high school, different colleges might offer scholarships that incentivize you to choose one school over another. Additionally, there might be other benefits and incentives associated with one school. If you like sports, you might be inclined to pick a school with a successful football team. Or maybe the incentive of your school is location. For some people, moving away to a big city is an incentive to choose a school within that city’s limits. These incentives are more opportunistic in nature.

Finally, there is a third kind of incentive. The third type is an incentive that improves your quality of life in a meaningful or enjoyable way. These are incentives that you don’t need, but you want. For instance, if you are looking for a job and one of the perks is that the office keeps the fridge stocked with free food, that is not necessarily going to be the deciding factor in whether or not you want to work there, but it is definitely a nice perk. These kinds of incentives are reward-based.

Throughout your life, you will encounter all three types of incentives. It is important to learn how to handle each and how to prioritize incentives. Looking at the example above, the job might offer free food as an incentive, but if another job doesn’t have free food but is a great resume- builder and learning experience, the opportunistic incentive should be prioritized. There are other instances in which it is appropriate to take a reward-based incentive. At the end of the day, as long as you are using incentives for the right reasons, you will successfully better your situation without compromising your integrity or other opportunities.

                                                                                       - Bria

              Incentives have been a topic kicked around in education classes for years.  The question of whether incentives for children should be intrinsic or extrinsic will cause much debate in the future; as in the past, there is no finite answer.  People on both sides of the debate feel strongly about their position, and there is always research evidence to support both sides.

                I believe a good teacher delivers on both sides of this debate.  Individual children have different needs and respond to incentives which meet their own particular needs at the time.  The difficult tasks for the teacher include: correctly pairing the child and the incentive; affording to purchase external incentives which he/she can afford; and not crossing the line with parental wishes about rewards for their children.

                When a parent confronts me about giving a lollypop reward to a child, I point out that I have never had a child tell me he/she prefers an apple slice instead.  I do ask those parents with food preferences to send something agreeable for a reward for their child when it would be appropriate.  I find this prevents near disasters, such as the time I accidently gave a child an orange piece of candy.  I was told to never give her red dye…and I faithfully followed her advice.  Yet, the child often took candy rewards of other colors…one being orange.  We soon found out that the orange candy contained the red dye which caused her to have an allergic reaction.

                I often ask parents if they work for the fun of it, or do they work for the monetary reward for their effort.  Of course, they tell me, “That’s different.”  But is it?  The children in my classroom are doing a full day of work each day.  Why shouldn’t they receive a reward of some kind?  Yes, there are times and things which are to be done because it helps everyone to function properly, but those chores add to the happiness of the environment.  So, everyone must do his/her part.

                I have tried both” team” awards and “individual” awards.  It appears that most children perform better for the individual rewards.  My use of scholar dollars for rewards allows the children to work for pay.  They are then allowed to use that money in auctions of donated games, toys, etc.  It also allows me to give the children experience in banking, check writing, budgeting and saving.

                Yes, even I am looking forward to a special award.  I am about to turn 74 years old.  I realize my earthly time is getting shorter.  I long to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” from my Savior, Jesus.   

- Kay


   “What’s in it for me?” This is the line from the bad guy being asked to do - anything, right? I’d like to offer that maybe he’s the only honest one among us. Let’s be truthful, incentive drives all of our choices. We just have to correctly identify the “incentive” to see this. I don’t eat sweets because the incentive is getting fat. I eat sweets because they are yummy. The “getting fat” is a consequence for too much seeking of the incentive.

    Using incentive to get what we want is not a bad thing. Giving a worker a bonus for his hard work or a promotion in recognition of her abilities is just smart leadership.

   The challenge with gifted kids is that they weigh the incentives and sometimes decide the incentive is not worth the trouble… or the risk of failure. So the trick is to make the incentives unique and worth it. For instance, if every time a task is performed, a gold star is given, most gifted would tire of that. But if you said that fifty gold stars would earn a banana split, the gifted child will perform that task fifty times. There’s a challenge and a good reward for taking that challenge.

      Equally important is comparing your incentive to the consequence. If the consequence is small, the incentive needs to be substantial to be worthy of the time spent. If I tell my students that a paper is due on Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. and that all late papers will receive a 10 pt. penalty, my gifted student will take the 10-point penalty because he got to enjoy his weekend, do the paper on Monday evening, and receive an A- or a B on it on Tuesday… an acceptable consequence. When my gifted students started utilizing the opportunity to choose to do late work, I had to change the plan. No late work accepted at all became the standard. So where’s the incentive there? Mine comes in the form of a really cool trip for those in honor society at the end of the year. Only those with a 3.2 GPA and higher get to go.

      Parents have to be careful to distinguish incentive from conditioning.  Incentive is something offered when asking for behavior above and beyond what is usually expected (i.e., straight A’s, extra work, becoming a National Merit finalist).  When you reward a child for expected behavior, you are conditioning that child to expect to be rewarded.  If you give your toddler a treat every time he is quiet in the department store, don’t expect him to behave without that treat.  He’s going to cause a scene because you’ve conditioned him to expect treats for good behavior.  No treat = bad behavior.  I don’t get what I want = neither do you.

      Next time you begin to use the “because I said so” or “because I’m the boss” argument with your gifted child, remember that we all love incentives. I’m not suggesting you go so far as to pay for grades.  The incentive for doing well should be getting a good job.  But I do think it’s okay to surprise your child with a venture (along the way and not tied directly to the report card results) on which you are taking him strictly because he is such a hard worker… kind of like a “bonus.”  When your child sees that she is making you proud throughout the process, often that is incentive enough to do well.  Still give her the venture, though.  She earned it!


Spring Fever

     Spring?  What spring?  It’s Easter today, and I needed a coat!  Truthfully, we have had many spring days this last month… followed by several cold days… followed by several spring days… followed by… oh, you get my drift.  Consequently, Spring Fever hasn’t hit a “fever’ pitch yet. 

    I always thought Spring Fever was misnamed.  Sure, adults long for spring, but kids?  They long for summer vacation.  The warm weather makes them want to be done with school.  Seems to me it should be called “Summer Fever.”  I also have always thought that resolutions should fall on April 1.  Most places in America are seeing spring by April 1.  On the first day of the new year, I’m not really serious about my resolutions.  But when spring comes, and I now cannot hide my winter eating with layers of clothing and a coat, I am suddenly inspired with resolutions!  Or maybe we could make the resolution day on the spring equinox.  Then thirteen days later, we can say, “April Fool’s” for all the resolutions we didn’t keep!

   If you have a gifted child who is prone to indoor activity – say, gaming, for instance – don’t allow him to miss spring.  My favorite gifted kids are the ones who love life and all it offers.  Take your kids hiking out at the refuge or fly kites in this Oklahoma wind.  Fish or bike or just go visit some small town for its annual festival. 

   We military families know how to enjoy an area.  Very seldom did we live anywhere over four years.  In that four years, we participated in every festival we could find in the area, ate at all the famous diners, and visited every museum.  This is because we were often told that no rich man could afford to live in as many places as we would during our military career, so we should get as much out of it as we could.  Consequently, our kids are very well-rounded. 

   I have been back in Lawton for fourteen years now, and I find that I don’t explore as much as I used to.  Work often consumes so much time that I’m too exhausted to do so.  My husband and I decided to explore a nearby town on our date night last Friday night, though.  We had a wonderful Italian dinner, and then we drove around, marveling at how much the town had grown since we last went there some twenty years ago.  Just getting out and exploring stirred all those memories of spring Saturdays in Texas when we’d go driving just to see the wildflowers Ladybird Johnson planted along the highways.  I guess you could say that my heart has spring fever, “spring” in this case being a return to life of my recreational being.  I think I’m going to let it in.  All work and no play makes my life… perpetually winter. 

   Easter is a celebration of the greatest “coming back to life ever.”  He did all that just so I could fellowship with Him in the world He created.  I think I’ll go outside and enjoy it!  Happy Easter, y’all!

-          Michelle

A colleague of mine mentioned the other day that the way you can spot someone who has lived in Chicago for four or more years is to look for the person that is wearing just a sweater in March and April. Let me be very clear, it is still cold enough to justify a large, heavy winter coat. But there is something about the idea of Spring that still makes me wake up every day and consider throwing on a short sleeve dress and sandals.

Today is Easter and it is below freezing outside, yet all around the area people are braving the weather to wear Easter dresses. We all know that it will stay cold until May here, but we all still have spring fever.

For me spring fever is about anticipation. We are anticipating the warmer weather and good times that come along. But there are several other things that I am anticipating in my life currently. I move in two weeks to a much better apartment in my neighborhood. I have known for a month that I will be moving, and every day I come home from work and anticipate moving. It’s like I have a mental block until I can satisfy this anticipation.

We all experience periods in our life where we have spring fever of some sort. We are waiting on a promotion or acceptance letter or impending graduation. On a smaller level, we might be waiting on smaller instances that still seem to put a pause on the other things in our life. What we have to do is learn how to not let these occurrences of spring fever put the rest of our lives on hold.

Enjoy the anticipation of exciting or important upcoming events but remember that you can’t ignore what is happening in the present. For students that are coming up on a graduation, remember that you need to finish your year off strong. Although you want to push fast forward on your life, you have to take each moment one at a time. Live in the present and remember that it is exciting to anticipate something, but you still have to take everything one step at a time.

-          Bria