Respect

Pull up a church pew; I’m preaching today. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to...getting this country back on track, training our children to be high-functioning members of our society, and fixing the culture of hatred that is thriving under the current administration.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of half the readers scrolling past my entry this week. For those of you that made it this far, I want to address some issues we have in this country in regards to respect. We have completely lost the concept of basic human respect in this country. No, I’m not just talking about our current government leaders, or even a specific party. Both sides take any chance they have to criticize the other party without considering its opinion or analyzing what its members actually believe. We are alarmists and we are harmful right now.

Somehow it has become acceptable to disrespect another human being based upon his values. This behavior starts in the home. Parents, please be mindful of how you talk around your children. While it is completely legitimate to be frustrated with the political climate, you should not be overexposing young children to the aggressive rhetoric and arguing on either side. When children are overexposed to fighting and personal attacks, they might believe that this behavior is acceptable.

We are steadily approaching Thanksgiving, a holiday in which families gather with extended family members. In many cases, you will be sharing a meal with some people that have very different opinions. This is a great opportunity to expose your children to respectful conversations rather than heated, emotional arguments.

The more we do to expose our children and youth to respectful conversations and arguments, the better off our society will be. Right now, everyone is approaching each other with fear and anger. This doesn’t have to be the way in which we as a country interact. It’s time to re-learn respect. We have to teach our children to respect each other for their similarities and their differences. Respect is all about acknowledging what makes us different from our fellow man and accepting each other’s ways of life (barring threats to our personal safety and well-being).

The holiday season is a time for peace; let’s also use it as a time for healing. Lead by example and make a difference by respecting others. Teach this behavior to your children and reinforce it in your partners, coworkers, friends, community members, etc. Bringing respect back to the forefront of our communication is the first step to uniting as a country. Change begins with you; do your part to promote respect.

-          Bria

 

                Respect seems to be missing a lot in our everyday lives.  I am amazed at the constant lack of respect that I see among children and adults as well as the lack of respect for authority figures.  Perhaps all this disrespect had its start with the song of the sixties, “We don’t need no education….”  I just know that I’ve lived long enough to see what that kind of attitude has brought about in our country.  I, for one, do not like the apparent results! (Ha! Even this computer is doing all it can to remind me that the song title is not proper grammar!)

                Each day I watch interactions between parents and children as they deliver and pick up from school.  Many times I see deflated looks upon the parents’ faces as they are strongly reprimanded by their child for letting the child forget “this or that” thing.  These manipulative children seem to have no sense of personal responsibility for remembering their own belongings.  However, there are also the “helicopter” parents who have brought this upon themselves by taking charge of every facet of the child’s life except his/her rate of breathing!

                Yes, I grew up in the school of hard knocks.  For this, I am truly happy and thankful.  It has made me responsible and creative at the same time.  I refuse to “give in” on most problems in life.  My mother expected much from me since my father was always on the road in another state, and she worked in a factory much of her life.  I was the oldest child and she depended upon me for help.  I am not warped or handicapped because of that.  Instead, I learned to respect parents who have to go the extra mile to provide for their families.  I certainly respect the hardship that single parent homes have.

                I learned at a young age that we were to respect the belongings and property of our neighbors in the city where I lived.  My schools taught me to respect the flag and the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem.  I was taught to respect and help senior citizens and those who suffered with physical handicaps.  None of this etiquette training hurt me a bit.  In fact, I have enjoyed the millions of interactions I’ve had with people over the years…regardless of race, creed, economic status, educational levels, etc.

                I remind my students that I was told by people who live in other nations that overseas we citizens of the U.S. are often referred to as the “ugly Americans.”  That is such a shame!  It is usually us who goes to the aid of people world-wide when tragedy happens.  Yet, people prefer to look upon our lack of respect for others as our defining moments.  I believe the book of Proverbs notes people always remember the bad things about a person after he dies.

                Just watch the interactions of any two-year-old, and you will see that we are not inborn with a sense of respect.  No, defiance is more our nature.  Therefore, I contend that respect must be taught if it is to be caught by this and future generations.  Since the brain loves patterns, I teach very catchy songs to my first graders about manners and respect for others.  I hope these songs remind them over and over what the right thing to do is…and that their young hearts will follow the message.

                 I once had a parent who served in the military who told me, “My child will not be made to say yes, mam or no sir, etc. I have to do it, but she sure doesn’t have to.”  However, his case was the exception.  Over my career, the children of military families usually always show good manners.  The respect they show for traditions, patriotism, and veterans is inspiring.  Hats off to all parents who do continue to teach today’s children those qualities that made America great in the first place!  

-          Kay

   The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield always used to adjust his tie and say, “I don’t get no respect,” to which I would always say, “Respect is earned, not given.” As I ponder on the concept of respect, I think I didn’t fully understand my reply until today.

     People gripe about how disrespectful the youth of today are. They climb on landmarks and don’t hold open doors and rush to be first and rarely thank people. I do see that, but I also know that the students in our school receive compliments from everyone about how respectful they are. I even had a pediatric dentist come check out our school because, when he asked to which school each of his patients went, the best behaved ones always came from our school.

      Our kids aren’t perfect; they have their days when they behave disrespectfully. The key is that we do not tolerate it. Within the punishment is a chance to make a better plan for next time.

       My secondary students would tell you that they’re respectful because they fear me. They know that I recommend whether they get to stay at our school or not. That fear keeps them in line. But the way in which they “level up” in every situation, the way they shine in everything they attempt, has nothing to do with being afraid of me if they don’t. No, that comes from respect. They go the extra mile because I go the extra mile.

        Here’s my point: if you are the parent or teacher of a gifted child, do not “phone it in.” Gifted children can smell a phony a mile away. They know when people are investing in them, and they know when people are not.

        My mother used to warn me of impending doom in my fifth-grade class. Every morning, my teacher would have us find smaller words from a giant word on the board, and he required that we use the first thirty in sentences. I would write things like: read: Mr. ______ does not read these sentences. I always brought home 100%s. My mother just knew I was going to get caught, but, at eleven-years-old, I knew that he was just having us do this so he could have thirty more minutes to get ready for the day.

         My kids respect me because I expect no more from them than I expect from myself. I work hard to distinguish myself from all others, and I try my hardest to do my best work at all times. I don’t demand from them what I don’t demand from myself, and I apologize when I’ve wronged them… because that’s what I’d want.

         Congratulations! You have a smart child! Be worthy of his respect. Show him how to give his best effort. Teach him to respect the efforts of others, even if they don’t measure up to his. Help him to see that he has a larger capacity for activity than a person of average intelligence, and with that blessing comes great responsibility. Teach him to value others and their property and to value our Earth and everything that makes it great. You may not realize that you weren’t doing all you should be doing as his parent, but I guarantee that he has. Earn his respect. He will follow your modeling and become an asset to society, not yet another burden.  

                                                                                          Michelle

Relevance

      Relevance was one of the most important factors in me deciding to become a teacher.  You see, I didn’t really like school.  Oh, I liked seeing my friends and talking (a lot!), and playing basketball, and the such.  I just didn’t like the education part that kept interrupting my social life!  I felt that nothing taught was relevant to my life.  I memorized, regurgitated, and forgot. 

     On the other hand, I have always enjoyed learning.  Learning is fun and necessary and relevant.  I became a teacher to prove that learning could be fun in a school setting.  Granted, our school does not look like the typical school.  My classroom goes against every professional meeting I sat through, telling me that children cannot learn in a “busy” room.  Children learn all day in my “busy” room!

      I think the point is that we take the time to show our students the relevance of what we’re teaching to their lives.  I can tell when a student actually understands why he is at school.  When he switches from being a kid who “comes to school” to a kid who utilizes school to get him where he wants to go, I know success is around the corner.

      More than ever in history, kids are looking for relevance.  They are finding it in social media.  Videos on how to apply makeup correctly and beat the next level of their games are much more relevant to their lives than Spark notes over a classic book.  They do not see where that book can teach them anything about their lives.  But, oh, it can! 

      I quit reading for pleasure in 8th grade.  My teachers had assigned me books to read, and I rebelled by refusing to read anymore on my own for pleasure.  Now as a literature teacher, I ask my kids why I make them read.  Am I pushing them to rebel just like I did?  I point out who I actually hurt by discontinuing to read, and then I tell them why my decision was damaging.  I follow up with the reason I want them to read:  if we study the rhetoric of great writers, we can use the same techniques to write the words that will change our world.  I have found my students much more likely to read after that conversation, and I enjoy hearing what they have gleaned from the books I assign. 

     I think, more than understanding how their studies are relevant, our kids want to be relevant.  Gifted kids especially like activities to be “real.”  As parents and teachers of gifted kids, it is imperative that we point out the impact our kids are making on their world.  Teach them what their small donation added to every other small donation is doing for someone.  Tell them how a decision they made has led you to trust them with greater responsibilities.  Take the time to let your gifted teen know he matters… even more, he is a valid contributor.  You will find him contributing more and more!

-        Michelle

           Relevance, or the pertinence of the subject at hand, is not a permanent situation.  In fact, a person would do well to take a moment to consider all the facts before acting upon a situation or giving a firm answer.  Relevance can change quite a lot without our perception.  For instance, what is relevant to a fifteen-year-old today probably isn’t relevant to this seventy-four-year-old grandmother.  I am made aware every day in my first-grade classroom that things I consider a passing fad or an excessive waste of time or money are indeed quite relevant to the lives and hearts of these six-year-olds!

            My husband reminded me that I would do well to remember what was important to me at that age…and then look upon today’s children and their concepts of “needs” and “wants.”  I can remember really wanting a bicycle to make the constant errands to the grocery store for my mother.  The store was three blocks away…so a six-block round trip.  I could see how important it was to save me time and sore legs from carrying groceries that far.  Because we were poor, I didn’t get my bike, but then I did get a scooter which would allow me to at least rest one leg while pushing with the other.

            But today’s children wouldn’t even think about such a need for a bike.  People drive to the store and get groceries.  You now see today’s families have more than one car per family.  Times change the relevancy of things to our needs. It’s amazing to see how really irrelevant cars are for today’s young people who live in major cities.  Perhaps cars were our mark of finally getting freedom from our families.  Today, youth gain freedom through the internet and their ability to control the world in which they browse.

            A hard task for educators is keeping the learning of the classroom relevant to the lives of their students and their families and to the world in which we now live.  I never cared for the teacher who always had a set bulletin board display for each and every week of the year…and who repeated them in a set order year after year.  I love the fresh and new ideas!

            I do realize that keeping the lessons relevant can be a tricky task.  My civics students are preparing to run a political campaign in order to understand the election processes of the United States.  As we discuss and relate to decision making and the writing of laws, it becomes hard to keep students from vocalizing their parents’ rants and raves about the current political atmosphere.  I must constantly check my teaching for any point which could spark a controversy that would hurt feelings and values of families in our school.  It becomes a tricky tightrope upon which to walk.

            As I write this blog, I find myself asking why our political candidates can’t keep their ads relevant to the needs of our community.  I am very tired of the name-calling and finger-pointing being the focus.  I will do my part to teach my students about this very useful term: relevance.  If I am successful, future elections will see an improvement in the process of campaigning.  

-         Kay

Relevance is a big discussion in our country right now. With the midterms on the horizon (go vote on Tuesday!), candidates are fighting to focus voters on issues relevant to their campaigns. We see some candidates blowing issues out of proportion and creating urgency around non-issues because scare tactics support their campaigns.

 

The challenging thing about reaching an audience is that relevance is relative (profound statement, I know). You might have the best platform about immigration, but if a voter doesn’t have an opinion on immigration, your message is lost on him. This is why we see candidates identifying the hot button issue about which their audience cares and driving that point into the ground.

 

In Chicago we have J.B. Pritzker. Being an incredibly liberal city, Pritzker has run on a platform of equality, female empowerment, advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, women and children, and marginalized communities. While this sounds great, those of us who have done our research know his shady past and can see through the targeted relevance. The things we care about can be used against us to get us to the polls, and once the candidate is elected, he might run a completely different platform than what was presented during his campaign. We have seen this instance time and time again.

 

For this election and others, please do you research. Candidates will prey on issues that are relevant to you and your family. Take the time and effort to look into these peoples’ pasts. Have their previous actions supported their value statements? Where have they donated money? What do they align with historically? All of these questions are incredibly important before making a decision. Do your research, find a candidate that runs an honest campaign that is relevant to your concerns, and get out there and vote on Tuesday. Your voice and your vote matter.

-        Bria

Overqualified

Overqualified is the excuse often heard by a person who is seeking employment in a job that does not match his credentials.  I have never quite understood the reasoning, but my husband explained that many employers feel such a person will only stay with the job until something better comes along.  Well, that statement is probably true of most people… they may leave a job when a better opportunity comes along!  It just seems a shame that a good worker who is willing to work doesn’t get the opportunity.

                In this modern world, I see many workers who act as if they are being subjected to torture if they are asked for help.  One worker told me the reason she was so grumpy while she was ringing up my groceries was that her father made her get a job.  She wanted to play her video games now that she was out of school, but he insisted she go to work.  I really had a hard time trying to find a reason to feel sorry for her.

                Just two evenings ago, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised when the drive-through girl asked for our order in one of the happiest voices I’ve heard outside of a charming Disney movie!  When we commented upon her enthusiasm, she related that she was just usually always happy. She said another customer had remarked that she was “the happy clerk” whom she enjoyed seeing each trip to this store.  When we told her she was such a pleasant surprise in a world of unhappy people, she said: “Why shouldn’t I be happy?  I have this job, I meet people, I get to be inside and out-side on fine days, and it sure beats sitting at home doing nothing.  Besides, I get to meet some pretty dogs like yours in the back seat!”  Our dog wagged his tail in response to her smile and acknowledgement of his presence.

                Just that warm encounter made our evening more memorable.  We don’t meet a lot of people who openly express happiness over having to go to work.  We have many stores in our city which are openly advertising for employees.  Yet, I know a man who was told he couldn’t have a job because he was overqualified.  All he wanted to do was work at something rather than sit at home waiting for an opening like his former job which ended when his company had to downsize.

                I see clerks at our local stores who have obviously retired and then reentered the work world.  They are happy to work and interact with customers as they show great aptitude in their job duties.  It seems to again point out how different the “work ethic” was in past generations.

                Now I must admit that I see a new trend in dedicated young workers.  My grandchildren are certainly demonstrating excellent work ethics in their chosen professions.  I also see them willing to take risks which my generation was usually afraid to try.  So, I have renewed hope in the future.  However, I am very aware that we have a generation of lost youth who are failing to launch out into the working world.

                So, how do I educate our students today to be better workers tomorrow?  First of all, I teach them to “want to be better than the average bear.”  Ask any of these students in my school what desire I have for them, and they will tell you just that!  I then show them how easy it is to be better than average.  Children rise to the level of our expectations.  Educators and parents need to be telling our youth we expect them to rise above what is accepted as standard.  At the same time, we need to teach them that no job is beneath our ability.  Any job that needs to be done should be done for the good of everyone.

                It is a privilege to have staff in my school who are “overqualified” by most teaching standards.  My faculty has diverse degrees, talents, interests, and abilities which give us countless opportunities to offer our students an education which is excellent.  Their “over qualifications” have been a gold mine for our students!  My hat’s off to all of them!     

- Kay

Being overqualified is a descriptive adjective that applies to everyone’s life at one point or another. Some experience this day to day in their jobs, while others have occasionally experienced this feeling when asked to do a task out of their normal routines. While there are varying degrees of seriousness in situations of being overqualified, the biggest difference is how people react to the feeling.

Overqualification is very subjective because, in many cases, these feelings depend on one’s perspective of the necessary qualifications of the task at hand. There are also a lot of instances of skills not transferring equally across sectors and industries. For instance, you might have been a CFO of a Fortune 500 company. If you decided to make a change and pursue ballet dancing, you will still start in the junior class, likely with children, because your previous high position gave you no transferable skills for your new activity.

There are other times in your life when you will be objectively overqualified for your job. This is a trickier situation. If you really love your work, then you are more easily able to get past the bad feelings associated with overqualification. If you don’t love your job or feel stuck in a job in which you are overqualified, it is really easy to become bitter and angry about your work.

One way to avoid the second scenario above is to learn how to market yourself. When you are on the hunt for a new job, school, etc, it is really important to market yourself in a way that shows your abilities and qualifications. Your resume/website/CV or whatever document or platform you use on applications is the best way to communicate your level of qualification to future employers. If you don’t thoroughly describe your skills and abilities, you might end up in a position for which you are overqualified. Take the time to really put effort into your documents, have someone review your resume, and conduct practice interviews to prepare yourself to put your best foot forward when you get an interview. These precautionary steps can help you avoid situations in which you are overqualified.

-          Bria

     Okay, I don’t actually know anything about the Alabama “Roll Tide” football team, and the only connection I have to the Golden State Warriors was when he who shall not be named defected to them from our Thunder team, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I don’t like either team.   It’s totally irrational, but it’s real.  I know exactly why, too.  It’s because they’re too good.  Nobody stands a chance!  Isn’t that a ridiculous reason to dislike a team?  Because they are “overqualified”?  I know many people feel the same way as I do.  When you think about it, it really is a stupid reason not to like a team, and I’ll probably re-evaluate after writing this. 

     I spend much of my year pushing gifted kids to try multiple talents.  I tell them that, as gifted, they are likely to be “jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none.”  Because of this, I get to see a lot of success at the hands of these kids.  This last weekend, my secondary students participated in the BEST Robotics competition.  This is not a kit-building exercise.  This contest gives the kids plywood, PVC, Plexiglass, and metal with which to build the robot.  They get two large motors, two small motors, four servos, and a Vex brain and controller to program.  It’s truly a difficult feat for kids to build a robot from scratch!  We compete for the BEST Award, which means we also prepare an eight-foot cubic display about how we promoted STEM, a marketing presentation to “sell” our robot to the judges, and an Engineering Process Notebook detailing how we built the robot.  Add being judged for our spirit on game day, and one has six weeks of intense work and late hours. 

     My students made a beautiful display, did a fantastic job on their marketing presentation, cheered like crazy, and even sang the National Anthem in three-part harmony.  At the end of the day, we’d won 3rd place in the BEST Award, the pumpkin decorating contest (added because it’s so close to Halloween), and most photogenic robot.  All this with a robot who did not function as we intended at all!  As a coach, I hurt for my build team because I was there all those nights they worked till 10:30.  I know how humiliating it is to not have a great robot.  In the end, it is ultimately my fault because I don’t know enough about engineering to tell them what they are doing wrong.  Luckily, they get the chance to try again, now that we are moving on to the next level of competition. 

    It got me to thinking about our topic, though.  There are teams at our level and at the regional level who always win.  I’m not implying that nobody likes them.  They’re kids, after all.  But if something goes wrong for them, no one else is very sympathetic.  I find myself being almost thankful that we have an Achilles heel. 

    Constantly winning can lead to a “big head.”  I don’t want our team to be known for always winning.  I want our kids to be known as multi-talented, nice kids.  We lose the support of those around us when we become unbeatable.  We knew going in that our robot had not worked successfully for more than five seconds.  We had already come to peace with it.  The kids and I talked about the journey being the important part, and we have had quite a journey!  We’ve become so much more environmentally conscience due to the theme of the game.  We have learned so much about programming.  We will begin again on our robot, and we’ll try to build one that can complete the tasks required.  But we are not looking for building the winning robot in less time than we originally had.  We just want a robot that works consistently.

     Because gifted kids are so good at so many things, it is important that we, as parents and teachers, keep them humble.       I will not cease to push my kids to experience their true potentials; I’ll just make sure they recognize the need for humility as well.

                                                                                   Michelle

Choices

   My husband and I just returned from taking four teenage boys to Chicago to look at universities. We’ve been taking students along on Fall Break for almost ten years now, and I love the vision the students have after spending a week in a place with so many choices. While many have gone on to choose Chicago colleges, most just see that there are choices beyond their home state.

    Giving students this opportunity means accepting the risks that inherently come with choices. Many parents today would be happiest if they could eliminate all risks around their children. They do not seem to understand how incredibly unhappy that makes their kids. It is the children of those parents who run and never look back when they finally experience “choosing.”

      Making choices is always risky. No one is guaranteed a risk-free life. Every time we eat out, we risk sickness from food preparation or an infected cook. Strapping ourselves into a steel vehicle and traveling at high velocities is a risk every time. We accept these risks, though, because we’re too tired to cook or walk the miles to Wal-Mart.

     Gifted kids want the freedom to choose more than the average kid. They feel smarter and more mature (even when they are not!), and they are anxious to prove how wise they are. I have found over the years that sometimes the best teachable moment comes in the humble minutes right after a wrong choice. That’s a time when the gifted kid is vulnerable and just wants to make sure he never feels this way again. A forgiving reprimand about better choices can make a big impact.

     We as teachers and parents cannot be afraid of the pain of choices. We must let our children understand why a choice is good or bad. Sometimes this requires that we let our kid do risky things… like travel out of state with his principal and his PE teacher to look at colleges in a big city. There are so many things we do daily that public schools would deem too risky. The “risk” of which they speak is the risk of a lawsuit. Who knows? We might get sued in the long run, but for now, the risks we’re asking our kids and their parents to choose to take have been nothing but beneficial. After all, isn’t that the point of private school: choice?

                                                                                                Michelle

            Choices are something Americans seem to take for granted.  We grow up believing that by being a citizen of these United States, we have freedom of choice guaranteed by our Constitution.  In some ways, that belief is correct.  However, we do not have freedom of choice when it comes to harming others to satisfy our own desires.  I really had this thought driven home to me this past week as I spent our fall break from school in Branson, Missouri.

            People are still talking about the tragedy that occurred on Tablerock Lake, when a hurricane force wind came up suddenly and caused the sinking of an amphibious vehicle called a duck, thus taking the lives of many of the forty passengers aboard. One family lost eleven members in that accident.  The news coverage notes that the company chose to do the lake tour first in spite of the weather warnings and postpone the land tour until afterwards.  There is a lawsuit now because the tickets were refundable if the water tour wasn’t completed.  So, it seems the change in tours was to protect the profit of the company.  Since the driver of the vehicle also drowned, no one can ask him if he had a choice in the matter.

            I’ve always taken choices as a very serious matter.  Perhaps that is because my father, a long distance truck driver for over seventy years, constantly made me aware of the dangers that lurked in the everyday world of driving: avoiding road hazards; passing trucks quickly to avoid possible rupture of truck tire retreads hitting my vehicle; keeping speed up after passing a truck so the trucker didn’t have to shift down as his truck gained speed going downhill; and avoiding drunk drivers.  With all these things drilled into my mind, I try to stay alert and to make safe choices when I drive.

            Yet, daily choices don’t seem nearly so startling as the two paragraphs above have shown.  Most of our choices seem insignificant in comparison.  I saw a billboard while traveling that said simply one sentence: “Two days absence per month = failure in reading.”  I get the point the sign is trying to make; however, I would have to do a lot of investigation to verify the fact.

            We certainly want to make correct and wise choices.  That is one of the primary lessons I try to teach my students.  Each day begins with us making a choice as to what kind of day we will have: good or bad.  We can’t prevent bad things happening to good people, but we can choose how we handle all things that come our way.  My husband always taught his clients to “reframe” situations in a positive manner.  I have learned to do this…although I am not successful one hundred percent of the time.  But I have improved with age!

            My daughter Michelle has helped me over the years by having extraordinary faith in God to provide in times of need.  She’d always say, “I wonder how God will help me in this matter.”  God has always provided for and rewarded her faith in Him.  I still have a small tendency to try to help God solve the problem…but I’m getting better at waiting upon the Lord.

            The statistics of assaults upon teachers by students in the U.S. is astounding!  Walter Williams has once again provided some of the statistics in his editorial last week.  Many teachers have quit their jobs rather than put up with the abuse.  I wonder what will happen when good teachers are no longer available to teach.  Our own state is suffering from acute teacher shortages.  We see teachers making a choice to leave their chosen profession…will students make a choice to change classroom behaviors?  I fear the crisis will become even greater in the coming years.

            The families in our school have made choices to send their children to our private school.  Many have made great sacrifices.  My staff and I made the choice of working for salaries below the state mandated salaries of public school teachers because we prefer to work in a positive and safe environment.  We do all this so that kids can have more choices in their futures.

-        Kay

Your alarm goes off in the morning. Do you snooze or wake up? You open your closet and you have to pick each article of clothing that you plan to wear that day out of an entire wardrobe. Next you walk into the bathroom- to shower or not to shower? Do you brush your teeth before breakfast or after? Maybe you even decide to pick up breakfast on your way to work or school. But then where are you going? Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's, or the neighborhood coffee shop? Is it cold outside? Should you wear a coat? Before you even make it out the door in the morning, you have already been faced with a dozen choices.

Throughout your day, you experience countless choices that vary in complexity and importance. In the same day you are deciding whether to get a bagel with breakfast, you might also be making choices at work that affect major budgets and the livelihood of other’s working beneath you. All of this decision-making wears down our psyche to a point in which we come home exhausted and depleted from choices and can’t decide what to do, eat, watch, etc.

This causes a phenomenon called ego depletion. When your brain is exhausted, it is harder to maintain self-control. For instance, if you started the day out with a healthy breakfast and a jog, then went to work and exhausted your brain with too many decisions, it is likely that when you come home, you will eat the frozen pizza in your freezer rather than preparing a healthy meal.

There is another occurrence that affects our decision-making, resulting in a condition called choice overload. This is similar to ego depletion in that your brain is working too hard and under producing quality outcomes. Choice overload occurs when there are too many options for an individual decision. Think about when you are at a restaurant like Cheesecake Factory, where the menu reads like a book. While after several visits you might confidently walk in and say, “I’ll have the teriyaki chicken,” no doubt on your first visit, you struggled and skimmed for minutes before making a halfhearted choice.

Many studies have covered this topic of choice overload, concluding that our brains are more equipped to choose between 8-12 options, depending on the person. Think about the restaurant menus you regularly encounter. Do any of them have as few as eight options? If they do, you probably turned up your nose upon first glance. Similarly, I think I would be hard-pressed to find a person in my life with only eight outfit options in his closet.

We live in a society in which we are constantly depleting our brain power with decision making. This overabundance of choices leaves us with less functionality when it comes to the really important decisions. It’s important to establish routines that eliminate the ego depletion on small decisions. This will give us more ability to ponder and think through the more important decisions. Much like a battery, our brain has a bandwidth for the day before it needs to recharge. There’s only so much you can accomplish once your phone battery drops below 10%. Your brain is the same way. Manage your decisions, cut out the ego depletion in easy decisions by planning ahead, and take time to recharge your brain before the next busy day. This method will prove more productive long term.

-        Bria

Intelligence

It feels incredibly appropriate to me that, in light of recent events regarding the Supreme Court, we are discussing intelligence today. Where it feels like our country is lacking in many areas of intelligence, it is still a constant topic of top importance in the news. Whether it’s emotional intelligence, artificial intelligence, or Russian intelligence, our media is talking about it constantly. So that brings me to the question: why is intelligence so top-of-mind in America?

Intelligence is incredibly important because it is a driver for personal success. It’s the most important commodity because intelligence allows us to acquire other resources, such as money and power. Some people are born with intelligence, where others have to seek out and acquire intelligence. However it comes about, intelligence is basically currency in our modern society. We spend a significant portion of our lives obtaining intelligence so that we can then apply that intelligence in a way that will drive forth our careers and futures. Throughout our careers we acquire more intelligence that allows us to continuously climb the ladder and obtain more money and power.

Unfortunately, as we have noticed with recent developments in our government, those that lack intelligence compensate with money and power. While intelligence can help you obtain money and power, you don’t need intelligence to obtain power in our world. This can make certain people very dangerous. The only way to combat these people is through intelligence. We have to constantly seek intelligence and educate ourselves to create a defense against these people in power.  Through education we can resist those in power who act without intelligence and work to create a country and a climate in which we want to live. Use your intelligence to get involved in our political process and make your voice heard. Educate yourself on the issues and understand the platforms of those running to represent you. This is the most important lesson we can learn: education is power and it’s accessible, so access it and keep accessing it to build your intelligence and make a difference in the world.

-        Bria

            Intelligence is thought by many people to be a fixed number that tells how smart a person is or is not.  However, that thought is wrong in two ways: it is not a fixed number, and it measures how well a person will do in school.  It is used as a predictor of possible success.  It can enlighten us as to how a person thinks, recalls information, and solves problems.

            My first experience with IQ tests was when I was in the fifth grade and was tested for placement in the first gifted program in the St. Louis schools.  I was shocked when I was selected for the program.  Neither of my parents had a high school education.  Yet, my teachers saw possibility in me as I did my schoolwork and recommended me for the testing.  I, too, used such testing to identify many students in my classes during my teaching career.  They are reliable if one uses them correctly. 

            It wasn’t long into my career that I realized that IQ tests showed us a big discrepancy.  My psychometrist and I noted that children who were being recommended for placement in a Special Education program scored much higher on performance IQ than those tested for gifted placement.  The more we thought about it, the more clearly it appeared that part of that difference might be caused by the way educators teach these children.  If a child is academically a quick learner, we place him in more rigorous book-driven education.  However, if he is not academically inclined, we place him in hands-on learning experiences.  We play games and find exciting ways and means of helping him to succeed.  Thus, he performed much better on performance IQ tasks than those who were entrenched in book-heavy curriculum.

            In a way, we had stunted the IQ of those verbal students by not exposing them to the fun and games.  Yet, most of the parents of the gifted students pointed out that their child’s ability to assemble puzzles at an early age made them aware of his advanced mental abilities in the first place.

            Thus, you can now better understand why my corporation, A.B.R.A.I.N. (Applied Brain Research Alters Instructional Needs), was created in the first place.     It has been my mission to change the way we teach children in school.  Educators have argued over and over about methods which come and go; however, if we just apply the information we have learned in the past thirty years about how the human brain works, students will benefit.  My career has been based upon believing this possibility, and I have not been disappointed.

            I do find myself wondering now about the use of the bell curve in setting percentiles.  In this modern day, we are seeing the emergence of the “J-curve” rather than the norm curve.  Everything seems to be on a fast track.  Much of this change is due to the ability of technology to process at ever-increasing speeds.  We talk about a change in the thinking skills of children today.  Is it true?  Has the expectation of testing and finding a norm in the bell shape become an anomaly?  I don’t have the answer, but minds are sure working and processing in different ways than it seemed in the past.

            Oh well, enough of my musings.  Let me say this: IQ is not fixed!  Don’t ever sell yourself or your child short by limiting possibility based upon one score!  

-        Kay

    Those who have toured our school with me know that it takes about an hour. That’s not because the school is so big; it’s because it takes that long to get a clearer picture of a child’s true intelligence and temperament. I can always see the coaching that’s been done ahead of the tour/interview:

    “My name is Bryce. I can spell that. B-r-y-c-e. And I can count to a hundred: 1, 2, 3…”

     Intelligence is so much bigger than just the facts we know. One of my favorite phrases is: We can teach you all the facts in the world, but if you cannot create, you’re only good for Jeopardy.

      About forty-five minutes into the tour/interview, the child has forgotten all prior instruction, and I can see him as he most likely will be at school.  I ask open-ended questions and look at the way the child thinks.  That’s the intelligence for which I’m looking.  

      The same can be said for the way in which we hire teachers at our school.  Straight A’s on a transcript doesn’t mean the person can think his way out of a box.  We need to know that the teacher, under the “direct fire” of gifted students, can successfully instruct, with thought-provoking lessons and an open mind.

       So, I guess I’d say that intelligence, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  I have had geniuses who have no common sense; I’ve had C students who possess the wisdom of someone three times their ages.  This is why the team approach is such an important component of the way we instruct.  Different intelligences for different pursuits.

       While we are a school aimed at the instruction of gifted students, we do not require an applicant to have tested as “gifted.”  Our definition is so much broader than most schools.  By our definition, gifted students learn equally-well no matter by what modality a teacher is instructing.  They grasp the concepts surrounding an idea, and they deliberate on consequences of actions. Bossy young gifted students become leaders, and stubborn gifted become steadfast. 

       Wo do have some students, though, who fall under the label “gifted/LD.”  What? How can a child be gifted and have a learning disability?  Easily.  The brain has the potential of literally thousands of little malfunctions.  Just because one little section of the brain isn’t quite up to code doesn’t mean the rest isn’t beyond that same code.  “Learning disabled” is a dying phrase anyway.  Many educators believe that students previously diagnosed as “LD,” simply think differently than the majority.  Go figure! 

       When I taught in California (decades ago), I learned that it was illegal to give the IQ test there because it was so skewed to white males… which means the designers made it in such a way that it played to the learning strengths of white males.  Everyone else was already at a disadvantage before even attempting the test.  If that is really true, then how can we truly test for intelligence?  Our elementary school uses the Iowa Test of Basic Skills because we can see how our kids are doing compared to school kids all over the nation.  After my secondary repeatedly came out well-above average, I decided to switch to the PSAT tests. My sixth through eighth graders take the PSAT8/9, which is generated for current eighth graders and freshmen.  I decided gifted kids shouldn’t look at their age/peers and compare; they should test “up.”  We take that test this Wednesday, so I’ll be able to see if my change was a good one or not in a few weeks.

        In the meantime, I think the best thing to do is to celebrate with your child when he shows genius, not worry when he does not, and look for ways to let him perform in his intelligence area.  This will build comfort in areas that are not his forte.  The more comfort he feels, the more likely he is to attempt.  The more attempts, the more chances for success.  Your child’s intelligence will grow with each step.  And that’s what we’re after, right?!

                                                                                               Michelle

Little Blessings

      Yesterday I experienced the greatest paradox in food ever: cotton candy grapes. I know! My daughter had told me about them months ago, but it wasn’t till yesterday that I was lucky enough to be there before they were gone. They looked like regular green grapes; I was skeptical. Then I put one in my mouth. How could this be? The taste of candy in a healthy treat?! I found myself visiting the refrigerator several times throughout the rest of the day, just to see if the cotton candy taste was still there, or if maybe it was just the power of suggestion. I was never disappointed!

      I enjoyed a plethora of little blessings yesterday. It was foggy as I drove to Oklahoma City, and I felt like I was traveling in my own little cocoon. It was so cool! Because it is now fall, I made a stop by Bath and Bodyworks to buy fall-flavored soaps… and they were on sale! No fall shopping trip is complete without visiting Williams and Sonoma to buy caramel apple pumpkin butter, but yesterday I found its companion: apple cinnamon butter. Yum!!  Both Oklahoma football teams won in really good games, and I got a lot of my homework done, preventing a late Sunday night bedtime.  I even found a blessing in the much-overdue cleaning of the pool: a new skimmer basket with a handle! Anyone who has ever stuck his hand down into an overfull skimmer basket to try to find that little bar handle across the top knows how wonderful the idea of a handle is.

      I have been accused of being hopelessly optimistic, but I think my happiness comes because I notice all the little blessings with which God has peppered my days. There is no tree or mountain that I do not find amazingly beautiful. I think that’s why, in all eleven of the houses in which I’ve lived (ahh, military life!), there has always been a tree or a mountain view out of at least one of my windows. When blessings are seen in the tastes and the sounds and the visions of the world around us, it’s easy to be optimistic.

      Those with gifted kids know that they tend to be worriers and head toward cynicism in their early teens. Getting them to see the silver lining takes time and repetition. When your child points out what could go wrong, acknowledge and then point out what could go right. If he vents about how bad an experience was, listen and then help him find something good in the experience. Because gifted are prone to depression, it is extremely important that we teach them how to see the good.

      Yes, some things about life are worse than ever…

but some things are just as beautiful as ever, if not more, and I’m enjoying them more than ever!

               -Michelle

          Little blessings are often overlooked.  However, when I began thinking about this subject, I soon noticed a smile taking over my face, and a warm fuzzy feeling filling my heart.  I guess I do take these small blessings for granted.  So, I will just share with you some of these heart-warming blessings which make my life more enjoyable.

            Our preschool and kindergarten students are such a blessing!  Oh yes, they can be the source of confusion many times, but generally, they are a source of pure pleasure.  I think the source of these small blessings is that although extremely innocent, these children speak with authority and boldness.  My husband says it makes his day to speak with these little citizens.  They refer to him as Mr. Sillyhead because he torments them with things like: “Hey…did you know you have garments on your back?”  It gives him great pleasure to argue with them about the validity of that statement. 

            I enjoy their long explanations about why the world is the way it is.  I often banter with them about their age, especially when they have a birthday.  When I ask them if they are turning 25 on their birthday, they say,  “No.  That would be silly.  I would be old.”  If I ask how they know that, they counter with assertions like, “Then I would have a beard!”

            Of course, they find it hard to comprehend that I am seventy-four years old.  I get asked the following questions, “Did they have dinosaurs when you were born?”  Or, “Did they have television when you came here with the Pilgrims?”  How could I possibly have a hard day after fielding such questions from such well-meaning children?!

            Perhaps the neatest of the little blessings I have enjoyed over these many years of teaching is the little note of thanks I often receive from a parent.  It’s nice to know your work is appreciated.  I really count as blessings the note of thanks I often receive “out of the blue” from a former student.  It means a lot to hear of their success in the world and to know I was a part of that process.

            The countless hugs I receive everyday are also little blessings that do this heart good!  Now, I am aware of what I have written in this blog, and I am moved to concentrate on being a “little blessing” to others more often each day.  As Jesus said, “Love others as you love yourself!”  Perhaps such a daily mission is what our world needs in these troubled times.  Politics have become so negative these days.  Maybe we should send preschoolers and kindergartners to Washington D.C. to teach our leaders how to really simplify and enjoy life!  I find I even long for the reruns of the old Art Linkletter show, “Kids say the Darnedest Things!” to make a comeback to TV.        

-        Kay

I don’t know about you, but I am in the busiest part of my year right now. As an event planner, I’m seeing everyone trying to get their last events of the year in before everyone is off for the holidays. While November and December will see sporadic events on weeks that do not include holidays, October is packed tightly to the brim with summits, hackathons, awards ceremonies and speaker series. While this is an incredibly exciting time with opportunities to work with big brands and important political figures, it is also incredibly exhausting.

It’s times like these where it is so important to remember the little blessings in life. Today I am enjoying the only day off I will have this week. I have two choices here: I can either waste the day being upset that I only get a one-day weekend, or I can notice the little blessings in time off.

This morning I woke up to a chilly fall morning. I took my dog on a walk and then went to a neighborhood farmer’s market. What a blessing to live in a part of the world where I can walk to a market and buy good produce for reasonable prices. After the market, I stopped in a local coffee shop to get a latte. The barista took the extra time and effort to draw a beautiful heart with steamed milk on my latte. While this isn’t  an incredibly unusual thing for her to do, it was a nice gesture and it made me smile.

Next, off to the gym. It’s a little harder to find the blessings in that. Even though it’s not exactly what I want to be doing with my limited time off, I feel blessed that I have the time and access to be able to go to the gym. Beyond that, I feel blessed that I have a body that is capable of strenuous workouts.

Earlier this week I had an incredibly hard day at work… the kind of day that makes you question why you have chosen the path in life that you are currently taking. In those instances, it is so hard to see the little blessings. One thing I need to get better at is finding the blessings amongst the bad days. The good things in our lives don’t disappear just because something bad happened. We still live blessed lives and have happy things to look forward to.

As we finish out the year, let’s keep each other accountable. Everyone is busy and stressed, and it’s easy to get bogged down with the negative parts of our lives. Let’s remember the good and focus on what makes us happy. Remember the little blessings you have in your life and use them to propel you forward into a great new year.

-        Bria

Volunteering

Volunteering is most prominent when a natural disaster takes place…at least it seems to be the American way of doing things.  I am quite proud of the way our citizens handle such catastrophes.  Here in Oklahoma’s tornado alley location, people are called upon to face annual disasters of one kind or another.  When my cousin’s grandson was killed in the Joplin tornado, I was told that we were most fortunate to have the excellent weather warning systems we enjoy.  I certainly agree.

            In our city of Lawton, there is hardly a weekend or two in the entire year without some kind of volunteer race for raising awareness, money, etc.  Perhaps it is related to Ft. Sill, our Army base here, which is staffed with our nation’s volunteer army.  To these soldiers and their families, it is a way of life.

            We encourage volunteers in our school.  The honor society requires volunteer hours of our students.  The students in all grades participate in local activities and donate items for Christmas boxes for Third World children.  Many of our parents volunteer to help transport children on trips, and we even have a family who has volunteered their wonderful fifteen passenger van for us to use various times.

            However, as I continue to think about volunteering, I am aware of another situation in which I am extremely discouraged.  I do not see the aforementioned acts of volunteering evident when it comes to the simple things.  Why don’t people see the need to volunteer to pick up trash left by someone else who doesn’t care about community beauty?  I often see students disregard items on the hall floors that need to be picked up, and I usually get the reply, “Why?  It’s not mine!”

            I am emphasizing to my young preschoolers and kindergarten students the excellence of picking up after themselves, especially during and after snack times, so the teacher doesn’t have extra work to do.  I believe the point was driven home when they were shown that it took them collectively three to five minutes to pick up their spills, wrappers, etc. but it took fifteen to twenty minutes for the teacher to do it by herself.

            I do know that my teaching in this area of volunteering is beginning to pay off because I returned to my classroom yesterday from emptying the paint dishes they used in our art class to find all sixteen students washing the tables with Lysol wipes, stacking the brushes appropriately, and drying off everything.  They were quite proud of themselves…as was I!

            One other thought comes to mind about this subject.  As teachers, we often receive volunteered information about private matters at home.  We do not solicit such information.  It can be a very disturbing situation since we are held accountable by the law to notify authorities if we feel the child could be in danger.  Our policy will always follow the law, and we will always volunteer to protect our students.       

            I’ve spoken of all kinds of volunteering, but what about me?  I think the most courageous thing I’ve volunteered to do was to let the students make me over in a contest to raise funds for a noteworthy cause.  I was slimed, pinned, slopped, painted with all kinds of things, and then worst of all…made to look that way the entire school day! I did, however, survive! Ha!         

-        Kay