Normally, when talking about pretenses, it is in the context of false pretenses. In legal terms, false pretenses refers to a misrepresentation of something that was presented as a fact. In day-to-day use, pretenses come with the inference that deception is occurring. While deception and pretense go hand-in-hand, ill intention is not an automatic part of pretenses.

In many circumstances, a false pretense comes from a place of wanting to be perceived in a certain way. We as humans spend a lot of our life adapting to various social situations. There is an innate desire to fit in and to be liked by those around us. This feeling is especially strong in our adolescence. There is a lot of pressure for young people to fit into a certain box. Beyond expectations for appearance, there are standards of what people should like and how they should act.

For teenagers and preteens, these expectations can lead to a feeling that they need to conform and modify the way in which they present themselves to better fit in. Operating under these pretenses can negatively impact that person’s self-esteem and concept of his own personality. It can also make that person come off as ingenuine and keep him from forming deep emotional connections with other people.

Be cautious of changing yourself to fit in with others. While there are appropriate things we can do to censor our qualities that are more rough around the edges, changing the way in which you present yourself is not healthy or beneficial to your mental health. Remember that the people that really need to be in your life will accept you for your true, authentic self. Do not conduct yourself with false pretenses; a sign of maturity is discovering yourself and living a life that is true to who you are.

-        Bria

    A pretense is defined as a false appearance or action intended to deceive.  I know that definition very well, and that is why I tell parents upon their entry into our school that “I make no pretense about the education your child will receive here…what you see is what you will get.”  If you want a quiet, passive educational setting, this school isn’t the place for you.  We have a school of energetic learners who are often driven to check everything out, to question things as they are, and who know the art of manipulation and use it often.

    Because of the types of students we teach, our teachers must be bold, sure of their own convictions, and pretty self-assured.  The average teacher might wilt when a student looks at him or her and says in class, “You need a complete make-over, Mrs. Johnson.  I think you need to dye your hair red! I also think you should wear a mini-skirt!”  I just answered quickly, “I don’t like the color choices I’d have in my wardrobe as a red head,” and I went on teaching.  Needless to say, a good sense of humor and comedic timing is quite an asset.

    I tell parents that I will guide and direct my students to learn and to make every effort to put that knowledge to good use.  I will give every effort to challenge their thinking and to make available any resources which might be helpful to these students.  However, I will often use a great big heaping tablespoon of mother’s guilt when it is necessary to back a child down from behaviors that impede the class from learning as a whole.  I refuse to let chaos reign in our school classrooms.  Far too many teachers have thrown in the towels at their schools, and the misbehaving students seem to enjoy preventing good, well-intentioned students from learning.

    In the same manner that I make no pretense about the fact that I am a disciplinarian when it is needed, I expect my students to make no pretense as to their understanding of the skills taught in my classes.  It takes honest cooperation and evaluation for student and teacher to work together to master the skills being taught.  In the same manner, I teach students to evaluate their mistakes in math and to tell me what mistake they made in their calculation.  Many want to change their answer quickly and just say, “I got it wrong. I don’t know why.”  I have to show them that such pretension doesn’t help their brains to understand how to correct their thinking for the next problem they will solve.

    Since we are a school for the gifted and talented students, many students feel the need to make a pretense of how smart they really are.  It is our task to help them to realize they are unique and we do not want to compare them to others.  It is our desire for them to learn something new every day. At the same time, we want our students to feel comfortable when they make mistakes…all people make mistakes and live to talk about it!  Our task is to teach them to reach the bar and then go to the next level.  If our continuous progress model is used correctly, the child learns to measure his progress against himself.  Then and only then will he/she be comfortable in evaluating his/her own work and making corrections to perform correctly next time.  No guilt…no shame…just on-going progress!

    Parents are surprised to learn of our desire for them to visit our classrooms at any time.  We seem to be unlike many schools who desire to keep parents away.  However, with a “what you see is what you get” attitude, we don’t have to worry about pretensions, and thus parents are welcomed.   Kay

     “Do you want to play pretense with me?”  Hmmm… that’s an odd question.  Perhaps a malapropism?  Any child can play pretend, but a pretense requires some higher-order thinking.  According to the dictionary that comes up when I google pretense, a pretense is an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true.  It also says that a pretense is a claim, especially a false or ambitious one.

   Since February 1st, I have conducted 39 tours for roughly 60 student candidates for attendance at Lawton Academy this next academic year.  Every day, I am amazed to listen to the pretenses being sold to these students and parents under the guise of education.  Here are the three most oft-repeated pretenses I’ve heard and my answer to each claim.

1)      Students do not need spelling.  There are doctors out there who do not spell correctly.

     Not any doctor I’d go to!  After twenty-eight years of schooling, if spelling is still a problem, that person will not be handling my health!  The problem with this theory is that spelling teaches sounds, not letters.  Students learn spelling because it makes them better readers.  They become better spellers in the process, but that’s just an added benefit.

     Spelling is important in the writing.  Some who advocate not teaching spelling have said to me, “They have spell checkers and auto correct.”  Those tools only work if the speller gets close enough for the auto correct to guess the intended word.  My favorite cautionary tale is about a middle school student I had who was writing a scary story for my composition class.  His story was supposed to be about enemy ninjas.  When he typed it, though, the spell checker alerted him that he had spelled enemy incorrectly.  He chose the first word it offered him.  I about died when reading the story as I came upon his choice:  enema ninjas.  Now that’s a whole new level of scary!  I would be scared to death if someone snuck up on me and did that!!

  One teacher even told one of my parents that her daughter would not need to know how to spell because she would have a secretary.  I asked, “What if your daughter is the secretary?” 

    These are all insufficient pretenses for ditching a spelling program.

2)      Students do not need to learn cursive writing … or even penmanship, for that matter.  They will type everything in the future.

      No, they won’t.  Banks still require a hand-written signature to open a bank account, and they will not accept a printed one.  Advanced Placement tests still require over two hours of essays (with no break), written in pen.  If one were to write in manuscript, his carpel tunnel would be flaring by the end.

     According to Dr. David Sortino, a psychologist and the current director of Educational Strategies, “cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing, keyboarding or typing” (“Brain Research and Cursive Writing”).

       The elementary students in our school write stories and essays that get sent up to my middle and high school students to edit twice a month.  Recently we’ve added some new students, and my secondary kids have been appalled at the handwriting.  I tell them to do the best they can to read it because some of these kids have not even been shown how to hold their pencils correctly.  We will teach them, but it will take time. 

      About five years ago, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer did several studies on the different outcomes for students typing lecture notes compared to those hand writing them (May).  What they found is that those who typed the lecture tended to type every single word the professor said… kind of like a stenographer, only they don’t use shorthand.  Because handwriting is slower, the students are forced to listen more carefully so that they can summarize the information, and the consequence is that they learn the material more effectively.

     The same ideas hold true with young learners.  I was recently trying to help a frustrated mother understand why, after a year of preschool and half a year of kindergarten in her son’s school, he still did not know his letters.  The whole time we had been touring, the five-year-old kept asking me where the “pads” were.  I asked him how often he used the iPads in his class, and his answer was basically “all the time.”  It was very easy for me, then, to explain why her son did not know his letters.  A typed “a” feels just like a typed “b” because all the keys feel exactly the same.  If he wrote them, he would know them.

    Think about it:  how often do we actually use that little note we jot down to remind us?  Unless it’s a long list, most of us don’t even reference it again because we can envision ourselves writing it.  I see this with the “cheat sheets” I used to allow for hard cumulative tests.  I would give the students each an index card and tell them they had ten minutes to write any notes from their studies that they wanted to on one side of the card, and I would instruct them to turn the card in with the test.  Over and over, students would tell me that they didn’t end up needing the card.  Writing it again had made it stick in their heads. 

   Yet, I will look back at the typed DYI steps or an itinerary sent to me or the such a hundred or more times.  The words don’t stay with me because I haven’t written them.  My own typed lists don’t fare much better.

   One of the saddest things about not teaching kids to read cursive is that most won’t even try to read it.  I get students all the time who have not been taught cursive.  I try to point out that only a few letters are really that different, but many insist they just cannot read it.  I make them take a course.  They do not have the option to just give up. 

    Many of the documents that were written in the beginnings of our nation are in cursive… including the Constitution.  If we cannot read that document, we are susceptible to others telling us contents that are not really there.  Isn’t this what gave the Taliban such control?  They lied to people about what was in the Koran, and because the people could not read it (at no fault of their own – years of war had left much of the country with no schooling), they believed the lies.

    If we cannot read the Constitution, how will we know that someone in authority is not just making stuff up?  I will know.  I can read cursive.  If that doesn’t provide enough motivation, I just tell kids to learn it so later they can write notes about their employees or customers, and none of them will be able to read it!

3)      Accelerated Reader is a great way to motivate kids to read books. 

Accelerated Reader was never intended to be used by literature teachers.  It was designed for librarians to be able to quickly assess whether students truly read a book or not.  The questions are knowledge-level, and most intelligent kids have learned how to fool the system.  Students new to my school laugh about how they could get enough answers right just looking at the back jacket and the cover pictures to earn the points necessary to get the great prizes.  Reading teachers:  AR is a lazy substitution for reading in the classroom, but it is an excellent tool for librarians.  Leave it for where it was intended.

4)      Silence is golden.

    One of my favorite parts of our tours of our campus is the part where I tell the kids that our school is not a quiet school.  Oh sure, we’re quiet when the teacher is instructing.  But we’re noisy when we’re working projects… or coming or going to different classes … or coming in or going out for one of our three recesses.  The interviewee’s eyes light up and a great big smile crosses his face.  Three recesses?!  Yep.  I tell them that we have gifted kids, and gifted kids like to process what they just learned with their friends.  So, we give them breaks to discuss the cool experiment they just did in science or what they learned about sarcophasguses in history. 

    Teachers are not quiet.  I often tell kids who talk a lot that they will one day be a teacher because we teachers can say, “Shh!  I’m talking” and have all the attention just to us!  Next time you find yourself in a school, walk past the teacher’s lounge at lunch.  I guarantee you it’s not quiet in there!

    So, what pretenses about Lawton Academy to we perpetuate?  We try not to do any.  Once we’ve made a claim and it is found to be false, we go back and make sure everyone we ever told knows that we were wrong!  Maybe that’s a co-dependency issue!  I think it’s just we don’t want people to think we baited-n-switched.  When we get a teacher who uses too many worksheets, the claim that Lawton Academy is a hands-on learning environment looks like a pretense.  We do our best to help that teacher see the need for hands-on instruction, even going so far as to get subs for ours and stand by their sides to instruct as we go.

    My point is this:  if the claim seems illogical, it’s probably a pretense.  If the claim goes against your gut, check it out to make sure it’s not a pretense.  Just because someone in authority says it in a teacher voice doesn’t make it true.

-        Michelle


Works Cited

“Brain Research and Cursive Writing.” Dr. David Sortino,

May, Cindi. “A Learning Secret: Don't Take Notes with a Laptop.” Scientific American, 3 June


Fresh Start

    “A fresh start” is usually a welcomed experience for most people.  We all make mistakes or find we have failed to complete certain tasks, and instead of facing ongoing consequences, we are relieved to hear someone say, “Let’s just make a fresh start.”  I feel this way more and more as I try to maneuver my way around this technological world of gizmos and gadgets with their multiplying passwords and codes!  The only relief I get from this crazy maze of platforms which do not seem to talk with one another, is to force quit and shut down…then start over!

    This feeling of frustration in the above-mentioned instance helps me to understand the relief my students might feel as we come to a new nine-week period of grading.  We have gone a step further by making the first nine-week period and the third nine-week period reports just a paper with a note about how things are going in each subject.  This is far less threatening than the formal cumulative report that prints the semester grades.  

    Although we explained and explained, we couldn’t get parents to relax and accept the 1st  and 3rd reports as “progress reports.”  Perhaps some of the pressure is due to banks and commercial establishments offering free prizes or awards for straight A’s on all grade reports.  Thus, parents looked at this 3rd report as do or die!  Some of the weaker students just accepted it as the crushing blow and gave up on any further effort.  Now, we hope, it will just serve as a wake-up call to start over with a better grip on finding success.

    As a Christian, I am very aware of how important a fresh start is.  Jesus came to show me how to accept God’s love, and to show me how to love God.  I got a fresh start!  My life has never been the same since that moment.  

    I tried in my previous school district to help students achieve more by starting the A grades at 85%.  I reasoned that in a norm-curve test situation, 50% was considered average or the norm.  So, why wasn’t 85% considered above average enough to merit an A?  Yes, quite a few people yelled “foul,” but during the few years I was able to keep this standard, something very neat happened!  Students who had never before received an A were so proud that they worked harder than ever to keep an A, and even asked me, “Can I do the work needed to make a real A?  It was giving them a fresh start at being an excellent student.  The ones who really hated the idea were a few of those whose ego didn’t want any “unmerited company.”

    This week I’ve listened to the news as a musical celebrity has begged his accusers to stop their charges against his past abuses.  He cried for mercy.  It has been a gut-wrenching sight for everyone to see and hear.  It reminds me that just like forgiveness by Jesus, a fresh start doesn’t always stop the crop of consequences that grow out of previous mistakes.  David, a man after God’s own heart, found that he had to live with the consequences of his chosen sins.  And although the pain was great, he still was able to find a fresh start from God.

    We have a book in our school called, “Have You Filled Someone’s Bucket Today?”  Giving others a fresh start may bring you joy as well as fill someone else’s bucket with joy.  Try it.    

-         Kay


For many people, the idea of a fresh start is completely transformative. There is a concept of moving to a new place, getting a new job, and starting a whole new life that is comforting and appealing to those dissatisfied with their current lives. For some, the fresh start may be graduating high school. For others, it’s moving to a college in a different state. All of these experiences are complete life-changing fresh starts. But there are ways to have a fresh start without making major changes in your life.

Today is Daylight Saving Time. While many of us are feeling extra tired today, I think I can speak for everyone when I say I’m really excited about spring time and more daylight. In many ways, this is a fresh start. Coming out of this brutal winter, Daylight Saving Time marks promise that there are better times ahead.

While many of the examples above of fresh starts are centric to the idea of huge transformations, there are a lot of ways to have smaller fresh starts in your life. A fresh start can be as simple as a new haircut. For anyone who is trying to eat healthier, it’s easy to fall off the bus of your diet plan. A good mindset for dieting or other gradual life improvements is the concept that every day is a fresh start and a new chance to try again

This mindset can apply to a lot of situations in our day-to-day lives. Did you have a terrible day? Use your morning tomorrow as a fresh start and begin the day with a positive attitude. Similarly, if you messed up today, see tomorrow as a fresh start to try again. This perspective takes away a lot of the gravity from situations that feel really bad in the moment, but ultimately will not negatively affect you long-term. Try to keep this idea in mind. Remember that every day is a fresh start and use that information to bring peace to your life. What are you going to do with your fresh start tomorrow?

-        Bria

     Woo-hoo!  The last quarter of the academic year begins tomorrow!  Actually, I cannot believe that the last quarter begins tomorrow!  Where did the year go? 

      Besides the teaching part of my job, I love the way the academic year offers so many “fresh starts.”  Nine-week grading period didn’t go so well?  Oh, well, here:  try again!  I love being able to clean the slate and make a new attempt at success, and I especially love that my students have that same opportunity.  I love that no two quarters are exactly the same, and no two years are exactly alike.  I like that students’ interests change, and I love to watch our program evolve.

     I find myself wondering how I would do in a job that just kept going.  As a kid, I used to get myself all worked up at the thought of eternity.  I didn’t want to cease to exist, but the idea of going and going and going scared me equally.  I’ve put that thought on the back burner because I’ll understand when I get there.  In the meantime, though, I love being able to start fresh.

     Parents of gifted children appreciate the fresh start as well.  You see, when gifted kids mess up, they mess up big.  Their faux pas usually are passion-driven, and they make monumental gestures that often require very public apologies.  The idea that our kids can wipe a slate clean is very welcome!  It is so very important that we, as the parents and teachers, show our gifted kids the error in approach while applauding the thought behind the protest.  That’s generally what occurs:  the reasoning for acting out is justified; the means is not.  It’s tough being a gifted kid!

     The key to granting “fresh starts” is mercy.  If we remember the mercies shown us, we are much better prepared to walk our child through that which requires mercy for him.  I’m not encouraging a no-consequences approach.  There should still be consequences.  I’m only encouraging a chance to try again… no preconceived worries; just a fresh start. (Of course, repeated offenses of the same type don’t get a fresh start.  These are not that of which I speak.)

     So, in this last quarter, I will evaluate how the year has gone, and I will spend the summer making plans for changes that need to happen.  By the time the school reopens for the next academic year, I will have made significant changes in the hopes of bettering our program.  The students will come to school that first day, shiny with their new haircuts and wardrobes, and we will begin again… fresh and excited for new opportunities.

-        Michelle


If I had a word to describe my adolescent years, it would be “unaware.” I was unaware what most couples were “doing.” I was unaware of any prep I should be doing for college. I had a college roommate nicknamed “Pete” who was the girls’ softball pitcher and who used to have “sleepovers” with the team’s catcher. Totally unaware of what was really going on there!! How can one person be so unaware?!

    Easily, I think. I was happily ignorant of all of that stuff. Naive is probably a better term. Some would say “stupid”!

    I was just as unaware of other things that were good. I didn’t know I’d actually scored a 31 in English on my one attempt at the ACT till I was around forty years old. I probably “knew” it, but I was unaware how impressive that was since I didn’t do any kind of studying. I was unaware I was smart, even though I was in honor classes. I just thought I was a really hard worker.  The list goes on… I was a pretty unaware person!

    Sometimes I find myself missing that state. It was very freeing. Being aware brings new responsibilities. Maybe that’s why so many teens avoid the news and thought-provoking discussions. It’s a whole lot easier to live in a reality created online or in a game.

     So how important is it that teens be aware? I think much more today than ever for one reason: surveillance. There is a camera to catch everything one does today. An innocent shift of one’s underwear can become the next viral faux pas. Couple that with the fact that kids are under much more supervision than ever in history, and teens have a lot to lose from being unaware.

      We haven’t even talked about college prep. I have parents of one-year-olds calling to see when the earliest they can get on a list for our school is. It seems to take early and consistent prep to help your teen reach the small percentage of those who make it into an Ivy League or one of the other upper echelon schools.

       I think happiness lies somewhere between the two. Helping your gifted teen to know that rewards come with hard work is preferable over making him painfully aware of the fate of those who didn’t work hard. Gifted are typically tender-hearted as kids and teens, and depression over not being able to solve the problem will outweigh the drive to do better. It is important to involve your teen in solving what is solvable, of course. Helping at a food pantry is solving the solvable. Making your teen aware of a starving people group with no ability to help them is not going to help him work harder.

       I think the most dangerous “unawareness” lies with parents, though. Parents today seem unaware of how much more their kids know than we did at their ages. The Internet literally teaches them anything and everything. If you don’t talk to your kid about the difficult issues, the Internet will.  Parents, if you want an eye opener, watch the movie “Eighth Grade.” The writer has done a phenomenal job of letting us know the difficulties teens of today navigate. Unfortunately, they are a whole lot more aware than many of us would like.

-        Michelle

Sometimes I think it might be nice to live life unaware of my surroundings. They always say ignorance is bliss. Wouldn’t it be great if you were just unaware of your problems? Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. Although, I’m sure you can think of someone in your life that just seems so unaware of responsibility, problems, consequences, how they come across, and how they make others feel. While this person might appear to be happy from an outward perspective, I think we can all agree that we wouldn’t prefer to be that person.

We live in a world in which a strong sense of awareness is powerful. Perceptive people are able to use this trait as a superpower to influence people to make decisions that drive his or her preferred outcome. Being aware of how your boss thinks and anticipating and correcting situations that would make you look bad to them is an incredibly valuable skill. On a more personal note, being aware of your partner’s or family’s feelings can prevent interpersonal conflict from unnecessarily arising.

While these instances are positive and powerful for those who are aware, the opposite is true for those who are unaware. An unaware person might ignore clues from his boss that dictate the level of involvement that person would want to have in daily decision making. If the boss wants the employee to be autonomous and make decisions on his own, the employee will make the boss angry and unconfident in his skills by running every decision across his desk. Inversely, if a boss wants insight into daily decisions and an employee fails to provide this level of knowledge, the boss will lose trust in that employee. That is just one example, but it is an incredibly important thing of which to be aware.

Train you children at an early age to be aware of those around them. This can affect many aspects of their lives. Even in terms of personal safety, being aware of potentially threatening situations and people can be the difference between life and death. Ask your child to

identify how he believes someone is feeling. Play games that cause him to have to take in his environment. The more connected he is to the world around him, the better. Awareness is a survival skill that children need to finesse in their childhood. Developing these skills in your children will help them make and keep friends, relationships, and jobs.  



    Unaware is a word that adequately describes most of my early morning encounters with people at our local Walmart store.  I find myself engaged in a human obstacle course as I try to squeeze my shopping cart between workers stocking the shelves while they are actively carrying on conversations with fellow workers two to three aisles away.  It would appear that many of these stockers have never heard of the phrase “excuse me,” or ever been taught to “keep to the right” so others might pass.

    Oh yes, there are one or two who have been most kind and aware of people around them…but they are a precious few.  Generally, people seem to live in a self-absorbed bubble which makes them unaware of outside factors.  Perhaps it is a product of too many hours on earphones.  Whatever the cause may be, far too many people in our society are totally unaware of others around them.  A good evidence of this are the several individuals I have personally seen walk into a stationary object because their eyes were looking at their phones and their hearing was impeded by ear buds.

    Throughout the day we are reminded of this unawareness as we are stopped suddenly in an aisle by someone who wants to stand there and talk on his cell phone, or by those who meet friends and stand and block the entire aisle as they talk.  I’ve even had people motion to me to go around…find another aisle or path to the front.  Perhaps a logical invention and next step would be to pass a law requiring people to wear turn signals on their shoulders so other store patrons can be aware of their intentions…much like drivers of cars do.

    I am reminded of that famous scene in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, when the teens take the parking space of an older driver and laugh about it until the older driver smashes their car and says, “I have more insurance than you do!”  I see the competition on parking lots many times as people try to beat another person to the space.  The sad thing is that just this past week, two men met to agree to a solution over their fight for a parking space and one shot and killed the other.  His parking space is now in jail, and a life is lost forever.

    I continue to say that these events are a natural outcome of an action we took long ago in our country.  The Ten Commandments were a wonderful reminder to all students growing up that we have laws protecting us, but a right attitude in the heart commands that we love others as we love ourselves.  Why should we be shocked at the shootings, abuses, etc. when we have removed this long-standing moral standard from the education of our students?  I’ve seen many students in the past twenty years who have no moral compass at all.  It is so frightening that much of this was also predicted in a book that was sent to me as a school superintendent about twenty-five years ago called Children Without a Conscience.  Every day I see the predictions of this book as reality in life and the daily news media.

    I will do my part to overcome this “unawareness syndrome” by teaching my students and families and staff to use manners and to care about others.  I will continue to expect, and if necessary, to demand that in our school, manners, kindness, and caring are the norm.  This isn’t easy since such behaviors aren’t the product of “nature” but are the results of the “nurture” children receive.  

    I stated in a previous blog that I do believe the loud talking and noisy behaviors of today are a direct result of the almost constant use of earphones by people in our society.  I told my students thirty years ago that I should invest in the hearing aid stocks because of the long term results I saw coming.  I didn’t invest, but I have read of the noteworthy hearing loss among our present-day youth.  It is significant.                                   


"Winging It"

Wow. I have never related more to a topic that we have covered! Winging it? That’s basically my entire job. I work for a startup, and I manage an event space that is still being built out. I spend the majority of my time winging it. It’s not because I don’t care; it’s actually the opposite. I care so much about other people’s opinions of me that I refuse to ask for help or accept defeat before I have tried every other option. Does this sound familiar?

Your child might be experiencing the same situation. I’m not necessarily talking about young children, but if you have a teenager, you might notice this behavior in them. There’s a huge desire to impress their peers, their teachers, and then you (often in that order, unfortunately). There’s a couple of ways this can manifest. It might be like what I mentioned above. They might try alternative options, some better than others, when they can’t immediately solve a problem. But in situations where they can’t hide their shortcomings, such as competitive activities, they might become a sore loser.

When backed into a corner and exposed for winging it, gifted students often get defensive. If they lost a competition, what they vocalize is that the judges were unfair or there were some other circumstances that were out of their control that are the real reason for their failure. This isn’t a healthy mindset, and it trains them to blame their problems on other people.

As parents, coping with this scenario is a tightrope act. While you don’t want to encourage this behavior, you also want to support and build up your child’s self-esteem. While I don’t think you need to point out all of his faults and convince him it’s his fault he lost, you can suggest activities that would increase his chances of winning next time he can compete. For example, if your  child is competing in speech and debate and he doesn’t place with his piece, rather than entertaining conversations about the judges being unfair, tell your child you would be happy to practice with him and work on memorization before the next competition. This strategy doesn’t place blame on your child, but it also doesn’t allow him to dwell on excuses.

Make sure you are being vigilant regarding this behavior. Cutting it out early will help your child grow into a mature and successful adult. I have mostly adjusted to my own issues, but I catch myself trying to pin blame on someone or something else because it kills me to be seen as wrong or incapable. The more you can correct this behavior early, the more well-adjusted your child will be in his adult life.


    Winging It  is often the way things get done in today’s hectic society.  Even though we all have the same twenty-four hours each day, some people are better organized and able to squeeze more into that period of time than others.  In frustration, we often find ourselves having to “wing it!”

    I cannot count the many times I’ve had to wing it because of limited time.  I only know that it is a very scary situation.  Sleep usually doesn’t come easily before or after such a solution to a problem.  I do believe that students know very well when a teacher lacks the adequate preparation necessary for a good lesson.  That being said, I tell teachers that students will take advantage of you if they suspect you aren’t prepared.

    Have I failed when I winged it?  No, I haven’t had that misfortune.  That’s not bragging…it’s just a stated fact.  My life has had so many experiences and wonderful interactions with people that I always have a plethora of examples which can help me adlib as needed.  Do I feel comfortable when doing this? Absolutely not! It is a much better feeling to know you are prepared and have a clear path to follow. It also makes coming to a logical conclusion easier.

    Sometimes I have had to wing it during a presentation because I didn’t know the audience as    well as I would have liked. Trying to match your presentation to the unknown audience is a balancing act that can be terrifying.

    One reason I have been able to do this spur of the moment presentation, I feel, is the training I received as a young teen.  Baptist churches had training union on Sunday nights in which we were taught to present parts of a lesson. None of us enjoyed it much, but we did what was expected.  Little did I realize how much that experience prepared me for future speaking and making presentations.

    I am happy that our school requires students to take speech as a core subject.  It is an amazing sight to watch these students gain self-confidence and poise once they’ve participated in speech tournaments.  Even our kindergarten teacher gets students off to a good start by having them make a presentation during their student of the week time.  Believe me, our students know how to talk and interact with people. They almost never meet a stranger when visitors come.

    Another key to being able to wing it is belief in that about which you are speaking!  Although I am by nature a shy person, I believe so much in education and its benefits that I have no difficulty being able to expound upon its virtues at any given moment.  For this reason, believing in something, I teach my students to care and to get emotionally involved in what’s going on in this world. I often play the devil’s advocate in order to stir some sense of caring within them.  Currently, I am challenging our fifth grade students to take a stand as they simulate running for the presidency. They are finding it is not easy to speak to others and relate with those who have opposing viewpoints.

    The last thing I would share is that as a Christian, I have relied upon the Bible teachings and the teachings of Jesus in which we are promised that God would provide the right words we need in those times when our resources seem dried or missing.  He has never failed me yet!


    Yesterday, an expert came to the school and made our sound system work tremendously better than we have ever been able to.  He also added some new components that make it ever so convenient. It made me realize how poorly our “winging it” had worked.  That led me to the thought that many gifted “wing it”... a lot.

     My first personal experience with “winging it” came when I was just five years old.  My mother taught piano lessons to students at our house. She offered to teach me, but I wasn’t having it.  I “taught” myself. Oh sure, my mom was buying the instructional books and answering my questions, but I was not taking formal piano lessons.  I wanted piano to be fun. Consequently, I was a senior in high school before I knew the correct fingering for a scale. Mind you, I was accompanying my school choir… I just hadn’t bothered to learn the correct fingering or do any of the exercises that make learned pianists able to play the fast classical pieces.  I got to college as a music major, and my limited abilities showed. (I could read music like a pro, though!)

     Today, I see this with my gifted secondary students in music, as well.  They play by ear and, in guitar, by TAB. Many do not have any interest in learning to read music.  I am often amazed, though, at how they can hear a song on the radio and pick it out on the piano. Not just the melody… they can play it JUST LIKE the radio version.  It’s pretty amazing!

    I find myself wondering if “winging it” is the reason some have so much trouble with studying for tests.  It seems like a no-brainer: do the review questions, know your notes, TAKE notes, quiz yourself. When really smart kids flunk tests, I question them as to how they studied.  “I read it over.” If that’s not “winging it,” I don’t know what is!

    Here’s the thing, though:  as the parent of a gifted child, you need to let your child “wing” some things.  I love playing the piano. No, I’m not good enough to play for competitions… but I’m good enough to play for my vocal students practicing their solos and ensembles.  More importantly, forty-seven years later, I still enjoy playing.  I can guarantee you that, had my mother made me take lessons, I would not be playing today.

    Your child shouldn’t wing everything, but he can have one or two activities that are almost completely improvised or self-taught.  It’s not going to hurt, and it might become enough of a love for him to seek instruction.

    There are, of course, some things for which your child should not “wing it.”  College entrance exams are one example. The tutoring for the ACT and SAT that used to cost upwards of $20,000 has been given freely to and published on Khan Academy.  Your child would be a fool not to utilize this help. That is, for as long as entrance exams stick around. There are universities that are recognizing how many kids have learned how to do well on the exam without really knowing how to think, and they have stopped requiring an exam.  I actually think “winging it” would be a great way to know who will do well in college. Let me explain: I think applicants should participate in an in-person interview, followed by a writing session. A handwritten answer to a prompt, with no access to a computer, would be very revealing.  Spelling, grammar, thought-process, even handwriting can be analyzed, and the college would have a much better picture of who is ready and who is not. Wouldn’t that make helicopter parents a nervous wreck! Let’s do it!



    The art of apology.  When did apologizing become an art form?  When we were toddlers, our mothers ordered us to “apologize to the nice lady,” and we dutifully responded.  The quickest way out of a call to our parents during elementary school was just to apologize for whatever it was they thought we did.  And as adults, we say “sorry” for just about everything except that which is truly our fault.  You have the flu?  Sorry.  You were going to pick up that tomato just as I reached for it?  Sorry.  

    We seem to get a lot of practice at apologizing throughout the years.  Why, then, has it been esteemed as an art form? I would like to propose that it is because so many of us are so very bad at giving an apology of any substance.

    I once asked a parent to write a formal apology to the school for an incident in which he was involved.  Had he stopped at the first paragraph, the apology would have seemed heartfelt and genuine.  He didn’t stop, though.  The second paragraph was an explanation of the reason that he wasn’t really guilty of that of which he was accused, and it was finished with an “oh-by-the-way,-I’ve-already-apologized” rebuttal.  Some apology.  

    We’ve all been privy to the apologies issued by celebrities after an improper posting or a slip of the tongue or an inappropriate remark.  Talking heads spend the next several days telling us whether the apology was actually an apology or not, making the only thing worse than committing a faux pas having to apologize for said mistake.

    As parents and teachers of gifted kids, we know that getting them to admit  a mistake, let alone apologize for it, is fun.  You want to see a brain kick into overdrive, let your gifted child know he’s done something that requires an apology.  Oh, he’ll apologize quickly at first.  Sorry.  When you suggest that his apology is not genuine, he gives you the threatened Sorry!  At this point, he’s sassing you, so that’s need for another apology, to which he gives an exasperated Sorry.  If you then proceed to make him feel guilty not only for the bad deed but also for the way in which he is treating you, he will do one of two things:  either melt down in tears because you are being so hard on him and he never meant any harm and yada yada yada OR he will take you up on your invitation to debate whether what he did was actually bad or if he might have a really good reason for doing it.  Either reaction is designed to unnerve you and make you go away.  

    As a principal, I require a plan of future action with any apology given.  What are you going to do differently next time?  I’m not as interested in contrition as I am in a change of direction.  I want to know the replacement behavior for the behavior I desire not to witness again.  This lets the perpetrator know that I do not plan to deal with this same issue again.  

    Remorse is good, but often we do not really know we are sorry about an action till much later in the future.  We parents and teachers have got to get good at using that aha moment down the road to go back and teach the lesson.  Immediately after the transgression, we just need a new plan of action to replace the undesirable action.  

    Let your child know that the action you dislike must be replaced with a better action and the punishment for not making that change.  If you’re paying attention, you’ll get a chance to deliver the lesson soon enough.


    Apologies can be very easy to make, and yet, they can be extremely difficult to almost impossible to do.  How can any one thing be at both ends of a spectrum simultaneously?  I guess the answer to that question is “it’s a matter of the heart.”  Any child can say, “Sorry…” and have absolutely no remorse at all.  In fact, I refuse to let any of my students get by with the perfunctory “sorry” as an apology.

    It has become common place for a child to say “sorry,” and for the recipient to say, “That’s okay.”  I, however, will not accept that interchange.  It is not okay for a child to offend someone and then be told it was okay for him to do so.  I teach the other child to say, “It’s not okay.  Please don’t do it again.”  Depending upon the level of maturity of the child, I ask him to tell the offender how the act in question made him feel.  I believe it is important for the offender to know the pain he caused.

    Accepting apologies is probably harder than making them.  It is extremely difficult to forgive and forget after one has been hurt.  My husband, the therapist, says you don’t have to forget.  In fact, it may be impossible to forget the act.  But forgiveness is a positive and deliberate action one determines to make.  You have to choose to forgive the offender.  

    I have been able to forgive some very horrifying things in my life.  I have not ever forgotten them…it is an impossibility.  However, I watched my own mother refuse to forgive my father for several things that damaged their relationship.  That refusal to forgive caused her heart to be filled with bitterness.  There was so much bitterness in her heart that she had no room for love in that heart.  What a shame!

    I like what the Bible teaches about love in 1st Corinthians 13.  The new living translation really spells out what many apologies lack…love and concern for the other person.  “It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.”

    I’ve also been taught the teaching of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:23:  “So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Come to terms quickly with your enemy…”

    Even though it was hard, I have on several occasions had to go make it right with someone…even when it clearly was not my fault that a problem existed.  I trusted the Bible’s teaching in this matter and did as it said.  I have never regretted my actions.  In fact, my life has been blessed by my willingness to apologize in order to bring about peace.

    In this day of Internet persecutions, harassment, and tabloid-like news stories…we need people to learn to give and accept apologies.  We need to begin to believe in others, to seek the best for them, and restore a right relationship with others and with God.  Only then, I feel, will real healing come to our divided nation.      

-          Kay

The “Me Too” movement has exposed a lot of powerful men for doing terrible things. This has prompted a series of public apologies, some that feel genuine and heartfelt, and others that feel forced. Most of these apologies were written by a team and carefully crafted to make the audience feel a certain way about the apologizing party.


For the 90% of the world that doesn’t not have a PR team to write their apologies, finding the right words can sometimes prove difficult. Furthermore, I think we as a country are getting burnt out on apologies. We are oversaturated with apologies that are quick and meaningless. This cheapens real apologies. While this varies from situation to situation, speaking generally, heartfelt, meaningful apologies are rare, and that fact makes people jaded towards apologies.


While we cannot change the way in which apologies are perceived, we can change the way in which me make apologies. Apologies that are short and direct are often not perceived as genuine. Make sure when you are apologizing to someone that you acknowledge that you understand why you need to apologize and call that wrongdoing out. An apology that just consists of “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” is not good enough for most situations beyond accidentally bumping into someone, or not holding the door for someone behind you.


For greater transgressions, especially those that have hurt another person physically or emotionally, you need to acknowledge why you are apologizing and validate that other party’s feeling about your actions. Apologies that include any sentiment of the apologizer not needing to apologize but doing it out of obligation are not real apologies. Qualifiers such as these shift the blame and negate the sentiment behind the actual apology. If you feel compelled to give an apology that includes a shifting of blame, then maybe you should reconsider if you are really ready to apologize.

    The way to “re-sensitize” people to apologies is to make sure that are apologies are heartfelt and not given out of obligation. Another way to improve the perception of apologies is to make them few and far between. I don’t mean stop apologizing when it is due, but rather stop behaving in such a way that causes you to owe apologies. The long list offenders of Me Too have exposed a terrible part of our society, allowing us to work on it as a nation. Think about the things you do that result in the need for an apology. Why do you do these things? Add a goal to your list for 2019 to apologize less, because you don’t need to, not because you don’t want to.



     I apologize for this posting being a day late, but yesterday I got the stomach bug the students at our school have been so willingly passing around.  Technology was both my tormentor and my salvation.  I tried to have the television on, just to make the miserable hours go faster, but every other add showed and described some type of food that just sent me running back to the bathroom.  My husband was coming back from Maryland, and I used technology in the form of my phone to give him a very detailed list of items I wanted him to buy and bring to me:  cold 7-up, applesauce, bananas, and Emotrol.  I cannot tell you how good the 7-up and applesauce were!

    We have recently been going around and around with one of my high school classes about use of their cell phones.  Their faces are always stuck on their phones.  They just don’t seem to see a problem with it.  I banned their phones in class, but some still brought them out.  At the height of the problem, I made them all put their phones in my room.  That’s when I started searching for a compromise.  You see, I know that these kids were also using their phones to look up formulas and as calculators.  Sure, they could find the formula in their books, but that would require they know how to use an index, and I don’t think they ever have.  Why would they, when the information is a “search” away? 

    This dependency on their phones is not foreign to the rest of us.  Having a complete computer in our pocket is amazing.  I wish I would have had one during college.  I cannot fault them for learning to depend upon it for just about every bit of information they need.

    So, I will just highlight the pitfalls of technology that I see in school-aged children.  The first is that of teaching the letters to PK and Kindergartners using iPads or typing.  Can you tell the difference between the key for the letter “t” and the key for the letter “m”?  They feel exactly the same, right?  The problem with using these items to teach the letters is that there is no distinction between the letters.  Teach the letters through writing, through playdough, through something tangible.  Then differences are noted.

   The second is that of teaching your child his address and phone number.  We adults are guilty of not knowing phone numbers because of our phones, but a child needs to know these things in case he gets lost.  The quickest way back to you is a phone call.  Teach him his phone number and address.

   This one is definitely my own feelings, but YOU bought the piece of technology, so YOU have complete authority over it.  Allowing your child his privacy on technology is the recipe for disaster.  There is an age at which more privacy can be given, and that age is determined by the parent.  That age, however, is not in elementary school!  We as parents have an obligation to protect our children.  Allowing them to surf and post and chat without some kind of supervision is just the same as allowing them to roam the streets of a busy city alone. 

    I would ask one last thing of you the parent regarding technology:  please help your child to know that nothing posted is private.  It does not matter if only a select group of friends are reading it, anybody can read it.  My father always taught me not to write down anything in anger.  It’s impossible to prove you meant no malice when it’s there in black-and-white!

    The advances in technology have made life so much easier... and so much harder.  The book 1984 asked us to visualize a world with cameras in every room.  They called it “Big Brother.”  My kids are always mortified to think of such a thing, until I point out that they carry “big Brother” with them everywhere they go… even into the bathroom!  We must protect ourselves and our kids from the multitude of ways technology can be used against us.

-        Michelle

The older I get, the more I realize the impact of technology on our lives. I’m a millennial, but I am very close to the cut off for being considered “Gen Z.” Generation Z is notably characterized as the generation that grew up with the most accelerated technological advances in history. People who fall into this category are native to social media, messaging, cell phones, and they largely don’t remember a world without these features.


This fact creates generational divide, because shared experiences and memories bring people together. Thinking about Baby Boomers, grandparents of current students, these people grew up in an entirely different world. Most notably, they saw the rise of television. Kids nowadays are growing up with augmented and virtual reality simulators, high definition video games, smart assistants and IoT connected home devices, and smart phones and tablets.


We are living in a world that would feel like science fiction 50 years ago. Parents and grandparents, you cannot relate to how this rapid change of technology had affected your children, but you must educate yourself on the positive and negatives effects of your child being a digital native.


One major change brought about by the developments in technology, specifically the internet, is how we take in information. There is a wealth of knowledge available at your fingertips. This is great because it allows increased efficiency in accessing information. However, the overabundance of information has changed the way in which our brain focuses. Rather than carefully reading and digesting information, we are encouraged to scan and intake information rapidly.


This affects the way in which your child learns to focus. On one hand, it’s efficient-this skill of scanning, skimming, and multitasking allows them to be more productive and take in more information, but on the other hand they are losing the ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. This specific trait makes focusing in the classroom increasingly difficult for children. While education can somewhat evolve to keep up with trends in students, ultimately a child who is unable to focus will fall behind.


There are many other implications both positive and negative surrounding technology’s impact our children. Many of them boil down to attention issues, focus, and activity level (indoor vs outdoor). One of the best ways to manage the negatives side effects of technology is to balance the time your children spend interacting with a phone, tablet, video game, or computer, with the time they spend playing outside, reading an actual book (look up the research about children reading physical books versus reading on a tablet and the implications on attention and focus), and doing educational and formative activities.


Technology is great in many ways, the amount of information we have available and the ease at which we communicate is valuable. There are also some downsides especially for young children that are overstimulated with technology. Take time to make sure your children have balance in their lives. Understand that as digital natives, they will inherently have different

approaches to many things such as problem solving. Lastly, make sure you educate yourself on the impact of technological development on young children. There are some really negative outcomes when technology intake in not managed.

-        Bria

    “Technology will never take over the world” has been my most often quoted statement when any of my students refer to me and technology.  They are most aware of the fact that I hate hearing that a new update is out…and it is absolutely impossible for me to dispose of an old, working computer or software program.  If it isn’t broken, why try to fix it?  I also resent the fact that we have become a just “dispose of it” society that craves the latest new gadget!

    Yet, I realize that once we have passed the threshold of a new invention being accepted and proven useful…there is really no going back to the “old ways.”  So, while I look for signs of continuity and change over time, I recognize that the stagecoach had to disappear to make way for faster means of transportation.  I am most happy that telephone communication has improved to the point that we can have conversations across the globe in a matter of seconds.  I also love the tracking ability that law enforcement can use to find missing persons.  All these improvements have been most amazing!

    This being said, I am ready to call for a change in the direction of education today.  It is true that students can have an answer given to them in seconds concerning almost any subject by using a search engine such as google.  But that instant information can also become their undoing unless they have the critical thinking skills necessary to pare that available information down to what is truly necessary and important and TRUTH.  For young children, this is a difficult task.

    Bloom’s taxonomy of skills has this as the lowest level of thinking…knowledge.  It is what you do with that knowledge that comprises the next steps in advanced levels of thinking: comprehension, application, synthesis, and evaluation.  These critical thinking skills are often undeveloped in most classroom activities.  Yes, it is possible to gain much computer time in classrooms without advancing to these higher levels of thinking.   And yes, there are good programs out there which do teach those critical skills.   However, it is extremely important that educators work to attain those advanced skill activities for their students.

    On the practical side, I feel all teachers should be adequately trained in fixing and maintaining technology along with their educational curriculum.  If a teacher doesn’t have this training to help them use computers in the classroom, countless hours will be wasted in trying to “fix” a problem when the teaching time is already crowded with interruptions of various types.

    It is also important for schools to counter-balance the use of technology with “physical” change of pace and vision focus activities.  We’ve heard several vision doctors remark about the under-developed muscles of the eyes due to heavy use of “screen time.”  Everyone agrees that more physical activity is desirable to offset the lack of activity by children due to screen time and robotic devices that do nearly all chores around the home…even emptying the cat’s litter box!

    Finally, we must teach students better means of solving conflicts, protecting themselves from predators, and how not to become persuaded by bias and inaccuracies which flow freely over the world wide web.  



History is hereditary only in this way: we, all of us, inherit everything, and then we choose what to cherish, what to disavow, and what to do next, which is why it’s worth trying to know where things come from.

-Jill Lepore


When thinking about the concept of hereditary, generally the first thing that comes to mind is genetics. We think of traits that are inherited through our genes, both positive and harmful. The notion of inheritance is central to our understanding of heredity. Either we are inheriting a trait/condition/predisposition in our biology, or we are inheriting something more physical - a business, a kingdom, a house, etc.  The quote above provides a different view of heredity in inheriting our world from past inhabitants.

I think this is a really interesting take on heredity, and the quote is realistic but also hopeful. Right now, we are inheriting a country and a world that is really messed up. Beyond the government and societal issues, there’s a ton of research coming out that shows that we are actually destroying our planet as well. We could get upset and nihilistic or we could get hopeful.

Nothing in your past has to determine your future. Whether you are dealing with a health problem passed down through your genes, or just trying to navigate growing up in a world of mass shootings, tense international relations, and crippling debt, remember that these things do not define you. Right now, we have the opportunity to create a brighter future.

We are at a crossroads. Wemcan continue to let this country become increasingly divided on issues upon which we will never perfectly agree, or we can strive for unity. Being upset at your pro-life or pro-choice neighbor isn’t helping fix the larger issues we face. This country is becoming hyper-focused on issues like immigration, while letting climate control problems literally destroy our world. There are issues that need our attention, but we are so distracted.

This nation is hereditary. We have passed it down the past few generations without thinking too much of those we give it to after we are gone. We can be the generation that changes that. We have inherited a tough situation, but that doesn’t mean we have to make it worse for those that will inherit the world from us.

Right now, we are in control of the future of our country and our world. We don’t have to make the same mistakes because they are hereditary. We get to be the change for the future.

                                                                                    -   Bria

    Hereditary traits get the blame for many of life’s frustrations.  Whenever a trait is deemed negative, parents of children start searching the family tree for answers.  Often, the trait is not one of those easily passed along.  I guess it’s just human nature to look for a scapegoat.

    I often deal with hereditary learning problems as an educator.  Children from families with a history of learning disabilities often have such problems themselves.  However, it is not always a matter of fact.  Diagnosing and treating learning disabilities is as difficult as diagnosing and treating sickness.  I think that is why it is called a “medical practice.”  It is often necessary to just pick and choose and try anything which holds some promise of help.  

    Most people are quick to suspect dyslexia when a child writes some letters backwards or starts reading a word from right to left.  However, all children in the beginning stages of learning tend to make reversals.  These tendencies usually go away by third grade for sure.  The learning-disabled students I have known had more than reversals to contend with in learning.  The problem is much deeper and far-reaching than just a few inverted letters or words.  With time and attention, these students were able to recognize their disability, cope with it, and find a means of communicating with others which was acceptable.

    The hereditary part of children which often is overlooked is that part which is sexually based.  It is a known fact that little girls develop skills in speaking, reading, and language far sooner than most boys.  Boys, on the other hand, develop gross motor skills before girls.  Traditional schools play to the girls’ strengths far more than to the boys’ need for greater movement, contact, etc.

    I like the quote from Leslie Hart in How the Brain Works: “We must keep reminding ourselves, when we discuss humans, that one great difference between us and other animals is difference.  Because we are, to such an extreme, learning animals, acquiring much of our nature after birth, individuals within the species differ enormously in all ways affected by learning.”  In other words, our little children do not come to us with their “learning” set in stone!

    If I did not believe I could help change a child, I would not be an educator.  It is my calling to do all that I can to help that child grow into a better and wiser person…or as I so often say…”to be better than the average bear!”     Rather than blame certain acts of a child on heredity, we need to work much harder at providing consistency.

    Caleb Gattegno researched and noted that young children paid great attention and focus on TV commercials because they “repeat exactly.”   Leslie Hart points out, “Much evidence fits together to suggest that repetition may well have a tremendous influence on the child’s confidence.  The stable home, the loving routines, the bedtime rituals, the consistent parents, all may be essentially important because they involve and permit this factor of exact repetition….As motor or recognition or evaluation  patterns become reliable – the child gains confidence that his inner image of  his environment fits his world well enough to enable him to function with a tolerable number of corrections….The child usually indicates quite clearly when its need for particular repetition ends.  Though adult patience can be strained, cheerfully tolerating the child’s need seems the obvious part of wisdom.”

    Mr. Hart contacted me long ago about my work with applied brain research.  I refer back to his writings now for new readers because I have seen the value of his observations over my 50+ year career in the field of education.  I watch people gladly pay to trace their genealogies online.  Yet, they overlook some of the fascinating human hereditary traits that make us unique in the animal world.  I recommend his book if you can get a copy:  ISBN  0-465-03102-1.     

-          Kay