Give it to me I’m worth it…. These words repeat in our heads as we shop the sale racks at Old Navy.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it...The anthem rings as we fill our grocery cart with ramen.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it…. We say to ourselves as we get credit card offers after credit card offers with rates that will surely ruin us.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it… We spend our free time watching beauty gurus making money off our insecurities.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it... Without our parents, we’d have to choose between loan repayment and rent.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it… As we work in the service industry while our degrees are for corporate careers.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it...As we pay our dues (debts) while we pay our dues (being young in the workforce) while we pay our dues (poverty) for paying our dues (debt).

 

Give it to me I’m worth it… We finally get a 401(k) and pay all our money into it, just to know that we’ll never get it back.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it... All day we see social media influencers, beautiful, fit, rich not knowing all the filters and fillers and assistants it took to produce that image.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it... We have 500+ connections on LinkedIn but no one to hang out with on Saturday night.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it...We are the generation that is most aware of the necessity of therapy and least capable of affording it.



I know I lost half on you in the midst of the above. It’s easy to say Millennials and Gen X are whiny and lazy. Yesterday I worked 15 hours on a Saturday. Most of my peers work incredibly hard and still can’t afford the lives that their parents and grandparents lead.

There is an immense amount of stress and pressure being a teenager or young adult right now. We were raised under the impression that if you work hard, get good grades, and make good choices, you will earn a certain amount of success and sustainability. But somewhere in the last decade the rules changed.

Now, it is not enough to work hard. You have to work harder than everyone around you. You can’t just go to college and get a job. You need at least a Master's to do most “9:00-5:00’s.”

You can’t work during college to cover the cost of tuition. Even with scholarships, grants, etc., you’re still going to come out with more debt than the annual salary of someone who will be your manager.

Aside from economical examples, this generation faces tremendous pressure to be beautiful by society’s standards. Parents of teenage girls, I would encourage you one time to just scroll through your daughter’s Instagram timeline. Notice the amount of weight loss products, makeup, acne treatments, and even plastic surgeries advertised to her between pictures of her friends and celebrities she follows. Notice the celebrities she follows are also pushing these products.

 

Everywhere around them, youth are being told, “You’re not good enough, but this product will help you.” Unrealistic goals are set for them in all areas of their lives, and when they cannot reach these goals, they end up feeling worthless. Our society creates a tangible measurement of worth through followers, likes, retweets, shares. Never before have humans been constantly evaluated in front of their peers in such a public facing way.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to this problem. What I can say is, parents be patient with your children. You don’t understand the pressures they face in this world because you didn’t have to grow up in it. Kids, try to separate these pressures from your self-worth. If you are chasing society’s conception of perfection, you will never be happy. You have to find ways to see the worth that does already exist inside you. And to both parties, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Seek advice, learn, grow, change, be understanding and compassionate, and if you ever feel worthless and helpless, talk to someone about it. It takes support to combat feelings of worthlessness. Lean on those in your life to build you up and remind you that you are worth it.

-        Bria

 

       The mother of one of my students is doing a course with my students on Fridays, and this past week she asked the kids to make an identity badge.  On this badge, the students were to list adjectives describing their character, tell their top four values, and identify themselves by name, job, ethnicity, gender, religion, and social class.  Each shared his badge on Friday.  

        It was good to hear that my students had positive views of themselves.  Just the day before, their answers to a test I’d given had sent me into a slight depression!  It always happens after the first test over The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  You see, the last two questions deal with how closely they identify with nihilism and to what extent they believe religion and existentialism are often mixed today.  I don’t know why, but the eighth grade students who take this test always seem to be hope-less.  They question “the point” to anything, and I get sadder and sadder as I grade!  Fortunately, my daughter is fantastic at helping me understand how my students’ lives are so very different than mine was at their age.  

       She pointed out that getting a job was a much simpler task when I was young.  I wouldn’t say it was simple, but I do see her point.  The pool from which to choose employees was limited by a file cabinet’s size when I was seeking employment.  Now, employers literally have the world from which to choose.  For us, it was a step-by-step plan to follow.  Nowadays, If you don’t get hired through an internship, you have to depend upon networking to get your foot in the door.  It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.  She also pointed out that hard work led to advancements in the job back then.  Today, people actually lose their jobs because of too much experience… a younger, less experienced worker is cheaper for the company.

        That same Internet that brings job candidates to the employer’s fingertips, lets your teen know that he is just one of millions.  She’s not as talented as others; he’s not as brave as many.  All of this information can make a kid question his worth.  Furthermore, it can make him question if it’s “worth it.”  Is it worth going through a break up to date?  Is it worth going to college when all your money will go to student debt?  Is it worth risking the pain that comes with real relationships when I can talk online with fellow Fortniters literally 24/7?  

         How do we work with a generation who one day sounds lost and the next seems self-confident?  I think the key is not to quit asking.  I think all teens have good days and bad days.  I think some teens have figured out the answers to give us so we’ll think they’re fine and leave them alone.  I encourage you to take the time to check how things are going with your teen.  I know the older they get, the more they retreat to their room for the evening, but you must establish some fellowship time.  The natural place is the dinner table, but that’s only if dinner is not out of a bag in between lessons and practices.  Whatever time it is, I encourage you to MAKE a time to talk to your kids… all the way till they head off for college (and then by phone!) because they are definitely worth it!

-        Michelle

           “Worth it? or “Worth it!”  What a difference there is between these two expressions.  Both are judgement calls which evaluate an experience as being good or bad.  I’ve used these expressions many times as a teacher in my classroom or as the chief administrator dealing with student discipline issues.

            One of my favorite teaching tools over the years was “The Giorgio Effect.”  I would bring in my favorite perfume gift my husband gave me for Christmas: a beautiful yellow and white striped bag which contained a box wrapped in gold and white striped wrapping paper sealed with a red wax imprinted seal much like a king’s signet ring seal.  Inside this box was a beautiful bottle of perfume with a gold cap which sat in a cradle of satin.  Yes, it was an expensive gift which my husband chose for me…especially for a person who grew up as poor as I did.  $150 was (and still is) a lot of money for perfume.

            I was so impressed with the beauty of this gift that I kept all the wrappings over these fifty plus years.  To teach my students how important it is for their projects, reports, or creations to make a good impression, I showed them a plastic bottle of perfume from the corner drug store.  The price of this plain plastic bottle of “smell good stuff” was approximately eight dollars.  Then, I showed them the Giorgio!

            As I carefully unwrapped the Giorgio perfume, students would “oooh” and “ahhh” much like I did upon receiving such a fine gift!  They could immediately see the difference in prices.  Presentation is very important!   Did this demonstration have a positive effect upon my students?  Well, I attended a memorial service a few months ago for a wonderful teaching assistant I hired years ago.  At the end of the service one of my former students came to see me for the first time since she graduated about twenty- five years ago.  “Mrs. Johnson,” she said, “I still remember the ‘Giorgio Effect’ which you taught me all those years ago!”  Yes, it was worth it!

            Being a first grade teacher is a difficult vocation.  We have much accountability for building the foundational skills of students.  Teaching the important skills of holding a pencil correctly for writing, teaching the correct form and spacing of letters in handwriting, and putting thoughts into written form are all extremely important skills which pay off later in school tasks.  Unless I am consistent and persuasive in these areas, my students will have difficulty throughout their school years.  But, like the “Giorgio Effect,” these basic skills, once mastered, can allow much more freedom of expression and flow of creative ideas as these students perform in school.  So, I think it is worth it!

            I couldn’t leave this subject without quoting words from one of my favorite hymns which has been floating around in my mind as I addressed this subject, “It will be worth it all…when we see Jesus! Earth’s trials will seem so small…when we see Him!”  Our school is filled with parents who have been willing to make a sacrifice to send their children to our private school.  My family and our staff will be working very hard to make it possible for them to say, “It’s worth it!”         

-        Kay

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

                                                                                                  -Steve Maraboli

When thinking about the concept of control, I have a lot of immediate reactions - both positive and negative. In efforts to collect my thoughts and hone in on one idea to discuss, I came across this quote that conveyed an idea I wasn’t thinking about at all: the acceptance of your own lack of power.

So often we think of control in regard to what we control in our lives and the ways in which others control us. We think about the power that we have, and the benefits and side effects of that power. Whenever we think about things we do not have control over, it is typically with a negative connotation. Reading this quote made me think about my relationship with control. As someone who finds herself in the bottom half of the organizational chart, it is easy to fixate on control. I am constantly relating situations to the power and control I do or do not have. As I begin to gain control in some areas, it makes the areas in which I have no control more and more frustrating.

I think the interesting part of the above quote is focusing on what you have control of and owning it. Being an event planner, I have heard a lot of motivational speakers and keynotes. One that always stuck with me was a speaker at a conference for female business owners. I distinctly remember her saying, “How are you supposed to be the CEO of your company if you can’t be the CEO of your own life?” This really resonated with me because the speaker was empowering the audience to take control of their own lives in addition to their careers.

Focusing on the parts of your life that you have control over and making the most of  those aspects of your life is the healthiest and most productive way to live your life. As students, you don’t have control of your entire life. What you do have control over is your drive, your performance, your attitude, etc. All of these are incredibly important aspects of growth and development. Someday you will have the control you want; in the meantime, use what you do have control over to drive success for the future.

                                                                                              -Bria

         Control is probably the best descriptor one could use for our present times.  People speak of a world “out of control.”  Others spend millions of dollars for ads which seek to give them control of the popular vote in various and sundry elections.  Medication ads tell us we can gain control over any and all kinds of maladies with their latest discovery…of course, there are side effects!  Educational institutions are a battleground where daily struggles occur between students and teachers over who will be in control of the classrooms. And last, if not least, TV programming has been interrupted by “difficulties beyond our control.”

            My control issue lately has been over the completion of our pavilion project of turning it into a wrestling gym/ multipurpose building.  I learned quickly that control over such projects is temporary and fleeting because so many people are involved.  Setbacks beyond our control have been scheduling of cement trucks (there are so few available); fabrication of metal pieces that must be made and in place before other steps take place; and the weather that often fails to cooperate.

            We have just completed our first full week of school.  I am busy trying to teach my first grade students how to control their handwriting.  Besides that, I must help them gain control over their impulses as they consider others who now share their “space.”   It will take a while to accomplish my goals, but I will persevere, and my students will eventually reap the benefits.  Learning to control one’s behavior is the first of many steps on the road to maturity.  I have to admit that getting these little ones to look beyond their own immediate desires seems to be a task that is a little harder than in the past.  Maybe that is due to very successful advertising in the media, coupled with the blessings of living in a “land of opportunity.” 

            We give scholar dollars to students for successful completion of tasks, etc.  They have control over these dollars in their bank…until they spend them.  A few have already gone to the treasure chest and are now seeking to replenish their savings.  Others have held tightly to their dollars and hope to gain more.  So…I am teaching them self-control…  Something we all need to learn again and again.

-        Kay

     Probably the most important factor in determining whether a student is accepted or not into our school is control.  Is the parent in control, or is the child?  If the child is in control, but the parent is seeking help to change that, we can help.  But if the child is in control, and the parent is firmly keeping him there, I will recommend rejection every time.  Let me explain.

     An alarmingly growing number of parents are letting their kids call the shots.  I understand using the sickeningly sweet voice with your dog or your cat, but children have the ability to reason… even at a young age.  Trying to coax a child into compliance is not reasoning with him.  Reasoning comes after compliance (or way before the situation ever occurs, pre-emptive, if you will).  Most children want to do what’s right and acting out is really a call for the parents to care enough to discipline.

    On the other hand, some elementary schools in our area have sought too much control.  The students wear uniforms, walk through the halls with “bubbles” in their mouths, and have no sugar on their campus (even going as far as taking the sweets out of lunch boxes brought to school!). Kids at our school have no uniforms, talk as they move between classes, and actually get a small dessert every day.  Yet, we have little trouble getting them to concentrate in class and do what’s right throughout the day.

     I think the key is expectations.  If you do not discipline your child at home, he will embarrass you when you try to do it in public.  If you set a high standard at home, he will keep to that high standard when in public.  You can reason with your child, but that reasoning comes along with compliance.  Children should understand why you need them to do something, but they also need to comply with that “something.”  This should not be a problem if you have been consistent with the child both at home and in public.

     High intelligence is no excuse for bad behavior.  Many of the students at our school have the potential to be Sheldon Coopers (Big Bang Theory).  We work very hard to help our children know that their rights do not trump others’ rights just because they are smarter than most.  

     If you are in control when they are young, you will not have to tightly control when they become teens.  It is important that you relinquish some of that control as the kids grow.  Third graders and on should pick what they wear… even if those clothes might strike you as odd.  (Your control can come in the form of supply.  “I will not buy that type of clothing, but you may use your money to buy them.”)  Kids should have a tablet or phone in mid-middle school, but you should control availability of content and freedom to keep it if misused.  High schoolers should be able to drive and spend an evening out with friends, but they should also have a curfew and maintenance jobs with the car. 

      If it helps, think of “control” as this:  love.  The parent who cares whether his daughter makes it home safely after a date has a curfew because he loves her.  The parent who gives the teen no curfew may not know for a full day that his teen did not come home.  That might be too late to save her.   I’m a morning person.  In high school, I loved my curfew because I was tired!  “It’s not my fault; I have a curfew….  Ahhhh, bed!”  If you play your cards right, your teen will actually appreciate the areas you still control.  

     Until then, please do your child’s teacher a favor.  The best students are the ones whose parents explained their reasoning but were definitely in control.  

-        Michelle

Common

     It’s a new school year, and we’re back to writing again.  Welcome to those of you who are new to our blog, and good to share with you again to those who are returning!  We have chosen the word common to explore this week.  We hear the term common often nowadays:  Common Core, common sense, The Commons on the Internet.  There are at least five definitions of the word common, and I have to wonder why the rapper chose “Common” as his name.

    How much do we really have in common?  I hear people ask us to use “common sense,” but I’m not sure what makes sense to me makes sense to the next person.  I think there was a time when a lot of people had the same idea about things and we called that sense “common.”  That was a simpler time… back when there were just three television channels… back when we only heard local news…back when our “worlds” were much smaller.

    Today, I am amazed when parents tell me that pediatricians are recommending beginning potty training at three.  My children both were potty-trained before two.  I cringe as parents tell me of day care center workers who no longer correct bad behavior, but rather “re-direct” the focus of the child.  And I refuse to join the ranks of those who have thrown out teaching cursive writing.  (If we cannot read the documents our founding forefathers wrote, we have to trust that what others tell us is true.  That didn’t go so well for the men of Afghanistan who could not read their Quran and, therefore, became easy targets for the deceit of the Taliban.)

     Do I have much in common with the “sense” of today?  I don’t know.  Is my generation’s thinking becoming obsolete?  It might be, but I don’t think our teaching style is.  I recently conducted a tour in which the prospective client told me that he asks all of the children who come through his business which school they attend.  Inevitably, the best ones come from our school.  He made the decision that he wanted his son to attend our school, too.  What a great compliment!  Believe me, it is not a coincidence… we work very hard to make sure our kids make wise choices.  We let them know when they’ve made bad ones, and we help them to make better choices next time.

     This blog is intended to offer help to parents of gifted children.  You will find that raising gifted kids requires some ingenuity.  Expect our blog to offer some uncommon ideas because your kids are anything but common!

-        Michelle

Welcome back! It’s been awhile! After a summer sabbatical, we are back into the swing of things, and this week we are talking about “common.” There are a lot of ways to interpret “common,” but for this week, in the time we are living in now, I think it makes the most sense to focus on what we have in common. 

Commonality can be viewed negatively; people want to stand out and be individuals. We are living in a time where personal branding is top of mind, and people, specifically young people, feel pressure to add qualifiers and distinguishers to their personalities to prove individuality. While it is great for kids, teens and young adults to understand their identities and what makes them unique, this differentiation causes a separation that makes it harder to relate to their peers.

Think about the scenarios in which friendships blossom. Maybe you met your best friend at a flag football tournament, or in choir, or maybe through mutual friends. All of these scenarios involve commonality bringing people together. This is the time of their lives for your kids to make friends and develop skills with interpersonal relationships. It’s so important to encourage them to find like-minded individuals with which to learn and grow.

The constant segmentation and over-definition of personalities is a great way for your child to understand who he is, but he must also find interests that he has in common with his peers to build relationships upon. Think about the people you know that characterize themselves with a laundry list of descriptive adjectives and identities. Are those people surrounded by healthy, mutually-beneficial relationships? For me, these people in my life have a few like-minded relationships, but they largely avoid a lot of potentially great encounters based off of a list of qualifiers and standards for their interpersonal relationships.

I 100% encourage you to give your children room to discover themselves and their unique values and traits that make up their personalities. At the same time, remind them that people are not always going to fit our expectations and perfect preferences; however, opening oneself up to a variety of types of people with different personalities and backgrounds will ultimately help them grow as people.

As we embark on a new school year, your children will come into contact with new faces. Remind them to be accepting and open to friendships with people they wouldn’t normally describe as their ideal friends. Also remember to keep an open mind about the people your children invite into their lives. This is the time for them to learn, grow, experience conflict, and learn to bond and connect with people outside of their family. Give them room to grow and enjoy the commonality with their fellow students.

                                                                                                           Bria

Common… shared by a number in a group.  That definition pretty-well expresses a lot of the statements I hear from parents who are enrolling their children in Lawton Academy each year.  These common ideas include: “My kid’s ADHD;” “It’s not his/her fault…it’s mine;” “I had trouble when I was in school , too.” and  “He/She is just like I was.”

               Often times, there really isn’t a common trait between parent and child.  However, there is a common thought-process in America today that anyone who fidgets or has a short attention span must be ADHD.  Not so!  I can remember students fifty years ago who couldn’t stand to be alone with their own thoughts for even a few minutes.  They talked, hummed, tapped, or just wiggled in general to avoid being alone with their own thoughts.

               Much of society today has decided to blame any misbehavior or distraction upon chemicals or other such entities which cause ADHD.  And of course, society willingly seeks medication to cover or treat this “social illness.”  However, my observation has generally shown much of the behaviors called ADHD are really the inevitable outcome of inconsistent parenting.  Many families have come to our school and worked with our staff to learn how to be more consistent in the parenting process.  The results?  Many of those “ADHD” children are doing fine in school!

               Don’t get me wrong, there are truly ADHD children who do need help through medication which reverses the hyperactivity in their brains.  But the records of educational institutions show about 90% of young boys in school are listed as ADHD.  I think (personal opinion) boys just have a tougher time adjusting to the typical restraints placed upon them in school settings.  I have always referred to this as the “Huckleberry Finn syndrome.”  These boys love the outdoors and big movement activities.  Many of them are truly “wise” about how things work in the “real” world outside school walls.

               As an administrator for fifty-four years, I have seen curriculum ideas come and go a number of times.  I watched the “New Math” protests of the sixties turn into the “changing paradigms” of the eighties, and now the “common core” curriculum fights for supremacy.  I think it is just “common” in mankind to always be looking for “the next best thing!” 

               In fact, I am already seeing some indicators that people are growing a little tired of video games.  I wonder what the new “common” entertainment platform will be next.  This blog certainly allows me to see those ideas our family of three generations hold in common, and those ideas which are quite oppositional among us.  It gives me “food for thought!”          

-        Kay

Summer Break

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

                                                                              Michelle, Kay, and Bria

Risk

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

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

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

-          Bria

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

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

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

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

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

-          Michelle

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

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

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

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

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

-          Kay

Truth

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

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

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

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

-          Bria

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

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

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

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

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

-          Michelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Kay

Under Pressure

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

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

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

-          Bria

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Kay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Michelle 

Monday Mornings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Kay