Monday Mornings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Kay

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

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

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

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

-          Bria

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Michelle 

Moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Michelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Kay

 

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                       - Bria

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Kay

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Michelle

Spring Fever

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Michelle

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

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

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

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

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

-          Bria

                Spring fever is a difficult subject to write about since I am sitting in front of a warm fire trying to overcome the chill of a very cold Easter Sunday!  Mother Nature certainly played the ultimate April’s Fool joke on our state!

                Having survived fifty plus years of teaching students during their spring fever days, I have many emotions connected to this phrase.  Mostly, I think, “God, please help us to survive these last weeks of school since students and staff are beginning to suffer from spring fever.”   My husband and I have a small RV camper which we store on the school grounds where we can remind ourselves daily that we need to schedule some time away from the school and students.  He said our retirement years will pass quickly enough; thus, we must make time for rest and relaxation.  Well, we’ve used that camper maybe four times in the past year!  But he’s right…when you see your investment staring at you every day, you are prone to start scheduling some down time!

                Perhaps the hardest part of trying to teach during the spring fever days is bringing about connectivity in the minds of our students.  The whole year is almost gone, much information and skill has been carefully packed into the learning hours.  Now, we must carefully tie a knot in the thread of learning to hold the string of knowledge together in such a meaningful way that students will be able to take a summer break and then come back to school, unknot the thread and add more information and skills to their continuous line of knowledge.  This is not an easy task!

                Thank goodness for yearly academic achievement tests.  These nationally normed tests allow us a glimpse at that thread of learning for each child.  We can make comparisons and draw conclusions about learner needs and then plan for them accordingly.  In a way, what we are doing at this time of the year is not unlike what the birds are doing outside.  We are preparing the nest for our children.  If we do a good job of analysis, preparation and planning for student growth each year, we shall produce a fine citizen for our country!   

                                                                             -   Kay

Frustration

  My working definition of frustration is blocked progress.  The baby becomes frustrated when his hands won’t grab your necklace like he wants them to; the toddler is frustrated when you block his entry; and both show it with a little temper tantrum.  As we grow in age, we are expected to use our words to solve situations when frustration arises. 

   Over the years, I have seen gifted students’ frustrations manifested in numerous ways.  The two most popular are depression and the temper tantrum.  Yes, I still see temper tantrums in school-aged kids.  You would think an older child or young teen would be embarrassed to throw such a fit, but you would be ignoring the gifted child’s intense desire to be right, win, or be treated fairly.  In the gifted child, this drive is so strong that it trumps any civility he might have been taught. I can certainly identify with this one!  I sometimes do some pretty immature things when I am frustrated. 

   If temper tantrums occur at an older age, there are two possible triggers.  One is that someone is over-indulgent.  The tantrums have worked to get what the gifted person wants, so why stop?  The second trigger (which is my trigger) is blocked communication.  The person by whom the gifted person is being frustrated has blocked any effort to communicate his side, so the gifted person “strikes,” kind of like a snake backed in a corner.

   The problem is that people dealing with the frustrated gifted person often are just trying to help.  They do not see that they have blocked a grand plan or just tipped the scales of justice toward another or simply assumed they knew what the person was thinking or would want when in reality they were nowhere near.  If the gifted person is forced to remain in the relationship, say with a teacher or a boss, the continued inability to communicate can lead to tantrums and immature actions.

   Tantrums are an outward manifestation of the frustration.  More dangerous, in my opinion, is the inward manifestation of frustration:  depression.  Some gifted people decide it is of no use to fight.  They simply harbor all the pent-up frustration until they are so sad, nothing feels worth it.  Because of this danger, I actually prefer that my kids put up a fight.  Granted, I am teaching them to fight with their words instead of with a temper tantrum or immature acts (in spite of the fact that I still sometimes do those things!), but I am trying to get them to get it out there.  Often the other party doesn’t even know he’s frustrating them.  (Think Fortunato in The Cask of Amontillado.)

   The obvious advice to a gifted person when someone repeatedly frustrates him is to “stay away from that person.” What if that person is their teacher or a boss… or you?  “Staying away” is not the best advice for learning to work through it.  Confrontation until communication occurs is the only plausible answer.

   This is what the teens from Parkland High School are doing.  They are frustrated that gun violence cost their friends’ lives.  They cannot communicate with the government because they have no voting ability, and government officials often only act in ways that keep them in office.  Their only course for action?  Confront until that communication happens. 

   The next time you are dealing with someone who throws a fit or who gives up too easily, do a good examination of yourself.  There’s a chance you are being unfair or you are not listening.  Communication is a two-way street.  Don’t be the proverbial “brick wall.”

-          Michelle

            Frustration is almost a constant in today’s busy world…no matter what the job, the position, or the role one occupies.  Education is no exception.  In my early career, frustration was mostly present in our Special Education areas or our Title I programs for disadvantaged students.  Nothing frustrated more than not being able to “fix” a learning problem.  We spent countless hours writing individual educational plans (IEP) and meeting with all parties involved in the life of that child; however, often the results were still the same: not much progress was made.

            Today’s frustration is exponentially greater because it has added ADHD and drug addictions to the mix.  Video gaming addiction is also creating atmospheres of frustration among educators.  Now, at least here in Oklahoma, teacher salaries have stagnated for the past five years or so and have caused the threat of a teacher walkout next week.  Needless to say, that event will certainly add to everyone’s level of frustration.

            Personally, I mostly notice frustration when I can’t seem to “reach” a student in my efforts to increase his/her desire to learn.  It seems that desire to be successful in learning new concepts isn’t easy to pass on to others who don’t want to learn.  What do I do when I hit the proverbial “brick wall?”  I gather information from the field of psychology, motivational theory, teaching pedagogy and then, after reading all the latest research I can find, I pray.  Yes, I pray for wisdom and the right decisions in designing a learning path to reach the seemingly “unreachable” child.  Is this method successful?  Yes, and no.  As I have mentioned often in these articles, more than a dozen of my former students have met untimely deaths or horrible living situations.  For others, God has given me strategies that proved very successful.

            Perhaps the best guide I have found over the years is a book by Dr. Sylvia Rimm titled, Underachievement Syndrome (Causes and Cures).  Perhaps the list of student profiles in her book will give you a hint of its content.  The characters are: Hyperactive Harry, Passive Paul, Perfectionist Pearl, Jock Jack and Dramatic Dick, Taunted Terrance, Rebellious Rebecca, Bully Bob, Manipulative Mary, Adopted Annie, Sick Sam, Torn Tommy, Academic Alice, and Creative Chris.

            Dr. Rimm states, “All children, all people, achieve less than they are capable of some of the time.  It is only when underachievement becomes a habitual way of responding in school that it should become a serious concern.”  So, for parents of students in my school who feel their children can cause a great deal of frustration, I have a quick summary of these cases that may be helpful. Just ask me for it.  Everyone could learn a great deal about frustration through the reading of this book.  My copy is from 1988, but it might be found through Alibris or another book locator online.      

-          Kay

It’s a typical situation, you wake up late only to find that your children are already awake, and they are coloring on the walls with sharpies. You get yourself together and out the door, but you are still 30 minutes late to work. You walk in just in time for a meeting you are unprepared for and you notice that you have spilled some of your coffee on your shirt. You’re feeling frustrated. We’ve all been there. Whether it is a series of unfortunate events that ruins your day, or a colleague that is difficult to work with, none of us are strangers to the feeling.

It doesn’t matter as much where your frustration stems from as it does how you handle your frustration. The expression of frustration ranges from people who completely suppress or internalize their feelings to people who take out their frustrations on others in their lives. Neither of these extremes are appropriate or healthy behaviors.

We have to find a midpoint of acknowledging and dealing with our frustrations by giving them a healthy outlet. For some people, that outlet is exercise; others channel their frustration to motivate them to work harder to achieve their goals. By giving your frustration a healthy outlet, you can relieve some of the pressure of keeping these emotions bottled up inside of you.

Aside from identifying an outlet, it is important to communicate about your frustration with a confidant, or in some situations, the person from which the frustration stems. Venting to someone in your life who is a “neutral other” to the scenario that is frustrating to you is a good way to relieve the stressful feelings and talk through your feelings and actions.

Additionally, there are some situations in which it is appropriate to communicate with the source of your frustration. This doesn’t work in every situation; for example, it would not often be smart to communicate your frustrations about your boss to your boss. However, in situations such as friendships or relationships where both people are on an even playing field, it is healthy to communicate your frustrations in efforts to mend the relationship. Frustration will always be a part of our lives. We just have to find the best way to deal with it. Appropriately dealing with frustration and identifying a healthy outlet for frustration shows a lot of maturity in one’s life.

-          Bria

Overcompensating

Overcompensation is something that in practice can seem obnoxious or over the top, but also is very sad because overcompensation stems from feelings of inferiority. Generally, people who overcompensate are not my favorite people; they can come off as self-absorbed and egotistical. This behavior is dangerous because, not only does it serve to cover up insecurity, but it is also generally driven by the desire to be more powerful or better than others.

    The problem with overcompensation it that it can affect one’s psyche. Overcompensation acts as a defense mechanism. It keeps people from dealing with their issues. It’s basically a wall that people put up when they don’t want to face their own insecurities and shortcomings. While these people might seem confident and even egotistical on the outside, they are struggling, consciously or subconsciously, on the inside.

    It’s easy to get frustrated with people in our life who overcompensate. The coworker or fellow student who is always bragging about his accomplishments and putting others down to make himself feel good is definitely our least favorite colleague. Generally, we write these people off and avoid them if possible. This is not the correct reaction. It is not easy to show compassion to people who overcompensate, but it is these people that need our kindness and words of affirmation the most. They feel the need to brag about themselves and overcompensate because they aren’t receiving positive feedback from others in their lives.

    It isn’t easy to actively show kindness to these people in our lives, but by spreading positivity and good thoughts, less of these people will feel the need to overcompensate in the first place. Compliment others; be kind and caring. These people seem annoying, but they are really just hurting. Make an effort to be the bigger person and remember that in your daily lives.

-          Bria

     Quick!  Let’s make a list of all the words we can make derogatory simply by adding the prefix “over-“:  overeating, overindulging, overwhelming, overpowering, overestimating, overprescribing, overcommitting, overweight…  I could go on for awhile before hitting one word beginning with “over” that was not negative in nature.  Today’s topic is equally negative:  overcompensating.  Compensating involves focusing attention away from the things we’re not good at by excelling in another area.  Overcompensating is very similar in that it hides feelings of inferiority in an area.  But in the drive for excellence, there are also goals of striving for power, control, and even superiority over others. 

    Usually gifted kids will shy away from activities that make them feel inferior, so overcompensating is not usually an issue.  At our school, however, I make teens try again so that failure is not the last memory.  Some students succeed the second time; more often, they either sabotage their second offering so they can prove they are not good at it, or they overcompensate, which still causes a failure.  At that point, I use the teachable moment, and I let them move on to the next pursuit. 

    Ironically, the parents of gifted kids often overcompensate.  My theory is that this is because gifted kids do a really good job of making their parents feel guilty.  Guilty for working long hours, guilty for not keeping them in the latest technology and gadgets, guilty for making them attend regular school… you get the point.

   Parents of gifted, you can compensate for the slowness of the classroom your child has to endure or the inability to keep financial pace with the demand for newer technology without having to move into overcompensating. Compensating for the slow pace in school could be done through supplemental material and a tutor, educational pursuits after school or in camps, or a move to an accelerated private school.  Overcompensating would be paying for the grades because now they are going to “a harder school” or bringing your child a gift every time you had to work late. 

   Do not underestimate the mind of a gifted child.  I tell my school parents often not to argue with their gifted children; they’ll come away making monthly payments to their child for having put them through hell during the birthing process!  Your gifted child knows how to get what he wants, and he is more than willing to heap a dose of guilt onto your already horrible day to get it. 

   Compensating is part of being a parent.  Kids, I know you have lots of friends and you really enjoy your school, but Daddy’s job is requiring us to move to Kansas.  I know it seems like a bummer, but we are going to buy a house on ten acres, and we will put in a garden to raise some of our own vegetables and we are going to have chickens!   Compensating is instrumental in moving on.  Overcompensating means there is guilt involved.  Did Dad have to move to keep is job?  Then there should be no guilt involved.  When the kids ask if they can also fly their best friends up once a month, the answer “no” roles easily and guilt-freely off the lips. 

   I don’t know if it’s the influence of social media or all the talking heads offering their opinion on anything and everything, but I see a lot more parents overcompensating nowadays.  Examples:  I have to go get groceries and you have to come with me; overcompensation -> if you’re good, I will buy you a treat.  I have a big project due by Monday, and I will need every minute of the weekend to work on it.  I cannot go to your game; overcompensating -> I’ve hired someone to video tape it and you and I will go to Disneyland next weekend to make up for me missing your game in person. 

    What’s wrong with just expecting kids to know you have to run errands and that little ones cannot stay home alone, no matter how boring the shopping is?  Who decided parents must be at every event in which their kids participate?  I’ve got to tell you, parents, I have had secondary students beg me not to allow parents to accompany us.  It’s not that they don’t like their parents; they just want to be free to be goofy and hang out with their friends without Mom or Dad judging, correcting, or interfering. Your kids are playing the guilt card because they want a treat or Disneyland… or even just to see you writhe. 

   Lest you think I’m painting gifted children as beasts, let me clarify.  Gifted kids are great!  There are all sorts of positive traits I can list about gifted kids.  Smart would fall under “great” and under “dangerous,” though.  I can remember as a child arguing with my mother and being really cruel.  In my mind, I was thinking You’re being really mean.  You should stop.  Then I wouldn’t because... well, she was wrong, and I couldn’t let her get away with being wrong.  She had to understand that I was right, and until she did, I kept arguing.  Many of my students have identified with this very same thought-process.  Gifted kids don’t seek to be mean; it just happens in the process of proving a point!  Wow, my parents feel really guilty about having to work so hard.  It doesn’t really bother me; I like after care.  I can’t let them know that, though.  Maybe I’ll get an iPad out of this if I let the tears fall at just the right time.

  This wheeling-n-dealing” behavior will be advantageous when they are older.  Your job is to recognize when they are using it on you and teach them how to use their powers for good!  If you are providing a good home with plenty to eat and lots of parental encouragement and support, you have no reason to feel guilty.  Compensate, but don’t overcompensate.

-          Michelle

Overcompensation is something I am often guilty of doing where my family or our school is concerned.  My therapist-husband has helped me over the years to be aware of this tendency.  I believe it probably started when I was placed in the first gifted program in St. Louis in the fifth grade.  I was not aware of how poor my family was until I was mixed with rich students from better parts of the city as we were grouped together for the GT classes.  I also was not aware of how limiting my parents’ lack of even a high school education was for me until I mingled with students whose parents were degreed professionals.  And how did I handle all this?  I overcompensated!  No matter what the project or the task at hand, I had to work harder, longer, and “better” than the others to prove I was close to equal in that class.

            Then, as the administrator of a small school, I found myself overcompensating for my students because our small district couldn’t afford to field the many different sports and music programs of the larger districts.  Did all this overcompensating do good or harm?  Well, from my point of view, it caused me to achieve far beyond the norm for my profession and place in life.  I have garnered many awards and accolades which were nice and helped define success as an administrator.  However, the most meaningful rewards were the thanks and letters of appreciation I have received from families of past students.  However, my marriage almost ended twice…a price that I did not want to pay.  So, I have been helped by recognizing the effects of overcompensating, and then working to prevent it raising its ugly head again and again in my life.

            Just yesterday while working at school on a Saturday, I received a phone call that someone was racing an ATV all over our soccer field.  As I summoned the driver over to the school, I explained that he was on private property and we did not allow such use of the land.  He had a child (not more than 8 years old) in front, driving with him holding her in place.  As he left trying to explain to her that she didn’t do anything wrong, I started thinking about the situation.  Then that word “overcompensating” came to my mind.

            Why do parents let themselves be talked into buying city kids ATVs when they have no property upon which to ride them?  Here was a father trying to spend time with his daughter on Saturday, yet it wasn’t, in my opinion, the best choice of activities for a child her age, especially since he was doing it in an illegal manner.  I’ve seen many parents make equally questionable choices, overcompensating for having missed so much time with their children by letting them do “over-the-top” activities.  That’s when I decided we parents all need to listen to the song “The Cat’s in the Cradle,” and instead of overindulging our kids and overcompensating for lost time together, just do the right thing: spend precious moments talking with and enjoying our children in the things they are doing.   

-          Kay

 

I Blame Daylight Saving Time

Oops!  It's Monday, and I forgot to post yesterday!  We are currently on spring break, but I had fully planned to keep our posts going.  Kay was traveling back home from her trip; Bria had the day off, but we're here in Chicago with her.  Between DST and the travel, I guess we all just forgot!

I do want to brag on Bria, though.  My husband and I had the privilege of attending the one-year anniversary of mHub Chicago, Bria's workplace.  As event planner, she pulled off a fabulous day of celebration for 1600 people.  She handled all the logistics and food for the eight panels, two meals, 60,000+sq. ft. of event space, and fifteen hours of meeting, networking, and celebrating.  We are so very proud of her!

We'll be back with our regular blogs next Sunday.  Happy almost spring!

                                                                                 - Michelle

Power

In my last quarter of grad school, I took a class called, “Politics and Power in Organizations.” I chose this class partially because it sounded interesting, but mostly because it fit my schedule. I didn’t entirely know what to expect going into the course, but I ended up with a really interesting perspective on power.

Jeffrey Pfeffer was the author of our textbook, and his work laid the foundation for what we would learn in the class. Pfeffer defined power based on the ability to influence others. He believes that to get power, one must identify his goals, figure out who is important to achieving them, identify the power bases of other players and one’s own sources of power, and consider the tactics and strategies available to get what is wanted  . This is a very self-serving viewpoint of power, but it’s not entirely unrealistic. What Pfeffer is using is a traditional approach to power which is based on decision making, control of resources and ability to influence others.

There are other approaches to power that take into consideration “discourses of difference,” such as race, class, gender and sexuality that also affect power in both a macro and micro sense. These approaches acknowledge that there are forces at play in our society that affect our ability to obtain and enforce power. For instance, in many cultures, men are inherently given more power than women. We also see this occurrence between races and social classes. In that case, if you are born as one of the “have nots,” how do you go about obtaining power?

Pfeffer has a couple of tips for obtaining power that is not inherently bestowed upon you. He says, choose where you want to start- diagnose the power players, situation and location, don’t be afraid to stand out or break some rules, create your own resources, network and use social alliances, and act powerful. Being in an environment where I get to watch startup companies come together out of nowhere, and in some cases become very successful and influential, I believe there is a lot of merit to this kind of power. Looking at leaders that were born with power gives me no great feeling of pride. Hearing about influential people like J.K. Rowling and Oprah that had a troubled past, experienced failures, and pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, is 100% more inspirational. As your kids grow up, encourage them to become these kind of leaders. I believe that people who come by their power and influence through hard work and determination become the best leaders.

Right now we have people in power that did not earn their place. That is resulting in selfish acts an uninformed decisions. By teaching your children to work their way towards power and influence, you are giving them the opportunity to experience hardships and tribulations that will give them a depth of experience to pull from when making important decisions. This kind of leadership understands those beneath them, because they have been in those positions themselves. Not only will this make your child more genuine and authentic, but it will also give him compassion in his decisions and wisdom in his actions. To achieve this, you must let your child pursue power on his own and experience failure and success of his own merit. This will help your child become the kind of person you would want to work for.

                                                                                                                                -Bria

Power, I believe, is the reason behind the Bible verse, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”  The Golden Rule has often been misquoted as “Them who have the gold…rule!”  But rather than be a gag line for comedians, it does appear that money is the enabler for power-hungry despots.  It seems that one must be rich or have a rich backer to even consider running for the highest offices in our country.  And since the salaries and perks of government offices are often less than most executive level positions in the business world, it appears power may be the sought after “gold ring.”

                As a child, I noted the bullies in the TV shows were usually quite weak when separated from their gang members.  I always felt vindication and relief as I saw them suffer for the terror they inflicted upon others.  Unlike movies today, it was always the good guys who won and overcame the evil.  In fact, I can remember being upset when I viewed the first movie which caused me to see things through the eyes of the evil character…and even feel sorry for him.  It shook my foundations!

                Today, I see a plethora of power struggles all around me.  Our nation is divided in so many areas.  Yet, most all of these struggles boil down to good versus evil concepts.  Students in schools have been given amazing power which is often used to negate the goal of education itself.  Laws have been passed which have removed power from the educators who are desperately trying to teach.  The sad state it has brought about is a teacher shortage because not many people are willing to step into that arena. 

                I just received an e-mail from a friend who attached the address made to Congress by the father of a student who was killed in the Columbine School shooting.  Of course, there’s controversy over when this address was given, but if you read it, there’s much truth in it.  His name is Darrell Scott, if you’d like to read the accounts.  Basically, he states what I believe…prayer is powerful and it cannot be removed from our schools.  As long as I have breath and a brain, I can whisper a prayer to God and be heard.  No law, government, or individual can prevent that communication with God.  But the problem seems to be that many have given up prayer in their own lives.  Thus, they become powerless.

                “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is the verse that helped me overcome the terrors in my life.  When I am working with students who have been abused, I can relate to them my story and how God gave me the power to succeed in all things.  God has never failed me.  So, I don’t sit around worrying about the daily power struggles of life.  Instead, I pray for my family, my students and teachers, our nation and those who would protect our freedoms.  There is POWER in prayer and I think most people realize that.  Why else do they ask for prayer immediately after they have been through a terrible tragedy?    

                                                                                       - Kay