Love

“Love makes the world go ‘round” according to a song that was popular when I was a lot younger.  Then during the first quarter of my fifty-four year marriage, I learned that “Love means never having to say ‘I’m sorry.’”  While both of these memorable sayings have stuck in my mind over the years, I have found them both to be myths.  Love is a very complicated emotion which can have various and often unpredictable outcomes in life.            It has often been pointed out that we have one word for love in the English language, which we freely use to describe our feelings about anything from our food and drinks to the emotional ties between people to our favorite pastimes.  Yet, other languages may have three or more different words for love, depending upon the situation.  So, we have been guilty of making it a very generic term while others have created distinctive terms to describe the emotions accurately.

            Much of what is done in life is blamed upon “love” as in, “I did it for you…because I love you.”  However, children I’ve taught over the years often saw many “acts of love” as guilt-driven remorse by their parents.  Some parents have been so overloaded with work duties and responsibilities that they try to make it up to their children by giving said children their hearts’ desires.  But is that love?  Let me give one classic example that happened long ago in our school.

            One of our students carried a one-foot square piece of rabbit skin fur with her every day to school.  She never laid it down, but always carried it and rubbed it on her cheek throughout the day.  I tried, to no avail, to get her to leave it behind or put it in a safe place during school.  I even tried to appeal to some shame since she was about fourth grade level.  She would have nothing to do with the suggestions.  Soon, I began to notice more and more students showing up with similar pieces of fur, which they proceeded to hold and rub against their faces. 

            Finally, one of my staff members told me she heard a clerk at a local store tell a customer, “I don’t know what they use it for, but it is quite the item…we can’t keep them in stock!”  That was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I confronted the students with my questions.  All of them said they bought them because so-and-so had one.  Then, they liked the way it felt.  At last, I asked the girl who started the fad.  “Sometimes, I just wish my parents would hug me.”  Then I knew it was a substitute for missing affectionate hugs from some very busy parents.  After that admission, my staff and I gave out hugs freely.  The rabbit furs all disappeared. 

            I haven’t thought about this incident since it happened.  Today, our students give and receive hugs all the time.  Parents who come into the school are also often met with three and four-year-olds who hug their legs and giggle with recognition.  (Yes, we watch and are very careful at all times.)  We have not taken the attitude of many schools which have a “no touch” policy in place.  We have a very family-like feeling in our school which warms the hearts of all… everyday… not just on a day like last week’s Valentine’s Day.  Hmm…when these students say, “I just love this school!”  I wonder if I should be dissecting that word for its actual meaning; or, should I just accept it and have a good day as I revel in it?!   

-          Kay

 

Well, we survived another Valentine's Day at Lawton Academy! Actually, we  in the secondary barely acknowledged it this year, as the state archery tournament was on Valentine’s Day. In years past, I have dealt with prank secret admirers, unrequited love, budding relationships, showers of affection from current couples, and declarations of “never going to fall in love.” I enjoy reminding those who do the latter of their protestations when they eventually do begin dating.

     Parents of gifted teens should be aware that their children have strong feelings about love. Many of my gifted boys desperately want a girlfriend, some even becoming suicidal in high school if they still haven’t found one. I am constantly encouraging my boys not  to become jaded when girls don’t understand how romantic they’re trying to be. Their wives are going to love this stuff!

    Gifted girls don’t pigeonhole as easily; I’ve seen it all. One thing common to both sexes when dealing with gifted is the desire to have one person with whom they can share everything. I often tell my kids that this is because, as gifted adults, they will be so overcommitted that they won’t have much time for many more friends than their spouses!  

    Dating has been interesting to watch. I have seen those not allowed to date, “sneak” relationships while at school, and I have seen parents push romances just to know that their kids can get dates. I find with gifted that it is best not to bring it up until they are questioning. Then a healthy discussion of the joys and pains of dating can include ways to protect from the pain and celebrate the joys. I have found that parents who give too much guidance suffer the same problems as those who give little to none.  Gifted teens like to be treated like adults, so don’t spare the details of “going too far.” Gifted usually can understand how their plans for life could be ruined in a spur of the moment decision.

    Because many gifted are very rule-driven, it is important that you teach your children love doesn’t always play by the rules. Sometimes we love someone deeply, and they don’t feel the same way.  We have to teach our kids to note the things they like about that person and add it to a list of attributes they ultimately want in a spouse.

    If you open dialogue with your gifted teen about dating and marriage, often you will get to offer an opinion on the one they want to marry without breaking your relationship. Always remember that, although gifted are stubborn, they are also smart. Treat them as thinking adults and they will be one!

-          Michelle

Love, in my opinion, is the most powerful emotion. It can overcome hardships and stress and it can be sustained for decades. This time of year it’s easy to talk about love we have for others in our lives. We often forget how important it is to love ourselves. In my experience, it’s much easier to love another person and forgive them for their mistakes and faults. It’s hard to give ourselves the same leniency.

As a whole, millennials seem to struggle with self and self-appreciation. Partially because we hold ourselves to a high standard and partially because the media depicts unrealistic standards, we judge ourselves harder than what is fair or necessary.

Many people believe that you cannot adequately love another person until you truly love yourself. Why are there so many people giving all of their love to those in their lives and not saving any for themselves?

It is incredibly important to show your loved ones how much you love them through acts of kindness and gifts, but at the end of the day, if you are not showing yourself that same love, it will affect your self-esteem and you are going to come off less confident.

So how do we learn to love ourselves? Here are a few easy steps to practice self-love. Affirmations are incredibly important to your own self-love and confidence. Look in the mirror in the morning and say three things you like about yourself. I know this sounds like a daunting task, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. This will help you notice you have a really great smile, or beautiful eyes. Beyond the physical, make sure to point out things you like about your personality.

Next, practice self-love by not allowing others to treat you less kindly than you should be treated. Don’t accept a bad relationship because you think you can’t do better. Don’t let your friends bully you into things that make you uncomfortable. Another step to self-love is making people in your life treat you how you should be treated. Stay humble, but don’t let people push you around because you have low self-esteem.

During this season of love remember that the love you show yourself is just as important as the love you show the special people in your life. By ensuring that you love yourself and being kind to yourself, you will be able to love those in your life more deeply and genuinely. Achieving self-love is a journey that takes work and time. You will have to work each day to maintain self-love and let it grow within you. Making this a priority will improve several areas of your life. What are you doing today to show yourself how much you love you?

-          Bria

Experience

     As I write this, my husband and I just finished watching Only the Brave, the movie detailing the events surrounding the death of the Granite Mountain Hotshots - the nineteen elite firefighters who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.  The first half of the movie is the firefighters seeking to prove they have the experience to become “hotshots.”  Once they do, the superintendent has enough experience to see that they are in imminent danger, but there is no escape path.  It’s a truly heartbreaking recount.

    Earlier in the day, I took the final two high school students who needed to qualify for speech regionals to competition.  Both were suffering from extreme anxiety about speaking publicly.  Oddly enough, both had experienced success in previous years in public speaking events.  

   Experience is a funny thing.  Fresh college graduates hear again and again, “We want someone with a little more experience,” and they wonder how they will ever get that experience if they cannot get the job.  

   I don’t have a definitive answer on how to get that experience, but I do know that gifted kids need to be exposed to a multitude of experiences.  While colleges like to see a potential student stay with one experience for an extended period of time, they are equally happy about the student who has been involved in many activities.  Your gifted child fits that bill.

   Several times during my son’s high school years, I offered him the chance to go back to public school.  His answer was always that he could not be involved in as many activities there as he could at our school.  He and Bria did everything.  Band and vocal music, student council, class officers, honor society, art, speech, cooking, robotics, drama, dancing, foreign language… if we offered it, they were involved!  I so see where those experiences have made them outstanding in their chosen fields.

   The really cool thing about gifted kids is that they are usually really good at juggling multiple activities and at doing them well.  I used to worry that my students would not be able to pull it all together for our end-of-the-year musicals, but not one group of gifted kids in the last fifteen years has let me down.  

   As the parents of gifted kids, please give your children as many experiences as you can.  Let them try it all… within reason, of course.  After all, you become the financier and the chauffeur for all these experiences.  You can only do so much!  I hear parents worry about their kids become overcommitted.  The only kids I’ve seen let responsibilities fall by the wayside are the ones allowed access to their video game consoles and devices without limit.

   I believe I have more-than stated my disdain for the experiences the Internet affords.  I will never be a fan of “virtually” experiencing life.  I do not understand how children can be allowed to have their faces glued to a screen non-stop.  Heck, some are even encouraged to while traveling with their parents.  These same parents wonder why their now-driving-teens cannot find their way out of a box.  They’ve never looked up, Mom and Dad.  

   Every experience is an investment.  Don’t let a device become the pacifier for your young child, don’t allow your teen to retreat to his room every evening till bed, and don’t model either of these behaviors for your children.  Their lack of experience will be their downfalls.  Those of you exposing your children to travel and new foods and activities and conversation:  keep up the great work!  Our school is designed for your children, and we gladly come along beside you in offering your child truly great experiences!

-       Michelle

Experience is the best teacher…at least that’s what I’ve been told all my life.  I also remember the countless times I heard my mother say that I always had to learn by experience.  That comment was usually made after a very humiliating experience helped me set better parameters for my behavior.  I especially remember being “double dog dared” by my friends to see if I could jump over a four foot-high hedge that lined our front yard.  Well, one of my feet did clear it!  The result was two sprained wrists which had to be bandaged for a week or so.  What made it more humiliating than ever was that it happened the day before I took my tests screening me for the gifted program for St. Louis Public Schools.  I had to draw and write during those tests!  I also had to answer the tester’s question, “Why did you try that?”

            I’ve seen advertisements showing people using virtual reality headgear on TV.  I ask myself, “Is that really experiencing the situation?”  I know that I could practice my piano pieces in college on a make-believe keyboard (desktop) when it wasn’t possible to get to the practice hall.  However, I think that depended more upon muscle/motor memory.  Would it have been as effective had I not had the original experience of feeling the keyboard?

            I listen to my students talk with such authority about what they can do based upon their video game experiences and their 3-D devices.  Yet, I am alarmed at how little self-control they come to school with in the realm of physical activities encompassing both fine and large motor skills.  We have even had to give remediation in tricycle riding, stair climbing, sliding down slides, and picking up and throwing objects of various shapes and sizes.  In the past, we usually only had to teach ball catching, skipping, and balance activities as well as tumbling and rolling.  Tying shoe laces has become a non-issue since parents have discovered Velcro.  What will happen if their child ever needs to tie a life-saving knot?  Kids whose parents won’t give in to the Velcro solution just walk around with laces dragging along behind them.

            Perhaps it is because the “virtual experience” is so life like, these students have very little perseverance for attaining skills that aren’t automatic.  In fact, developing such skills as writing, coloring, math operations, and ordering things in the environment is taking more and more time.  I can understand why less academic learning may be taking place across the nation if more time is being spent teaching students skills that children used to have when they first came to school.

            Is it due to less time spent outside in the real world?  Could it be from overly-protective parents who can’t bear for their child to experience any sort of pain or frustration?  Has our nation, on the recommendations first made by Ralph Nadar, sanitized and bubble-wrapped every experience of life so our offspring will not “learn by experience?”  It seems to me that we are doing a great disservice to our young children.

            Two pictures in our local newspaper really gave me pause.  Listed as examples of students learning and experiencing STEM activities (the current educational buzz word for gaining more funds), fourth grade students were stacking blocks and cups!  Those were once considered learning centers in our pre-school and kindergarten programs.  I certainly hope the educators in charge extended the activities to envelop thinking skills such as having a goal in mind and having to design and redesign the product to meet the goal.  (Example: building a marble track of various shapes, sizes and levels which would allow a marble to reach the end in a certain time, and reworking it until the goal was met.)

            Kay

Experience is an interesting topic because it’s so important but also so subjective. I recently hired an intern, so I have a fresh perspective on experience. In the end, I had two great candidates for the position, but I only had budget for one intern. Looking at their resumes, both students had vastly different experience levels.

 Going into the interviews, there was a clear front runner in my mind. I interviewed both on the same day with two hours in between the interviews. The first one that I interviewed was the candidate that I was less impressed with on paper. I talked to her for 30 minutes and was blown away with her motivation, passion and eagerness to learn. It was clear that she had done her research on the organization and on myself, and where her past work had not shown a lot of relevant experience, it painted a picture of a person who was willing to put in the hard work to do a job right.

My next candidate arrived on time for her interview and we sat down to chat about her experience. On paper, this girl was everything I was looking for in an intern. She had worked in events previously with a diverse portfolio of several different types of events. She was also interested in the industry as a whole for a future career. Immediately after my first interview, I thought this girl would make my decision very difficult. That wasn’t necessarily the case. She was polar opposite to my first interview. Quiet, reserved and somewhat uninterested in what we as an organization were doing. As we got more into her work experience she was more outspoken and inspired, but overall her personality wasn’t what I was looking for.

This left me with a tough decision, because I knew the first girl would require more training, but I also knew how important it was for me to get along with this person since we would be spending several months working together. Ultimately, I chose the first candidate. She followed up with a lovely thank you email that talked about why she was excited about the position and the organization and thanked me for the opportunity. This was when I knew I made the right decision.

When looking for a job, experience is important, but what generally outshines your experience is your personality and your willingness to learn and grow. Looking back, I do not believe I was qualified for the position I currently have. My organization took a chance on me because they knew I was extremely driven. Initially, my work felt a little bit like a trial by fire, but now one year later, I have built the entire program and have started to add to my team.

If I had to give one piece of advice to students looking for admittance in college, internships or jobs, it would be, don’t obsess over your experience. Get your foot in the door and show them that you are willing to put in the work to be successful. Ultimately this will go a lot further than your background on paper.

-       Bria

 

Depression

        It’s the third grading quarter, and like clockwork, I will see grades dip and student stress rise.  Students will get in trouble and become sad and overwhelmed. Inevitably, the subject of depression will come up.

        Depression is a common mood disorder that causes severe symptoms, affecting how one feels, thinks, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. It is serious. To be actually diagnosed with depression, one must display symptoms for at least two weeks.  While I have seen student sadness increase after Christmas break, more often it’s due to the loss of privileges after poor performance than it is actual depression.

     Some students do experience depression, though, and it is incredibly disturbing.  The most obvious sign is increased sleeping.  I’m not talking about a nap or two extra; I’m talking “coming-home-from-school-and-going-to-sleep-until-the-next-day” sleeping… repeatedly… day after day.  If you see this, get your child help immediately.  

     Slightly less worrisome but still very serious is seasonal depression. Seasonal depression has been described as a lingering melancholy, and it can disrupt a student’s normal behavior.  There are some home remedies, like special light therapy boxes that produce pseudo – sun, that can help with some seasonal depression symptoms, but it is best to talk with a doctor.

     There is a difference, however, in being sad and being depressed.  I’m not sure when the idea that kids were not ever supposed to be sad became popular.  From the moment we leave the little toddlers at home while we go to work, we can expect that there will be some sadness!  I’m with the philosophers who hold that we cannot know happy unless we know sad.  I even fondly think back to watching old movies after high school days so that I could get a good cry out and enjoy the rest of my evening!  Your teen needs to know that it’s okay to be sad.  Everyone has days when we miss someone or we’re disappointed with our performance or someone has hurt our feelings.  We come to a clearer understanding of ourselves on the other side of these circumstances.

      If your child or teen is experiencing prolonged sadness accompanied by physical changes, don’t wait.  Untreated depression can lead to low self-worth and possibly even a hopelessness that could lead to suicide.  There is help; you just have to be aware of the signs.  

 

-       Michelle

This is a topic that I have dreaded because it is way too close to home. The reason I am willing to talk about this is because I know that I am not the only one dealing with this issue, and I want to be able to offer up my coping mechanisms in the hopes that it may help someone else.

Symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Pessimism and hopelessness
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won't go away
  • Digestive problems that don't get better, even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts (webmd.com)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this week we are talking about depression. We’ve all heard the facts about how widespread depression has become, specifically in America. I’m also willing to bet that, knowing or unbeknownst to you, each person reading this either has/had depression or is close to someone who has. Depression is experienced for a variety of reasons at varying levels of severity. What scares me about depression is that it’s unpredictable. I can be having the best week of my life and still feel an empty sort of helplessness about my own existence.

I have been dealing with my depression for several years now. Specifically, I suffer from seasonal affect disorder. Because I have chosen to live in a place where six months out of the year are cold and dark, I have affects (before, after and during) of depression affecting me for the majority of the year. This can leave me feeling an overwhelming sense of dread that is almost impossible to shake. Short of quitting my job and staying in bed all day, I have had to find many ways of coping with these feelings.

My most important piece of advice for dealing with depression is to learn to separate yourself from the illness. It is incredibly easy to spiral during instances of extreme depression. The emotions can overtake a person and leave him feeling terrible about himself. Being able to consciously acknowledge that you might feel terrible and damaged but you aren’t actually terrible and damaged is a really important skill to learn. If you can see that you are feeling the way that you are because of a chemical imbalance in your brain and not because you are inherently bad or a failure, it makes it a little easier to keep moving forward.

Beyond that, you need to identify things that make you feel happy, productive and positive, and pursue those things. This might be physical activity, a hobby, or even a pet. Surrounding yourself with things that make you truly happy will not solve your depression, but it will serve as reminders and evidence of good things in your life.

    Lastly, don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Sharing your feelings with a friend or loved one is great, but if you are able to see a therapist for help, you might see a lot more progress. Whoever that person is, it is so important to tell other people about what you are experiencing. During episodes of severe depression, this person can keep you grounded in reality and prevent you from spiraling thoughts that could lead to negative actions. Whether it be a physical human or an online chat/support group, you need someone else to share these experiences with you.

    If you or a loved one are dealing with depression, please take it seriously. Don’t write your teenager off as “angsty” before considering the adverse effects of untreated depression. This is an illness that affects more people than you would think. Ask you children and loved ones if they are experiencing depression and support them if they believe that they are.

    For those of you that are facing depression, please know that you are loved. You are a valuable member of society and your life matters. I urge you to seek help and identify coping mechanisms to deal with your depression in a healthy way. I know there are days that it feels absolutely impossible to get out of bed, but please keep waking up each morning and moving forward. The world would be less bright without you in it. You are valued and important and capable of achieving greatness. If you are feeling helpless, please reach out for help. Here is a list of resources that can and will help in these moments. Be safe, stay strong. You are not alone.

National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264)

Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001

National Suicide Prevention Hotline  1-800-273-82557

Depression appears to be running rampant in our society today…regardless of age.  I personally feel that many people are incorrectly labeling “boredom” as depression.  I remember my husband speaking of depression as diagnosable if the same symptoms occur every day for a minimum of at least two weeks straight.  That is when action should be taken.

            In my graduate studies, I learned that the greater the population gets and the larger the city grows, etc., the more people feel isolated and alone.  You would think the opposite is true.     

I know I prefer city surroundings as opposed to being a hermit in the wilderness.  Yet, I remember that my family didn’t know the names of all the neighbors on our street where I spent my life until I was eighteen years old.  I rode the same public bus to school every day with many of the same people, but we never spoke or risked getting acquainted.  It just wasn’t normal to talk to strangers.

            Perhaps the reason so many feel alone today and thus have feelings of depression is that, not only can they not relate with strangers on the street, but they may also feel isolated from their own families.  I, at least, had family members with which to talk, play, argue, and interact with in my home.  As I look at many families today, I see the members of the family each engaged with someone or something on their cell phones, etc.  They are just coexisting with the people around them.

            Family conversations and interactions are the “nurture” part of the old question: “Is a person shaped by nature or nurture?”  Although such interactions may only be a few minutes at a time, they are the vehicle for passing along core values, beliefs, dreams and aspirations among family members.  Through these moments of sharing, children learn they are worthy individuals. 

            The gifted children I teach have learned long ago that “I’m bored!” usually gets parents to move.  However, smart parents counter with “We are not here to entertain you.  Use your imagination and find something to do!”    It helps if parents have made provision for some hands-on games or puzzles or projects around the house.  I don’t think you’ll hear “I’m bored” if they are given tasks to do whenever that phrase appears on their lips.  It doesn’t take rocket science to quickly figure out that being bored is the opening for a parent to task the child.  Eventually, the word will not enter the child’s mind!

             

- Kay                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Uniformity

      This last Thursday evening, the school phones, my email, and my texts blew up with well-meaning alerts that the city school district was to close its doors on Friday due to the high number of flu cases. Very quickly three smaller districts joined the club. The reason given was that they were going to disinfect the buildings. I'm pretty sure the reason had more to do with money lost due to absences. The first day back, anyway, kids in every classroom will cough, sneeze, and touch enough to require disinfection again.  We gave parents permission to keep their children home with an excused absence.

    So little of our school submits to uniformity. We go to great lengths to keep the government’s hands out of our procedures. It’s threatening to some who find comfort in “the way things are supposed to be.” As we look at ways to keep this school going beyond our family’s involvement, I cringe a little at the thought of making some procedures uniform.  It’s absolutely necessary, though, if we want the school to continue the way it is.

   As I write that, it strikes me as funny. No two years at Lawton Academy are completely the same! We are always changing and evolving our program. Can evolution be uniform?

   Gifted kids tend to dislike uniformity. That’s why you have such a hard time getting a truly gifted kid to take lessons. He/She wants to dabble on his/her own, not be made to practice thirty minutes a day and perform in public. This fact has frustrated many a parent. Here’s the trick. You encourage your child’s interest, but you make the condition that he/she MUST compete if you are going to invest all that money and time. If they fail the first time, do not let them quit. Tell them you will get them lessons so they can do better at the next competition. Your gifted child will use those lessons to conquer the next time. Be warned, though: once conquering, they are likely to quit and move on to something else. The lesson learned is so much more important than the skill. Remember that your gifted kid is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. The goal is being good at a variety of things. This meets that goal.

    Oh, and one last note on uniformity:  I have never met a gifted kid who approves of a school uniform.  Me neither, Kids!  I support your right to be unique!

                                                            Michelle

In regards to uniformity, I feel like the opinion of popular culture is constantly changing. For so long we told everyone that there is one way to be beautiful or successful or cool, but now we as a society are embracing what makes an individual different. But what if you aren’t different? What if you don’t have any identifier that is uniquely yours? Are you still special?

I feel like so many people spend their lives trying to find what makes them unique or different. It seems like some people are just born with these characteristics. Maybe it’s a really interesting hobby or unique hair type or a strong identification with a specific culture or religion. Some people just have that one thing that defines their personality and identifies them as  unique people.

Then there are people like me: white bread, middle class, vaguely European with no one heritage large enough to claim. I’m just a young woman living in a city with a dog, working in the field of communications. It doesn’t get any more white bread than that. For a long time I struggled with the fact that I wasn’t as unique as some of my other friends. This desire pushed me to try out a lot of different styles and personalities.

For a while I just decided to be weird. When other girls were shopping at Abercrombie, I was shopping at Hot Topic. I liked Batman and the Joker and Broadway musicals. I got really into drama and robotics and I wanted to be an individual...until I got too weird and then all I wanted was Taylor Swift and American Eagle jeans. I want to be edgy, weird and a little dangerous. But I also wanted to be prim, proper and traditionally beautiful.

College is a time where exploration of one’s identity is encouraged. But upon entering the workforce, even in an open work environment like mine, there are certain expectations of uniformity that are imposed upon everyone. Beyond that, social media perpetuates certain ideals, standards and rituals that encourage us all to strive for one uniform way of life.

For young people, the concept of uniformity is challenging because there are some voices that are telling them that they need to be like everyone else to fit in, while other voices tell them they need to be unique and stand out. This will always be a difficult path to navigate, but the one thing to remember is that most importantly you need to be the version of yourself that makes you happy. If you are happy being unique and standing out that’s great, but it’s also great if you like doing things that others do as well. At the end of the day the most important thing is your own happiness.

                                                      - Bria

Uniformity is often seen as a negative thing in our society, especially in the views of teenagers.  Most young people flee from uniformity as if it were a plague; however, in their rush to escape, those same teens find themselves in a new uniformity with other teens like them.  It seems there is no escape.

                I don’t see it as such a negative thing.  If it weren’t for Whitney making parts interchangeable by making them uniform in size, shape, etc., we would still be assembling machines one machine at a time.  And thank goodness for Henry Ford’s assembly line which greatly cut the amount of time assembling a machine.

                Our problems seem to stem from bureaucratic laws demanding uniformity in all states when a new law is passed.  My husband always says, “Common sense is not issued with the new bureaucratic regulations.”  Uniformity without common sense may be one of our biggest problems in the world today.

                I saw the problems of teaching all students in a uniform pattern early in my career.  It just isn’t possible.  I always liked the illustration one of my professors gave to us.  “In science class you mix yellow paint with blue paint at the front of the classroom where everyone can see it.  True or false…the students will all see green paint.”  The answer is false because Johnny may have been staring out the window, Julie was looking for her pencil, and Fred was asleep.  Every situation in life, every experience a person has is tainted with trappings.  Past experiences, emotions, beliefs, etc. color one’s experience of the moment.  A good teacher finds ways to reach each student’s learning needs; often through trial and error.  But a good teacher always tries.

                I expect uniformity in handwriting from my first grade students.  I don’t fail them if their letters aren’t exactly the way I make them, or the way the book makes them.  I do, however, expect the child to develop a uniform handwriting script which can be read by others.  What purpose would there be to record our thoughts if no one else could read what we have recorded?  If I expect consistency and uniformity in their writing in first grade, the teacher of higher grades will not have to repeat the process.  Motor memory will kick into play.  The same can be said about memorizing the addition and multiplication facts.  If a child really learns them when h/she is young, they will remain for life.

                There do come times when it is necessary for someone to “step out of the box” or to be a “challenger” to uniformity which is harmful or stagnating.  Almost all innovations come with an uneasy feeling about letting go of “how things are.”  The people who take on this challenge are the true pioneers of our history.  Oh yes, there are many people who just challenge and choose not to conform with the norm.  However, the true pioneers usually have a better plan ready.  Gifted children will cry and challenge every chance they are given to do it “my way.”  However, asking them for their replacement plan may cause them to stop and ponder the situation before jumping in with both feet.  

                I also like what the Exploravision science competition requires of students.  They must state the positive and the negative effects their innovation could bring.  It does give one reason to pause and consider.     

-          Kay

Fault

I have always been someone who has a heightened sense of justice. This causes me to take fault very seriously when something goes wrong. I know I am not the only one who deals with this. It might be all of the “law and order-esque” crime shows or growing up learning to follow the rules and do what is right. Above all, I think I believe so strongly in understanding fault because nowadays so few people do.

We are a culture that tells our young people that nothing is their fault. We over-diagnose and pass the blame and don’t make our kids and young adults own up to their problems. We tell our kids that it’s not their fault that no one wants to play with them, when the real problem is the child is mean and doesn’t share his toys. We tell our youth that it’s not their fault when they don’t win trophies, when we know they didn’t practice nearly as hard as their competition. We tell our young adults that it’s not their fault they don’t have a job, when we know they could have done a lot more while they were school to network and break into their industry. All of these excuses give our young people a complex that makes them believe nothing is their fault.

The problem with this occurrence is that employers are not going to be equally excusing of these people’s problems. After being told that nothing is their fault, the first time these young people get called out on an issue they will not know how to handle the situation in a mature manner. This can lead to lying or shifting the blame, which will not impress an employer.

It’s important to teach your children how to accept blame when it is legitimate, and deal with issues maturely. Nothing is worse than an adult that refuses to work on their own issues or even own up to them. Having this skill will help your children become a better person. By acknowledging their faults, they can begin to work out the issues they have in their lives in a safe environment with the support of their families. Teach your children that bad choices don’t make them a bad person, but they will be held accountable for the choices.

-       Bria

 

 

Fault is a word that makes its way into our home conversations almost weekly.  Let me explain why.  My husband had a private mental health practice for over thirty years after having been a child welfare worker for the state for many years.  When good therapy is done with clients, sooner or later during the client/therapist relationship, blame is placed upon the therapist.  It is natural for people to want to place blame on someone else before actually conceding self-blame.  One evening long ago, I was in an adjacent office to where my husband was meeting late with a couple.  The loud outburst of anger thrust upon my husband gave me chills.  After the appointment, I asked Jim how he was able to stand the barrage of angry words.  “Oh, that was nothing,” he calmly answered.  “In fact, that was a very good and successful therapy session!”

            I do not know how my husband withstood such ordeals for over thirty years.  I admire him very much.  We are constantly approached by former clients who want to thank him for how he helped them in the past.  That’s the good side.  Now, on the bad side of this situation: I have to choose my words carefully when we have a discussion because he always counters with, “I knew it was going to be my fault!”  Now honestly, I had no such thoughts.  Blame or fault finding was not the purpose or intent of my words.  Yet, his response is often the same.  So, we joke now: “This WAS his fault…he stopped breathing and died!” are words I will have engraved upon his tombstone!

            I try to help students see that being honest is very important…especially when they are caught in the wrong.  Instead of owning the situation, the first words out of a guilty child’s mouth is either, “He did it too,” or “It was his fault.”  It seems to be nearly impossible to accept blame and admit fault.  The classic example would be God’s confrontation of Adam for eating the forbidden fruit.  What did Adam answer?  “It was the woman you gave to me who gave it to me to eat.”  And Eve, of course, said, “It was the serpent who deceived me!”  There is the first case of playing the blame game.

            What I want to help students see is that I really don’t care that much about who is at fault in a situation.  I care about only two things: realize that a situation which causes a break in our right relationship has occurred; and, it is very important that truth is told so future trust may be maintained.  My own children grew up with that old adage used by parents over time, “It takes two to make a quarrel.  So, you are both guilty!”

            Today, I am bewildered as are most Americans, with the fault-finding and blame game being carried out by our Congress which has resulted in the shutdown of our government.  Our military families at Ft. Sill and those connected with government jobs are caught in chaos.  Duty assignments are being left hanging in mid-air since no one can make a decision while the government is shutdown.  I ask what kind of example is this for adults and leadership to set for our children?  Shame on them all!

            On another level, as a rock and mineral collector and science teacher, the word “fault” brings to my mind the cracks in the earth’s surface which can be the source of earthquakes.  Since Oklahoma now leads the nation in the number of recorded earthquakes due to fracking, I am acutely aware of this word “fault.”  I have seen the devastation left after a quake.  It is not a pretty sight.  Often, lives are ruined.  Now, if we could just remember this picture of an actual earthquake, maybe we could make a juxtaposition and remind ourselves that trying to place fault or blame can be hazardous to our mental health.  It would be helpful for us all to try to work together to fix a problem rather than spend wasted time trying to fix blame.  With that last thought, I am reminded that God allowed Jesus to suffer on the cross in my place to forgive my wrongs.  He did not need to try to call out my “fault.”  Just seeing the perfect life given in love for me causes my own heart to condemn me enough.   

-       Kay

My daughter convinced me that I would love the show “This is Us,” so I binge-watched the first two seasons over a week of evenings. And she was right: I love it. I think the thing I most appreciate is the fact that fault is not easily assigned. The show follows triplets and their parents, showing the adult kids now alongside incidents from their childhood that influenced that behavior. I like that blame is not placed squarely on the shoulders of the parents.

      The kids of that show did not grow up in a tech-heavy society like our kids are. The increase in technology has tripled the number of influences on our children. YouTube bloggers are selling themselves as “just like us.” But they are not just like us. They are making tons of money off of us watching them, all the while showing us all the new things they’ve bought with that money.  Our kids are looking at this and questioning why, if they’re just “like me,” don’t I have all this stuff?

    This month I’m conducting conferences with all of the families in our school.  The easiest conferences in the secondary are the ones in which the student has a goal for college and a profession.  These kids recognize that school and teachers can help them get there, and they focus their energy on that goal.  My heart breaks in the conferences of students just “doing” school.  The conference is spent trying to figure out the fault… the cause.    There are literally a hundred possible causes!  A new one has come to my attention this week, and I’m really struggling with what to do.  I’m finding that some of my middle schoolers are perfectly happy to live life vicariously through the internet.  I cannot wrap my head around that, but I am going to keep seeking answers.  

     My advice to you as parents is to be very aware of what your children are watching.  We’ve done so much to help our children avoid unsuitable sites, but the sites stealing our children’s drive are as innocuous as watching a video game being played by a YouTube gamer all the way to the end.  I doubt we’ll ever be able to assign any fault to the internet specifically for this, but I do think we need to be aware and vigilant.

-       Michelle

Deadlines

     Okay, I spoil the families at my school a little.  Sometimes deadlines aren’t really deadlines.  You see, I know that gifted procrastinate… and, if I teach gifted kids, they came from gifted parents.  So, I always assume a few will procrastinate.  Often the second time they will think about a deadline is when I write “This is the last day to __________.”  Then there will be a panic and a phone call and a plea.  I’ve just learned that it is easier to give myself a day or two beyond my “last day” call to get all the orders or money or permission slips in. 

    Recently we’ve been participating in some activities that have no leeway with deadlines.  Friday night’s wrestling weigh-in is a must for Saturday’s wrestling. T-shirt orders done online close down at precisely the same minute they were started some weeks later.  No exceptions. 

     Missing a deadline isn’t all bad, though.  It causes changes in our habits.  I have always been a defender of procrastination.  If it takes three hours to perform a task, what does it matter if I utilize the first three hours or the last, as long as I get it done in time.  That last part is the kicker.  Done in time.  I am not a defender of late.  Ask any of my students:  I punish for late.  I do not accept late work; I cannot stand to go to meetings where we wait for the people who are late before we start (why am I being penalized for being on time?); and I leave students behind who do not show up on time for field trips.  More than once, parents have driven out to the highway to try to catch the bus that left their child behind.  Am I just that cruel?  Maybe.  Naw.  I have been known to wait when the situations are beyond control.  I have to be even more patient now because, for the first time in thirty years, I was the one who forgot the field trip this last week.  I’ve just learned that, given the chance to be late or turn something in late, at least of third of my students will do so.  If I want to spend my days running down late assignments, then I will accept late.  But I don’t.  So I won’t. 

     Missing something is not the end of the world, but it sure is disappointing.  It’s important that we prepare our children for that disappointment… because it’s going to happen.  Your children need some deadlines so that they can practice:  homework done by 9:00, room clean by dinner time, in the car and ready to go by 7:30.  Tying a loss to the deadline can help children realize why they shouldn’t miss deadlines.   Protecting your child from the consequences of not meeting deadlines isn’t really protecting them at all.

-          Michelle 

 

            Deadlines seem to be made to be broken anymore.  It seems that people in general react to them by missing them altogether or by meeting them only after placing everyone within firing range of their stressful panic to meet them in the nick of time!  Either way, it usually induces negative feelings.

            For a generation of people who have every convenience to make our workloads lighter, we seem to be more hampered than people of the past when it comes to using time efficiently.  Maybe that’s a natural progression since everything electronic seems to operate at lightning speeds.  So, why worry that something might not meet a deadline?  The problem, however, is not technology, but the human factor!  We are not a button push sequence of actions.  Every action we may take has countless ties to emotions, memories, experiences both good and bad.  Perhaps that is the variable which causes people to miss deadlines.  Then again, with so many choices given to us by way of the internet, we may excuse missing a deadline, thinking there will always be something else that offers us a second chance.

            I think the idea of hard-line deadlines went out the window for me when the military officer husband of one of my teachers was informed that he had to give his men a 24-hour warning that a “surprise inspection” was going to be made.  Just what was the surprise about that?  This was the start of the newer, more understanding military.  It did and does give me reason to pause and question the point of it all.

            Just a couple of days ago, Hawaii suffered a scare by receiving a warning of an incoming ballistic missile threat.  Residents were told it was not a test, but the real deal.  It took hours for the error to be corrected.  The conclusion of the matter was: our government entities were not sufficiently prepared to meet such an emergency situation.

            As a child in public school during the 1950s, I rehearsed over and over the required bomb threat drills.  None of us had trouble knowing exactly where to go, what to do, and how to do it!  We had it drilled into our heads that time was of the essence.  We knew that in such an event, there was a deadline to escape certain death.  None of us questioned that fact.

            Maybe we need to fix the failure to meet deadlines in our society by actually saying “No,” when people plead with us to excuse them.  If we hold a solid line, sooner or later they will get the message that there is no grace period.  Sure, they will call us names, they will strike out in anger, but they will learn that a deadline means business.  Will it work?

            I give you this example which has been true at Lawton Academy for about eighteen years now.  Mrs. Smith, Mr. Johnson and I leave for a field trip exactly when we say we will.  We have left one or two behind…but only once.  They usually learn the lesson the first time.  We also set a hard line on returning students to school when we say we will return.  Only an extreme emergency ever prevents us meeting that deadline.  And, in such an event, we contact parents immediately and tell them the new deadline.

Guess what…it works!   Kay

Deadlines are something that we will always have to deal with. The younger you can learn to work within deadlines, the better off you will be in life. One of the best things students can learn during their time in school is how to successfully meet deadlines. Homework is great practice for deadlines you will face in your career. If your child is having problems meeting their deadlines in school, you need to take it seriously. They are establishing habits that are going to last a lifetime.

By helping your child understand the importance of meeting deadlines early on, they will not only do well in school, but in life. Whether it be in their personal life, or their work life, deadlines will always dictate their actions. If your child cannot manage the deadlines he is facing in his school life, he will have a much harder time facing deadlines in higher education and his career.

If your children are not meeting deadlines, you need to enact punishments to make the behavior uncomfortable. There are a few exceptions, including when you’re children are overworked and overwhelmed with their workload, or if you child has some reason that they are unable to meet their deadlines. In these cases, seek help to provide your children the resources to be successful. Aside from these exceptions, it is really important for you to push your children to meet their deadlines.

When your children are in college or the workforce, you cannot help them or remind them to keep up with their work. You need to make sure they leave your house equipped with the skills they will need to be successful in life. Set them up to be successful in life by instilling a hard work ethic and good time management skills. This will allow them to go far.

-          Bria

Stop

My son did not pass his driving test the first time. His evaluator said that he did everything perfectly...except he never fully stopped at stop signs. Upon returning to the privacy of our car, he said, “I did exactly what you do, Mom,” to which I replied, “Not on a driving test or in front of a policeman!”

      As I reflect, I find myself wondering how often in life we roll on through without ever coming to a complete stop. I don’t have any problem stopping an activity cold turkey if it’s not working or is contrary to my beliefs. It’s the activities and beliefs I bought into wholeheartedly and now wish to quit that I hesitate to stop.  I slow down, but then I cruise on through, and soon find myself right back up to speed.

      As parents, “stop” and “no” are probably our most frequently-used words.  “Stop” means no discussion, no slowly ending the action.  Just quit. Now.  If we think back to our own childhood, though, how easy was it for us to just stop?  We’re in the middle of a really important fight over who gets to put his/her elbow on the armrest, and Dad says to “stop.”  Who gets the armrest?  How can we figure it out now?  We were tapping our pencil to the beat of our favorite song (in our heads), and we had just gotten to the good part when Mom said, “Stop!”  What, now?  Right at the good part?

     I joke, but admit it:  it was hard not to go ahead and push that arm one more time, or air-tap the last of the song because… c’mon!

     In this month of resolutions, I’d like to challenge you to use your own struggles with “stopping” as a reminder how difficult it is for your kids to just “stop.”  Don’t get me wrong:  there are activities and actions they do need to just stop.  I’m just reminding you that they might need some help with some strategies for stopping.  “Stop spreading your backpack contents all over the house because you’re making us late while you load up” could become “Let’s make a homework drop spot so that your backpack is all loaded up and ready to go before you go to bed.”  “Stop whining” could become “I hear that you’re unhappy.  Let’s sit down and discuss what’s really wrong right after dinner tonight.”  

     And remember, the best way to stop one activity is to put a different activity in its place.  I’ll try to remember that as I’m resolving to have a less sleep-deprived, more exercised, fewer-caloried year!  Happy New Year!

-       Michelle

            Stopping is a very appropriate word for me today.  I have been suffering with a case of food poisoning or the flu.  My body chose to react to the culprit by having my husband stop our car at least four times during our four-hour trip to allow me to regurgitate along the side of the highway.  Never in my life have I been so sick!  The illness continued when I arrived home and reached my bathroom.

            I spent an hour just cleaning the room, rugs, etc.  Not a pleasant subject, but it made me stop to think about the students I have had to clean up after their accidents.  It is easy to ask why they didn’t make it to the bathroom, but as I found out, it is not always possible.

            So today, I have stopped to thank God for the following things which I am guilty of taking for granted.  Bless all the nurses who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, including cleaning up after them.  I thank God for running water, toilets, and bathtubs which let us wash away the unthinkable.  I imagined a mother in a third world country who had to walk far distances to get water to clean.  We are so fortunate in our great country. 

            My trip started with us being stopped for almost 45 minutes while a wreck was being handled on the turnpike.  I was overwhelmed with sadness when we saw one vehicle was completely burned beyond recognition.  The medical examiner’s car and a hearse were called  to the scene to try to gain identification of the burned victim. 

            All the drivers on the road were agitated at the delay caused by the accident.  However, almost everyone became somber when we realized that a life had just stopped.  Once again, it causes one to realize that each day of life is a gift which we should use wisely.  Yes, I’ve been stopped this weekend.

I shall be more understanding when called upon to clean up the many messes children can bring to a school campus.  I will live each day with a new attitude of thankfulness for the luxuries we take for granted…running water and indoor plumbing!  

-       Kay