Readying Children

Back to school. Wow, it has been a whirlwind! This is the time of year when you are getting ready to get back into the swing of things. Summer is over, and it’s time to return to the busy schedule of the school year. For some of you, this is your child’s first ever school year. For others, your child is embarking on his next adventure, whether that be middle school, high school, or even college. By now you have done your back-to-school shopping. But have you taken the time to make sure your child is ready for what’s ahead of him?

 My senior class just finished a lecture about the different generations and the way in which they communicate. We discussed the most recent generation: Generation Alpha (currently aged 7 and below). Some things that have been noted in this generation is an increasingly short attention span and a more limited sense of autonomy. These kids are digital natives who will be the most technologically proficient generation we’ve ever seen, but they are lacking certain social and survival skills that will be needed for future success. More and more we are seeing kids who are lacking basic skills necessary to excel in a school setting. 

Another generation to note in this scenario would be the parents, a majority falling into the “Millennial” or “Generation X” categories. A few characteristics of these generations is a constant need for feedback and praise. It can be speculated that we (myself included in these age groups) have internalized this need and projected it by giving the children in our lives excessive praise and accommodation, even when it is not entirely deserved or appropriate. In turn, we are seeing children who are expecting praise for finishing their lunch first, doing three half-hearted push-ups, etc. 

This becomes a problem when children are not expected to be able to handle hard tasks. When they receive praise for simple tasks, children are not incentivized to strive for more praise by completing harder tasks. This might seem alright when they are really little and can be helped through each and every challenge, but eventually (sooner rather than later) your child is going to face a difficult challenge alone and he will either succeed or fail. While we do believe that learning to fail is important, especially for gifted students, a child who regularly fails will fall behind his/her classmates. 

Empower your children to take on tough challenges. Allow them the opportunity to fail at home before coming to school. By doing this, you are teaching them how to handle situations outside of their comfort zones. Learning these lessons now will help set them up for future success and will allow them to feel ready to face hard situations in their lives

-       Bria

     Many things my husband and I needed to know before bringing a baby into our lives, we learned through raising a puppy together. We had a Great Pyrenees while I was pregnant. His nocturnal nature and all-night barking serenades prepared us for frequent interruptions in our sleep after our baby arrived. Cleaning up messes from both ends of a sick puppy prepared us to deal without anger with the same coming out of our child. And the need to never let the dog feel that he was our alpha helped us to know that our kids must always respect us as their authority, even if they didn’t agree with us. 

     I’m sure that parents can learn these important principles without having to raise animals as a prerequisite. Lately, though, I have seen several parents ignore the last one, and it alarms those of us who are teachers. I have to admit that I make comments under my breath when I see children throwing temper tantrums at stores and their parents desperately trying to get them what they want so they’ll be quiet. “Thanks, Lady. Ruin them and then send them to school for us to deal with.” 

     I was grocery shopping this weekend, as was half of my town. The aisles were already pretty crowded. I had just finished an aisle and was making the blind turn for the next aisle when I was cut off by a pint-sized shopper. She couldn’t have been more than six. She was pushing a full-size cart, and her mother was dutifully following with her own. The mother was chirping, “Now where do you want to go next?” Upon my attempted entrance into the same space the child was exiting, the mother coldly stared me around her child. I smiled, but it was clear that I was threatening her child’s independence.

     Okay, I’m all for teaching our kids to be independent. That’s the crux of my whole philosophy at school. But at six? With no regard for anyone else? Not so much.

     We parents do have a big job. Readying our children for school… for college… for work… for life. We have to fight the urge to cripple them so they’ll never leave the nest. “Cripple” seems like a pretty harsh word.  When a parent does not teach his teen to fend for himself but instead continues to do everything for him, he  is crippling that child for survival in the real world. It may or may not be on purpose, but it’s a problem nonetheless. 

     I digress. The point is that, even though it may be easier just to do it ourselves, we must take the time to teach our kids how to survive. We’ve got to teach them to do laundry and cook and use tools and get cars serviced.

    Until recently, parents were doing just that.  What has caused the change?  The fear of public scrutiny might be one deterrent. Fear of breaking a child’s spirit is commonly blamed, as well. I tell parents that our teachers break the child’s will, not his spirit. Lately, a third reason, evidence of which I’ve seen a lot recently, is that some parents are just too busy with their own lives to do the parenting job.  Not okay. 

    Dear Parent-Using-that-Last-Excuse: you brought your child into the world. It is your responsibility to do the hard  job of raising him… well. Your child will be a functioning part of society soon. It is your job to help that child gain a vision of the future, to equip that child to attain and keep that vision, and to teach him to be a conscientious and productive member of society.

    So... we have pretty great parents at our school. These parents are making the choice to invest in their children’s futures now. There’s one area in which I think some cautionary advice still applies, though. That area involves giving in to the irrational fears that gifted children (and adults) tend to have. I’ve told you before that I irrationally believe there are sharks in my pool in the deep end every time I swim in my pool. It’s not rational. I get it. The important point is that I keep getting in my pool. When a gifted child has an irrational fear, it’s important to address that fear head-on. These kids are smart. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to “develop an irrational fear” of chores, homework, and all sorts of unpleasantries! A fear of math or using utensils at a restaurant or such should be addressed as it happens. To not do so is to create another Sheldon. As much as I love “Big Bang Theory,” I am appalled at the way they let Sheldon get away with dictating their lives around his fears.  But, they’re adults; they’re making their choices.  Children should not wield that kind of power.  If you  find yourself being held hostage by a list of demands based solely upon an irrational fear, it’s time to help junior through this fear and to the other side.  

      At this point, I should distinguish between a rational fear and an irrational fear. A rational fear may have a known cause, or the cause may be unknown.  Regardless, the fear is still rational and must be dealt with accordingly.  I’m talking about irrational fears… like my fear of sharks in the deep end.  Like the idea that, as long as I keep my toes under the covers, nothing bad under my bed can get me, or the fear that, if I touch people, I will get a bad disease.  It is not okay to let our kids nurture these fears.  Many a student has talked himself into a math phobia.  Lots of kids hate math.  It’s hard.  That doesn’t make it a full-blown phobia.  

     In short, the parent should be the alpha in a familial relationship.  Children who have strong, positive role models for parents are much better prepared for the real life ahead.

-       Michelle

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Choice

 

Welcome back! As you likely know, the big changes that I alluded to last year have manifested in my (now) husband and I moving back to Oklahoma to work at LAAS. We are so excited to embark on this adventure. After wrapping up a summer of working with the little ones, and the first week with the secondary students, we are feeling eager to dive in and have a great first year. 

This first week was incredibly busy. Over the summer the school experienced impressive growth. We began this school year with more than 180 students. This growth was also represented in the secondary school. Where last year there were 46 students, this year there were 64. This translated to tight quarters for all of our orientation activities. By packing the students into one main area, we started the emphasis of that week: choice. 

 

    If you have been to the secondary building, you know that there is no one room that can seat 64 students. This meant that students had the choice to try to grab one of the limited seats, stand, sit on the floor, sit on the stage, etc. This might seem like unimportant information, but this choice says a lot about each student. 

 

We have a large number of new students, (either completely new to the school, or just new to being in the secondary building) and many of these students were feeling anxious about the year. These students came early, asked a lot of questions about the day, and claimed one of the limited seats before the bell rang. These students were hyper-focused, taking in every piece of information. 

 

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a group of juniors and seniors that have been going to the school for awhile and feel very comfortable in the space. These students could be found on the floor, on the stage, leaning against the wall, etc. They were claiming their space and the other students respected that. Where newcomers needed to pay close attention to the instructions, these kids have been hearing about speech and robotics for years. 

 

Lastly, we had the kids that fit themselves into extra spaces. In some cases, these were kids that were not quite sure they wanted to be there, and they would sit alone, not for a lack of our students trying to connect with them. We had kids that felt uncomfortable for one reason or another standing in or just beyond the doorway. These are the students that made me take extra notice - the ones that have the choice to connect but choose to disappear or fade into the background. 

It’s easy for gifted kids to be loners. There is a fear associated with putting yourself out there. For many, it is easier to be alone than to risk embarrassment. If this sounds like your child, please remind him that we are creating an environment in which it is safe to fail. Help him to understand the importance of connecting with those around him. Your child needs the fellow students, not only for friendship, but also for academic support. We are putting them through a rigorous program, and they need each other’s help to succeed. 

For the remainder of the week we asked your child to make many more choices. They ran for offices, chose after school activities, and the leaders of each group deliberated and chose their team members. There are a lot of individual choices your children made this week, but the most important choice they can make for this school year, is to be involved. There are so many great opportunities for students to learn and grow this year. Encourage your children to take that risk and make the choice to participate. 

-       Bria

    Andy Grammar has a new album out called Naive, and on it is a song he wrote for his baby girl. It’s entitled “I Wish You Pain.” I’m sure parents around the nation are bristling at the idea, especially if they’ve only read the verses. I, on the other hand, applaud his sentiment. In a day when many parents seek to make sure their children never have any problems or difficulties, I’m glad to see one that realizes failure breeds success.

    My students know that I don’t expect success in everything they do right away. I expect failure sometimes. I expect them to give it their best shot, and if the fail but they liked the activity, I expect them to learn and try again. I expect them to give each other a safe place to try and fail… to be able to say, “Oh well,” and all agree that, while the activity was a flop, the student himself is not a loser.

     We began school this week, and we have very good kids from very good parents. That being said, in these first two days, I have seen three instances of parents over-protecting their children from the pain of a bad choice by controlling their actions.   I am not in a position to overrule a parent’s poor choice, and ironically, that would be removing the pain of the parent’s choice. Kind of counterproductive! There will be pain, though. Kids have got to be allowed to go through some bad choices (within reason, of course) so that they can learn to make better decisions.

     When parents are too controlling, the parents grow from the pain of their choice, but, Unfortunately, the kids do not. The kids will fulfill the pain of their choice.  In my experience, both at church and in 34 years of teaching, kids of parents who are too controlling get as far away from their parents as possible once they graduate. Always. No exceptions. 

    I’m sure you think I should be warning my overbearing parents. This is it. This is my warning. I can no more convince a parent to back off and let his kid fail than I can convince him to buy a car of my choice. It is not my place to keep that parent from ever making a bad decision. I cannot keep my students from making bad decisions either. I can help them make a better plan for next time. If the decision involved bad behavior, I must enforce the consequences, of course. Sometimes parents want me to just look the other way for their child… to not execute the consequences for bad behavior. I will rarely do that.  It’s through the consequences we learn that bad decisions sometimes have a cost.  

    Believe me, I make some really bad decisions sometimes!  I surely wish I could get through without the consequences.  Many weeks down the road, though, I recognize that I have become stronger because I dealt with the consequences and learned from them.

    Parents, your gifted kids are decisive.  No surprise there!  Sometimes you have got to let them try a choice, even if that choice seems ridiculous to you.  If it fails, you’re not going to be the first to condemn them.  You’re going to love them just as you always did.  Being the parent who allows some freedom and then is there to talk when the choice doesn’t net what they would have liked is being the wise parent.  You don’t have to die on every hill.

   Lawton Academy doesn’t have uniforms.  We think kids should make their mistakes in clothing choices when not as much is at stake and parents and teachers are there to help guide.  Lawton Academy sells candy.  We want to be there when a kid decides to buy $10 worth of candy.  We want to point out the risk factors of eating that much candy.  We want a chance to provide that “aha” moment when the child doesn’t pass the physical fitness test.  It’s not that we’re standing around waiting to point the finger of blame.  We just think it’s better that kids have adults around to help them analyze the outcomes, as opposed to prohibiting an activity or sweet, only to have the kid believe it’s a taboo item and want it all the more.

   Lawton Academy is in the business of teaching kids to choose wisely.  Before one can choose wisely, though, he just has to be able to choose. 

 

                                                                           -   Michelle

   Choice is considered by many to be an inherited right.  In the United States, we make a choice as easily as we breathe.  We usually don’t stop to think about it.  So, why write a blog about “choice?”  Teaching gifted children presents another part of the problem.  Once a choice is made, how does one live with it comfortably?

    Gifted children love to try anything and everything just for the experience.  Once something has been experienced, interest ceases and boredom sets in and the child is off for another new choice.  One of my rules with gifted children is that if a child signs up for an activity, he/she must stay with it for the duration of time originally set forth.  I will not let a child just quit.  Completion of a task is a very important life skill.  With the many choices offered on cell phone applications today, children have become accustomed to quitting with the touch of a button!  Life cannot be treated the same way.

    Gifted children do not like to fail at anything.  Usually the choice is made to “just forget it” rather than to “give it a try.”  I am one of those teachers who make all children step out of their comfort zone from time to time.  Usually, the students find the experience good and are quite happy for their new success.  If it wasn’t satisfying to the child, I tell him/her it is now his choice to never do it again.  But at least he is now making that choice based upon a real experience.

    It is a new school year, and we are introducing students to scholar dollars again.  This experience teaches children to make choices in behavior, responsibility, spending, saving, rewarding and receiving fines.  The days are coming when the treasure chest will be set out and children will make a choice to spend, save, seek gratification, or learn to handle delayed gratification.  Last year’s first graders had a very successful experience which worked beautifully all year right through a very successful student auction at the end of school.

    Tomorrow, we have our first day of regular classes.  Students will be in various classrooms with different teachers.  A new classroom and teacher means new choices will need to be made in each new situation.  This experience will help the students deal with real life…for no two days are exactly the same!  Opportunities will come and present themselves daily, and the choice will be up to students to respond to each one.  I look forward to seeing much growth!    Kay

Summer Break

Hi, All! The three of us are going to take a break for the two months of summer. When we return, all three of us will be working at the same school! Bria is coming on as Chief Marketing Officer, and her fiance will learn the business-side from Jim, taking that over soon. We are very excited about the future of the school and all that goes with that! Have a great summer!!

Michelle

Kids Today

Kids these days are lazy. Kids these days are whiny. Kids these days don’t know the value of hard work. Kids these days are dependent on technology. Kids these days are snowflakes. Kids these days won’t make it in the real world.

This is the rhetoric that we hear in the mainstream media about kids these days. While some of it may be true to varying degrees, I want to posit an opposite opinion. Kids these days are creative. Kids these days are emotionally intelligent. Kids these days are tolerant. Kids these days are strong. Kids these days are innovative. Kids these days will use technology to build a better future.

These statements aren’t wholly true for that generation either, but these descriptors are hopeful and optimistic. My actual belief is that you can’t make overarching statements about kids these days. But if all the kids hear is that they’re bad, and that they’re weak, and that they’re stupid, that’s going to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If kids are constantly told that they’re weaker than their parents, that they don’t have what it takes to make it in the real world, and that they’re lazy and emotional, they will become just that.

 I believe that there are many children in America and in the world that are sitting on a vat of great, untapped potential. They need our help to foster and grow this potential. Without support, that potential can be squandered. I’m not saying that we need to baby our children and protect them from failure or dissenting opinions, but I do believe that you have to give credit where credit is due.

If kids these days are able to defy the negative descriptors of their generation, everyone benefits. We want our future leaders to be strong and capable, so why do we spend so much time and energy tearing them down? If we put half of that energy into building them up and teaching them how to be great and fair leaders, think of how bright the future could be. Next time you are about to share that article on Facebook about how kids these days are the weakest generation, remember the young eyes on your timeline. Take some time to encourage the children in your life; our future is dependent on them.

-        Bria

Kids today are certainly different from those I taught in my first classes in 1968.  I’m sure all older adults feel or have felt that way about children at one time or another.  However, I have very good memories of how I have had to change my teaching to better cope with changes in our nation’s school children.  Let me make a few observations.

    When I started teaching, many of Oklahoma’s children lived on farms and took an active role in harvesting the crops.  Because of this, school started after Labor Day and ended as early in May as was possible (175 days).  Likewise, many of our students rose before daylight, did chores, bathed, ate breakfast at the family table, and arrived at school by 8:00 a.m.  Today, quite a few of our children barely manage to drag in late… sometime after the 8:15 start time.  Many of these children are gobbling down the last bit of their breakfast sandwiches.  None of them had chores like milking, feeding, or barn cleaning to do before dawn.

    I remember sometime about 2010 or so, hearing the cosmetics companies pitch their products to “tweens” for the first time.  Now, girls as young as first graders wear lipstick and other makeup as well as change the colors of their hair.  Gone are the days of “Only her hairdresser knows for sure…”  It is quite obvious that the green, blue, and rainbow colors these children sport are not their natural colors!

    I don’t remember having seen more than one or two autistic spectrum students during my first thirty years of teaching.  Now, I am amazed at how many students are diagnosed somewhere on the Autism Spectrum.  It is also amazing that only a few of these are female students.  

    I’ve noticed that students of today are generally much larger physically than students in the past.  Oh yes, we still get those petite children…there just seems to be more children whose parents tell us their children placed in the 90th percentile in height and or weight.  I often wonder if the processes of our manufacturing and storage containers aren’t leaching chemicals into their bodies which cause these changes in size.

    Children today don’t seem to have the interest in money that their counterparts had in days gone by.  Children were very aware of coins, value, and prices.  Today, there is not the interest or desire for the coins…so much so that I often find dimes, nickels, and quarters lying in plain sight on the ground where children just seem to ignore their presence.  Perhaps this is due to more use of credit cards by families these days. 

    I’ve noticed the desire for and attention to “fad” clothing, accessories, etc. is very strong, but it would appear today’s parents are more willing to pay for these things than parents of old.  However, it just could be that wages are better today than in the past when families struggled to meet the budget for needs.

    Kids today are more interested in being famous and having a moment of fame on the Internet than the dreamers of the past who hoped to grow up to be a movie star.  Little five and six-year-olds can do the latest popular dance or sing the latest rap and popular music, and all with the flair of seasoned models.

    In the past, we received counsel to not create a “hurried child.”  We were told to let the child be young and relax.  Today, there is not much rhetoric about that problem, and children seem more and more “adult-like” in their desires.  Thanks to technology, students listen almost non-stop to music over their earbuds.  My problem with this is that many parents seem to be unaware of the lyrics that even my youngest students sing gladly…some of these are quite explicit.  Perhaps there will be no real under-standing of the risqué lyrics by these children, but then again…who really knows?

    Kids today seem to be into multi-tasking.  Some, it appears, are quite good at it.  Their understanding of using technology and adapting to new updates is mind boggling to me.  This skill is their “faster than a speeding bullet” talent.  I just wish it carried over into doing math and learning to read.

    Kids today have managed to break codes and passwords, and they laugh as they know how to get past their parental safeguards to view websites of their own choosing.  Yes, even our eight to ten-year-olds can do this amazing manipulation of the Internet!         

-        Kay

   I’m sure, with a title like this one, you’re expecting me to unload a litany of problems with kids today. After all, don’t older generations always believe that the “kids of today” are worse than they themselves were? I will admit that I do believe there are some things that are lacking in kids today, but I’ll try not to linger on that line of thought.

     My father and I just returned from a three-day trip with twenty-two honor society students. These students ranged from eleven years of age to seventeen. The hotel clerk who checked us in on Thursday night told us on Friday that she had come back to work that morning expecting to put out fires from complaints about my students. She was amazed that there weren’t any. She said that hotels dreaded school groups because the kids were always awful… throwing chocolate milk at the walls, jumping on the beds, and running and yelling down the halls. I quote, “Your students comport themselves like adults.” Dad and I were so proud, we could have sprouted peacock feathers!

    Students like ours are the anomaly. As I stood in line at the Marble Slab Creamery the next night, two women and three children came in and joined the line behind me. A girl about ten years old took the place right behind me, and in a matter of three minutes, she had elbowed me twice, bumped her rear into mine, and full-on leaned on me two times! I could not believe the women were letting her do this! I had to leave for fear my face would show my disdain and I’d end up on someone’s phone video as one of those women.

    Let me assert that there is nothing wrong with today’s kids.  It is the adults around them that are to be congratulated or blamed for their behavior.  Our kids behaved beautifully because we 1) laid out the expected behavior, 2) let them know that an infraction would lead to a call to the student’s parents - no matter the time- and that student leaving the trip immediately, and 3) promised that that would be the student’s last trip with us should he misbehave. Sound harsh? My favorite principal maxim is this: a person will not change a behavior until it becomes uncomfortable to do that behavior. My job as principal is to make noncompliance uncomfortable.

     The ironic thing, though, is that very rarely do I actually have to follow through on that threat. My second assertion is this: when kids know what is expected of them, they tend to do it. Okay, maybe not chores around the house. In thirty-two years of teaching, though, I have not had to follow through on that disciplinary action but twice, and those two times were years apart.

     The kids of today know facts and processes that I didn’t know till I was an adult. The kids of today look up DIY and teach themselves instruments and art and cooking. The kids of today can make music with as many layers as a symphony. Kids are amazing! No less amazing than they ever were. It’s the adults who have changed. Some are overly cautious, listening to talking heads telling them the world is out to get their children. Others are so absorbed with their own pursuits, games, and phones, that they’ve left their kids to raise themselves. Good parents throughout the generations have always followed their guts, and good kids were the result of testing and trying and finding what works. That takes time and courage.

   I’d like to thank those parents who have taken the time to teach their children that being a part of society has required protocol, that gaining material items is a privilege rather a right, and that decency is always the best option. You are the heroes our world desperately needs!

-        Michelle

Excess

I have to admit that the topic this week came to me after being on a mammoth private school campus for a speech competition this weekend. We could have fit our whole school in its cafeteria! There were halls and student lounges that could have served as classrooms for us. I found my stomach turning at the thought that a church could lavish so much money on a university-size campus. I resolved right then and there that any building we do at our school will utilize every space wisely and will be built as conservatively as possible. I’d rather teach humbly and be philanthropic than spend like Solomon.

    I know this sounds judgmental. I tried really hard to be happy that Scripture appeared everywhere and that teachers could teach with their faith. But the verse that kept going through my mind was the one that commands us to be in the world but not of it.

    Excess has caused us so many problems as Americans. Our waistlines grow from the excess of food available to us. We buy storage sheds to hold the excess from our shopping trips. None of this is news to you.

   How does excess relate to our gifted kids? Our kids have an excess of talents and gifts. My students act and sing and make music equally as well as they do academics. By definition, gifted kids learn well in all modalities. This gives them an advantage over regular students because they can learn under any teacher, no matter the style. It is very easy with all this excess to become braggadocious. That’s why I don’t let my students cheer about great they are. We’re all ignorant to someone; there will always be somebody more talented. I want my students to recognize their great capacity for intelligence and talent, but to understand that they don’t need to pick one and become the absolute best at that. They will be highly sought-after for their multiple talents over those who only do one thing well.

    Equally dangerous are those parents of gifted who try to cultivate every talent and gift. When parents provide lessons and learning opportunities in excess, I get stressed-out students who wish they could just be normal. The phrase “Everything in moderation” must have been written for gifted and talented kids!

       -Michelle

Excess is a word that has been resonating with me a lot lately. As some of you may or may not know, I have been doing the most in 2019. I’m getting married, buying a house, moving out of state, and completely changing my career. The idea of excess is hitting me really hard. Every week I’m crossing major life events off my list, and everything feels very accelerated and excessive.

Outside of this context, mostly I think of excess in relation to things that are consumed. In this country specifically, there is a tendency to eat or drink in excess. This obviously has negative effects on our health and well-being. We also have a propensity for working in excess. This can be equally unhealthy and bad for us. Working hard is an admirable quality, but Americans have a tendency to become workaholics. The rise in technology has enabled us to be responsive and working at all hours of the day.

Beyond the rise of accessibility to employees on their personal time, in many parts of the country there are increased expectations about how many hours are to be worked in a week. This is problematic for a number of reasons, but it also isn’t wholly beneficial to the employer. Working in excess of 40 hours a week can lead to burnout among employees. If this goes uncorrected, this will lead to turnover amongst the workforce.

Some employers believe that, if they are able to get an extra hour or two out of their employees each day,  they will  receive more work without paying extra for that time. However, what actually occurs when employees are expected to work ten hours a day is that they become less and less productive over time. You will get better quality of work out of your employees if you do not expect them to work in excess of standard work hours.

This can be used as an example for areas of your life where you are doing something in excess. While it might not seem like it’s negatively affecting you now, there are likely long-term effects that will come out over time. One of the most important values you can have in your life is to do all things in moderation. I will be seeking balance in my life over the next year. I hope for you that you are also able to work to find balance in your own life.

-        Bria

    Excess, or overindulgence, can certainly be the ruin of many things.  As an art teacher, I am often telling students that “less is best…excess kills!”  I’ve seen so many fine artistic creations destroyed by overpainting or using too much texture once a pleasing piece was created.  To prevent this from happening, I’ve taught my students to use a piece of colored paper taped to the targeted areas to get a temporary look at what the added paint will do.  Often times, this prevents a tragedy as the student gets a glimpse of the total effect.  In life situations, however, we can’t do that.

    I’ve seen a great deal of excess when it comes to children’s needs versus wants.  Many parents get pressured into having “the right kind of birthday parties,” “the must-have toys,” and “just the right brands of clothing, shoes, etc.”  What bothers me about this is the “one-up-man-ship” that inevitably begins to take over.  It usually isn’t but a month or so that passes before those “must have” items are left unused in our lost and found box.  I think our record for lost cell phones by one person is three!

    Every day in our school lunch line I hear at least a few children say, “I want an extra-large one of those.”  None of our children come from needy homes where food is a scarcity.  Maybe they are just used to answering the fast food clerks’ question, “Do you want to make that an extra-large combo?”

    I am especially bothered by the excess I see in extra-curricular practice times.  I am alarmed at two and three-hour practices on school nights which often keep elementary children from getting to bed before 10:00 p.m.  I’ve watched sporting events gulp up the long-standing family times for church attendance on both Wednesdays and Sundays…a long tradition in this country.  Is it really family time spent together when the parent is in the stands and the child is on the field, stage, etc.?  I don’t think so.

It is no wonder our families suffer with communication problems…when do they have time for meaningful conversations and interactions?

    Anyone who knows me understands how much I hate technology’s grip on our society.  I am delighted, but not startled, to hear researchers telling us that too much (excess) screen time is taking a negative toll on our health.  I don’t think anyone can be surprised at the excess usage of cell phones in this day and time.  My husband and I tried to enjoy a rare “breakfast out” last Saturday morning.  Not only did I get to eat out, I was able to hear a forty-five-minute cell phone conversation by a woman at a nearby table.  Her poor preteen daughter who was getting to eat with her just sat and ate silently the entire time.  Scenes like this prove to me that togetherness can be ruined by excess phone conversations…for everyone within shouting distance.           Kay

   

Persuasion

I believe that one of the most important skills you can learn is the art of persuasion. Persuasion is powerful because it allows you to influence the behavior of others, positively or negatively. When used correctly, persuasion gives you the power to climb the ladder both personally and professionally

As someone who has studied advertising, Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” was a book that I have read cover to cover multiple times. This book has some incredible insights for advertising and understanding how audiences think, but it also has step by step instructions on influencing people to do things your way, while making them think it was their decision in the first place.

Here’s a couple of insights from the book that can help when you need to persuade someone:

  • The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

  • Show respect for the other person’s opinion.

  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.

  • Begin in a friendly way.

  • Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.

  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.

  • Let the other person think that the idea is his.

  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.

  • Be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas and desires.

  • Appeal to the nobler motives.

  • Dramatize your ideas.

  • Throw down a challenge.

Additionally, Carnegie gives the advice that when trying to persuade someone, never criticize them. Try to understand the other person’s point of view and take a genuine interest in his opinion. Lastly, be a good listener and make the other person feel important and heard. Behaving in this way will make people more open and perceptive to your point of view.

Persuasion is such a useful skill to have. You will inevitably find yourself in many situations that require persuasion. If you don’t have this skill, take time to read a book like the one above. Persuasion is a science that you can perfect with some practice. Knowing how to persuade people can only help you move up in the world. Make some effort to learn how to persuade if you don’t already know how.

-        Bria

 

    Persuasion might just be the vessel which contains the majority of the Internet applications so popular in today’s world.  It seems nothing else has such sway over the mind-set of people world-wide.  I am amazed at how quickly a fad or a myth can develop and spread via the Internet!  It truly shows us the existence of the “J-curve” rather than the “norm curve” in today’s statistics.

    People don’t appear to look at these applications in this manner.  For instance, it would blow people’s minds to pay someone to expound to them about various and sundry products all day long.  Yet, for every half-hour of TV content, we subject ourselves to about ten minutes of advertising.  The product developers have shortened the ads so many more can be placed within the allotted time.  My husband and I laugh at the pre-program announcement before “The Orville” weekly show: “…there will be a limited number of commercials.”  So, the time involved may be less, but the placement means every two to three minutes of show we must stop the story and watch commercials.

    I realize that all the Internet ads have a “close” hot spot, but the message appears and is part of our awareness before we can close it.  Teachers must be “so” careful to guard any Internet presentation they may desire to show students.  Often, it just isn’t worth the effort to use Internet content, no matter how good it may be.

    But I am more alarmed at the persuasiveness of Internet content to follow fads, trends, jokes, and dangerous dares.  Even my first graders come to school talking about scenes with chainsaw murderers, zombies, mine craft figures, etc.  I’ve also seen the smart marketing and remarketing of toys via the Internet.  Thus, we have lived through three cycles of toys…the latest of which are the bay blades.  Children whose parents do not have the funds or the desire for their children to have these “must have” toys become quite envious of others and resentful of the “lot” of their lives.  In my opinion, the Internet is a master of the “Bandwagon” propaganda technique.

    While many people might laugh at this rant of mine, others may be as concerned as I am about the stupid “look at what I did…can you do it, too?” syndrome.  The latest concerns of mine are the dare to eat vegetables along with the plastic wrapping in which they are sold; and the throwing cheese slices in the faces of babies!  I’ve always taught students that practical jokes usually escalate until someone gets hurt.  Now it seems, it doesn’t matter as long as there are a lot of “likes” and it makes people laugh.  I am encouraged that Diane Sawyer has done a special about screen time.  I didn’t get to watch it, but I will hope to learn of its content.  

    I do have a glimmer of hope that we will soon be able to break students from this screen addiction.  It has been found that the light in the screens does cause wrinkles to develop in women.  I think that worry will cause some to rethink their screen time…then again, they just might find a quick fix for that on the Internet!     Kay

 Persuasion is an interesting word. We all grew up writing argument essays at school, papers in which we had to persuade others to believe as we do. What I find interesting is when we use it to describe a set of religious or political beliefs or the people who believe that set of beliefs. He is of the Christian persuasion. We were persuaded to believe these things?? I guess so. I never thought of it this way.

   From the get-go, many of us were taught to “say thank you,” “ say please,” and “say hello” before we could actually even say the words! Our parents were persuading us to be cordial. Our political and religious beliefs are influenced by our parents, and then our friends and our colleges persuade us to vary our beliefs from those our parents persuaded us to believe. I spend a lot of my day persuading kids to take their schooling more seriously or to be nicer or to listen and follow directions.

    When I used to teach high school AP English Language and Composition, I used a college book entitled Everything’s an Argument.”  No wonder we’re so exhausted! If everything’s an argument, we are in “persuade-mode” at all times!

    So, let’s examine the “persuasion” involved in a typical teen’s day. Mom: “Get up!” Teen: “Just ten more minutes!” Regarding clothing choice: “What? It’s not dirty yet.” Or “This is appropriate!” Regarding food/drink: “I need a Red Bull, and then I’ll be good to go.” Regarding homework: “I got this. I’ll get it done.”

    It doesn’t matter that we were once teens just like them, we adults know nothing. Almost every teen rages against the man… the machine.

     Now that I think about it, someone is trying to persuade us everywhere we look: signs, advertisements, blogs. I’m exhausted just thinking about how much persuasion I resist a day!

     As the parent of a gifted child, you get a double dose. I often tell parents at school not to negotiate with their gifted children. The parent will lose. Our kids definitely understand the art of persuasion.

     So, I guess as my final act of persuasion in this piece, I will urge you to recognize that attempts at persuasion are, at their source, power battles. It is important that you are persuading your child more than he is you.        

-        Michelle

Trust

    Trust was placed in our school at the beginning of the school year by hopeful parents.  Many of the families we accept into our school come to us with feelings of frustration with previous school experiences.  This week will help parents decide if that trust was valid when they look at their children’s annual achievement test scores.  While it is only one part of the total experience, it is a time-honored means of evaluating what our school has provided for their children during the one-hundred seventy-four days we spent teaching them.

    Unlike most schools, we start the evaluation experience with the students themselves…showing them the test results and the graphs of their accumulation of knowledge.  Students can argue with numbers and percentages as if these are not important factors for their educational growth.  However, when a student is shown the 50% bar line and their closeness to it in each area of learning, it becomes apparent when gaps of learning exist.  No student wants to see a lot of white space between his/her scores and that bar line.  One just can’t seem to ignore the places that scream…you’re not there yet!

    Faith and trust are often interchanged in writing and conversation.  However, faith does not require “proof” as does “trust.”  I often tell my students that I will trust them as long as they do not give me a reason not to trust them.  Once they have proven to be untrustworthy, it takes an awfully long time to gain back my trust.  This often is shocking to students who are new to our school.  Most of them have come to us from schools where it seems to be a “given” that they are not “trustworthy.”  What proof do I have for that statement?  My list includes uniforms required; constant supervision by an adult at all times; very restrictive hair codes, and law enforcement officers patrolling the halls of the schools.

    It is a great learning experience to watch children check the boundaries of “trust” that are a part of our school experience.  Many have difficulties from the start…others flourish with the new-found freedoms.  I am consistent, however, and I will remove freedoms when my trust has been violated!  But what joy it is to see a student who violated that trust begin working to rectify the situation.  Much growth and maturing take place if the child is sincerely desiring to earn back that trust.  

    I must now spend the last weeks of the school year helping our parents of students who are lacking foundational academic skills look at choices.  We will need to work together to see how much the school can help with remediation this summer or work to find alternative help for their children.  Because our school’s mission is mainly to educate the gifted child, we must determine what we can and can’t do to help.  Above all else, we want parents to feel their trust in us was and is worthwhile.  

-        Kay

 

Trust is simultaneously one of the easiest and hardest concepts to grasp. The basic understanding of trust is a firm belief in someone or something. That is simple, but it is incredibly difficult for some people to have this level of confidence in others. Additionally, people trust or distrust others based on their own feelings, making the “firm belief in something/someone,” difficult to define. For a variety of reasons, trusting in others comes with varying levels of difficulty from person to person.

Generally, as we get older, we learn that not everyone is automatically deserving of our trust. We start out very trusting and willing to see the best in others, and as our trust is broken, we begin to put up walls and push people away. This practice puts strain on our interpersonal relationships. It is hard to build up trust after that trust has been broken. In our daily lives and relationships, both business and personal, trust is the key to happiness and success. If a team working together doesn’t have trust in one another, that team will not be able to efficiently work together. While they might still ultimately accomplish their task at hand, it will not be as smooth at it could and should be.

Similarly, this can be observed in relationships. If there is trust, the couple will be able to be productive and push each other towards common goals, if there is a lack of trust, it will make it hard for the relationship to progress. So, what do you do if you notice that your child is not trusting? Well, to be honest, the first thing you should do is examine yourself.

 The first relationship that a person has is with his parents. This relationship teaches him how to trust and how to be trustworthy. If there are issues with your child trusting others, you should re-examine your own relationship. If you have not always acted in your child’s best interest, you might have done damage to his ability to trust others. If this is the case, you need to do some damage-control because your actions will affect your child for the rest of his life. You as a parent have an amazing opportunity to teach your child trust in others and affect the way in which he views the world around him. Take a chance to really work on the trust between your child and yourself; this can make all the difference.

-        Bria

     Is there any more-loaded word than trust?  I realized this week how much a business is built on trust.  The employer trusts that his employees have the same goals as he.  The parent trusts that the teacher looks out for the interests of his kid above all else.  The friend trusts that words said in private will stay private. 

    I know that you, the reader, just had visions of times that each of those didn’t hold true.  Are we naïve to think that they might?  Should we enter into business and cooperative child-raising experiences and friendships expecting not to be able to trust the other people involved?  I think that would be an awful way to live.

    To say that this week was an emotional roller coaster wouldn’t fully represent the week.  It was a sky dive into a deep-water excursion!  As I sit at the end of it and look back, I find that I am weaker and stronger at the same time.  It confuses my body, and the only way I can find to cope is to go “solve” the “End Game” with the Avengers at a three-plus-hour movie.  I should come out of that rejuvenated and ready to do the last month of school!

    Reflecting, though, I realize that I cannot even trust myself at times.  There are times when the emotions cause me to be the uglier version of myself very publicly.  Then there are the private times, when the decisions I make are very wise, but they possibly appear ugly to those who only see the consequences.  I find myself defending my actions to anyone who will listen, and then I reprimand myself in the evening because time is the only way for those decisions to appear wise.

    Is there a time when we can absolutely trust someone?  As I Christian, my answer is yes.  I absolutely trust that God works toward my good if I am seeking His will.  I believe that sometimes “man” makes decision that hurt me, but God will work it to the good if I seek His will.  I have literally thousands of examples of Him doing so.  I also trust that He will correct me when I am the one who has hurt others, and let’s just say there was some correcting going on this week!

    I know that few believe as I do, though… especially in gifted families.  So, how do we teach our kids trust?  Unfortunately, many gifted are not taught to trust.  This is why so many of them become cynical.  They naïvely trust that people will follow their lead or be as passionate about a cause or do the right thing, and when it doesn’t happen, they develop the idea that those around them are stupid or insensitive or corrupt.  It is our responsibility as their mentors, parents and teachers, to teach them the gray areas of trust.  We must teach them that people will let them lead as long as they are servant leaders; that people will join their cause as long as they understand that that “joining” has a limit; that people will sometimes make bad choices for which they need to be held accountable and then mentored to make better choices rather than dropped like a hot potato.  (This does not mean that your gifted child will always get the chance to make amends when he messes up.  Sometimes people walk away.  At that point, your child needs to know how to cope with the loss of a friendship over something he feels he did correctly, but the friend still walked away.)

     At your child’s work (school), there are literally hundreds of interactions each day.  Your child is forming his ideas about trust each and every moment based upon how it is going daily.  If you leave those impressions as that child’s reality, your child will definitely have trust issues as an adult.  Your job as a parent and mine as a teacher is to help the children process what has happened.  This doesn’t require prying into every detail of the day.  Instead, it requires setting up a place and time in which these encounters can be discussed.  For my son, it was our “Sonic trips.”  Sonic is a drive-in restaurant.  When my son was in middle school, I developed a habit of taking him to Sonic for a treat.  While we sat in the car waiting for our order, he and I would discuss how things were going.  It didn’t take long for him to start asking to go to Sonic when something was bothering him.  I knew his request was code for “I need to talk…without little sister around.”  I was slower to understand how to talk to my daughter.  I mistakenly thought it would be the same, but I forgot that daughters don’t like their issues to be solved any more than wives do!  She was in high school before I learned that she just needed to “vent” as she processed how SHE would solve her problem.  My job was not to solve; it was to listen.  Today, she and I still use each other as a safe place to vent.  Needless to say, she received many calls from me this week.  Thankfully, she and I have moved to a place in which we trust each other’s sometimes offered advice, too.

    My mother’s daughter unfortunately has to learn by experience more often!  I am learning that my mother has been through everything I am currently undergoing, and I trust that she knows how to ride out the storm.  She has been an invaluable source of strength, and I know she prays for me daily.  Nothing makes one stronger than knowing that she has an intercessor on her behalf.

     Because of the wisdom of my daughter and my mother and several wise friends, I make it through hard weeks like this one.  I leave you with this thought:  trust is cultivated.  It is taught.  It is learned.  It is earned. If you are not teaching your child how to trust and whom to trust, then society is.  An adult who trusts like his junior high-self is an insecure, cynical person.  Don’t do that to your child.  Invest.  It is worth it.  Trust me.

-        Michelle

Forgetfulness

    Ironically, I forgot to tell Mom the topic for this week the several times I saw her this weekend. I ended up having to call her just minutes after visiting with her in person.  I don’t having any delusions of grandeur… I’m forgetful. I often blame Diet Coke because I read articles telling me the Aspartame might be linked to memory issues. I think it more has to do with the amount of activities in which I’m involved. Aging is another possible culprit! Regardless of the reason, more and more I find myself forgetting things… including entire conversations and some actions. While my forgetting makes for some confusion and sometimes some embarrassment, it is nothing like the forgetting I see occurring nowadays with students.

     According to Nelson Dorta, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist answering questions on Understood.org, a site for learning and attention issues, memory occurs in three storage systems in the brain.  The first network encodes the information, and that encoding depends upon how closely a person is paying attention.  The second network is the long-term storage, and the third network is in charge of recall.  It is my theory that many children today have trouble with the very first part of this memory system - the encoding, and the reason I believe they have trouble here is because of the attention requirement.  

    There is not a teacher alive who would tell you it is easy to keep the attention of students nowadays.  If one researches the topic “attention span,” he would be lead to believe that the average attention span has shrunk to below that of a goldfish’s.  Deeper research reveals that this research is mythical and that researchers say that attention span is determined by the activity… there is no average.  

    So why do we teachers have such a harder time holding the attention of students?  Because, compared to the plethora of entertaining videos on the Internet, we are amazingly boring!  Paying attention to a teacher spouting facts, organizing those facts, and evaluating, synthesizing or analyzing them is higher-order thinking, and students must be taught to do that.  And, of course, educators across the world are doing that, right?  With the adoption of Common Core and the increasing number of teachers who are evaluated by how well their students test, I guarantee that this is not happening as much as it should be.

    The answer doesn’t lie in theatrics, though.  We educators, and you parents, have an obligation to teach our students/children how to think.  By doing this, we equip our children to not only remember, but to utilize, analyze, and create with the information learned.  

     Now, if you find that your child does well with memory in school, but he cannot remember to do his chores, then you probably should look at how you are getting him to do those chores.  Are you reminding him?  Then why does he need to remember?  He has you to remind him.  My father taught me that back when my son was about ten.  I decided it was time I quit reminding him to do his chores.  He still forgot, of course, but for two weeks in a row, I “forgot” to pay him allowance.  The first time he reminded me, I shook my head and said, “Oh, man!  You’re right.  I forgot.”  And then I walked off.  The second week, he declared, “Mom, this is the second week in a row you’ve forgotten to pay me allowance.”  I answered, “You’re right!  I’m turning into you!”  Again, I walked off without paying him.  He didn’t forget a third week!

    Parents, as you can tell, we adults play a large role in how well our kids remember.  This means that we must pay attention to their needs.  If we turn off our distractors (gaming, phones, social media), our kids will never forget what they learn from us!

 

-       Michelle