Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-        Michelle

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

-        Bria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Kay

Hereditary

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

-Jill Lepore

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                    -   Bria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Kay

     There is a big push nowadays to know one’s heredity. 23 and Me, Family Finder. People have a great desire to know their own histories, and an even greater desire to explain their tendencies. Does knowing one’s heritage excuse those tendencies? For instance, even though I will never do a DNA test (I’m a literature teacher and confirmed conspiracy theorist… on a small, inactive scale!), I am positive my roots would trace to a people group who resided further north in the hemisphere. I have tendencies that suggest my people stored up carbs for a long, food-meager winter. The problem with this is that my winters are not meager, so I just tend to put on weight in the cold months! Does knowing that I have this tendency excuse it? I say it does not. If anything, it brings awareness and the ability to recognize triggers.

     My mother included a list of “enemy agents” in the math text she and I wrote and she now uses with our elementary kids. These agents are a part of CAFA (Confusion and Fear Agency). One such enemy is named “Gene Genie,” and he says, “My mom was no good at math, so I’m no good at math.” We have shown child after child that he is not a victim of his mother’s bad experience with math.

     Heredity gives us our eye color, parts of our temperaments, and our height. It does not mandate our inabilities. We do that.

      The next time you are tempted to commiserate with your child, bemoaning how much he hates math, remind yourself that (at least in our school) he is not in the same “math boat” you were in. Internet programs like Khan Academy, Cool Math for Kids, and Purple Math give your child a distinct advantage. Tell him to beach the “failboat” and make a trip to a math tutorial on the Web because success isn’t hereditary.

       -Michelle

Performance

  As I write this, I am awaiting students from 4A schools across Oklahoma. I will spend the next hour judging their performances in Standard Oratory (SO). They will be young and nervous. I know this because SO is only open to high school freshmen and sophomores, and most schools use it to introduce students to the sheer terror of speaking in front of their peers AND three teachers actually judging them!

   One of the first things I learned in teaching gifted secondary students is that they must compete. Gifted tend to overuse the idea of I got this.  They think a read-over of notes is studying and getting the gist of the piece is memorizing lines. The only way to get them to truly see what is required is to get them to ”put it out there” for evaluation. “Performance” becomes the standard, rather than a gifted teen’s boasts.

     For this reason, I require my students compete in two events yearly, robotics and speech, and students receive more credit score points for each additional competitive activity in which they participate. Our robotics competition offers a variety of areas in which to compete: actual build of the robot, programming of the robot, public speaking in the marketing of the robot, spirit competition, and artwork in the exhibit. All can contribute to the win. Speech is designed to help my students grow comfortable with an audience.

     What both have caused is a hunger for evaluation and the thrill of measuring up. It’s also caused more of my kids to try harder the next time (as opposed to giving up and moving on). They can see the path to victory, and, even though they may move on to a new event later, at least it’s after the victory.

     Let’s talk about the agony of defeat.  It is okay for your gifted child/teen to experience defeat.  It’s natural for him not to like it.  Occasionally I get a gifted teen who has not been taught how to be a graceful loser.  I ca tell by the excuses and venomous accusations coming from his mouth.  This is an attribute of gifted that parents, coaches, and teachers should mold as early as possible.  The parent who also makes excuses does not teach his child to evaluate, make necessary changes, and proceed onward.  He teaches his child that performance is dependent upon the performance of everyone around him.  With conditions like these necessary for success, the child will not be experiencing many successes!

     I sometimes get in trouble for being so blunt with my kids.  If I know what is required of a student to reach success in a particular area, and I know that he has not given the appropriate amount of effort, I do not say anything until I hear that child/teen try to put his failure off on others (the judges, the ref, a teammate…).  Then I give him a healthy dose of reality… followed by a “you can do this… I will help you if you’re willing to put good effort forth this time.” 

     I know it possibly means attendance at recitals and games and concerts, but having your child participate in activities that require performance is incredibly important to the development of a gifted child. 

-        Michelle

    Performance is “the proof of the pudding,” so to speak.  It is the ultimate test of what one has achieved in a specific arena.  As my husband says, “Performance is directly proportional to the amount and quality of the practice given to it.”  That is one of the major reasons Lawton Academy was established with a greater emphasis upon the arts compared with most schools.

    A student can lie to himself, his parents, and the teachers about how much time he put into writing or completing an assignment.  However, it is quite difficult to play a piece of music correctly without previous practice.  (Yes, there are those who play naturally by ear…but that gift has its limitations.  That person cannot play the music unless he/she has first heard someone else perform it!)

    When rehearsals get down to days before the actual performance, students who have not prepared their part find themselves causing the entire performance to be put on hold as they struggle to get someone to give them the lines they were to learn previously!  It is a very humbling experience, for no amount of lies, no gift of creativity, can rescue the person from the shame and frustration of the moment.

    Gifted people, as we have so often said, tend to put things off until the last possible moment.  That is why so many students find this humiliating performance situation no picnic in the park.  In many academic areas, the gifted can often “pull it off” with a little extra effort.  This just isn’t possible in a fine arts performance where many other people are involved.  It is a valuable lesson to be learned.

    So why is this so important?  Is it not far better to have the humiliating experience in a school play, rather than during the actual flight in a spacecraft heading to the moon or Mars?  It is too late to say, “I should’ve practiced that maneuver more!” 

    In my art classes, many students always “ride on the coat-tails”  of others.  Students will talk and socialize every art period…sketching now and then…throwing that piece in the trash, and then say to me, “I tried my best.”  Sometimes, a creative idea may not come to a child.  However, I am always there helping those who bring me questions and who seek my input.  Yet, when one of my students hits upon a really clever idea, everyone is there to copy!  Yes, imitation is the highest form of flattery.  But God gave each of us a brain and mind that is capable of far more than any computer.  No two people experience “life” in the same way.  Each has his own take on it!  That is what makes art greater than “simple” photography.

    This week I had a student who solved a spacing problem in her art piece.  She is only a fifth grader, but her solution was absolutely brilliant.  I now have a new tool in my teaching repertoire to pass on to other students who might face a similar situation.  The difference between her achievement and that of many others…she has given up recesses and lunch breaks to come to my art class and seek as many different solutions to her problem as she could conjure up in her mind.  Now, many are seeking to pattern their performances after hers.    

-        Kay

For anyone who works in a corporate setting- this is the time of year that you are tracking and measuring performance. Performance is at the center of everything we do in a business. If your product (physical, conceptual, or otherwise) is performing well, then you will see an increase in sales and revenue. From a marketing perspective, if your content is performing well, you will see an increase in engagement in terms of increased followers/exposure and traffic directed to your company’s website.

 

For some parts of our life, performance can be measured in “black and white” terminology. If you perform well in your classes, you will receive a good grade. If you perform well in your job and exceed expectations, you will eventually receive a promotion or some form of recognition.  If you perform well at the gym, you will see positive changes in your body and its endurance. Even these examples have room for gray area.

 

    There are other areas in which performance is much more subjective. For students across America, we are right in the heart of the competitive season for extra-curricular activities. For some activities, such as sports, the parameters for performance are fairly clear (i.e. the team that scores the most points wins). However, there are other activities that are not so cut and dry. Competitions surrounding the arts have a lot more gray area for how performance is measured.  

 

    For students competing in these types of activities, I have a few words of advice. First, work hard and have pride in what you do. If you are happy with your performance, that confidence will take you far. If at first you don’t succeed, seek a second opinion. Identify a trusted mentor that has not yet seen your work to bring a fresh perspective to your performance. Often times we get too close to something and we are not able to step back and see the larger picture. Obtaining opinions from an outside perspective can help you better identify areas of improvement that you might have not noticed previously. Lastly, keep your head up. Unfortunately, in some cases, you can work really hard and be really good and still not win. This happens for a variety of reasons, but it’s important to remember that as long as you have worked as hard as you can and you are happy with your performance, that is enough. You cannot control external factors, and there are countless reasons and contributing factors for competitive decision making. Remember in the end, performance is subjective. Your worth is not tied to your performance. As long as you work hard and take pride in your work, you will go far.

-        Bria

Preparation

   When potential clients book a tour of our school with me, I always tell them to be prepared for an hour tour and an informal interview with their child(ren) as we tour. I get a kick out of watching the little ones, who have obviously been prepped for our meeting.

   “My name is ________, and that’s spelled________. I can also spell…” at which point the child begins to spell several of the words he knows and count to a hundred while his parents smile nervously.

   I don’t interrupt because I know the parents are anxious. I listen,  or I ask a question that derails the full display but still lets the child show me what he knows.

   About thirty minutes into the interview, most children are tired of being “on display,” though, and then I get a real picture of the potential student. Usually, the kids are just fine.

    Conversely, preparation is often a foreign concept to middle schoolers... and some high schoolers. I cannot count the times after a flunked test that I have asked a student how he studied, and the reply is that he “read it over.” No notes were taken during class, and this child feels reading the chapter over once is enough prep. Maybe in other schools, but not ours.

    If you are the parent of a gifted child, you are aware that procrastination is common, and feelings of superiority often cause no desire to prepare. You are also frustrated with the times he was right (no preparation necessary) and familiar with the complete meltdown when he was wrong and the subsequent refusal to get back up on the proverbial horse and try again.

   It is important that you teach your child that preparation is the only course of action before an event. While he may be able to wing it now, failing only every once-in-awhile, a single failure in a job can lead to unemployment. Failure to prepare for college application in the sophomore and junior years means anxiety and not as many scholarship opportunities the senior year. A lack of preparation in sports often means a very public lesson on its importance.

  Beyond making preparation a way of life for your child, it is important that you model preparation for your child. Gifted kids come from gifted parents, so procrastination and “winging it” run in the family. It is unrealistic to think that your child will do as you say rather than as you model.

   Now, I’m not insinuating that one cannot wait until right before an event to prepare. I rarely have time to prepare more than a day out. I know, however, how much time I need, and I don’t see that big a difference between preparing weeks ahead and preparing hours ahead, as long as I’ve left enough time and minimized the chances of a distraction. I know… I know… what am I going to do if there’s a blackout… or my computer breaks down… or any other of a hundred “what if’s” that could happen. What can I say? I depend upon the Lord a lot to order my steps and help me get it done. When the days become crammed full of events, that’s about the only course of action!

      Michelle

    Preparation is necessary if a person hopes to bypass failure.  Even though it is a necessity, many people, including myself, often try to accomplish great things without that preparation.  “Winging it” is possible for a few, but it is extremely difficult to always “wing it” and have validity.

    Because I teach grades 1-5 every day, I can see where differences in maturity levels among students can play a role in whether it is okay to “wing it” or not.  I guarantee that only a fool would try to wing it with first graders! Their lack of political correctness allows them to sharply call a person out who has not made adequate preparation for a class or project.  This is especially true during art lessons. The results of a lack of preparation in that class include paint on the carpet, paint on each other, a myriad of cuts with scissors, glue on everything, and cries of “what do I do next, teacher?”  It is not a pretty sight!

    Preparation is also the focus of the concepts I try to teach my students.  I put it simply: “I am trying to help you be smarter than the average bear!”  Each concept learned is a step toward a higher level of thinking and performing.  Those steps altogether lead to independence and their career of the future. The time necessary to accomplish those levels of preparation is the variable.  Some people are driven and self-motivated, while others have to be prodded and pushed. This is the difference between some of the secondary students in our school who study math with Dr. Mortensen.  He takes his students as far as they wish to go…as long as they do the preparation and practice necessary to advance to the next level. Thus, he has twenty to thirty different lesson plans. He is individualizing his classes just like he individualized his patients as a medical doctor.  I admire him for that! His students have been very successful. None of this was possible without his preparation. Even though he doesn’t get paid for summer work, he spends the summer preparing for those students!

    My preparations have taken on a few changes over the fifty plus years of my career.  Much of the basics I teach have been ingrained into my thinking so that I almost instinctively know how to proceed.  However, I have to make new preparations to deal with the changes that have come with today’s children. Lack of attention, visual problems due to much viewing of 2-D video games and TV, hyperactivity which may be due to chemicals in their diets, and a myriad of emotional needs evolving from separation anxieties are just a few of the ordeals which now affect my preparations.

    I have a new preparation of which I am aware, brought about by my age.  No matter how strong my faith is, no matter how wonderful my life is, I find myself asking if I have made adequate preparation for my eventual death…which seems to be getting closer and closer.  Many of my friends have recently passed away…driving home the truth of my age…not just associating my age with how I look or feel anymore.

    That step into the hereafter requires preparation.  I have settled the matter of my eternal soul with God, but have I made preparation for my students, school, and family members for when that event actually comes?  It makes me stop and consider just how important preparation is. So, as I enjoy each day to its fullest, I will set aside a little time to think about these most important preparations.

Kay

Here we are nearing the end of January. For the first time in my life I can say that one of my New Year’s resolutions has lasted more than two weeks. One of my major resolutions this year was to get serious about meal-prepping healthy and affordable meals and to stop ordering food and going out to eat as much. For the last three weekends I have spent hours making large batches of food and preparing for the week ahead. This has allowed me to save money and time on food and make healthy meal choices, even when I don’t have a lot of time to make a meal. Although meal-prepping takes a lot of time and consideration, it has completely transformed my week and my budget.


That’s the thing about preparation. It’s not easy, but it is really important. What are you preparing for currently? For some of you, it might be a major life event such as a graduation, birth, or wedding. For others, you might be preparing for more long-term goals and instances. Maybe you are saving up for a major purchase or generally preparing for retirement. All of these scenarios are important and different, and they all require a certain amount of preparation.


The thing about preparation is that in some cases, preparatory acts can feel useless when you don’t see the fruits of your labors immediately. Sometimes you will not see the benefits of your preparation for a long time. Unfortunately, sometimes you won’t realize the importance of preparation until you find yourself in an instance in which you have failed to prepare, and it is producing a negative outcome. It’s hard to balance preparation with immediate results and long-term preparation that will affect you in the future.


Don’t put yourself in these situations. Students, you might think you are too young to start getting serious about looking for colleges. It’s never too early. Graduation is going to sneak up on you, and you should be doing everything you can to prepare for it. Even if you are too young to start touring schools, remember that you are starting to contribute to your cumulative GPA now. Don’t hurt your chances of getting into a good school because the Freshman-aged-you didn’t prepare.

I ask you again, what are you currently preparing for? What should you be preparing for? I encourage you to take a look at your life. What are your goals? Deadlines? Upcoming events? Take little steps each day to prepare for you future. You don’t have to accomplish grandiose feats each day, but keeping up on future preparations will keep you from experiencing a lack of preparedness. What are you doing to today to prepare for your future?

Bria



Timing

       One of the first lessons I teach young musicians is how to keep a steady beat. I explore with the kids a list of “what if’s.” What if your heart didn’t keep a steady beat? What if it just stopped for a few minutes? What if it raced and then slowed and then raced again? The kids quickly pick up on the necessity of a steady beat.   

     We soon move to rhythm, which is the movement of the sound in a song. We compare the syncopation to the steady beat. It’s a great lesson, and all my music students learn it at a young age.

       Nevertheless, though, there are always those who, at a slightly older age, decide that their own beat and rhythm are just fine. It doesn’t matter that they’re trying to play within an orchestra… at least not to them!  As a principal of a school for the gifted, I don’t mind kids “marching to the beat of their own drums,” but I expect unity of beat and rhythm when we’re an ensemble!

        It’s all in the timing.  Now, I know that a time signature in music isn’t exactly what’s meant by the word timing, but I think there are a lot of parallels. Timing is a tricky thing, whether it be in learning as a toddler when to step onto and off an escalator or knowing as an adult when to shoot a gun at a moving clay pigeon.  But there are signs and truths about timing, just as there are in music.

         One of the hardest things for gifted children is to wait for the right time. They are often in a hurry to grow up. Gifted kids want the privileges of older siblings, and gifted teens just wish they were adults already. It’s important that we teach our gifted children and teens to enjoy the now.  The beauty of timing is the anticipation and the successful execution. If we teach our kids the time signature, they will enjoy the experience much more. For example, if we tell our children when we hit our growth spurt and encourage them that they, too, will hit a growth spurt at a similar time, our children will anxiously compare their heights to ours, noting each little half inch of growth.

         Having said that, though, I must admit that half of the fun of learning timing is working it out on your own. Sometimes I enjoy it most when I’m reflecting upon how much better God’s timing was than what I would have chosen. About my fourth year at Lawton Academy, I remember becoming convinced that God was going to fund a new secondary building, complete with a cafeteria, library, and auditorium... soon. While my students played sports at PE, I would step out the measurements of the auditorium on the grassy field. While visiting other cities, I would take pictures of features in rooms that I wanted to put in my secondary building. It’s been fourteen years, and God has just now seen fit to give us a multi-purpose building. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s exactly what we need when we need it most. As I look back on the years between that dream and now, I realize how the recession that occurred could have made the payments on a new building close to impossible to maintain. God had protected us once again from bad timing.  

    As I get older, I learn that just because God reveals the plan now, it doesn’t mean the event will occur now. Goodness, He anointed David king of Israel as a boy, but God didn’t allow him to be king until he had suffered enough to write some of the most inspiring praises in history (the Psalms). David was a man after God’s own heart because he waited on God’s timing.

     Whether or not you share my belief in the Bible, you have to know that the learning occurs during the waiting. In a world of instant gratification, this is going to be hard for our children to believe. In fact, they will mostly learn from hindsight for a while. Teach your gifted child that his time will come, and show him what he will learn as he waits.  Just like in an ensemble, things go better when we time it just right.

-          Michelle

    Timing is everything when you are a musician, a gardener, a car mechanic, a trapeze artist, and yes, even a parent!  Everyone, practically, is tied to some need for timing.  Being both a musician and an artist, I have an internal struggle: the musician wants perfect timing, while the artist has no concept of time when lost in creative thought.

    Our school differs from the state public schools when it comes to the time for children to attend school.  Due to sheer numbers, the public schools must limit entry dates to a set date and not deviate from it.  We, on the other hand, have the ability to judge a child’s readiness for school and make the determination best for that child.  Many bright children have been spared boredom in a typical pre-school classroom which borders on day-care service.  (Note: some preschool programs and day care facilities do offer fine “learning programs.”)

    Educational programs over the years have tried to mandate a certain age for the accomplishment of skills by children, only to find that not all children fit in that box!  Individuality is an important concept that must be paramount when timing a student’s learning path.  It requires keen observation, knowledge of the progression of skills, and much daring on the part of the teacher.  When we step outside of the typical box, we are on our own…accountable for the positive or negative outcome for that child.

    I am a firm believer that a child can learn anything if the teacher puts it into a concept which is familiar to that child.  I think children have a natural desire to advance on to new concepts rather than do the same old thing over and over again.  Thus, it is important for educators to spend the extra time developing that new level of learning for that child.  Immediately it becomes apparent that not all children learn at the same pace, and a “one size fits all” approach to learning just doesn’t work for all students.

    The hardest part of matching timing to a student’s needs, for me, is trying to pick a point of entry or departure for older remedial students.  The student doesn’t want to work in activities which are “young” or beneath his age.  However, finding activities of lower-order skills which are presented at a seemingly “teenage” level, is a task that is very hard.  Often a teacher must just write her own activities.  This is, however, probably the best solution since the teacher knows that student’s particular needs best.

    The other “timing” problem I face is that of the “hurried child.”  This child wants to write cursive writing before he or she can even recognize the complete manuscript alphabet.   The purpose of printing in manuscript is to properly form letters for an easy transition to cursive connected writing.  The print in manuscript also better matches the world of print around the child which he/she is trying to learn to read.  If the child and the parents of that child will relax and wait for the proper timing, cursive writing will be easy and certainly more legible.  

    Brain research has given us information such as the need for teens to start school later in the day.  Some timing such as this is often just not possible due to various restraints.  Research also shows that students read faster in the morning, but comprehend better in the afternoon, although at a much slower rate of reading.  So, when should a reading class be scheduled?  I’ve had reading classes at both times of the day.  The research has proven true.  But the question remains:  which is more important for the student…faster completion of work, or better understanding of the work?

    In summary, I spend a lot of my life dealing with issues of timing.  Do I solve problems with one basic line of reasoning?  No…I have to look at each case individually.  Then, I must look at timing issues such as schedules, student maturity, parent desires for that child, and my own available time.  Then, I do a lot of praying!  I have had a lot of success…but I have also had failures.  So, I will keep working for a better solution…and I will do what I can to help each student of mine to overcome timing issues.

                                                                                                        -   Kay

      

 

People always say, “timing is everything.” You never know how true this statement is until you experience it first-hand. There’s a reason why many of life’s biggest decisions and changes move incredibly fast. When the timing is right, things just seem to fall into place. This phenomenon is both exciting and terrifying, depending on how life’s timing aligns with the plan you create in your head.  

While there are some aspects of timing that are completely out of your control, there are other aspects of timing of which you have to be aware and act accordingly. Right now is a big time for high school seniors. December and January are prime time for early college applications. If you are the parent of a senior or you yourself are a senior, it’s time to get serious. Early applications for many schools close soon. It’s time to start putting yourself out there. This is also peak scholarship season. Although some scholarships are available year round, there are a lot more options directly preceding a new academic year.

Scholarships generally have a reviewal process that can takes weeks if not months. To ensure that scholarship money is accounted for by your fall semester, you need to be submitting scholarship applications. Googling “college scholarships” brings up thousands of pages of results for scholarships from all kinds of places. These applications vary in requirements and amount of money, but there really is something out there for everyone. But the time is now, so do your research and start applying for those scholarships now.

Timing is everything. While the overall timing of our life is out of our control, it’s important to be mindful of timelines that impact our futures. Be proactive and stay on top of deadlines. Being mindful of the things you want in life will allow you to stay on task and keep your goal in mind. Being responsible and proactive with timelines, and open to change when the timing is right, will set you up for success in your life.

-          Bria

Spontaneity

Welcome to 2019 - the year of spontaneity. A motivational speaker I admire once told an audience that he names each of his years by what he hopes to accomplish in that year. For example, he had past years that were focus years, health years, career years, etc.

For me, I want this year to be a year in which I accomplish a lot. I started off the year by making a vision board that included inspirational quotes about health and wellness, self-love/self-care, working hard, etc. I knew this year was going to be life-changing, but I had no idea what would be in store.

We are six days into 2019, and my life is about to completely change. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose all of the gritty details just yet, but 2019 is going to bring total change to my personal and professional life. When making that vision board, I had no idea how fast things would move. The center theme of all of this change was spontaneity. I was offered something that was definitely a crazy offer on paper. It is completely life-changing and exciting. It is also something I never thought I would be doing. If you told me, even six months ago that in this year I would be making this change, I would not have believed it.

That’s the beauty of spontaneity. I could have easily turned this down and written this off as a crazy idea that would bring about too much change. I could have been too afraid of the potential risk associated. What have you been afraid to do or try? It doesn’t have to be some uprooting, life-changing move; it can be a small risk that improves your life and broadens your horizons.

I dare you (that’s right, we are taking it back to elementary school - I double-dare you) to take a risk that might improve your life this year. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This year is your year. You are going to do great things this year; be spontaneous and open to opportunities. You’ll never reach your full potential when you are hiding in your comfort zone. What spontaneous thing will you do this year?

-        Bria

    Spontaneity is NOT a word often associated with me.  Everyone who knows me well knows that I always tend to look at an upcoming event with caution.  I learned long ago as a superintendent that Murphy’s Law is always in effect, and if anything could go wrong, it usually did.  Therefore, I looked at all the possibilities that could arise and made a plan of action for each one.  Needless to say, my family was less than happy with this predictive behavior, and thought I was just a negative person.

    During the snowstorm that surprisingly took place here in October, my pastor told the church that for the first time he realized what a struggle all of our school superintendents had making the decision about whether to close school or not.  He worried about someone trying to get to church and suffering a terrible accident on the way.  Well, I’ve experienced that deep turmoil every snowstorm for the past fifty years!  It’s not fun!

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy serendipity experiences.  I like to travel with my husband, and we enjoy checking out the local areas off the main highway systems of America.  We have met very neat and interesting people that way.  We have tasted America’s uniqueness from coast to coast in these unplanned adventures.  Now, I must admit that a few of these were not pleasant experiences…like driving all day until we came to a river which did not have a bridge crossing it.  We finished the entire day of driving right back where we started early that morning!

    I do, however, love spontaneity that I call “the teachable moment.”  I refuse to let a lesson plan get in the way of such teaching moments in my classroom.  I believe that is one reason Lawton Academy is so enjoyed by our families.  We stop and take advantage of such moments.  Often, concepts which would appear somewhere in our plans just pop up out of nowhere…and the time is perfect for teaching it at this moment.

    We met a teacher recently who told us his plan for the day’s lesson was dictated to him by the school’s administration.  I thought how limiting that would be!  Such faculty control also controls the thinking of the students…and perhaps kills any chance for teachable moments.  I remember as a first-year teacher having to place my week’s lesson plans on the principal’s desk by 3:00 Fridays.  When it came to carrying out the lesson plans the following week, they were hardly ever what actually ended up taking place.  There were constant variables which caused them to have to be changed.  I realize that the purpose was to be sure if a substitute was needed for that teacher, the day was already planned for the students.  But the trend I am seeing in many schools is micromanaging the classrooms.  Even our state legislature likes to get in on that act.  Everyone wants the best teacher for their kids, but no one desires their child to marry one or to become one!  Yes, it is a sacrificial vocation.  A truly good teacher spends three to five additional hours each evening just grading, planning and studying for the next day’s lessons to go well.  (Some may not spend that amount, but all will spend at least another two to three hours each evening on schoolwork.)

    I would recommend a wonderful little book about this called The Geranium on The Windowsill Just Died but, Teacher, You went Right On by Albert Cullum.  The ending is very touching: “Teacher, come on outside!  I’ll race you to the seesaw!  No, you won’t fall off!  I’ll show you how!  Don’t be afraid, Teacher.  Grab my hand and follow me.  You can learn all over again!... “ 

    I took the lesson to heart many times in my career.  I enjoyed the squeals of laughter as I slid down the tornado slide, got dunked in the cold dunk tank, and got tagged as I tried to get home free in a game of hide and seek!  Isn’t life wonderful!?  I think so!       

-        Kay

  Now, we’ve spent a lot of time encouraging you as parents to help your gifted child control his impulsive reactions. It seems odd that we would now encourage spontaneity. There is a key difference between impulsive behavior and spontaneity, though. An impulsive response is made without thought. Spontaneity thinks about it and says, “Sure. Why not?!”

     There’s a lot of benefit to encouraging spontaneity in your children. I know that is contrary to every bit of advice you hear from the talking heads. They esteem the virtues of routine and schedules, and there is wisdom in getting your child into a routine. Spontaneity is where fun is born, though, and kids need that. It’s fine to establish that the screens go off by 8:00 each night so we can wind down. But, it’s fun to spontaneously decide that this night, we’re going to the big screen (the movies) at 8:00!

    A child who is too scheduled bucks change, and change will have to come. In a world of “instant,” a parent would have to work really hard to keep a completely consistent schedule. My thought is, “Why not bring the fun every once-in-a-while?”

   Of course, too many spur-of-the-moment decisions can be bad as well. You want the spontaneity to be a welcomed surprise. Do it too often, and spontaneity becomes the norm.

    I love how big ideas at our school often hit us (the owners) all just about the same time. As soon as we each vocalize it, we realize we should do it. Change happens spontaneously. My kids know when they come back from a break, several things will have changed. They trust that it will be for the good, and they always seem to respond well. Like I said, “Spontaneity brings the fun.” Do something spontaneous with your kids today. No major life changes… I don’t want to be blamed for that! Just something small and fun… and spontaneous! Happy New Year!

                                                                                  - Michelle

Too Much

   “Too much” definitely describes this last week of school before Christmas break.  We have had: too much weather change for the worst; too much time needed to finish student-made gifts for parents; too much sugar in all the candies, cakes, cookies, etc. which everyone gladly consumed; and too much academic material to finish before report cards.

    Is it any wonder that all of us have been counting the days until break?!  At my age, I hate to live life looking forward to a special date such as Christmas holidays.  After all, I desire to cherish each and every day I have left on this planet!  In my mind, I see my life as the seasons of nature.  When I was a young sapling, I rushed through every day, looking for new experiences.  During the summer years of my life, I enjoyed life’s adventures fully!  In my autumn years, I filled every day with memories, family- building of future generations and small catnaps between chores.  Now I am in the winter years of life, and I see the delicate balance I must keep each day in order to feel I am completing my task which God planned for my life.

    Too much of anything can be a killer!  Even too much water…a necessity for life…can cause a person to die.  (I witnessed this in a silly contest a few years ago.)  Yet, our days are bombarded with too much advertising (every five minutes or so on TV) or too many robo-calls during the busiest time of the day.  My husband is constantly reminding himself and me that the cost of a new pick-up is “too much” since it is as much as a new starter home.  Since we’ve been watching our carbohydrate intake, we now notice the serving sizes of food in restaurants…definitely too much!  

    The thing that amazes me most, however, is that we never see “too much” love given to the lonely, or “too much” food and shelter given to the homeless in our community.  I was proud of one of our parents who worked to help provide about eighty-four homeless students in our city with gifts of necessities.  Our school received an award for having the third most participants of small schools in the Spirit of Survival Race for Cancer fund raiser.  Our students, staff and parents graciously gave blood donations, volunteer time, and Christmas boxes to third world countries.  Yet, the amount was nothing near the “too much” level of giving of selves.  Jesus told us, “Greater love has no man than this: to give his life for a friend.”

    The Giving Tree is a touching little book that inspires me every time I read it to my students.  I hope that my life will make such a difference in the lives of others.  President George Bush passed away a short time ago.  His death caused people of all walks of life and all political ideals to long for the kinder, gentler nation he desired.  Maybe his death was timely in our nation’s mad quest for “too much” of everything.  My prayer is that I and others like me will take the time to pray for our nation to be able to renew that spirit of unity and to monitor our behaviors so that we do not overdo the “too much” of what life offers.     Merry Christmas!  

-          Kay