Posturing

    Posturing is a subject I have studied over the years in order to better understand and work effectively with my students. Generally, I think of it as the student trying to convince me or others that he/she is brighter, smarter, faster, kinder, etc. than the other students.  Used in this manner, it is a form of manipulation.  However, there are other examples of “posturing” not so easily noticed or thought about which can affect a classroom for good or bad.  As a good teacher, it is my duty to be aware of each of these types of posturing.

    As I stated above, the manipulating type of posturing usually rears its head around report card times, special recognition or award times, or right before parent / teacher conferences.  Often a misbehaving child figures his/her posturing towards “God’s precious little angel” will change my planned delivery of information to the parents.  When it is time to award our “Super Hero Decision Maker Award” at each month’s end, I get all kinds of “gifts” and the offering of special help with chores around the classroom or schoolyard.  Needless to say, I do not let the posturing change my honest delivery of information or choice of awardee.

    A more important type of posturing does demand my attention and does require me to always be on my toes in the classroom.  Because we use tables and chairs for group interaction in our classrooms, this posturing can greatly affect the class behavior.  The placement of students at a table can unintentionally set a child up as the leader of the group.  This might be used if I need a child to act in this role, but it can be devastating if an aggressive child is given that particular place setting.

    Another form of posturing of which I am aware is that of cultural training and expectations.  If the child’s culture teaches that it is improper to look an adult directly in the eyes, I must acknowledge that custom and work with the parents and the child to find a means of communication I can use with that student.  

    Finally, I must be careful not to overlook the “posture” of children during the typical day.  That unspoken body language can tell me so much more than any words the child may use.  Often I try to encourage students who are introverts to change their posture so others will see them more positively.  When a child carries him/herself in a defeated manner, people will not usually engage them in positive interactions.  Does it work?

    Try this simple trick I was taught long ago by a fashion model.  When you walk, always lead with the heel of your foot.  Try doing this consciously…see if you don’t feel a little more in control or powerful.  What others see is a positive person who knows where he/she is going!

-       Kay

 

Working with middle school and early high school boys for the first time in my life has given me a much clearer idea of posturing. For the first month of school, I kept thinking about how confident they were at such a young age. Generally speaking, I think the media (movies, television, etc.) portrays 6th-9th graders as awkward and unconfident. So it was a big culture shock for me to hear a 6th grade boy walk into a room of much older kids and demand everyone’s attention. 

What I have come to learn since is that this behavior is partially attributed to the giftedness, but also that it is certainly posturing. I witness this type of behavior every single day as our young students try to figure out their place in this world. I don’t believe that this is necessarily an incorrect instinct, but it can definitely wear on the patience of the people that have to watch the posturing all the time. 

Young teenagers often feel the need to posture to make themselves seem cooler or smarter than they actually are. In the case of interpersonal relationships at this age, we see boys trying to impress each other with actions that older kids and adults would perceive as annoying or childish. On the intelligence front, middle school students are still learning discipline and responsibility about classwork and assignments, so we often see posturing when the student is not adequately prepared to discuss a certain topic or take a test. 

Often this posturing comes from a lack of self-confidence. Parents if you are noticing this behavior in your children, this is a sign that they are struggling with self-esteem. It is on us as well as you to find additional ways to build them up so that they do not need to posture. Real confidence can replace the annoying posturing when self-esteem exists. Take some time to invest in your child’s confidence.

-       Bria

    Nearly everyone out there has had someone tell you to sit up or stand up straight. That’s not the kind of posture we’re addressing this week. Posturing is behavior that is intended to impress or mislead. Very few of us have never postured.  We see it in our school the most with students who are not highly gifted.  The gifted kids don’t have to posture because they are good at many things.   Just about anything they try, they are going to make a decent showing.  The ones who posture the most in my school are the ones who cannot compete academically.  These students often excel at sports or talents or fashion or something similar.  Because they cannot swing the best grades in the room, they posture to impress (not to mislead).  

    Because I know this is going to happen, I try to build many activities in my program that allow rewarding of that posturing.  I do not want someone who is not technically “gifted” to think he/she is not, in fact, talented.  Talented people get work just as often as gifted people.  

    If you have multiple children, posturing is occurring in your home.  You’re going to need to check yourself to make sure you are not only rewarding academics.  In the same vein, your gifted child will begin posturing if your praise goes to the talented child.  

    I know that the definition of posturing seems derogatory.  I don’t think it is, though.  I think posturing is simply a person’s way of saying, “I have value, too.”  If you have a child who seeks to impress quite a bit, you might have a child who cannot tell you are proud of him.  Do your best to praise each child for his special abilities rather than comparing one to the other.  

    Now, I cannot help you if you have the posturing child who does it to mislead.  Smart kids come from smart parents, though, so don’t accept “buttering up.”  The chances are high that the child is leading you away from the truth!  You’ll just have to learn his “tell,” and keep him on the high road!

-       Michelle

Commitments

This has been a big year of commitments for my husband and me. In 2019, we got married, bought a house, and moved from Chicago to Oklahoma to take a job that locks us in for a long-term commitment. At one point of my life, all of these things would scare me, but part of maturing is getting comfortable with commitment and learning how to make and maintain these commitments. 

We ask a lot of the students in our secondary program. We offer more than twenty extra-curricular clubs, teams, and opportunities. Because our kids are talented in a lot of areas, they often sign up for multiple clubs or teams. We see a majority of our secondary students participating in more than four extra-curricular activities throughout the school, with several participating in closer to ten activities. That is a huge time commitment, and it causes a lot of scheduling conflicts. On the teaching/administrative side of these activities, there are fees, rules/regulations, and expectations to uphold. Because of these matters and because we are teaching our students to be strong leaders, we require our students to honor their commitments. 

At the beginning of each year, students fill out activity forms with the clubs and teams in which they are interested. These forms go home to parents to review, and a signed copy comes back to us. At that point, the student has committed to participate in that activity and any associated competitions or practices. From that point on, students are expected to honor these commitments. That means when a student skips archery to participate in other activities or work on homework, there are repercussions for these actions. This might seem harsh, but we are training leaders, and we believe that it is important for these students to prioritize their previous commitments. 

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. If a student is out of town because the parent is bringing them on a work trip, the missed clubs will not result in reprimanding. Similarly, illness, injury, family emergencies, etc. are all viable excuses for missing activities. Beyond that, we look at situations on a case-by-case basis. But largely, our students are expected to show up and give it 100%. 

Teaching children the importance of honoring their commitments during their adolescence will translate to important skills in their adult lives. Beyond the benefits of committing in the workplace, there are a lot of personal commitments your child will face in his or her future. The lessons we are instilling now can help your child stay committed to relationships, jobs, and their personal and professional goals. Think about these important lessons next time your child is too tired to go to wrestling practice or doesn’t feel like attending that weekend speech tournament. The decisions you are making now have long term effects. Make sure you are empowering your child to maintain his commitments. 

                                             Bria

    Commitments are promises to complete a pledge or to stand upon your position about a certain subject.  However, while people are heard to say, “I am overcommitted,” rarely do we hear someone say, “I’ve made too many promises!”  This makes the two words seem different when they are not.

    Maybe there would be less divorce if people said, “I promise,” rather than agreeing to a “commitment.”  Even little children try to make promises believed by saying, “I cross my heart …hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”  That seems to be evidence that a promise is to be a very sacred trust.  Our courts ask, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…”   They don’t ask for a “commitment” to the judge, jury, or defendant. So, I believe that a promise carries more weight than a commitment.  Yes, I realize I may be wrong.

    I think it is easier for a person to excuse him/herself from things he/she doesn’t want to do if he/she can claim “overcommitment.”  That seems like they only have a problem with scheduling…and we all know that schedules can cause difficulties for everyone.  But if a person admits that he/she must break promises, guilt is immediate.  It is as if we are admitting to being a liar.  That certainly weighs heavy on one’s psyche or heart.

    So, with all the above being said, to what should we commit ourselves?  For me, it is a daily pledge to God, my family, our school and our students to make every effort to do my best teaching to enable their success.  Whatever it takes to see student progress made each day, that will I do.  If it means extra time to bring about a certain expected outcome, I am willing to work it out with arrangements made not to hurt others awaiting my time.  Every action taken will have ramifications in many directions.  One simply cannot make a sudden decision to do something without regard to others who will be affected by it.

    The main area where I have difficulty is not making a change to an agreed-upon schedule.  Sometimes I see a necessary change as important, while others have already made plans and desire to carry out those activities.  The more people involved in a team situation, the more important it is to keep everyone on the same schedule.  I have learned that some of us can deal with sudden change and function quite readily.  Others simply need planning time first.  

Thus, I am living proof that you “can teach an old dog new tricks!”  

    I am a “fixer,” so I look for immediate solutions to problems.  I react to and quickly try to solve crises when they arise.  However, someone once pointed out that we are bombarded by so many “crises” every day that it is similar to putting lots of little pebbles in a jar first.  Then, it is impossible to put in the large stones that are important issues.  We need to commit to taking care of the large important issues first (big rocks in the jar first) and there will be plenty of room for all the little issues (the sand) later.  That way, I needn’t be “over-committed.”  I only need to get my priorities right!       Kay

   I remember going to see a movie in the early 90’s about a self-proclaimed “promoter” who sought to start an R&B group in Ireland but could only recruit fellow Irishmen. In spite of not being the traditional R&B group, the small band was successful because R&B was so wanted in that area. The name of movie and the band? The Commitments.” 

    I’ve never thought about the choice of that name till today. It took a lot of commitment to bring an unpopular genre to a country, but it takes even more commitment to sing R&B! The music itself requires soul-bearing and complete trust in your voice to move people. 

    One more random thought: why do we say when we make the hard decision to put a person in a mental health institute that we are “committing” them? I think it’s because we are committing to full-time concentration on helping the person, even if the full-time is given by some other entity.

     So, from these related ideas, one can assume that commitment requires full participation.  As I creak and groan while walking, I can without a blink say that I am committed. My family taught me that a commitment means I give my very best effort to the event or cause, and I do. This leads to long hours and stiff body parts from exertion, but the results are always good and well-worth it. Often people will express that they don’t know how I do so much, and I am always quick to point out my reliance on Christ for strength and direction. Few, however, want to give what it takes to get the results my family and I do, though.

     What should we consider before making a commitment? I don’t know that all people understand the requirements of a commitment. I run into students daily who make “commitments,” and then stop a little bit in. Better than any scolding or consequence I’ve ever given is the role model older students are. When kids see other kids making and keeping commitments well, they tend to step up.

     As parents of gifted kids, then, I guess my advice before okaying your child’s opportunity is to talk about your expectations for their commitment level and to make sure your child has youth role models in sight.

                                                  Michelle

Innovation

Innovation is something near and dear to my heart, and I truly believe it opens doors, creates solutions and jobs, and provides opportunities to those willing to put themselves out there and risk failure. I would consider myself and my family to be entrepreneurs. My brother and I have both started our own respective companies in Chicago and ingrained ourselves in the innovation ecosystem, working with startup incubator programs and innovation centers. These experiences took a lot of work, but what we took away from each experience was very valuable.

My grandparents started Lawton Academy with the idea of providing differentiated curriculum for gifted and talented students. At the time of its creation, there was nothing like this school in the region. Five years later my mom joined the mix and created and established a strong secondary program that uses principles and learning experiences that are not found in other schools. Lastly, my dad has joined the team, and he is building and developing a sports program, something that was never a part of the original plan of LAAS, but it is helping our kids to learn and grow and develop healthy lifestyles and attitudes towards competition. 

All over the world there are entrepreneurs creating innovative solutions to a variety of problems. Innovation in the medical technology industry saves lives and makes medical procedures safer for patients and doctors. Innovation in the technology industry gives us advancements and progress. There is innovation in every industry that is changing the way we conduct our daily lives. Entrepreneurs represent a broad demographic, and many successful innovative ideas come out of schools and universities. These opportunities of the innovation community are available for younger people as well as mid-level professionals and above. Students are out there changing the world, and your student can as well.

Yesterday, we took twenty secondary students to Alva to hear the challenge for this year’s robotics competition. This competition forces our students to develop strong problem-solving skills, and it encourages the teams to come up with innovative solutions to real world problems. I think this is one of the most valuable experiences that our students have during middle school and high school. It builds teamwork, healthy competition, problem-solving, and hard work under pressure. These are all very valuable skills for students to develop before they enter the workforce. In addition to these skills. I believe this competition trains up our next great crop of innovators. This might not manifest with each of these students starting a company, but I believe that these students have more training and ability to innovate solutions in whatever job in which they end up. 

Push your children to take opportunities such as robotics that develop these innovative skills. Get them in STEM clubs, encourage them to take leadership positions, do activities that develop problem-solving skills. We need innovators to continuously develop and improve our world. That person to cure cancer or develop new technology that improves our society could very well be your child. Even if they don’t create a company, item, or technology, these skills are transferable and will help with their career growth.

-        Bria

 

    It’s the robotics time of year at LAAS.  We traveled four hours one-way yesterday to officially “Kick-off” the season, and it was so worth it!  I love to watch the kids brainstorm ways to build a robot that can complete all the tasks.  

   In a day and age when Hollywood’s only move seems to be remaking the classics, innovation may seem hard to find.  The definition, after all, is “a new method, idea, product, etc.”  I teach in AP Lit that there are no new stories.... only variations on common themes.  What a party pooper, eh?!  I do go on to tout the wonderful nature of variations.  

   As I watched my students tackle the game challenge (to make a robot replace the fallen electrical wires in a simulated after-catastrophe scenario), I was amazed at the new ideas I heard.  After all, I’ve been coaching robotics for fifteen years now.  There are only so many variations on a robot with four motors and four servos.  But these kids haven’t heard or seen any of those ideas.  They’re just trying to solve an issue.  And, boy,  they are!

    Being an innovator requires that one knows how to create.  At our school, we require that every student in elementary sing, act, play an instrument, and participate in art (not crafts… real art).  In secondary, we let the kids choose in which fine arts they will get their credits, not limiting them to just one or two.  The reason?  If one teaches a child all the facts in the world, but the child cannot create, that child is useless for anything but Jeopardy!  Employers what to hire people who can create… create opportunities, create new products or new methods to serve customers, create revenue.  Innovation is an absolute necessity!!

    I think a prerequisite to being an innovator is being a “fixer.”  Are you a “fixer?”  I am.  So are my mother and my daughter.  We have to tell each other not to solve when we’re communicating with each other!  I think the fact that we are all fixers is part of the reason our school has so many innovations in education.  My mother has been an innovator from the get-go.  The school in which she spent her first thirty years as a superintendent, principal, and teacher was a model school for Oklahoma.  She did workshops all over the United States on brain research and how it alters instructional needs, and many people have credited her with revolutionizing the way they taught.  

    We have continued innovating at our private school.  Every day as needs arise, our faculty and owners create solutions that solve.  And we are instilling this same ability in our students.  

    Parents of gifted children, I encourage you to teach your children to innovate.  It’s not enough to just create with Legos and erector sets.  Give your children the ability to solve real-world problems.  Can’t come up with any of those?  Just look online for competition possibilities.  Companies are constantly looking for new ideas, and children are a great source of uninhibited innovation.  Your child can win cool prizes, and companies will make better products because of the innovation of our youth.

    Shoot, just learning to work with your gifted child requires that you be an innovator, too!  I challenge you this week to make some family time for innovating… even if that innovation is just building a big fort with the living room cushions, pillows, and throws!  Every innovation creates a new synapse in the brain.  You and your family have nothing to lose and so much to gain!  Happy creating!

                    Michelle

 

    Innovation is a term that fits in nicely with today’s technological world.  However, it has been around a very long time.  Of course, we called it by another name: invention.  Yes, I learned as a child that “Necessity is the mother of invention!”  

    I’ve been working around the clock for the past three weeks trying to innovate a way to run my first-grade classroom in centers.  I taught this way for eighteen years with great success. Many teachers came and visited my classroom to watch it in action.  Most could not believe a first-grade classroom could run so efficiently and well with such excellent results.  I was even asked to travel to teacher education meetings to teach educators how to do such organizational teaching in their classrooms.

    What is my problem at this time?  Why have I not been able to carry out such a method right now?  As I have been analyzing the situation, I have drawn a few conclusions.  Students today have about a five to ten-minute attention span while those students I had in the past had an average of a twenty-minute attention span.  To carry out center rotations, all students must be occupied for at least twenty minutes or so in order to complete the assigned work.

    When students work in centers, they must keep their attention focused on the tasks to be done in that particular center.  Today, if even one computer is activated, all heads turn in that direction, and students are immediately mesmerized…getting nothing done but staring into the computer’s screen across the room.  Even when each student will get a turn at the computers, no one is willing to delay their desire to be on the computer “NOW!”  I must admit that this particular battle for their minds drives me crazy!

    One other problem that presents itself is the ongoing desire of students to get immediate praise at the precise moment they desire, or to have immediate repetition of the directions which they have forgotten.  Either situation calls for me to stop working with the group of students in teacher time…just to answer their questions or acknowledge their need for immediate gratification.  Maybe this is due to children not getting enough personal time with parents as technology demands the time of family members every moment of the day (phone, email, internet, TV and streaming, etc.).

    Am I trying to do the impossible?  I don’t think so.  I know that I was able to rotate center work with 30 students on five different levels. Now I only have eighteen students and only three levels of instructional abilities among these students.  So, tomorrow I will once again try my new methods from the “First Grade Center Playbook” which actually doesn’t even exist.  However, I’m from Missouri, the Show Me state, so I will not give up, yet!  

    Before I go to sleep tonight, I will prime the pump in my brain by reminding myself that I must have it all together before 8:15 a.m. in the morning.  Hopefully, my brain will connect the right neurons while I sleep and give me the brilliant innovation by 5:00 when my alarm rings.  In this case, “necessity is the mother of innovation!”…I hope.      Kay

Appropriate

   Is it appropriate to stare at the person you like? No. 

   Is it appropriate to drive your car the wrong way down a street? No; in fact, it’s illegal.

   Is it appropriate to walk around half-naked? It depends. Are we at the beach or are we at school?

   Is it appropriate for a student to text a teacher or vice versa? Again, it depends. The teacher texting students at an amusement park to tell them the meet-up time has changed is appropriate. The teacher or student texting the teacher in the evenings to see “What’s up” -is inappropriate.

  Who decides?

  That is the question.

     In my parents’ day, children were seen and not heard. In my day, children were allowed to enter adult conversations if we wanted to. Today, parents hush fellow adults whenever their little one wants to say anything.  Which is appropriate? Who gets to decide?

    Increasingly, the Internet decides for my teens at school. 6th graders are incensed that they cannot wear crop tops. Juniors tell me that they don’t have a gender. Voices of the “would-be authorities” tell my kids they don’t have to be “bound” by the out-dated ideas of their elders.  Hmmm. I disagree. It’s our school, and compliance with what we deem appropriate is required.

    Fortunately, our kids understand that, and we don’t seem to have too much trouble with inappropriate behavior, speech, or clothing. It takes a lot of educating on what we think is appropriate, though. And, before you ask, yes, our kids think we’re nagging and old-fashioned and even closed-minded at times… until someone notes how much better our kids behaved at an outing than other teens. Then our kids preen, as proud as any peacock!

   I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the Internet has brought the whole world to your house to tell your children what is or is not appropriate.  Never in history have parents had to fight so hard to be listened to by their children.  We’re just not as appealing as some glitzy teenager getting out of a sportscar to get onto his/her yacht.  Unfortunately, most parents don’t even know their kids are being exposed to inappropriate conversations, language, and content.  I saw a clip on the news recently in which parents were allowed to listen in on Internet conversations going on while their children played Fortnite.  The news agency didn’t share what was being said through the earphones, but you could tell from the parents’ faces that it was not appropriate.  

     If you are going to teach your child what is appropriate and what is not, it is a constant battle.  But it is a battle worth fighting.  I correct my students who boss their parents around, walk in between two people having a conversation, or use incorrect grammar.  I want them to know what is appropriate for leaders.  Leaders must lead from the front; the standard has to be higher for them than for the regular person.  How will the kids know where the bar is set if we as adults never show them?  Fight the good fight… and this is the good fight!

 

                 Michelle

    Appropriate means proper and fitting.  The definition is certainly easy enough to understand.  The problem is that in today’s culture, it is difficult to determine what is or is not considered appropriate.  However, this is a natural outcome when there are no clear guidelines for one to follow.

    Perhaps it is the result of emphasis being placed upon “tolerance.”  If anyone dared to differ in opinion, he/she was condemned as a biggot…and the society screamed for tolerance!  Yet, even tolerance can be misused and mislabeled today.  I do know that things changed drastically in American schools when students demanded their “rights” and these demands were met with “tolerance” which often led to a lack of control by anyone in the schools.  As teachers became afraid of being taken to court, abdication of authority led to a “blackboard jungle.”  Many films of the time played out these real-life confrontations in the classroom.

    What I have witnessed over my 50+ years of teaching has been very disheartening.  I watched as many great teachers just threw in the towel and quit teaching.  The second law of thermodynamics helps explain what happens to a very nice lawn when little effort is put into it…a weed patch takes over.  Thus, with little or no effort, undisciplined children become society’s problem.

    Sociologists tell us that even the most remote tribes discovered in far-away hidden lands have some form of law as their tribal authority.  Most of these laws closely align with the rules of the Ten Commandments.  Perhaps that has to do with the Biblical statement of God that He has written them in the hearts of men so they would know Him.  It seems any society determines what is appropriate and what punishment awaits those who disregard those rules.

    When people ask why students are shooting classmates in schools, I ask what guidelines have been put in place of the old Ten Commandments which were thrown out of schools?  What is the value system that has replaced them?

    I watched as parents became afraid to discipline their children because someone would report them to the Department of Human Services.  Now, I watch as children “scream, hit, kick, and badger” their parents in Wal Mart because they know no one will interfere.  What a sad state of affairs.  Yet, I’m told the same thing goes on in many classrooms across our nation, as well-behaved students “try not to make waves” when fellow classmates disrupt the learning process.  No one is a winner in this kind of “tolerant” society.

    People may call me old-fashioned, but I believe in manners.  I am trying now to teach such guidelines to my students.  Instead of letting “mob intelligence” rule our society by way of sheer numbers over the Internet, I am trying to help them understand that with “individual rights” come “individual responsibilities.”  How different our world would be if we really did “love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves!”

-       Kay

Who’s to say what is and is not appropriate? This is another topic that is incredibly subjective. What may seem completely appropriate and acceptable to one party might be viewed as inappropriate or offensive to another party, based on a complicated algorithm of culture, background, religion, political views, and core values. Although some matters of appropriateness can be dismissed as differences in opinion, this is not always the case, and it is important for young people to learn to distinguish appropriate behavior, dress, language, and attitude for certain situations. 

This week in my business communications and writing course, we discussed business ethics. That is another area in which there are no concrete answers to each scenario, and a lot of gray area exists surrounding outcomes of each situation. We discussed as a class a few common ethics scenarios, and then I gave them a packet to work through in groups. This activity prompted a lot of conflict amongst the groups because a major contributing factor to these scenarios was personal opinion. 

When given the scenario of an hourly receptionist that has finished her work for the day and spends the last two hours of her shift playing computer games, the students have strong opinions on both sides of the argument. Some believed that because she is paid by the hour rather than salaried, she should not be using work time for personal projects and that she should ask for more work. Others argued that if she finished her work, she should be able to do something else rather than just sit and stare at her computer. 

My class quickly realized that it is hard to make concrete decisions on matters such as these because often there is not a rule or law that is being outright broken, but a case can be made that the behavior is inappropriate. So how do you address concepts such as appropriateness that are dependent upon each person’s beliefs, and have so much gray area? Well, in the case of business ethics, we looked at three major criteria for determining if a situation was unethical:

  1. Is the action illegal?

  2. Does the action violate company or professional standards?

  3. Who is affected, and how, by the action?

I think it is important for us to develop similar criteria when thinking through the appropriateness of a situation or action. Working with teenagers, one situation in which appropriateness is often in question is the way in which they dress. Using dress code as an example, if each student were to go through a series of questions about his outfit before he leaves the house each morning, I believe he would be more likely to catch inappropriate dress before a teacher does. These questions might include:

  1. With whom will I interact?

  2. Is this a social setting or business setting?

  3. Are there reasons why my outfit could offend someone with whom I will come in contact?

  4. What does this outfit say about me as a person?

Taking this time to be present in his own decision making and looking at the situation from another person’s perspective can help him catch a dress code violation before leaving the house. 

When trying to figure what is an is not appropriate, take yourself through a couple of questions. The act of stopping and thinking about how other people will react to your action can help avoid inappropriateness. You have to develop the questions for yourself, but with practice eventually this practice will become second nature and you will not have to stop and process the questions about each potentially inappropriate decision. 

-       Bria

Excellence

I frequently talk with my students about striving to be the best version of themselves. I think perfection is not realistic, but the act of pursuing excellence makes us more excellent. The idea is that as long as you are actively trying to be your best self, you will make gradual improvements that will not go unnoticed. But does this way of thinking live up to modern day expectations? Not in every situation.

In this day and age, we expect a lot out of people. My senior class has been working on college applications lately. In the past, a student could simply fill out an application and be either accepted or denied. That is not the case anymore. We have been working on resumes, which have now been through heavy editing and several iterations. The students made LinkedIn accounts, and we took professional headshots. These items will go into an application packet that will also include essays, letters of recommendation, ACT scores, a transcript, and a cover letter. This is a lot of preparation and work to just apply for a college. The expectations for excellence are higher than they have ever been before. 

These expectations will follow them through college. Many career paths require several internships on a resume before an interview is even considered. A standard internship is between 4-12 months, so doing the math, a student would want to start interning during the sophomore or junior year. While the junior year is typically three years into the college experience, this can vary drastically with majors, pre-existing credits, summer classes, etc, and this will come around a lot faster than expected. 

Realizing this can stress you out but planning ahead will help you stay on track. Rather than waiting until your senior year to start thinking about college applications, create rough drafts of your resume during your junior year. Consider finding a relevant internship during high school. This experience can help when applying for college internships and will make your resume stand out among a pile of similar applicants. The expectations are high but planning ahead can help you meet modern standards of excellence.

-        Bria

    Excellence can be a chosen way of life.  It will not be an easy road to follow, but it will be worth the effort.  I have never met a successful person who did not have excellence as his “chosen” path for life.  Oh yes, there are some who have gained fortune and fame by luck, chance, and even deceitful means.  However, many of those have ended their own life at what we consider a very premature age.

    My friend, who was one of Lawton’s entrepreneurs, Edna Hennessee, gave me a copy of her book, “I Don’t Have To…I Get To.”  In it, she gave illustrations and words of wisdom to prove that it takes so little to be above average.  She has been deceased for quite some years now, but I carry on her wisdom and sayings by telling my students I want to make them “Better than the average bear!”  Many laugh, but they are proud as I mark their successful accomplishment of another skill that exceeds the usual standards for their level in most schools.  I see that same sense of pride in students as they are notified by our teacher Mrs. Jump that they have “leveled up” another step in math.

    When you stop to think about all the time children (and some adults) spend playing the same video games over and over, you realize the most important thing to most of them is “Did I make the highest score…or at least better than yesterday?”  It must be important for them to achieve a new level, because they sure spend a lot of time trying to accomplish it!

    I am amazed at the crazy, even “stupid and dangerous” acts committed by people to achieve a web video that might go viral.  Is such temporary fame worth the attempts?  Does it last?  In the end, did it bring that person to success and excellence?

    Perhaps more people don’t seek excellence because they’ve never experienced it.  I once had my school district change our grading system so that an “A” required a grade of 85% or better.  My thought on this matter was that all testing on national tests say 50% is average.  (Gee, most women would agree that we’d be happy if our husbands heard and remembered even 50% of what we said!) If the school says below 60% is failing, we send two different messages.  Anyway, what we learned from this experience was that students who had never gotten an “A” grade before were so thrilled to see an “A” on their paper or report cards, they protected that grade with all their energy.  Many of them came to me and to their teachers and said, “I want to try to get a ”real ‘A’ now.”  Perhaps it is true that success breeds success!

    It is my desire to help struggling students to get that taste of “excellence” so they will never again be satisfied with throwing in the towel rather than putting forth more effort to have success.  I also want them to realize that excellence can be reached by taking small steps…but never being satisfied with keeping the status quo.  It is also my job as a teacher to show them what excellence looks like…and then help them reach for it.  Many classrooms I’ve visited over my career had a goal of excellence for their students, but there were no evidences or examples of excellence anywhere to be found in the classroom so that students could model after them.         Kay

     My daughter and I are anxious to get rid of some unwelcome stress.  We have been working on getting our CDL since my father purchased a brand new 32-passenger bus.  It’s a beaut, and we are so excited to have it.  We can’t drive it, though, until we obtain our CDL licenses.  The process is a nightmare already, but most of our unwelcome stress is due to the fact that both of us like to excel.  

     We passed the written exams and the medical exams without too much stress.  Preparing for the driving test has been a whole other matter.  At the test, we have to do a pre-trip inspection, during which we name every part under the hood, under the bus, on the outside of the bus, and inside the bus while telling what problems we would look for. I do see value in memorizing how the bus should look so that we can report issues before they become problems.  The next part of the test has us demonstrating our skills of parallel parking, off-set backing, alley backing, and straight-line backing.  Both of us are excellent at parallel parking the bus.  It’s usually the hardest test, but I was so happy when that’s the first one I drew!  The final section of the test involves the actual driving of the bus.  The route is fraught with little tests of your knowledge.  

     At least, I’m told it is.  I passed the first two tests with flying colors.  Then I automatically failed the last test out of stupidity before I could even get on the road!  (I let the bus roll with the doors open.  Stupid on my part!)  

     Failure was never an option for me.  Time was a’wastin’, and I had places I needed to drive the kids.  Fortunately, I was able to bump my husband’s slot coming up and get another shot this week.  In the end, I am glad because I will get to be there with my daughter to either rejoice or console.  And believe me, it takes some consoling for us both.  We lick our wounds all day!

     Who built this desire for excellence into us?  I’m sure there is some heredity in there.  I also know that we hold jobs in which are mistakes are very public.  We try hard not to make the same ones over again because “the public” isn’t always nice about mistakes.  I think most of my drive for excellence could be attributed to the fact that I love how I feel when I do something excellently.  

     I try to instill this same desire for excellence in my students.  I tell them that anything with their names attached should be their best work.  All too often, students accept “good enough” when they could really be enjoying the spoils of excellence.  Figuring out how to make them desire excellence, though, is a slow, one-by-one process.  

    I know that, as a parent, you don’t want your child to become compulsively driven for excellence.  You spend a lot of your time when your gifted child was young helping him to accept “good enough.”  I get that.  I see elementary-aged gifted kids cry because they miss one on a spelling test.  We don’t want our kids to be tough on themselves… but…. we do want our teens to be tougher on themselves.  Wow!  Parenting gifted kids is hard!  We know.

    I would say that the key to getting your teen’s “good enoughs” to become “excellents” is to help them get a vision of their future.  It is getting harder and harder to impress people.  It is also getting harder to network and find good jobs.  The sure-fire way to at least get a foot in the door is to impress someone.  And the way to impress is to be excellent.  Perfection is not required, just a desire to do whatever one’s hands find to do at a very high level.  If your teen practices excellence, it won’t be long until he desires excellence.  

                                                           Michelle

Exception to the Rule

It’s an age-old argument: is it better to stand out or to comform? Well, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. It is the same situation when considering being an exception to the rule. If you are the exception to the rule by surviving a terminal illness, then that is obviously positive. However, there are lots of situations in which being the exception to the rule is not a net positive. 

Our youngest generations have grown up with a web of excuses and explanations for every shortcoming that they may or may not have. Children have been diagnosed and over-diagnosed, and now everyone has an exception to the rule. Whether it be an allergy, a sensitivity, or just generalized anxiety, everyone has something. I don’t say this to discredit actual allergies, anxiety, etc., but you must have noticed that there are way more people with dairy and gluten allergies than there used to be. I think that part of our problem is that, with the availability of Internet medical resources like WebMD, we have all become doctors without credentials. 

When it comes to childcare and education, too many exceptions to the rule can cause big problems. Schools like ours believe in specialization and small classes. But when everyone suddenly needs additional specialized attention, it becomes hard to adequately meet the needs of every child. This does not mean that we aren’t doing our best to meet the needs of each and every student. But it will help us give your child the best possible education if he is not put into a box defined by his “exception to the rule.”

Obviously, if your child has a serious allergy, we are not asking you to let us feed him that food. But if your child suffers from separation anxiety that makes morning drop-off a painful process, work with us to gently push your child towards autonomy. If you try to limit some of these exceptions to the rule, your child can benefit greatly. We are training up strong leaders. While it is normal for leaders to have weaknesses, a leader is not typically characterized by excuses. We want your child to stand out and be himself, but let’s work together to eliminate the exceptions that could be holding your child back. 

-          Bria

     Have you ever thought about how many people actually consider themselves “the exception to the rule”?  So many, I’m afraid, that the “exception” is becoming the “standard.”  Now, if that “exception” is phenomenal, I’m all in!  But too often today, I am hearing parents say that I should make exceptions for their children because the kids will not be able to comply.  Hmmmm…

    Here’s the sad truth for those parents:  Fine.  Just do not expect Junior to stay at our school long. 

    It seems that the days of “whatever it takes” are gone.  Admittingly, some of that is for the good.  There were some very unhealthy and unkind practices that resided under the “whatever it takes” motto.  Increasingly, though, I have parents telling me that I should excuse bad behavior because of past experiences in the child’s life or poor study habits because the child is “just involved in so much.”  Again, I say, “That’s fine.  Just don’t expect your child to get to stay long at this school.”  In my head, I’m asking if the child has been through something worse than the slavery Frederick Douglas endured or the sexual abuse afforded Maya Angelou.  I’m wondering if that child, like three quarters of the world, is in a constant state of hunger and malnutrition because of poor economic status.  The obvious answer is “no” because I teach at a private school.

     There is a growing trend of not holding kids to standards academically.  I know it seems just the opposite, but if you really examine state exams, the standard is pretty low.  What standard, then, should we use?  How about the standard that allows a child to enter college with competence, complete the course work with confidence, and compete in the job market with success?  I’m here to tell you that the more “exceptions” your child needs, the less chance he has of doing that.

     With the onset of tablet-learning by preschool children all over the world, it would seem that the kids are just getting smarter and smarter.  True:  more kids are coming to kindergarten with the ABC’s learned.  Parents eager to advance their children plead with my mother and me to let their children move up because they already know their ABC’s.  That’s when we take out a pencil and ask the kids to write the letters.  We never get to the writing, though, because the child has the pencil gripped in a fist and is struggling to make each mark. 

    It is not enough to be smart.  One has to be skilled as well.  One has to take the time to go through the developmental stages.  Parents who assume their child is an exception to this rule always run the risk of severely hindering their children, just by allowing them to skip vital skill developments.

    Given that excuses are the new standard, I guess I want my students all to be “exceptions.”  I want them to exceed expectations… to make people say, “I didn’t know a kid could do that!”  I want all of my students to experience the satisfaction of acknowledgement of a job well done. 

-          Michelle

    An “exception to the rule” has pretty well been the story of my life.  It seems that I was always an exception to whatever the overriding rule was.  In my family, I loved opera and classical music while my family loved country music.  In my local school, I was poor and happy, but the teachers recommended me for and placed me into the St. Louis Gifted Program, which placed me in the wealthy school among rich students.  My school mates came from highly-educated and degreed families, while I had parents with only a seventh and eighth grade education.

    I was hired for my first teaching position at both Ft. Sill elementary schools because the state granted me an “emergency certification.”  I had not one hour of education classes in college.  I was later hired as a teaching elementary principal, again with emergency certification.  I earned all my education degrees after the fact, while I was actively teaching.  

    Our private school, Lawton Academy of Arts and Sciences, has been successful for twenty years as an exception to the rule.  I have not taken one penny of aid from the government…but used the “Little Red Hen” principle: if you want it done right, do it yourself!  We have attained the highest form of school accreditation (North Central through AdvancEd) and even received the distinguished Midwest award in Chicago last year.  Why is this considered an exception to the rule?  Only one note of recognition from the Oklahoma State Department of Education has ever come our way…that being recognized as a private school by way of North Central and AdvancEd.  

    Perhaps it is because I’ve always been an exception to the rule, that I worked to attain the highest standards in whatever task I undertook.  While others could look down their noses at me or my school because I didn’t accomplish things the “usual” way, I determined to excel that much more…just to prove it could be done.  Have I ever regretted it?  No.  Like the little red hen in the storybook, I enjoyed the fruit of my labor and was happy to share it with my family who worked just as hard by my side.

    Yet, I run into people who want an “exception to the rule” as a way to bypass necessary steps in a process towards excellence.  As Zig Zigler once taught in his management courses, “See You at the Top,” there is no fast elevator to success at the top.  There are steps you must take to reach goals which lead onward and upward. My students want to take shortcuts rather than learn their facts or their forms of writing.  However, these shortcuts prevent the consistency that leads to excellence.

    I’ve watched students for years as they learn new video games.  They want someone to show them shortcuts or to provide them with cheat codes.  If I ask them why they don’t learn the patterns themselves, they always reply, “It takes too long!”  It seems not many people feel the experience of the process is part of the joy of the accomplishment.  I find that very sad.  Maybe that’s why not many of my recent students find satisfaction in recording their experiences and thoughts in poetry or narrative.  I do know many athletes are also trying to “skip to the top” the short way…bypassing experiences that could make them even more successful in the end.  Perhaps I am just a seventy-five-year old who has enjoyed my experiences in life…and I find myself asking “What’s all the rush about?”  Slow down and live each moment, both good and hard, to the fullest!  At my age I can truly say, “Life is too short!”        

-          Kay

Limitations

Often, we hear the term limitations in relation to knowing one’s own limitations. While I believe it is important to be realistic about your individual thresholds and capabilities, I also believe that we should be constantly challenging and expanding our limitations. 

A great example of this is running. While some readers might be very athletic and have no issue running, many people, myself included, are terrible at it. If we have a goal to complete a 5k, but after our first practice attempt, find that we can only run ½ a mile, do we just accept that as our limitation? If you really want to run that 5k, you can train and improve and gradually stretch your limitations to include your goals. Similarly, when someone first begins weightlifting, it is likely that he will start out with a five or ten-pound weight. As he practices with this weight, the muscles build, and it becomes easier. To see added benefit, that person will move up to a fifteen or twenty pound-weight and will continue to gradually move up. 

This concept seems so simple and concrete when applied to physical fitness. So why do we struggle to apply it to other areas of our lives? One thing I hate hearing from someone is that he just isn’t smart enough to do something. While I do believe a portion of our intelligence is innate and genetic, a large portion also comes from seeking knowledge. 

Our greatest minds weren’t born knowing everything they now know. Each individual had to seek out information and collect varying resources and opinions on subjects. This practice gave them important skills in research and critical thinking. Throughout the process, it also built their vocabulary and their database of general facts and concepts. By saying, “I’m too stupid,” one is limiting himself to only be as intelligent as he currently is. If he has access to the Internet, he is empowered to make himself more intelligent. He just has to have the desire to improve his limitations. 

Think about what limitations you have in your life. Do you feel limited in your social life? Maybe you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough to put yourself out there. Do you feel limited in a certain talent or ability? Check out some Youtube tutorials and hone your skills. At the opening I mentioned the common idea of knowing your own limitations. I think that there is a better limit-related phrase on which we should all try to focus more heavily. The sky’s the limit. Let’s try to refocus our thoughts on limitations and remember that we are strong and powerful, and we can always be expanding our limits.

-       Bria