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What Would Your Children Put in Their Bags? August 21, 2017 15:17

My grandson just started second grade. His first homework assignment was to fill a bag with five items that would tell the class something about him. He gave it great thought and placed the following items in his bag: 

  • A medal he earned from swim team that required lots of practice to show improvement
  • A belt that he earned in Tai Kwon Do
  • A medal he earned in diving that only came after many back and belly flops
  • His Par Core Band 
  • A badge he earned in Cub Scouts

I thought he would put in a dinosaur because he used to spend hours playing with them. Each of his choices are centered around something that didn't come as a gift, but instead came only after hard work. His medals weren't the "you tried and so you deserve a medal" kind. They represented a symbol of hard work. Not one of the items were connected to anyone helping him.

There were times when he wanted to quit, because he wasn't making progress. My daughter encouraged him to keep working at it. She retold stories of people who gave up on mountain climbs one foot from the top of the mountain. He heard stories of Michael Jordan, who was told he would never make the high school team, but kept practicing until he did. 

So when we want to step in and help our children do that which they can do for themselves, we need to remember the struggle is what holds the real value. We simply need to coach in strategies that will allow them to experience the joy of the journey and obstacles they overcome. They will come to realize the real joy is in the struggle and not the medal, grade, or award.

Be sure to take time to celebrate every struggle as a means to an end. When they achieve their goal, celebrate the struggle that led to the success. Tap into how the struggle felt and how the achievement feels. Tapping into the emotions will assure them of continuing the work toward future goals.


To Guarantee a Successful Year-Start at the End! August 18, 2017 07:17

It’s a new school year and an opportunity for students to get a fresh start. Now is the time to decide what they want to accomplish this year. 

The best way to have a good year is to start at the end. This may sound odd, but I am a firm believer in creating a clear picture of what one wants to accomplish and the specific reasons as to why. 

I ask students to write what they would like to see on their report cards at the end of the semester. Some of the comments might be, “Susan was an active participant in the class,” or “Jane never gave up and when things got hard, she eagerly asked for support.” I focus on the behaviors they might exhibit rather than on grades.

If students initially focus on the grade, I ask them to define the behaviors or actions to demonstrate in order to achieve the desired grade. It is helpful to coach students with some of the following statements:

To get an “A” I will need to:

  1. Listen intently in class.
  2. Pay attention to what the teacher writes on the board.
  3. Remember to ask for material I miss when I am ill or out of class.
  4. Preview chapters and form questions about what I think I will learn.
  5. Read the questions first on all assignments before reading the material and before the concept is being taught. This will allow me to focus better on the things I need to learn.
  6. Read written work aloud several times to both proofread and check that it makes sense.
  7. Ask for clarification to be sure I understand the teacher’s instructions. 
  8. Make note cards to use for studying and review material regularly.
  9. Ask questions when I am unsure of what the teacher is explaining.
  10. Pay attention to homework assignments when I enter the classroom, so I know what I am expected to complete after school. Plan to get started during recess, if I have a lot to do after school. 
  11. Pre-read homework assignments to see what I do not know and ask questions before I leave class. 
  12. Do nightly homework and turn on time.
  13. Check over graded work and find out why I missed problems.
  14. Have someone quiz me before tests, so I am sure I understand the material.
  15. Use only positive comments when thinking or speaking about my abilities.
  16. When I do not do as well as I expect, I immediately make an appointment with the teacher to ask for strategies to improve. 
  17. Write reasons I made mistakes on my corrected work.
  18. Review all tests for information to check to see if there were possibly errors in correction and to find out what I didn’t know.
  19. {Made a separate item.} When studying for a semester or year exam, I will make sure to determine the correct answers and make note cards for review.
  20. Use the teacher’s office hours to discuss my progress.
  21. Keep a running record of my grades so I know where I stand at all times. 

I ask students to visualize themselves opening their report card at the end of the semester and reading all the wonderful comments and seeing the desired grades. I want them to tap into the wonderful feeling they get when they achieve what they have planned. Tapping into that feeling is a crucial step towards insuring they stay on task. 

Then they are to type up a copy of their goals to review each morning when they are brushing their teeth. It can be posted on the bathroom mirror as a constant reminder of the things they need to do daily to achieve their goals. 

All students can benefit from using the list provided above, however, high school and college students often have to take classes they don’t want to take to meet a school requirement. There has to be a reward in it for them in order to create the desire to make it through the class. I ask them to list three reasons they are taking the class and three ways it benefits them.

Examples:

I am taking counseling in order to get a clearer picture of what I want to do for a career. Then I will know what classes to take, and understand the way I learn, and school will be easier for me.

I am taking photography to learn new skills because I love taking pictures. It will give me personal satisfaction, and I can learn about career options related to photography. 

I am taking anthropology because I need to improve my grade, and taking it again give me a better chance of getting into a four-year college.

It will also allow me to try out my new study strategies, because I think they will help to improve my grade.

With an image of the end of the semester clearly in their minds, students will find it much easier to achieve their goals. 


Cheating: Cause and Cure October 31, 2014 06:49

Cheating can be a sign a student is stuck. Having high expectation for oneself can lead a student to resort to cheating. Many times these students are penalized, this does not change  their situation.  They are often labeled bad students.

Why?

Because they have not been taught to recognize what it feels like to be stuck and then how to get unstuck. 

Stephanie was working on math concepts and asked to go to the bathroom. After returning ten minutes later, she resumed her attempt at solving a few problems. Five minutes later, her peer informed me she was cheating.  

Her sudden desire to go to the restroom was the first sign of a struggle. The first sign of the stress response is to flea.  In nature, the first thing that animals do for a quick get-away is to eliminate any waste that could slow them down.  We are no different. When we feel stressed for any reason, it is natural to suddenly have to use the bathroom. So, when a student suddenly has to use the bathroom, it could be due to the fight or flight response because they are lost, confused, don't know how to get started, or are afraid the teacher will get mad at them.

Cure:  

1. Students must understand that it is okay to not know how to do what the teacher just taught.  Reassuring them that their questions about what is confusing helps the teacher be more effective in teaching them. Being bright is not going to save them from experiencing "not knowing."

2. Students must over-come the fear of asking questions. There is a belief that questions will make them look dumb in front of their peers. My video will help them see the value of their questions and them overcome this common fear. Please have them watch it.

3.  As soon as students feel like it's time to visit the bathroom, have them ask themselves, "Am I stuck. Do I need to ask a question?" Then have them determine the exact part of the question that is confusing.

4. Help them realize that cheating means they feel they shouldn't struggle.  Tenacity is the one characteristic that sets one researcher who can cure a terminal disease apart from another researcher who falls short. Struggle is the one thing that will cement a concept.  Working through the challenge gives a good feel of accomplishment that prevents dendrites from pruning. 

5. Teachers will want to remind themselves that if a student cheats, they don't know another way of overcoming an obstacle. They simple need another way of handling the challenge.  This requires trying different things until a strategy is found that works. 


Perfectionism Paralyzes October 30, 2014 20:42

I presented at a conference this weekend.  I met many wonderful teachers and parents.  I will be addressing their questions here, so everyone can learn from their challenges.  My goal is to offer strategies teachers and parents can add to their backpacks before they need them.

Questions:  How do I deal with a perfectionist?

Dr. David Walsh stated, "There is difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence. Perfectionism is a profound fear of mistakes."

Embracing mistakes as indicators that there might be a better way or a better answer is not an indicator that one is not smart enough. In fact, making mistakes and learning from them by changing what didn't work is smart!

Strategy: Evaluate mistakes and decide, "What can I do next time to avoid this mistake?' Ask yourself, "What did I learn from this mistake?" Then celebrate the learning opportunity.  Parents: Shift your review of mistakes from over reacting to the mistake to celebrating the opportunity it offers.

Three weeks into her freshman year, I received a distressed call from my daughter.  "I don't belong here.  I am not smart enough to be here." Once she settled down, I was able to determine that the she was judging her ability to manage college life by one event.

To help this make sense, let me give you a little background. After taking AP courses in high school, my high achieving daughter decided to attend an honors college on the opposite side of the country. She had gained confidence taking the AP courses, so she felt prepared for this big change. To help herself adjust to the new environment, she retook Psych 101 even though she could have opted out of it.  The first week the professor assigned a small paper on a topic she had researched in high school. So, in hopes of building a relationship early on in the class, she visited the professor to ask if he would look at her paper and see if she was on the right track. The professor was impressed and returned the paper the next day riddled with red pen.  This devastated her. She was certain the paper would be returned with rave reviews, because this same paper got an "A" from her high school AP Psychology instructor. She judged her ability to manage the class by the criticism of this professor. I shared another way of looking at it.  "You do belong there.  Your high school teacher was looking for one thing from your paper. This professor is looking for another. He just handed you back an "A" paper.  Go do the research and give him what he wants. If you handed  that paper to sixteen different professors, you'd get sixteen different types of corrections.  So go give this professor what he wants." 

Not only did that make her feel better, it taught her a way to make sure she is on the right track for each of her future professors.  

Lesson One: Asks instructors to look at your papers a few days before they are due to see if you are on the right track.  The feedback from each professor will be different.  The only one you want correcting your paper is the person who will be grading you. 

I once heard a student stay, "I read the text book and research the topic of each class I take before the class, so I will be able to answer the instructors questions and know what is going to happen in the class."  This student shared she was fearful of being called upon and not knowing the answer.

Another student shared how getting anything less than an "A" on a paper was unacceptable because she was bright and that was the expectation. She struggled with turning in papers in fear that they would return with something less than the expected "A."

Many students feared asking questions in class because they feared being dropped from a college class.  They had a common misconception. They believe questions are an indicator they are not smart enough for the class. This is inaccurate. The truth is, professors want their students to ask questions so they can be sure they are being clear.  It's impossible to teach the same way year after year without questions. 


Next Blog Topics: Cheating and Overcoming Boredom


A Stuffed Animal Helps Promote Self-Compassion September 13, 2014 16:17

Many of our children are too hard on themselves.  I love how one of my mothers was able to help her child be more self-compassionate when she made a mistake. The following is what she shared with her child when the child had difficulty with a homework assignment. 

"I had to deal with my daughter who forgot homework at school. Of, course, this sent her into a tizzy.  I reassured her that she could go in early the next day and do the homework, and the she resisted that idea stating that she was going to miss Hall of Fame anyway."

  (FYI-Homework is not late unless it is turned in after 8:30. Coming in early is one solution). 

I again reassured her that it was okay, but the she insisted, "It is NOT!" So I took her stuffed dog, who we pretend also goes to school. I said to her, "Your dog forgot his homework today too, and is going to miss Hall of FameAre you going to tell him 'bad dog' or that it's okay?" She smiled and said, "It's okay, ----." The dog got a  hug. I  got a hug and she went to sleep. :). She is much kinder to her stuffed animal than to herself." 

Learning to accept a mistake as an opportunity to change is how we benefit from the mistakes we make.  If we beat ourselves up every time we make a mistakes, our bodies would be permanently bruised.  Learning to fall, pick yourself up, and try something new at a young age is a gift we can give our children. 


"Last Night's Homework Was a Disaster!" September 13, 2014 16:00

Hearing the challenges that other parents experience at home with the nightly "Homework Madness" and the rather rapid transition to tranquility, speaks more for this program than anything I can say.  

I have asked my parents to share what they are observing at home, while they remove or try to remove themselves from homework.

I will be posting the observations of my parents as they transition into the "Homework Solutions" method of handling homework challenges.

Here are a few of the communications I have received thus far with only four days into homework:

This is from the first night of homework.  The following story is about an eight year old boy:

"My son had a very hard time with the spelling workbook on Monday night. He sat down to do the “riddle” section and reverted to a screaming like a 2 year old when he hit the question "today’s feel = yesterday’s ______.”

I know this was the stumper because he was reading it out loud after being unable to answer it silently. I said go on to the next one if he couldn’t figure it out, and the next one was about the 3 little pigs story. In the age of iPads, I guess we missed harping on the Mother Goose rhymes and other fables with him, and this particular story was not in his vocabulary. I was across the table working on a big presentation for Tuesday morning, and he could not handle the fact that I wouldn’t get up from behind my computer and come read the workbook with him. If I hadn’t been so busy working furiously to polish off my own work, I just might have been tempted to do so! He gradually worked it all out by process of elimination I guess, because when I asked after school Tuesday if anyone else brought their workbook to school with answers missing (figuring he would be one) he said he got it all filled in. But it took many rounds of pausing the NFL game, fighting, going upstairs for a shower, trying again on the homework, pausing the game, bellyaching about how stupid the workbook/homework is, pacing around to cool off, threatening to throw the book in the messy kitchen trash bin, and finally just getting it done. "

The next day, the children shared the challenges they had with the previous night's homework. He was not alone.  I actually threw a temper tantrum to demonstrate what some children have done in the past.  They laughed at the absurdity of my actions.  Then they shared how they solved the challenges.  This young man shared that he used process of elimination to solve the problem, but neglected to share the hissy fit he did before he solved it.  

I received the following email the next day: 

"Tuesday was a completely different story. He didn’t even ask to watch TV first. He just sat right down at the table, took out his book, and plugged away at what looked like a math worksheet. Didn’t ask for help once."

Yes, the transition to tranquility can be that fast with the right tools. 

 


Ending Homework Madness Week One September 12, 2014 06:50

Homework Anxiety and the fear of the unknown are a horrible way to begin a new year. By their own admission, my third graders entered my classroom two weeks ago full of fear and anxious about not having help at home with homework.  The unknown is always scary. 

"One's perception is one's truth until someone shows them they are wrong." Author unknown.

It didn't take me long to make them feel comfortable. I had a job to do, because they knew their homework the year before was not possible to done alone, so this fueled their fear.  Their truth was validated by their previous experience. 

My job is to relieve that anxiety and change their perception to "I am capable of doing my homework alone. I know my job and if I make sure I know how to do everything on my homework before I leave the class, I will be able to do my homework without a problem!"

Getting the children to this point took a few steps:

1. They were given a "Homework Notebook" that contained their agenda, a pencil bag, and pockets in the notebook labeled "To Do-Incomplete" and "Completed."

2. The front cover housed a list of the steps to the "Homework Habit." 

3.  The "Homework Habit" begins the moment they enter the classroom and ends the next day when they turn the work in. (A Training Tape will be available soon that demonstrates the process so students feel comfortable with it).

4.  I offered opportunities to look at their homework "as if" they are going to do it right away.  This will allow them to determine what is clear and what is not.  Their job as a student is to communicate what they do not understand. I shared my "Nuts and Bolts" story with them. (Read it in my archived blogs).

5. Questions are answered offering strategies for solving the challenge, never answering the question or doing anything for the child that the child can do for him/herself.  Parents will read aloud to their children, when the child needs to be taught how to read aloud.  I will address this method, along with others, in my future blogs.  

6.  The students learn about the brain and how it works.  This information deals with the stress response, how to activate the brains filter to know what to focus upon, why they might forget a concept by the time they get home, and why they might not know how to do an item on the homework.  This knowledge makes it okay for them to ask questions. 

7.  Students learn why teachers might say, "There is no such thing as a stupid question," but may make you feel stupid for asking one. Demystifying teacher's reactions is very powerful. 

I will be blogging about the events that occur in my classroom since they change year to year, and the situations the parents are dealing with at home, so we can all learn from each other.

If you are a teacher and would like to share challenges your children are having, email them to me and I will add them to the blog.

If you are a parent and want some help with the challenges you deal with at home, email me and I will do the same in my blog.  

 

Here's to a new beginning of the school year!!

 


He Should, She Should March 22, 2014 17:48

When I was a toddler, my mother took me to the doctor for a regular checkup. After examining me and asking a few questions about developmental benchmarks, he turned to my mother and said, “Victoria should be talking by now.” You can imagine how alarmed my mother became. His “should” intimated that I was developmentally behind.

In retrospect, my mother is glad that I didn’t start talking any sooner than I, because she claims that once I started speaking, I never stopped. I talked when I was supposed to and not one minute before. Truly, I really was smarter than the doctor thought. After all, my sister spoke for me. She was older and could get me what I wanted much more quickly than I could with my limited vocabulary.  

How many times have we heard someone say we “should have” done something else when what we did resulted in less than desirable results? How many times have we said these words to ourselves? Is hearing or saying these words ever productive? Or, are they simply judgmental, resulting in negative feelings?

Giving these questions careful thought, it’s become clear to me that these words have never once produced anything but guilt and/or negative feelings.

The dictionary defines the word ‘should’ as, “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.” It is one’s subjective opinion of what another is capable of doing based on one’s own experiences and beliefs.

On any given day at school, I hear ‘shoulds’ and ‘if you had’s’ used all over campus in reference to a student’s or colleague’s actions.

Many misunderstandings happen because we only see things through our own eyes. According to Stephen Covy in his book The Seven Habits of Successful People, we are all guilty of prejudging others. He suggests we put ourselves in another’s place, so we find out why they haven’t done what we thought they “should have” done. If we did, we might respond differently to them.

Replacing “should haves” with “how can I support you?” we might find we misjudged the other person.

If we could walk in another’s shoes, we might see that they are too tight. V. Olivadoti

Guilt is unproductive. Telling anyone “they should have” done something differently creates guilt in the one being judged. It does not promote behavioral changes that would create different results.

I believe people set out to create positive results. If they anticipated the negative results, they would have done something different. Unless mentally unstable, people do not set out to create negative results deliberately.

I believe, “If students knew how to do things differently, they would.”

No one deliberately misses due dates. No one really wants to have a desk that looks like a tornado hit it. No one wants a backpack that is stuffed with crumpled papers. But even the best of students do. Would they change if they could? I say absolutely and emphatically, YES!!!” 


Communication of One's Needs Creates Winners January 05, 2014 19:05

In July I shared the story of a graduate student who was experiencing some anxiety about the physiology class he was going to be taking. He had heard horrible things about the professor. The common belief was that the professor expected everyone to know everything from the perquisite class. However, for many of the students, it could have been as much as two years prior to taking his class.

I encouraged him to send off an email to the professor stating that he wanted to be prepared for the class and since it had been eighteen months since he took the prerequisite class, he planned on reviewing the material and wanted to be sure that would prepare him for the class. He was surprised to receive a friendly email in which the professor mentioned he would like the student to introduce himself the first day so he could put a face with a name. His perception of this professor changed immediately.

I ran into this student after not seeing him for several months. I inquired about his experience with the professor, and his response was very positive. He said that the professor made sure that he understood every concept in class before he moved on to a new topic. This eliminated the need for tutoring. He ended up with an 89.7% in the class. Since he developed a relationship with the professor, he was able to convince him to bump his grade up .3% to earn an “A,”

He wished he had known this information when he was a freshman and has encouraged me to share it with more students.


How Homework Solutons Began November 08, 2013 12:02

About twenty years ago I was told, “Homework is a bonding experience for parent and child.” My gut reaction was to feel this colleague’s forehead to see if she was running a fever — clearly she was experiencing delirium.   

I don’t know about you but, in my home, the sign of homework coming out of the backpack created a bit of anxiety. I won’t even talk about what happened when a project came home.

This all changed when I finally reached a point of no return. The negative emotions connected to homework lasted long past the homework being completed. he sweet times we once had at bedtime were replaced with one or both of my daughters going to sleep exhausted from the struggle they encountered with each night’s assignments.

Many nights, there were so many different assignments that it affected their bedtime. The struggles were directly related to assignments that were clearly above my children’s ability. Projects that could not be done without me doing practically all of it were creating stress in our home and interfering with my personal time. And this was just first grade.

Out of desperation, I did something that eliminated this stress for the remainder of my children’s educational experience. I announced one night, “I am done with this homework. I already did first grade. Do not come home tonight with homework that you do not understand how to do! Take time to look at it first as if you are going to do it tonight and ask your teacher for the help, so when you come home tomorrow you know how to do the assignment.”

I had come to a realization: If I were to stop doing homework with my girls, I would have to teach them how to ask for help. That’s the day “Homework Solutions for Weary Students” was born.

My instruction at home shifted from teaching math and language concepts, to providing my girls with strategies that would allow them to get any teacher they encountered to explain concepts in a way that helped them understand. It was a new challenge but one that had life changing benefits.

Surprisingly, it did not take long to get my daughters to overcome the fear of asking for help.

There were two benefits that resulted from this shift.

The first was that my children were able to come home and complete their homework independently.

The second benefit was one I never expected. As a result of my daughters asking for clarification, the teachers were alerted to the fact that some homework assignments were not at an independent level. This resulted in some of girls’ teachers taking a different approach to homework. They began asking the children if there were any questions about the homework before the children left class. Once this was initiated in the classroom, homework stress was eliminated from our home.

In many cases, teachers realized the projects were not appropriate for independent completion, and they replaced the projects with ones that were or eliminated the assignment completely. You can imagine my relief!!!

Your children too are capable of changing education from the inside out. I’ve seen it work. Children yield more power than one would believe. Students, as young as five years old, are capable of communicating their needs and getting those needs met without parents talking to the teacher.

With the mission in mind of empowering other children with the strategies that were successful for my children, and the hundreds I have taught over the past twenty years, I will be sharing the challenges we encountered in our journey and the way we solved them. My goal is to help parents eliminate the stress they experience while also empowering children with life skills that will take them from kindergarten to college. No more homework havoc in the home!


Tricks for Remembering October 05, 2013 12:06

Stress can be eliminated in our lives when we learn strategies for solving problems.  The Homework Solutions' Method of teaching is designed to help students collect a Backpack Full of Strategies that are life skills. 

I like to bring my readers helpful hints, and Jim Kwik has many memory tips for reducing stress through memory recall strategies.  Check out his tips for remembering names. It can be used for more than just names.  It's FREE to viewers for a limited time. Click here to view him today.