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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.


Secrets Students Need to Know #5 March 07, 2017 14:03

Secret #5 Teachers Won't Do For You What You Can Do Yourself

Children need to learn how to work things out themselves. Offering problem solving strategies is all that is necessary to empower children to find their independence. They learn to dig deep and find the infinite ability they possess to be problem solvers.

If we read directions aloud for them, we are disabling them. Reading word problems and detail directions are best done aloud, but if students feel they always have to have someone do it for them, they never find the power they possess. 


Secrets Students Need to Know #2 March 01, 2017 07:09

Secret #2: Teachers don't hit pause when you leave the room.

One secret I love sharing with the children is one I received from Marianne Gazille, a retired elementary school teacher. She was experiencing an increase in children leaving the class to use the restroom. In her frustration she came up with this pearl and my second secret about teachers, "You know I don't hit pause when you leave the classroom. You might miss something while you're gone."

I love this quote. I use it frequently, especially when we are reviewing over a test and students insist they missed problems because I never covered the material. 

 


Homework! Oh Homework! February 26, 2017 13:03

Homework, Oh Homework,

I hate you, you stink!

With all these projects, I'm right on the brink!

What will be next?  A project? A report? I can't wait to see,

Have no fear, I can do this,

I'm sure you'll agree.

He'll be done with college and I'll finally be FREE.

Victoria Olivadoti & Phyllis Matzkin

My mother and I wrote this poem after receiving a call from my youngest daughter from the Penn State library her freshman year. She had to report an incident she witnessed while working in the computer lab. One of her classmates had announced, "My mother's come through again!" as she printed off the first assignment of the year. She bragged that her mother wrote all her high school essays and even wrote her college essay. 

Fast forward ten years. This  young lady graduated and has moved from one job to another. At age 37, she is currently unemployed and living at home with her parents. Her mother can't help her keep a job, even though she tried to save her daughter's job a few times. 

This is an extreme situation, but emphasizes the need to empower our children to work through the hard stuff independently. Rescuing them isn't helping them find their own power to solve challenges. Each child possesses the innate ability to find solutions to every challenge. The parent's role is to believe their children can.


Tom Brady's Story February 13, 2017 06:52

Tom Brady wasn't the best player in high school, but did prepared himself to be ready when opportunities arose. He played as if he was going to be the starter quarterback. 

Tom Brady wasn't the first choice of the Michigan coaches. He didn't fit the profile of a starting quarterback, so he wasn't sought out by recruiters.

He, however, was living with a different story. He had a vision of his future that didn't go by the same rules of those around him.

He could have gone into major league baseball for Montreal right out of high school, but he had a dream. He wanted to play college football. He didn't get natural recognition, so he got creative. If he was to play in college, it was up to him to get recognized. So he sent out tapes to the colleges of his choice.

He settled on Michigan, who offered him a place as seventh in line to play quarterback. He never got on the field his first two years. this would have defeated most young men, but not Tom. He hung in, practicing daily as if he could be called in at any time. He got himself ready for what he knew would come his way.

Even going into the NFL, he was the  sixth round draft. How can someone who didn't have the "right stuff" become a huge Super Bowl record breaker? He didn't listen to anyone else's story.  He believed in himself, kept his vision alive daily, and just played each day with joy and confidence. 

Those who knew him in college say he was easy going and never let being seventh deep in the quarterback line bother him. 

He always practiced "as if" he was going to start and kept a positive attitude. 

I love the message he sends loud and clear to all of us. Enjoy today and live it as if your dreams will come true. The rest will take care of itself.


Anxiety in Parents and Students February 12, 2017 10:08

When did parents stop trusting our educational system and anxiety begin building in our children?

As an educator, I can remember the shift. My fifth and sixth students in the early 70's did not experience the high anxiety of the children today. They were very productive young people who enjoyed the learning process. They were challenged, but responded to challenges differently.

The shift began when the newspapers began posting standardized test scores and reporting that the schools were failing our children. That started the public looking for any evidence that we had failed our children.

What resulted was a hyper focus on tests scores instead of the real evidence that we were, in fact, successful. Parents trusted us until the media bashed the system in place. As their distrust grew, we began seeing heightened anxiety in our students.

Was the system perfect? No, but it was not a failure.

Winning back the trust of parents is hard when the media continues to show how we are failing and not how we are succeeding. This instills fears in parents that did not exist when I first began teaching.

We also have to contend with those who gain financially from parent's fears and offer expensive programs that guarantee students will score well. Who really gains from this?

I don't know about you, but I would prefer my students learn how to navigate challenges and become problem solvers rather than be good test takers. 


Intend to Attend February 02, 2017 06:58

I love the sayings on my wall in my classroom:

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performances!
Proper Prior Practice Prevents Poor Performances!
Get the Edison Ethic!
ASK!

 

I’ve added a new one.

Intend to Attend!

My third grader reading class students are very precocious. They somehow got the impression that being smart meant they needed to be good at everything. So, when they come into my den of learners, they find the first challenge most have had since they entered school. Imagine determining their ability to achieve at such a young age even without having been introduced to problem solving strategies. When we delve into the topic, some confess they are afraid to let the teaches know they don’t know how to do something because they get the response, “You can figure this out, you are smart.’ Wow, that is a powerful message. Since they are bright, they form the opinion that they have to know everything or they aren’t smart. In other cases, they have people who automatically do everything to make things easy, so when they hit a challenge they can’t solve independently, they don’t feel they are as smart as others have told them.

 

Since these students are competent readers when they came into third grade, I step up the demands, but not without many discussions about how the activities make them feel.

The first assignment always is a half page story. The questions require inferential answers. I assure the children that this is an assignment that they are free to leave blanks if they can’t find the answer. They look at the paper and think, “She doesn’t know how smart we are,” and deduce it is an easy assignment because of its length. Then they proceed to speed through it. It isn’t long before I begin to see squirming and in some cases outward signs of distress. It all starts with the first child crying. Then another comes to me privately with expression of frustration. It is clear by the lack of answers on the papers, that I have achieved my objective. My goal is to deal with how these types of activities make them feel.

 

In a Socratic dialogue circle, we discuss how this assignment made them feel. It takes a little staging to get them to be honest. I always share how this type of assignment made me feel. “I hated these assignments. It didn’t help when the kid next to me finished in ten minutes and celebrated his completion. Then I felt even dumber. Anyone share my experience?“ The following responses followed:

“I pride myself on finding the right answers and I couldn’t in this assignment and I felt like ripping up the paper.”

“I’ve been told I have to get 100% on everything, or I wasn’t a good enough student to stay at this school.”

“I should have been able to do this, Everything else has been easy and this is the first hard reading assignment I’ve had.”

“I felt frustrated and thought I shouldn’t be in this class if I couldn’t do this paper.”

“If I don’t do well on all my work, my parents make me go to a tutor.”

There wasn’t a child in the class of 26 that didn’t share their feelings. What they needed to know was they were in good company and others shared their feelings.

The semester has been spent with delving into different types of text and exploring different strategies for each type. As a result, when I gave them another short story to read their responses changed, “Oh cool, I can do this.”

 

They felt empowered until they discovered I increased the difficulty one more time.They handed the frustration so much better and tried many of the strategies they had learned. I had a few asked to read the assignment aloud outside. Before I knew it, there were more children outside then inside.

The right amount of frustration is good if, and only if, it is followed up with a means for relief.

It was clear they had reached another level of frustration and needed more strategies. This provided an excellent opportunity to touch on the topic of automatic negative thoughts. The negative thoughts set off the amygdala and block their ability to see the answers.  My job was to demonstrated how the negative thoughts about this assignment was impacting their ability to complete it successfully.

“If you have already decided you can’t find the answers, you have told your hippocampus to stop looking, so put down your pencils down and don’t do anything more because you won;t find the answer with that mindset. However, if you have decided that you haven’t found the answers yet and have told yourself you are not giving until you do, continue re-reading the passage differently until you do. Your brain will keep searching until it finds it. You may have to read it seventeen times using different tones each time. If you decide before that you couldn’t find the answers, change your thinking and you will change your results.”

I demonstrated seven ways to read the first two words, “Mother! Mother!” Just in those readings, three children realized that the third way I read it helped him find the answer. The children continued to reread the story and smiles began to appear on faces around the room. They had acquired yet another strategy and validation that they were in fact smart.

 

They decided to “Intend to Attend” until they found the answer.


Cure For Hissy Fits Over Homework October 02, 2016 08:32

"When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change." Theory on Learned Helplessness

"I am going to get into trouble because I forgot an assignment. The teacher is going to yell at me and embarrass me in front of the class. I don't want to go to school tomorrow. I want to change schools. I hate my teacher!" Susie screamed after she realized she left her workbook page at home. Her mom stepped in and tried to console her, but she didn't get anywhere because Susie was unconsolable. She was certain of the outcome of forgetting a paper. So, her mom did what many mothers do, she got angry at the teacher and threatened to report her to the principal, "No teacher should make fun of a child who forgets a paper! I'll just have to do something about this." 

Susie's mother made an appointment with the principal the next day, and the principal asked her to speak with the teacher. Susie's mom met with the teacher reluctantly. She really wanted to tell her off for being so mean, but she quickly discovered the teacher was very sweet about the missing assignment, "We all forget things and this will not be the last time Susie forgets something. I will make sure she knows that it is not a big deal. We are working on strategies in the class to help children resolve issues like forgetting assignments. When children have strategies for handling challenges, they will stop with the meltdowns. Should Susie get upset again, please reassure her that all she has to do is come to me and let me know she had a challenge, and we can discuss ways to avoid the same mistake again." 

Susie was conditioned to respond to mistakes in a learned helplessness way. Her mother would respond emotionally each time and step in to resolve the problem. Susie's mom became the momma bear ready to protect her disturbed cub. Susie had FEARS: Feelings and Emotions that Appeared Real to her. Her mother's reaction validated the unrealistic fears. Both Susie and her mother lacked strategies for handling challenges related to the homework. 

With the support of Susie's teacher, Susie's mom was able to fill her toolbox with strategies to help Susie manage future challenges. 

Homework Solutions for Weary Students and Their Parents offers 32 different challenges students face and the possible solutions which will fill student's toolboxes and empower them to no longer feel helpless. 


I'm Beaming September 04, 2016 06:29

It was September 2012 when I first taught my granddaughter how to do her first night of homework scheduling. She is a strong willed child and my daughter thought I could deal with this task while she went to Back to School for the kindergarteners. Alex had just turned five, and as any proud grandparent would tell you, she is very bright.

Most people would think I was crazy doing a 5 day schedule with a five year old, but she took to it like a duck to water. I asked her to decide if she was going to do her homework before dinner or after. We discussed showering and when she would watch a little television. Her response, "I think I'll do it tomorrow." That was not an offered option. We discussed the ramifications if she overslept or if the work took longer than she'd predicted. She was told she would not get to go to gymnastics on Thursday if her homework wasn't done by Wednesday night.  That was enough for her to stick to doing work in the afternoon. 

Since dinner was a fixed time, she decided when she would shower, put out her clothes for the next day, do her homework, play, and watch television. 

Fast forward to September 2016. My daughter presented my granddaughter with five daily plan sheets for her to schedule her coming week. I asked her to share her thinking process with me as she completed each pay. I was blown away by this nine year old. I heard things like, "I have to be in bed by eight. I want to read a little, so I really need to get to bed by 7:30. I don't want to go to bed with wet hair, so I will need to shower before dinner which is 5 o'clock. I will have to shower at 4:30 to give my hair time to dry. I want to play a little Mine Craft, but I know I need time to come down from playing, so I think I'll do that right after I eat dinner at 5:45 until 6:30. I'll make my lunch at 6:30. Then I'll still have time to talk to mom and dad if they are available. If they aren't, I can read or play with my Legos. That means I'll need to do my homework before I shower. I guess I'll do my homework right when I get home. I'll put it at 3:45, so I have enough time to have a snack. I'm starved after school. That gives me 45 minutes to do homework and if I need more time, I just wont' play Mine Craft or read." 

I was amazed at her backwards planning. She started at the last thing she was going to do and planned the rest from there.

This was no accident. There there many failures since 2012. They, however, were viewed as learning opportunities. She did go to bed with an uncomfortable wet head, which she lived through but did not like. There were natural consequences such as incomplete assignments and forgotten lunches and backpacks. Though uncomfortable, she survived and is still motivated to avoid them to this day. 

It's much like traffic school for adults. We hate it, but it does motivate us to watch our driving closely for at least a little while afterwards. 


A New Year - A New Start August 23, 2016 20:32

When I see school supplies in the stores, I am instantaneously taken back to a very pivotal September. It was in 1982 when seeing the same supplies gave me a panic attack. On that day seeing pencil bags, pens, paper, folders, and new backpacks sent a message to me, “Your lazy carefree days of summer are over.” I knew the following days would be filled with carpools and the dreaded nights packed homework struggles. Being a teacher didn’t help my situation, because to my children, I was their mother, not the teacher. I really didn’t think I could bear another year of struggles. At the same time, I had a game changing event happen in my classroom. Susie, who wasn’t listening, told me it was okay if she didn’t listen in class because her mother would help her at home. I realized she had no reason to listen because she could rely on outside help. So I made a decision. I decided to stop parent involvement in homework for my students, and I removed myself from my daughter’s.

I began the year by informing my daughter that I was not going to be able to help her with her homework, because I had not idea how to do it. As a result, I asked her to be sure she could do every item on her homework before she left class. If she couldn’t, she was instructed to ask the teacher for help. Playing dumb was very powerful. Her first response was one of FEAR. She had several reasons that this new situation was not going to work: The teacher will get mad. There isn’t time to ask questions. I’ll get in trouble for asking a question. With a little role playing of how to ask for the help, my daughter hesitantly went off to school. I am a little sneaky, but I knew I would have to elicit the help of the teacher for this new approach to work. As my daughter left for school, I phoned the teacher and was fortunate enough to reach her. I shared my new approach and that my scared daughter was going to reluctantly talk to her about the type of help she would need this year. I also asked if she could help put my daughter’s unrealistic fears of getting in trouble for asking questions to rest. Her teacher was very responsive  and it set the stage of self-advocacy for my daughter. It also ended to our nightly stress from homework. I didn’t need to do much after that other than rehearse some ways my daughter could ask questions effectively. There were teachers who were less than open to her questions, but we role played dealing with them. To this day my daughter swears those role-playing sessions helped with her interactions with supervisors she encountered in her career. Try it. You’ll love it.

 

For more support on making the transition to No Help Homework, check out my Homework Solutions: A Teacher’s Guide and Homework Solutions: A Parent’s Guide.

 


Combating Confabulation February 28, 2016 14:47

To combat the negative affects of confabulation. students can ask for clarification during instruction to be sure they are receiving the information in the manner it was intended.

Reviewing all graded work for what was marked wrong and asking the teacher why the problems were incorrect will help clarify thinking.

It isn't enough to tell students to ask for clarification. They need strong model questions to use to clear up confusion. The following are questions I trained my daughters and students to use to get the support they needed and to be sure they were receiving the information in the way it was intended:

"Am I correct to believe that you said...............?"

"Can you show me where I went wrong on this question?"

"Is there another way to show me how to do this problem? I am not making sense of it, and I want to be sure I am understanding the instruction."

"Am I correct the you want us to ............. for this project?"

Do a sample of what the project looks like

When a paper comes back incorrect, the student can always say,"I think I must have been confabulating and I thought you meant...... Will you show me where I went wrong/"

Each situation will require a different type of question. Brainstorming with students how they could ask supporting questions will help fill their backpacks with questions they can use later as situations occur. 

Simply sharing the meaning of confabulation and how the brain can cause a misunderstanding for them will encourage students to ask questions when they otherwise would be embarrassed.  Overcoming the fear of asking questions will be addressed later. 

Click Here to Received Future Mindset Minutes With Victoria


Learning to Fail Successfully Guarantees Success February 27, 2016 23:40

Learning to fail successfully is the foundation of the Homework Solutions' Method of instruction. Too many children are afraid to fail, because they don't see the value of it or know how to benefit from what it tells them. 

John Maxwell is a motivation speaker and success coach. His blog this week focused on developing grit in children and I wanted to share it with you. It is worth your time, so I hope you enjoy it. 

This Blog post was created by John Maxwell and can be viewed at his website at John Maxwell.com

"It turns out success has little to do with intelligence, personality, appearance and social standing. And the long-stand measure IQ is not difference between great and passable performance. Research today says,  all kids and adults are capable of success, but what we need is a better understanding of what motivates us in our pursuits. It’s not all about acting quickly and easily, it’s about who can get gritty and outlast the rest, the ones who make it despite challenges along the way.

Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, studied cadets at West Point military academy, students in the Chicago public school systems and participants in The National Spelling Bee. In her research, she discovered that kids with solid work ethic, marathon-like motivation and self-discipline are the most successful. These are kids with what she calls, “a growth mindset,”This means they have the ability to learn and understand that they can change the outcome of a problem with effort. When kids realize that failure is not a permanent condition, then they keep trying and keep going. They get “grit.”

Grit as defined by Duckworth, is passion and perseverance on a daily basis. It is a belief ingrained in the mind that success takes years, it takes commitment and resilience to make a future dream a reality. Simply put, it’s living life like a marathon, not a sprint.

Through her research, Duckworth also debunked the misconception that the more talent a person has, the more successful they will be. She showed that talent is inversely related to success, meaning that kids with talent have more trouble overcoming challenges than those who accept their lack of skill in an area early on.

It becomes a choice of will. Being willing to be wrong. Being willing to start over. Being gritty.


How do you do it? How do you teach a tee ball team with a losing streak or a tune-deaf amateur piano player to try again? John C. Maxwell gives us four practical skills to hone as adults and pass down to the ones just a few steps behind us as we harness grit and resilience in our daily living.

1. STAY OPTIMISTIC.

Optimism is not naïveté. Expect that failure is an option and it’s one more “way to do something.” It might be a wrong way, but recognize that you’ve eliminated a method or approach that doesn’t work and therefore, you learned something good and valuable. Choose optimism and choose to keep moving forward.

Ask: What did I just learn and how can I use what I learned to make it better?

2. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

Failure generally doesn’t happen in a vacuum; others can always be pointed to or passed the responsibility for what went wrong. Owning our part in the breakdown will provide a moment for reflection, refinement and ultimately reward. Taking responsibility creates maturity, understanding and wisdom in the one who practices it.

Ask: What did I do to contribute to this situation and what can I do better next time?

3. REMAIN RESILIENT.

Move on and don’t look back. Remember what you learned, but don’t stay stuck on the pain of the present. Carrying the burden of failure overtime makes us weak to our problems. We allow failure to gnaw at us instead of having control over thoughts and feelings. Be mindful of comparison, rationalization, isolation, regret and bitterness toward others. These are signs that you’re getting stuck and you need to evaluate your thinking.

Ask: How am I thinking about this? What does my self-talk sound like? How can I force myself to stand up against it?

4. GET GRITTY.

Once you’ve reflected on your failure, it’s time to try again, and quickly. There’s nothing worse than time to let fear flourish. Recognize the reality of where you are and then act your way into facing your failure head on. Get back on your two-wheel bike, approach the person who’s gossiping about you, take the test again, try out for the team once more, and this time, be courageous, be bold, and get your grit.

Ask: What do I need to try again, and this time be ready to fail without fear?"

Please share you felt about this article.


Cell Phones For Children February 27, 2016 17:22 3 Comments

Sleep issues plague my students. Recently a student approached me for help with her sleep problems. It was clear that the culprit of her sleep deprivation was due to the endless group texts that continued binging until eleven o'clock at night. 

One would not be surprised if this comment was made by a middle schooler, but I am a third grade teacher. Apparently, this is a common problem amongst my eight year old students.

The first reaction of most is to past judgment on the parents for letting the children have a phone or ipad of their own in the first place. There is a belief held that parents should control its use. 

I love technology and all it has to offer, however I am aware of the negative impact of using these devices. A few come to mind: sleep deprivation, early onset of cataracts in thirty-somethings which usually don't appear until one is a senior citizen, computer vision syndrome, and social media/game addiction. 

Some pediatricians feel children should never be exposed to technology until they are forced to use it once they reach school age. Others believe children should not have a phone of their own until they are at least eleven. Those selling apps for children's use will tell you the technology will make children smarter and more competitive. Of course, their data is designed to sell a product. 

What do you think? Please weigh-in with you opinion in below.

 

 


The Value of Play is Highly Underrated October 13, 2015 06:54

"Ask any children what they do for fun. You will be amazed at what they consider play. One little girl stated she liked to play dress-up. When asked how she played, she responded, "I have this program, and I get to click on the dress I want the doll to wear." Author Unknown

This child is missing the experiences and the fine motor development children of the past benefitted from. She is missing the cutting out of dresses, folding the tabs, and then carefully placing the dress on the doll so that it wouldn't fall off. She is missing the experiences that paper dolls offers. She is using one finger. 

If she really played dress-up, she would gain strength in her abs as she dressed in over-sized pants. Putting one leg in a pant leg forces the other leg to engage muscles and strengthen the core. Weak cores translates into difficulty completing tasks and sustaining attention in class. 

Unstructured play that engages the entire body and all of the senses can help children grow cognitively in ways that no amounts of tutoring or computer programs can replace.  In the following excerpt from my new book, I tell a story of one of our field trips and offer some suggestions to help children improve their writing ability. 

We had a wonderful trip to Shipley Nature Center. When we arrived, a student was heard saying, What are we going to do for thirty minutes? Is there playground equipment? Did we bring balls?We replied by saying, You have nature to play with. See what games you can come up with.They quickly found trees to climb, sticks to use as building materials, as well ducks to follow and watch. Games of tag and running around the park also followed lunch. As we explored the habitat of the Tongva during our time at Shipley, we were doing more than sharing the history of a people who lived in this region; we were teaching the children how to observe their surroundings. With their enthusiasm for the rabbits, spider webs, lizards, and butterflies, we knew they would have plenty to write about when they returned.

 

We know parents want to help their children maximize their performance in class. If youd like to help you child become a better writer, forego extracurricular writing classes and try some of the following free programs:

 

  1. Ask your children to turn off their devices and look out the window.
  2. Play I Spycar games. This is a game that has children describe what they see outside and the other passengers guess what it is that was spied.
  3. Take your children to the park with nothing other than a lunch and a blanket. Engage all senses by sharing what you hear, see, smell, and feel. Touching leaves, the grass, and tree bark and then describing it is offering sensory experiences that will give children something to write about.  Lie on the blanket and look up at the sky and share what you see. This is great on cloudy days, but also good when there isnt a cloud in the sky. Ask your children to wonderabout what they see. i.e., I wonder why the bark on that tree looks like it is peeling?or I wonder what is living high in those branches?” Go for a walk and talk about what you see and ask them to share. Encourage them to look at the colors in leaves and grass. Sharing these experiences is front-loading childrens writing with beautiful images. Verbalizing observations later translates into excellent writing.
  4. Go to the beach and build a sand castle together. Discuss how the sand feels. Observe what happens when the water is poured onto dry sand over and over again. Take time to let your senses experience the trip. Have them stop and take a few minutes to observe what they smell, see, hear, and feel. The texture of dry and wet sand offers great opportunities to share how each feels and why there is a difference.

If we were to translate the dollar value of these experiences, it would be far more than what the extracurricular programs cost, and have a further reaching benefit for the children. When they learn how to observe their environment, they will begin to do it automatically.




 

Anecdote: Mr. Helliwell and Ms O went on a several trips together.. Mrs. H noticed that Ms. O  was moving so fast, she was missing a lot. So, she suggested Ms. O sit in one place, carve out a one square foot section in the sand and just observe it for ten minutes. What could one see in a 1 square foot of sand is amazing, but how many of us take the time to do that. Try it, you will be surprised. 

 

The value of unstructured play and free exploration is highly underrated."


Recommended Reading October 11, 2015 19:29

I highly recommend Goldie Hawn's book 10 Mindful Minutes. It is amazing how much students performance can improve when they learn how to be mindful. There are many books available that offer strategies that I will share in the future. For now, her book offers strategies that gives students and ourselves the social and emotional skills to reduce stress and anxiety for happier and healthier lives.

Know-It-Alls With Comprehension Problems August 27, 2015 05:54


Since we can all learn from each other, I would like to share questions a parent posed about her son recently at one of my trainings and my answer. I hope this helps other parents struggling with the same thing.

Questions: She shared that she is concerned about her first grade Know-It-All son who struggles with reading comprehension.  He is going to be in a first grade accelerated class in the fall. What should I do?

This is my answer to her:

It is hard for parents to know exactly how much to push their children and when to back off. I have the advantage of having seen children grow and develop over the years. Firstly, the know-it-all child doesn't always grow into the know-it-all adult. If your fear is that he will become that adult that no one can stand, I can assure you that he will quickly be leveled by his teachers, peers, and the reality of the real world.

"Know-it-alls" tend to be more insecure and that is how they cope. It can be a coverup for knowing he isn't as smart as everything thinks he is. Young children coverup not knowing how to do something by saying it is boring or they already know it. If he begins avoiding work and doesn't do assignments because they are "boring," he will be sending the message that he is struggling. In the minds of bright children, it isn't okay to struggle. They don't realize that even bright people struggle. Helping him identify that he is labeling hard things boring and offering strategies to solve the challenge will help him more in the long run. Reassure him that hard is okay for even bright children. 

Since he is going to be in an acceleratd class, I encourage you to watch his reactions to those things that are challenging.

If he is a strong math student, he may not be great at writing. He may be a good reader, but his comprehension skills do not match his oral reading fluency. This is not uncommon for young readers. They are so focused on reading the words, which is what they are learning to do at that age, that they haven't yet develped the ability to retain what they have read.

I can read a whole chapter to my class, have them engaged because I am reading with feeling, but I won't remember the next day if I read that chapter.

Reading words and retaining the meaning are two separate skills created in two separate parts of the brain. The left brain is reading and the right brain is forming images to retain the meaning. They don't often come together, especially for boys, until later. For this reason, your son may not remember what he has read. If someone pressures him, he will feel inadequate and resort to being a know-it-all. It's all a coverup. I would recommend having him stop after each sentence and see if he can picture what he read in his mind. Then have hime retell the story. That is training for real comprehension. 

Watch my video on the brain. It will explain what will happen to him when someone asks him questions about what he read that puts him into stress mode. He will not remember his name if he is stressed enough. 

One more point: Most early readers skil the important skill of learning the rules of phonics. They make the connections between letters and sound, but because they come in with reading, they are skipped into a program that doesn't teach phonics. As a result, when they are older and the words become more difficult, they don't always know how to break them apart. If you see that happen, I would alert the teacher about his never being taught phonics and that he might need some training in the rules of syllabicaiton and irregular sounds. 


Secrets to Managing Time: Cure for Procrastination August 15, 2015 12:08

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With the new school year starting, getting students to understand their daily schedule is very important. To help you help your children, I have created a Backwards Planning Time Management Video. I am making the first in the series available to you for FREE.

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Parents Share Their Concerns July 29, 2015 06:38

Last night, I presented to a lovely group of moms of children of various ages. They shared many of the same concerns, so I thought my readers might enjoy hearing their questions and some strategies I offered for dealing with their challenges.

In today's blog, I will answer Question Number One: What if my son claims he is bored?

Boredom is often misunderstood my students. They use boredom when they really mean “hard.” Clarifying this will help them understand what ‘boring’ feels like and what they can do about it.

It helps to ask them what is boring about the subject they are studying. They may be able to answer that question, or they may say the teacher is just repeating what they already know.

If they don't know what is boring, clarification is helpful. Ask if they have a subject that isn't boring. Then ask, "Why isn't it boring." I can pretty much guarantee they will say, "Because it is easy." Respond by saying, "So _____ isn't boring because it is easy, right? Could it be possible that ______ is boring because it is hard?"  Students will see they have been defining their feelings incorrectly and will understand what they actually are feeling is “it is hard for me.”

Redirection again about dealing with “hard” is very important. "So if it is hard, how do you think it can get easier?" Most students will honestly answer, "By practicing." Offering students ways to practice is helpful.  They will need actual things they can see themselves doing in order to change their feelings from “hard” to “easy.” Be watching for my next blog about my soccer analogy. It helps students see the value of practice.

 

If children claim the material they are learning is what they know already, share that teachers often remind students of past information when they are trying to offer new information that is an extension of something they have already taught.

Encourage them to listen for the new information. Repeating information is also another way teachers help students build stronger recall around important information. Teachers will revisit concepts to assure that the concepts are not lost. The movie Inside Out beautifully demonstrates the workers throwing away old useless memories that aren’t needed anymore to make room for new ones. The movie is a beautiful explanation of how the brain stores and prunes information. Helping children see that revisiting these concepts is something to be glad about, since it is helping them store memories and saving them for future use.


Seven Secrets About Teachers Every Student Needs to Know to be Successful July 22, 2015 10:08

Over the years, I have been training students how to create their own Owner's Manual for their teachers. It is somewhat like a Teacher's Manual on How to Teach Me, a student's manual. When students know what they need to be successful, they are more apt to become engaged learners. Instead of passively participating in the class, they become actively engaged learners who know how to get their needs met. 

The first place I start is by sharing my "Seven Secrets About Teachers."  Today I will share my first secret: "Teachers are NOT Mind Readers!" 

Teachers can have the most expensive mind reading glasses or taken the most expensive mind reading course like I have, but they still don’t know what you are thinking or feeling. In fact, they may often misread your mind.

They also might think you understand everything they are saying, and yet you do not. They may think their instruction is clear, when it is not. They may think you don’t care when you do, or they may think you weren’t listening, when in fact you were. 

Students' jobs are to make sure they communicate effectively and ask lots of questions. By asking questions, they are helping the teacher clear up confusion.  Questions alert the teacher to the strategies for instruction that are most effective for each student.  Future instruction is directed more by students' questions than by a manual. If the questions are asked of parents, parents are the only ones who know what the students are thinking. If the questions are asked of the teacher, instruction will improve. 

Overcoming the fear of asking questions is the next topic I will be discussing in my blog. So stay tuned.

I will be demonstrating my "Seven Secrets about Teachers" in my new Video.  It will be available next week for trial reviews only. Only my subscribers will be offered a limited time free viewing. So keep visiting my blog for the announcement. Only the first twenty-five to respond to the "Request to View," will receive the special code.   

 


Why Do Children Go to Lala Land? June 13, 2015 09:28

Every year we have children who appear to lose focus and daydream. I found this article by Paul R. Scheele that explains why students go to "LaLa Land" instead of asking for support.

It's natural to ask for help during challenging times. But why are some people comfortable reaching out, while others are anxious and restrained?

According to a study from the University of Wisconsin, our willingness to ask for help appears to be regulated by two completely different brain systems—one detects threats and one is responsible for achieving goals and bonding with others.

"A balance of two important systems can influence an individual's behavior and emotional expression in times of need," says Ned Kalin, lead author of the study and chair of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.

"The findings suggest that how open an individual is willing to be in asking for help may depend more than we thought on how secure that individual feels at any given time in a supportive relationship," he says.

In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online, researchers separated 25 monkeys from their cage mates. For 30 minutes the researchers measured the frequency each monkey made "coo calls" to signal for social support. Researchers then scanned the monkeys' brains for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior.

The brain scans revealed that monkeys who called out for help most had more activity in the right prefrontal cortex—the region responsible for achieving goals and bonding with others—and less activity in the amygdala, responsible for detecting threats. On the other hand, monkeys that called for help less frequently had less activity in the right prefrontal cortex and more in the amygdala.
So why wouldn't the animals experiencing the greatest threat and most fear be more apt to call for help?

They're frozen, Kalin explains in the study. "We showed that some monkeys will become inhibited and freeze when they're frightened, especially when a predator is nearby and the monkey believes that it hasn't yet been discovered by the predator. We observed that the greater the fear, the less likely it was that the animals would call for help."

The authors believe that the same may be true for human relationships. "When a person feels safe enough in a relationship to express his or her vulnerabilities, this appears to be associated with a decrease in amygdala activity and an increase in prefrontal cortex activity. As relationships become more secure for the people involved, it's likely that changes in amygdala and prefrontal cortex activity may be responsible for the accompanying increase in sharing of intimate feelings."

Do your students feel anxious about asking for support? My upcoming video, "Overcoming the Fear of Asking" will break through the barrier that students possess and help them fee comfortable with asking.  Learning to ask in a hostile environment with teachers who do not embrace questions is an art taught in this video series. Watch for the announcement of it's availability.

Jack Canfield says, "If you don't ask, you already have a 'no. So at least give the universe a shot at it by asking."

I say, "If  you don't ask, the answer is "No." If you do ask, you get a 50% chance of getting help and getting a yes. I'd go with the better odds."

 


Be Alert to Repetitive Bathroom Breaks May 13, 2015 06:34

Yesterday, I was notified that one of my students was taking too many trips to the restroom during math. The teacher also reported that this student appeared to go into "Lala Land" during instruction on long division. She is a highly gifted writer and an avid reader. In fact, she chooses to escape into her fictional world at every opportunity she can. When asked about what she was avoiding in math, she admitted that division was very hard. Even though she knew her basic multiplication facts, she confessed she had a hard time finding the facts for division.  This is not uncommon for right brain learners. After a discussion about the types of intelligence one might have and that being good at one subject does not mean you have to find all subjects easy, she admitted she felt stupid and didn't want to tell the teacher she didn't know how to do the division. 

***When I spoke to the teacher, she disagreed that the student didn't know her facts. Knowing ones facts and applying it in division are to completely different processes. A right brain learner needs to have facts turned into stories, so the missing factor or product can be easily accessed. "Memory Joggers" are a great way to teach the math facts.  They are available online.****

What do Repetitive Bathroom Breaks Mean?

Repetitive bathroom breaks can be more than a physical need to eliminate.  There are several reasons students might ask to go to the bathroom. The most obvious is they haven't used the bathroom during their recesses.  They might have a bladder infection.  

But what about the child who consistently asks to go to the bathroom several times during one class period? If the above reasons have been ruled out, it is possible the students are avoiding an assignment or tasks that seems overwhelming to them. The children who deal with stress with this type of coping can be below average, below average, or very gifted students.

Coping by avoidance actually can be physiological in nature. The first response to a threat, and not knowing how to do something or get started on an assignment is considered a threat, is to shift into the stress response. The first signs of stress can be the desire to eliminate.  In the wild, animals that feel threatened will eliminate any extra weight to facilitate a quick get-away. We are no different. When we are threatened, we react with a primitive response that will protect us and assure our survival. 

So, what do children do when they feel stupid? They go to the bathroom.  

Help students who tackle challenges this way by sharing the natural response to fear. Then help them identify why they are feeling this way. 

If you need specific support, email me the challenges and the behaviors you are observing, and I can offer support. I am here to help.


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


"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.