Standardized Testing Limits Potential

test The education world, like any other industry, goes through phases. The importance placed on standardized testing is just one of the phases but it’s been a tough one for educators, parents, and students alike. With the “No Child Left Behind Act” teaching to the test became the norm. “Common Core” is our public education’s response to too much testing and not enough learning.

We’ve Created a System that Requires Us to Measure a Person’s Potential In & Out of the Classroom

Common Core’s true underlying focus is a belief that we all learn differently and that we should promote those learning styles. In fact, the progressive and developmental education movements believe we should be teaching to a child’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. This makes sense because as adults we all learn to compensate for our weaknesses and choose careers that play to our strengths.

Standardized objective tests are not a true indicator of potential. They simply measure where a child stands in relation to his peers at that moment in time. However, the system we’ve created, both in and out of the classroom, requires us to measure a person’s abilities.

A Student’s Self-Worth Hinges on Where they Score on the Scale of Perceived Success

We use these tests to define if and where a student will go to college, what type of job they are most suited for, and how stnd deviationmany public services and how much funding a child will receive. By default, we are defining how much learning potential our students have by how well they take a test. When we continue to define a person by an objective standard we slowly chip away at their uniqueness, which leads to defining ourselves by how well we fit in with the crowd. Our self-worth now hinges on where we fall on that scale of perceived success.

The SCERTS Models Teaches the Foundational Skills to Get that Job & Keep that Job

The reality of life after school is that a person is not measured by how well they do on an exam but rather how well they (a) perform the task, and (b) connect with those around them. EQ is more important than IQ. Simply said, if people like you they want to work with you.

The SCERTS Model is based on the belief that Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and putting in place a Support System to implement those tools maximizes a student’s learning potential. It’s not a test; it’s a way of life.

Traditionally designed for children on the Autism Spectrum, SCERTS can be used for any child because it teaches how to effectively communicate with one another, which should be the foundation of our learning model. Skills such as Functional Spontaneous Communication, Social Interaction in Various Settings, Teaching of Play Skills, Instruction Leading to Generalization and Maintenance of Cognitive Goals, Positive Approaches to Address Problem Behaviors, and Functional Academic Skills are important for every child at the crux of a developmental period.

Furthermore, these skills can be used in multidisciplinary, crossover home and school environments to provide our children with a foundational communication skill set that will not only allow them to get that job doing what they love but keep that job.

Less Emphasis on Testing = More Emphasis on Cultivating Great “Changers of the World”

I realize that our education system will probably never eliminate standardized testing, but my hope is that we place much less emphasis on its scores. Every child is different. Every child learns differently. We cannot expect to cultivate great thinkers, innovators and “Changers of the World” if we continue to define our children by a number. The more we come to accept this truism, the more chances we give each of our children to achieve real success.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Be a Student of the Universe: Applied Learning

applied learningApplied Learning. You’ve likely heard the phrase floating around the education world for a while now. Life Hacks and School Hacks are some other prominent ideas making their way to the mainstream. These new terms of art give us a peek inside the new ways forging precedent for using your education as a stepping stone rather than an end goal.

And we should prepare our students for this new reality. For so many families the end goal is getting their kid to college. I caution families that a college degree alone should not be the ultimate goal. Rather, college gives a student a foundational skill set. What they do with that skill set, however, is not something college can teach.

Apply your conventional education to an unconventional path

I recently read an article directed towards law students and new grads–people, like myself, who had intentionally chosen a conventional path to obtain stability, that is until the Great Recession of 2008 happened and stability went out the window. It was appropriately titled “Employment After Law School: The Cold Truth“. And boy was it on point!

After reading, I realized that I had already done what the article suggested– taken my traditional law degree and applied it in a new way to a new industry. What I had blindly done out of survival became the core of my success. I had found a way to merge my passion for advocacy with my love of education. I had, indeed, applied my text-book learning to the real world.

How did I do it?

I graduated law school in 2010 and no one was hiring. So I decided to create my own path to success, which began by taking a chance on a Working-Holiday visa overseas in New Zealand and canvassing Auckland for a firm in my field of interest. I found one that was happy to have an American come on board for a bit and I gained valuable international legal experience and made some life-long friends in the process. Thanks QCL!

When I came back to the US in 2011, the economy was getting better but still in flux and the legal world was still trying to find its way. I hemmed and hawed at what to do. After all, I was in significant student loan debt and, although I had a great analytical and writing skill set, I couldn’t figure out how to apply it to an industry outside of law.

So I fell back on my “before-law-school” skills: Psychology, Nannying, and Tutoring. I was really good at working with kids of all ages struggling in school. As I would sit with these students helping them with their homework, I realized there was a lot more going on here: a learning difference, behavior challenge, social skills need, or family dynamic concern. I started putting my law school research skills to use and found that what these kids most likely qualified for was an IEP, which would provide learning and therapeutic services at school and funding through the state. My sister, who is a Speech Pathologist and never has to worry about not having a job, encouraged me to pursue my digging with the caveat that schools don’t like to give away money and it will be an uphill battle. My legal brain was excited. Maybe I could even use some of my Client Counseling and Alternative Dispute Resolution skills.

I began walking parents through the difficult and emotional process of how to receive state funds and advocating on their behalf at SST’s, IEP’s, and appeals. My legal skills gave me a leg up and I finally felt that my law education was being put to good use.

Three years after I graduated from law school, I formalized my new endeavor in the education law world and Founded Terry Tutors: One Comprehensive Support Service for Struggling Students. I am proud to be an Education Advocate for Special Needs and owner of my own small business.

After law school, it was scary out there because the stability that I had sought no longer existed. I had to create my own job, but I couldn’t have done it successfully without my foundational legal skill set.

The Takeaway

The traditional, individualistic path is slowly being replaced by a collaborative one. Things have changed, and we have to create a new tradition, one that requires us to take our foundational skill set achieved through conventional means and apply it towards new industries. For our students, they are living in a time of unlimited information by way of the internet. They are exposed to creative thought on a new level, in a way that we, as adults, did not grow up knowing.

I believe this will allow our students to forge ahead and pioneer their own educational and career pathways at a younger age. But they still need us. Our students need the teachers and parents in their lives to foster this desire to engineer their own careers. It is our job to give them the foundations of successful schooling by tapping into their potential early on. If we pledge to do so, our students will not feel stifled by their choices but, rather, excited by their possibilities.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

How to Be a Court Jester in a World Full of Kings

t600-court-jester-kayeThe Court Jester, often thought of only as the silly witted man, is actually the smartest guy in the room because he sits at the foot of the all-powerful monarch but is never subject to the guillotine. By observing, he learns to placate, shroud honesty in humor, and, most of all, he learns to survive.

We can all learn a thing or two from this “lowly” figure, especially for anyone who works with or has kids who struggle with social skills. Conventional schooling often dismisses the importance of learning how to maneuver through social situations in favor of academics and conformity. For those of us who have already passed the test of formal education, we know that it will actually be those social skills which will take us further in life than all of the A’s we have ever received. The kids who learn early on how to placate and shroud honesty in humor are the ones who learn to survive the corridors of the corporate world.

Shawn Achor, Positive Psychology Researcher and Harvard Professor who taught “The Happiness Course”, explains that 75% of success is based on how we process the world and 25% of success is based on our intellect. How we perceive our situation through a lens of our choosing dictates our choice to be happy. Interestingly, those in relationship based cultures with Attachment-Based Learning as the foundation of their education, tend to be happier because they view their benchmark of happiness against their social community. Much along the same lines, I find that for kids who are struggling in school things can turn around rather quickly when they find their social group– when they are accepted. Peer support seems to be the antidote to loneliness, isolation, and depression, which if left unattended can lead to real harm of self and of others.

However, in our American educational system we struggle with placing value on the important life lessons that social skills teach us because we are not a relationship based culture. For example, it’s a negative thing to call a kid a class clown. Really, when we break it down, a class clown is just a student who is longing to be accepted and who will use all the cards in their back pocket to find a friend.  That’s why comedians are actually observationalists by trade. They are the Court Jesters of our time. They possess the unique ability to read people and this saves them from the guillotine of social isolation.

So when your kid is struggling in school, perhaps it’s not the academics that should be the first thing we fix. Instead, let’s look socially–let’s look at what kinds of friends or lack of friends your child has at school. Because it only takes one friend to change a person’s perception of themselves and their surroundings and costs nothing but time. Most importantly, it will teach them about navigating this world where mastering social skills rule in the King’s Court.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student, combining Academic Support, Behavior Support, and Education Advocacy to bridge the gap between home and school in order to serve the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

 

When to Conform and When to Follow the Herd

conformityThe balance of school teeters on the seesaw of conformity versus independence. Up until high school, all we want to do is conform. After we graduate, all we want to do is find our own path. This constant push and pull between independent thinking and social herding is what makes taking a risk to do things our own way that much more challenging. Yes, following the herd is easier and some would say even safer. Deviating from the flock is much more difficult and a little scary because now you have to rely on your own discretion.

In your academic life, then, when is is okay to take a chance and do your own thing? (Click to view our video on this topic)

Let’s look at the example of writing a boring 20 page research paper on a topic you know nothing about and aren’t that interested in. Your teacher has given you specific guidelines, including format, page requirement, due date, and discussion points. There seem to be limited things you have control over. So where is the risk? However, what you do have control over may surprise you: (1) the research you use to evidence your findings, (2) how you structure your analysis, and (3) word choice. Ah ha! Word choice– it’s a bigger deal than you may think, and one that will separate your paper from the “herd”. Sophisticated language, voice, writing for your audience — all these creative elements add up to what makes your writing–your take on a subject matter– unique. Your ability to express yourself in language, both written and verbal, is the foundation of strong communication, convincing arguments, and leadership. If you choose, school can be a place where you go out on that limb and make a bold choice to be different, even in the strictest of circumstances.

The flip side of this argument is laden with the fear of persecution: “Will I get a bad a grade for going against the grain? I can’t afford to fail this class! What if my teacher just doesn’t get it?”. With great risk, comes great reward. With no risk, comes complacency. It is of course up to you, but I encourage my students to take a chance (no matter how small) and write just a little bit differently than the person sitting in the next row. Why? Because school is not meant to be purely academic; there is a life lesson to be learned here too.

So the next time you have a writing assignment that looks as if it will be end of you, remember that even where there seems to be limited creative control you still have the opportunity to embrace the challenge by taking a chance.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

A Little Confidence Goes A Long Way

confidenceIt doesn’t cost any money to teach your kids the value of investing in themselves. What do I mean by that? Confidence. The key word to change. I don’t think I truly found my confidence until I was well into adulthood. Looking back, I passed up a lot of opportunities because I failed to muster up the courage to take the leap, go out on a limb, and try something new.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I traveled the world and learned all kinds of important skills (and life lessons) but there was still this nagging voice inside that said, “Hold on. Wait a second. You need to work a little harder and smarter to get to that next level. You haven’t earned it yet.” The good news about being internally motivated, however, is that I did end up working harder and smarter than my peers in many arenas and was, therefore, able to succeed on a different level. The bad news is that this little voice didn’t ever really stop, even though I had finally achieved my goal.

Confidence is the key that unlocks the magical thing that sets you apart from the rest. When I first meet a student, their confidence is often non-existent. They have failed a test or class, been sent to the principal’s office so many times the secretary knows them by name, or were erroneously labeled and unfairly stigmatized to the point that their confidence is barely hovering above their self-respect. It is then my task to help each of my students and their families pick apart the reasons why they failed the test, were sent to the principal’s office, or were unfairly labeled. By guiding them through this laborious but logical process, the students and their parents slowly begin to realize mistakes made (by themselves and others) along the way. Once we get to the root of these issues, it’s just a matter of time before the student will begin to rebuild their often forgotten self-esteem, self-respect, and confidence.

All the educational books and specialists will tell you the same thing: the core of a well-rounded, prepared, and teachable student is confidence. It’s less about grades and more about taking the time to get to the real issues underneath the anxiety, anger, and angst. I see this time and time again in my Tutoring Practice. A frantic call from a parent over an academic concern leads to the realization that it’s really something more than their son or daughter’s lack of comprehension during the English exam. Making the time to truly listen (without judgment) to your struggling student will reveal a deeper need for internal validation, which can only come from positive praise by the ones they love the most: You!

So take the time to make the time and call me if you’re in need of backup! I’m standing by to assist in your quest to help your child realize their very best.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com