If You’re Happy and You Know It…

Cinnamon Rolls.jpgFall makes me crave cinnamon — its comforting aroma wafting through my home gives me a sense that the holidays are near and Thanksgiving and Christmakkah memories are right around the corner.

A Happy Teacher is a Better Teacher

It may seem unrelated but I found myself happily unraveling a cinnamon roll while happily grading papers and planning lessons.

I wondered: Are my lessons better, filled with more fun and creativity, because I’m happier in this moment? Maybe. Just maybe.

How Can I Bottle this Feeling of Contentment?

Becoming a teacher makes me think about my teachers.

Being a person in a position of power and authority can shape a child’s memories of school and help them learn to love or loathe learning, depending on who is standing in front of them.

This is not to say that we all have an off-day or two (ummm, like last Tuesday) but I wonder if I seem more content, more self-assured standing in front of my middle-schoolers Monday-Friday from 8:00-3:08 because I am feeling more content.

Teachers: We Need to Take Better Care of Ourselves

Too often we look at educators, their arms loaded down with bags of books, papers and snacks for the staff meeting, and think of them as martyrs. I often hear, “I could never do what you do.” or “Teachers do not get paid enough, that’s for sure. I commend you.” or “I’d kill to have so much vacation. I mean you work for it, but that’s the life!”

The sentiment and encouragement are nice (and yes, the vacations are lovely), but what I really want is for teachers to take better care of themselves. We can’t pour from an empty vessel.

As summer turns into fall, projects and papers and tests (oh, my!) are coming to a head. It is the season of 12-15 hour work days, day-light savings time, IEP Meetings, and no vacation until November 11th.

It’s a time of burnout.

Instead of just trudging through, I’m going to make a promise to myself — to go to that yoga class, to watch my favorite tv show, to try to go to bed before the clock strikes midnight.

Why? Because a teacher who values self-care is a happier teacher. And learning is just more fun when the person teaching you is happier to be there.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com




“Inside Out”: A Great Movie to Help with Emotional Identification

insideout Go See this Movie!

If you haven’t already done so, go see “Inside Out” because it’s a fantastic and accessible representation of how our emotions play into our everyday experiences individually and amongst each other.

Identifying Emotions Can Help Us Navigate the Emotional Health of Our Children & Families

“Inside Out” is the story of a family who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco and whose preteen daughter has a difficult time adjusting to her new school, new friends, and her new life.

Psychological research actually identifies Six Universal Emotions: Happy, Sad, Surprised, Afraid, Disgusted, Angry (although there is debate about combining some to create four recognized emotions instead). “Inside Out” does a great job making this research come to life.

This movie is funny while also being informative, and it doesn’t hold back with the hard stuff, like expressing sadness and experiencing depression.

American Culture Holds Us Back from Understanding Our Feelings

Our American Get-Up-and-Go culture really holds us back from acknowledging and talking about our underlying feelings. Even as I write that, I know some of you are rollin’ your eyes because you’re uncomfortable with just the thought of that “cheesy” word: feelings.

But it’s true!

Understanding our feelings is the backbone of navigating social, physical, and emotional trials. There are over half a million working Mental Health Professionals helping adults and children in the U.S. Someone’s keeping them in business. Maybe we’re all more open to seeking out help but just not talking about it with each other?

That’s why this movie was so eye-opening. It brought to light the fact that people of all ages struggle with how to appropriately deal with emotions and, instead, often stuff their feelings down deep inside until they burst out in unhealthy ways. It’s only when we recognize the underpinnings our emotional outburst that we can effectively deal with the real problems.

“Inside Out” is the first of its kind to showcase the importance of emotional identification. And it makes me feel pretty good to know that the kiddos I’m supporting are growing up in a generation that sees how important emotional learning is too.

Toys & Games to Help Your Child Learn to Identify Emotions

Current Emotional Response Visual Supports, Activities, and Products on the Market:

Feelings App
Expanding Expression Tool
All About Me Mirror Boards
MindWing Concepts
Social Thinking Books, Games, Posters
Feelings and Emotional Washable Dolls
How Are You Feeling Today Center

Know of any other good feelings apps or products that you like? Send ’em our way!

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”

I am Thankful for My Sister: The Amazing Speech Pathologist

Elisabeth Zambia

Elisabeth Miller, Extraordinary Speech Pathologist, in Zambia, Africa providing Speech Services with CLASP International

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to give a well-deserved “Thanks!” to my talented and extraordinary little sister, Elisabeth Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP. She has many letters after her name but there’s not an ounce of pomp. Elisabeth works for RiverKids Pediatric Home Health, where she provides clinical Speech & Language Therapy services for Medicaid Patients ages Birth to 21.  Since she’s so kindly taken the Thanksgiving break to visit her L.A. based sister (myself), I thought I’d take this opportunity to interview her about her work in hopes that it will lend some clarity as to what exactly Speech & Language Pathologists (SLP) do.

In general, what does a Speech & Language Pathologist do?

We treat people with all types of communication disorders, which includes any disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and understand the world around them. We also work on feeding and swallowing for kids and adults who have food aversions/swallowing disorders, and babies weaning from G-Tubes.

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in Speech Pathology?

My mother (our mother) picked it for me. I wanted to work with children, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher in a school because I didn’t know if I wanted to work with large groups of kids. My mother told me to be an SLP because I could work with kids or adults in a 1:1 setting in a hospital or school, and I would always have a job .

Have you found that to be true?

Yes, jobs are plentiful. Totally recession proof. It’s emotionally rewarding and challenging.

What types of kids do you work with?

I see children who have complex medical histories, like prematurity, long hospital stays, weaning from g-buttons or ventilators. I encounter parents who are overwhelmed with the diagnosis and I’m  able to provide family support, education, training, and help their child see improvements.

Tell us a story. A good one about your experience as an SLP.

My favorite kids are those who are labeled as Intellectually Disabled (ID) formerly known as Mentally Retarded. My one little boy, age 9, was labeled as ID and never really able to speak. He had lots of therapy but what I discovered during testing was that he actually had complex motor deficits, including dysarthria (muscle weakness), and Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), which prevented him from acquiring spoken language. His family had wanted him to speak but had given up hope that it was possible because it had been so many years and he just wasn’t progressing. What I found is that when we took the focus away from forcing him to communicate and teaching him instead how to control the muscles in his mouth to formulate sounds, syllables, and words that he was quite capable of being a verbal communicator; he just never had the opportunity or appropriate treatment. I have learned never to give up on kids based on a diagnosis of ID or Autism. Currently, he’s 10 now and he’s playing with his siblings appropriately and calls for them by name using short phrases. He’s making great strides.

What’s one thing you think that the schools do well at in terms of providing SLP Services to students?

I think the schools are doing well at trying to identify children earlier and getting them into special programs at a younger age, which means that they will hopefully have better outcomes as they get older.

What’s one thing you think the schools could improve upon?

Not removing services for children who are in Middle and High School, as this is a critical period for them to learn skills they may not have acquired during their younger years, such as reading, social-communication skills, and functional communication. We have to better prepare them to leave high school.

Have you found your passion within your career?

Definitely! I love working with pediatrics. I work in a Home Health setting and I get the best of both worlds: access to the family, home environment, and able to work with the child 1:1 or incorporate siblings or peers within the community.

So proud of my little sis. For more on Elisabeth and her work, check out CLASP International and RiverKids Pediatric Home Health

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Hi, My Name is Consistency and I am Related to Success

ConsistencyIt’s no secret that anything done well is done consistently. If we want that beach-ready body we know we must consistently eat green things and go to that spinning class. If we want that A in a class we must consistently study and go above and beyond the norm. There is no shortcut to success.

Part of the reason students struggle in school is not because they aren’t working hard but because they aren’t working hard consistently

When students are young, teaching accountability falls on the parent. This is a challenging lesson, and one I find starts from the top down. Your children will not assign value to school unless you, as the parent, value it yourself

Children inherently want to meet their parent’s expectations. As we talked about in our recent post here, the best way to combat learned helplessness is by raising your expectations. For example, don’t be afraid to say no to hanging out with friends until homework is completed. Do this consistently and your kid will stop fighting you on finishing their homework. Yes, consistency even combats teenage attitude.

Putting systems and structure in place allows for consistency to take priority and ensures that everyone in the family is on the same page about school expectations, such as homework time. Check out some great, practical tips outlined in our previous discussion on how to “Eliminate the Homework Woes“.

You can still give your kids a beautiful childhood & teach them the value of hard work too

As an in-home service provider, parents often express concerns to me that it’s difficult to find a balance between teaching hard work while also trying to give their kids the best possible childhood. There is only a finite amount of time that we get to be carefree kids and the rest of life we must learn to be adults. My response: I agree, and that’s precisely why we should all be working together to instill the common underlying value of dedication to individual accomplishment during childhood, which stems from being consistent with our children. You can still give your kids a beautiful childhood and teach them the value of hard work at the same time.

As a culture, we need to slow down and enjoy the quiet moments more often. The days of over-scheduling are coming to an end.  The days of helicopter parenting should be on their way out the door too. We need to let kids learn first-hand the consequences of not putting their all into a project, a task, or a test. You wouldn’t prevent your child from learning how to walk by continuing to carry them around town until their 18th birthday, right? Of course not, that’s just absurd.

Sheltering them from the fear of “falling” is a disservice, and parents who prevent their child from experiencing the consequences of inaction are preventing them from experiencing the triumph of success.

So give your child the best possible chance in school and life by remaining consistent with your expectations. You’ll find that your child will rise to the occasion and even exceed the goals you set.

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.

Tapping: Help Kids Reduce Anxiety & Increase Focus Naturally

tappingEFT: Emotional Freedom Technique is all about reducing anxiety, separating the negative from positive emotions, and increasing focus and memory. It’s like acupuncture without the needles, and it’s intended to help all of us work through our stress naturally.

Kids and adults alike can use this easy technique as a way to learn why we’re experiencing negative emotions and prevent them from putting a damper on the day. For our little ones, it’s especially useful because it teaches them early on how to (1) identify triggers due to anger, anxiety, and aversion, and (2) self-regulate.

For children struggling in school, much of their daily stressors come from sources unrelated to the actual material. We all know that there are a ton of smart kids out there who fail classes because of outside factors, such as lack of peer support, isolation or low-self-esteem, and test anxiety over the prospect of failing or not remembering the material. These are typical underlying triggers that cause additional stress making it even more difficult to focus in school. To reduce the negative emotions that cause these mental blocks (and teach your kids to the same) check out these videos and resources:

Great Info & Resources:

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student, which combines 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

A Parent’s Learning Curve

originalParents: I feel for ya out there, especially when it comes to technology. My Dad can relate, as evidenced by this little video here.

I, too, was born before the internet and my students are quick to remind me of that tidbit. This generational-gap often takes a contentious turn when it comes to the health of our students as expressed in this article by an Occupational Therapist, who suggests (with some compelling research, mind you) why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12. In true theory v. practice, however, a number of articles quickly popped up in response explaining why parents will continue to give their children handheld devices, like this one here.

Regardless of your persuasion, the fact remains that this generation of kids is the most technologically advanced in history. How then can we, as parents, therapists, and educators, keep up with our kiddos?

One way is to acknowledge that we all have a learning curve and in this case, our students may in fact know more than we do. On a daily basis, we openly encourage our students to ask for help and now, it’s our turn. So don’t be afraid to admit that you’re a little lost when it comes to turning a word doc into a pdf or uploading video on FB or even what “cray cray” means (my mom just learned that one).

By asking for help from our kids, we get to let them be the teachers for a change and in the process remember a little bit about what if feels like to be a kid again too–a lesson in honesty and humbleness for sure.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

The World is HAPPY!

The world has gone crazy for happiness lately, thanks to singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams and his latest colorful tune: HAPPY! Check out the World’s answer to his Happy song

The power of positivity and positive thinking starts with the ability to be your authentic, silly, dancin’ selves. When we are our authentic selves, we are able to look at the world through a different lens– a humbled perspective laden with empathy rather than sympathy.

I’ve recently taken on the #100 Happy Days challenge, where each day I post a picture of what makes me happy. This exercise is intended to help change my perspective– to look at the world through a different lens– a grateful lens. Gratefulness helps us appreciate the important things we often deem as small.

The most important thing I’ve discovered throughout these beginning stages of my own happiness project is the all-powerful concept of Time. It is becoming more apparent everyday that I value my time more than any other commodity. Time is beginning to be the driving force behind my decisions and I find myself constantly evaluating the who, the what, the where, the when, and the why of projects, clients, meetings, reports, friends, and family to answer one question: Is this how I want to spend my time today?

Your happy is the foundation of who you are and what you project to the outside world.

How do you help your kids find their happy? Well, before we can help our children, we must help ourselves. It’s a top-down model. If you parent your child as a happy parent, your children will model your behavior and vice-versa. Parents set the tone for their kids and their family dynamic as a whole, and these memories last a lifetime.

To know this is true, all you have to do is to think back to your own memories as a child: Were your parents able to model happiness for you? If yes, then you have strong foundation in what happiness looks like. If no, then it will be a bit more difficult to discern what happiness is.

Happiness is the popular term for contentment, and true contentment comes from within. It cannot be bought but rather realized. Some people think it’s unattainable and it is our entire life’s work to attempt to reach enlightenment. Most would agree contentment is a choice. We choose in that moment to view the difficult situation through a grateful lens. We acknowledge the emotion instead of pushing it down and waiting for it to explode later on. We humble ourselves, viewing failure as a forward-motion for change instead of defeat.

Children are a reflection of their parents. You can model contentment for your child just by learning to be content with yourself. To get started, I encourage you to try your own #100HappyDays Project and help your kids learn the art of contentment too.

The SuperBetter Game — Another gratefulness exercise that can add 10 extra years to your life.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Working Towards Wholeheartedness

“Our job is to look [at our kids] and say, ‘Ya know what, you’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that and we’ll end the problems we see today.” ~  Dr. Brene Brown, Vulnerability Researcher 

The Power of Vulnerability

Be Your Imperfect Self

I was blown away when I heard this talk by Brene Brown, Vulnerability Researcher, because I saw myself in her: Wanting to quantify emotion rather than reveal to others who I really was for fear that I wasn’t good enough. Until recently,  I had not yet realized the power of allowing myself to be excruciatingly seen, no matter the consequence. Vulnerability is not weakness, but rather courage. What?! This flew in the face of my long-lived logic and understanding of how to get things done and earn respect.  I had not yet made this connection and had, therefore, put aside connecting with others in favor of trudging through the murky waters of self-doubt. I did not feel worthy of love and belonging, but yet I had a profound, almost urgent, desire for relationship and connection. The tipping point emerged when I finally realized that all this time I had chosen to live my life climbing the ladder towards acceptance when all I really had to do was accept the fact that I didn’t need to climb the ladder at all. My only job is to be my imperfect self.

You are Worthy of Love & Belonging

Brene Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability revealed there are really only two types of people: (1) those who are wholehearted individuals, and (2) those who are not. The only factor that separated the two groups was that the wholehearted people believed they were worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. A simple belief that I, that you, that your kids are worthy of love and belonging. Connection is ultimately why we’re here. At the heart of school, family, community, religion, marriage, and parenting is the deep-seeded need and desire for authentic connection with others. At the core of teaching should be helping children develop a deep sense of worthiness so they can connect and live a loving, open, vulnerable life.

Open Your Eyes to Joy

I can tell you from personal experience that the moment I consciously chose to live a vulnerable life was the moment I saw the world with fresh eyes: an excitement like none other, a revelation of the beauty that is around us, a moment of joy, which becomes stronger each time I practice vulnerability. I chose to willingly embrace this change so that I can learn to believe that I am worthy of love and belonging. The hope is that one day I won’t have to consciously choose to practice it but rather just inherently know my own self-worth. This lesson was so overwhelmingly on-point that, like Dr. Brene Brown, I, too, had a mini-breakdown full of regret and emotional contemplation, which were vague and foreign concepts for someone like myself who justified her lack of belonging and pushed her feelings so far down that being guarded became the norm. It rocked me to my core so much that I knew without a doubt — if I wanted a real life with real love I had to embrace real change.

Live By Example for Your Kids

After I turned the proverbial corner, I saw greater hope and understood the reason to live vulnerably: to live by example. As a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, mentor, teacher, and friend the children in your life look up to you. They want guidance, acceptance, and help. They expect you to show them what to do and how to do it successfully. The problem that we face within our families and our culture in general is that we don’t know how to live vulnerably in a society that numbs itself from authentic connection. It is time to break that cycle. It is time to open ourselves up to courage, connection, and compassion. It is time to: “Stop screaming, and start listening… Stop trying to make uncertainty, certain… Stop controlling and predicting.. Say ‘I love you’ first, even when there are no guarantees…”  Wouldn’t it be a very different world if we approached each family argument, poor grade, and lost friendship from this starting point?

Wholeheartedness, here I come.

Another Powerful Study by Dr. Brene Brown: Listening to Shame

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Calm with an Om

down-dog-mom-tot I have just returned from a calming, zen-like hour of restorative yoga at my go-to yoga studio, Core Power, where I painstakingly held onto the finite number of seconds left in Shavasana before my mind reupped and quickly realized that I’ve still got seven things to do before the day has truly ended. How to hold onto those teeny, tiny moments of peace in a world run rampant with cell phones chiming, horns honking, and the constant jibber jabber of people around every corner? That elusive calm that we all so desperately seek can be regularly found– not in a store or a spa or even a yoga studio, but rather, within ourselves. That’s right, inner calm is the all important nugget of wisdom that can save us from ourselves. Calm begets clarity and confidence. Without it, we are forced to trudge through the day, perhaps counting the hours, until we can physically go to our peaceful place. The problem with having a place, however, is just that– we can’t always get there, and in the meantime, we’re stuck (metaphorically or literally). When we decide to first help ourselves create mental calmness, however, we can then help others, like our children, spouse, partner, or friend. Have you ever noticed that when you’re faced with a screaming two-year-old on the floor of Target, overtired and starving for apple juice and attention, it is that quiet voice inside of you that says, “Hang on…this too shall pass”. If not, know that your voice is there, it’s just hidden under a list of must-do’s, have-to’s, and don’t-want-to’s. When your inner calm becomes an outer calm, those around you are calmer too– they just may need a sippy cup of apple juice and a long nap. Think of it like this: Federal Air Safety Regulations require you to first put your air mask on before helping your children. Even the government stipulates that we must help ourselves before helping others. All in all, when you find your inner peace, your calmness, others respond to it positively. There is a “breath of fresh air” moment or a quiet resilience forming when a tantrum ensues. Your inner calm becomes your outer peace and those around you slowly recognize there is something different–something great– about you.

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Christine Terry, B.A., 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