Musings from an Education Advocate in Our New America

lord-of-the-fliesI can’t be mute on the subject. I can’t, also, stand idly by and sweep this under the rug.

I want to listen and really hear you. I genuinely do. But I’m not sure if ‘agreeing to disagree’ will cut it anymore.

I want to remain active and loving, mindful and passionate.

I want to stand up and voice my concerns, nay my outrage! But I don’t want to halt the conversation. Stay silent, be complicit? Stay silent, be respectful?

Perhaps, it’s too early, still, to remove emotion from our interaction. Perhaps, we shouldn’t.

This is a twist, a turn, in a topsy-turvy world where up is now down and down is round. And I’m spinning, just trying to keep up with it all. How do we start to make sense of these new rules?

What do I say to you?

To you — the teacher, the parent, and especially the student. You are still our future, right?

To you — the supporter, who believes he will rescue us.

To you — the non believer, who questioned him every step of the way.

To you — the holder of the “purse strings”, the upholder of the Writ to our way of life.

To you — the revolutionist, who is shaking things up for better or worse.

To you — the ‘yes man’ who is interrogated under the guise of due diligence yet affirmed in compromise.

To you — the woman who may become my boss, who may have good intentions but who falters in execution.

Maybe we are an island now. Tide in, tide out.

Maybe we are stuck. Would Dante agree?

Chin up. Move on. Stay strong. Press on.

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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

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Social-Emotional Learning: We Want to Hear from You!

SELWe Want to Hear from You!

Take Our Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum Survey  Here.

What is SEL?

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) focuses on aiding all students in navigating life skills, such as social conventions and self-regulation of behavior. Students who have a better handle on their own social skills and emotional regulation, have greater self-confidence and a better overall learning experience.

Why We’re Developing an SEL Curriculum

Current SEL curricula touch upon this skill set but many schools are dissatisfied with the current market choices available. This is why we are developing a SEL Curriculum that is practical, easy-to-use, meets state and school standards, and teaches students the value in identifying and regulating their own behavioral and social choices.

The Long-Term Effects of Teaching Our Students Important SEL Skills Equate to Better Life Management

If we can help students learn to self-identify their emotions at a young age, my hope is that there will be:

  • More validation from the teachers as to how a student is feeling and fewer trips to the principal’s office due to bad behavior;
  • More redirection for negative outbursts and less labeling a child as “The Problem Kid”; and
  • More peer support and encouragement instead of isolation, especially as our students enter the middle and high school levels.

I believe if we can equip our students with the skills to learn how to self-regulate and manage their own behaviors we can create a school culture of support, which somehow gets morphed into school culture of competition as students move from Elementary to Middle to High School. Perhaps, a reflection of our own society’s culture.

As a culture, if we start feeling more instead of doing more I think we’ll start seeing more of our kids grow into adults who value themselves and each other a little more too.

Tell Us How You Feel about SEL

Take Our Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum Survey  Here.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive 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.

A Smart Person Knows What to Say, A Wise Person Knows Whether or Not to Say It

Learned this lessonI just took a personality quiz… another one. (I love those things.) It says that I hold the distinguished personality type of “Director”: decisive, focused, analytical, logical, competitive, self-disciplined, independent, and direct. That’s pretty spot on; I generally embody those attributes. However, as a provider who works with families I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) to shift the directorial duties to that of the parent. My goals now involve helping the parent, help their child. It wasn’t always this way.

See 10 years ago I would have debated you to the death, but time has softened my soul and experience has given me a swift kick until I learned that a smart person knows what to say but a wise person knows whether or not to say it. On some choice days, I learn that lesson all over again.

Providers will tell you that working with families is one of the toughest positions you can put yourself in because there is so much emotion and differing viewpoints that it can often lead to a knock down, drag out bull-fight over who is right and who is right-er. As a provider, I have objectivity on my side but I know the Parent has the power. So what’s a provider to do?

The Director in me is able to make confident and really great recommendations based on sound advice, experience, and know-how. I’m able to write it all down and package it in a pretty binder. I’m able to sit and talk to parents for hours about their rights, their choices, and what path I would choose. When it comes down to it, though, I know must defer to the Parent because they know what’s best for their child, even if I disagree. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when my gut tells me that a kid on my caseload would benefit from getting help in Speech, OT, and Resource but the parent is just not ready to move forward.

I used to see this as defeat, but now I see this as a sign that things beyond my control are in play. I remind myself that no one knows the future and perhaps the wheels are in motion for something different, something better for this kid. Whatever the ultimate outcome, I’ve learned to listen first, recommend second, and take on the role of Assisting the Director-Parent on their journey to come to terms with and provide for their child’s challenges.

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

 

We Need A Home-First Approach

home first“Emily” is not from a broken home. She is not an abused child and has never suffered the loss of a parent. She’s a smart kid and has the IQ test to prove it, but she’s failing out of school. Her anger turned to apathy a couple of years ago when she realized how little work she actually had to do and still get passed along to the next grade. Now, almost done with high school she shows an inkling of interest in graduating but getting her to the diploma stage is going to take some serious work. Why did this happen? And why didn’t anyone catch it before it was almost too late?

The goal for my Struggling Students: To understand each area of their life because it has been proven, time and time again, that failing academics are really just a symptom that something else is wrong. No kid would willingly fail English if it wasn’t a cry for help. Naturally, the conversation turns to home life, as this is such a huge piece of the puzzle. Yet so many providers do not want to get their hands too dirty and, in fact, are prohibited from becoming too attached to the family. Yes, you must have boundaries. But no, you cannot fix an academic problem by simply addressing what goes in the classroom.

I get it. I really do. Serving the family is really, really hard! That’s precisely why I opted to attend law school instead of pursuing grad school and even avoided Family Law like the plague. Families are messy. But I couldn’t avoid it forever, especially in my line of work. As I’ve learned over the years, we cannot be afraid to get our hands dirty because that’s really the only way we can all come together to help that kid– to help an Emily.

When a child goes into the foster care system, they have a team of support care professionals assigned to their case who come together periodically and form what is affectionately known as a Wraparound service. It’s like a giant hug from all those who care about this kid: Therapists, Social Workers, Doctors, Lawyers, Foster Parents, and sometimes Teachers, CASA Volunteers (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and Guardian Ad Litems. This Wraparound model brings together an interdisciplinary approach to serve “the best interest of the child”. That got me thinking: Shouldn’t all of our child-centered services be of the wraparound nature?

Emily’s story is more common than you might think. There would have been countless Parent-Teacher Conferences, phone calls home, e-mails with the Principal Cc’d and Bcc’d, Student Success Team (SST) Meetings, and maybe a Request for a Referral for an Evaluation and followup Psycho-Educational Assessment to look for any special education needs or a polite suggestion to look into other local schools. It would be unlikely, however, any one of those administrators, teachers, or therapists would have walked into Emily’s home and had a coffee and chat with her parents at the dining room table. If they had they would have seen a couple divided on parenting styles (permissive v disciplinarian), a family without a clear set of expectations for their children (associated learned helplessness), or overworked parents who were so stressed about financially providing for their kids they forgot to build in time to spend with them.

All roads lead back home. Once we acknowledge that, we can build our services with a home-first approach.We can help parents learn how to reconnect with their kids, we can build community to let them know they are not alone,  and we can provide support by looking first at what’s going on inside those four walls.  Yes, as the parent the onus is on you. But do not feel as if you are alone on this journey. The more you acknowledge you need a little help, the more guidance others can provide without being afraid to get their hands dirty in those family dynamics.

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

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