Defining Self & Success

SuccessAs it stands today, education is geared towards teaching our young students the importance of achieving success. How we define success can make or break our students self-worth. All too often, success is defined according to our culture and in today’s society, success means having money and power so that you can be in control of your own happiness.

My New Definition of Success

As a well-educated and self-proclaimed “definer” of my own success,  I too adhered to society’s definition. The typical Type A student, I found myself always trying to live up to and then exceed my own expectations, attempting to outdo my last triumph and climb the ladder towards the next goal that would reinvigorate my self-worth and value to others. But it seemed the ladder never ended and that if I chose to, I could climb forever.  Only recently, did I begin to question the definition of success I adopted as a child. Through age, experience, and honestly the fact that I was just so tired of my never-ending climb, I  began to realize that my definition of success hinged on control.

And then I realized that control was an illusion.

The fact is I have no control over anyone or anything, except my own behavior, choices and actions. That’s it. After the initial shock wore off, it was oddly reassuring to know that the weight of worrying about having enough money and power so that I could be happy one day had lifted. A new chapter had begun.

I no longer have to wait till I have enough to be happy, I can just be.

Collectively Learning Success Through Praise

Children learn to define success through praise. We were praised for taking our first step, eating our first solid food, and using the potty for the first time. Our basic definition of success revolved around our basic needs. As children grow, the adults in their lives praise them for different things, harder things like getting an A on a test. If you’re praised for getting an A, then achieving an A becomes part of your definition of success. And we, as a culture, unquestionably accept this definition.

But what if we began defining success less collectively and more individually?

At the core of education is understanding how we each learn differently. We’re all good at different things and we all struggle with different challenges. Yet, we are taught to define success in the same way.

The system of education is beginning to catch up with the notion of individualized learning, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, and even brain-mapping. Most educators acknowledge the research but many cannot fathom how to teach 32 students in 32 different ways. Classroom practices will have to be redefined to accommodate this new definition of learning too.

Embrace Individualized Education Now

I’m afraid we cannot wait for the system to catch up with the student. It’ll be too late and another generation lost to the definition that an A means you’re worthy. The work of change must be done now.

It’s important that parents and teachers collaborate, looking at the whole child and honoring their strengths while redefining their challenges. How do we do this?  At home, you can begin to praise your child for achieving a B or even a C in that really hard subject. So your child’s strength is with words and not formulas. That’s okay. She will still be successful in her own right. At school, you can begin to praise your shy student for his thoughtful paper on the subject, even though he chose not to raise his hand to participate in the class discussion.

Redefine Your Expectations

I want to be clear: I am not saying to lower your expectations, but, rather, redefine them in accordance with your child’s individual strengths and challenges. Children want to please you; they will rise to the challenges you set for them. It’s our job, as parents and teachers, to make sure those challenges build upon each other in an attainable way.

Do we define a baby’s first fall as failure? No, we define it as learning. Expectation and failure go hand in hand. Some parents and educators shy away from exposing their students to failure at a young age for fear their child will think of themselves as a failure. Did the baby think of herself as a failure when she fell for the first time? Probably not because her parents reassured her that it would be okay. Then her parents helped their child up and she attempted to learn to walk again.

That’s exactly what we as parents and teachers should be doing with our students: redefining success and failure as, simply, learning.

The challenge is really within ourselves because until we can redefine our own successes and failures as learning, we cannot extend the same kindness towards our children. How we treat others is a reflection of how we see ourselves. That’s one lesson I continue to learn over and over again. Thankfully, that’s a lesson I’m ready to learn.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

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 struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Collaborative Education: Let’s Get Our Act Together

working-together-in-progress-mdHold onto your hats parents, teachers, lawyers, support service professionals, and administrators cause I’m about to say something that will rock the education world as you know it: WE MUST ALL START WORKING TOGETHER NOW. It’s time to take a timeout from the sparring emails and nasty litigation to really think about the fact that our inability to communicate and get along with one another has a long-lasting and detrimental effect on the kids we are paid to help.

Steve Lopez, LA Times Writer, recently wrote an entire piece on this topic, highlighting LAUSD leaders and their failure to get along with one another. (Read his article here) Collaborative Education is not just a utopian ideal. It can happen. Look, if the US Government can get along with Iran (as reported here) I think we adults can get our act together at the round-table discussion about our students.

I know all of you truly believe that your primary focus is the kids but do your actions say that too?

To the Administrators buried in paperwork, always having to think of the bottom line: Step into a classroom on  a regular basis and remind yourself why you got into education in the first place. You could have chosen any career to use your talents but you gravitated towards education because you want to help others and make a real change. Remind yourself that it’s not all about dolling out the dollars. If that means taking a stand that is unfavorable in the eyes of the school board but will ultimately help your students then weigh that consequence. It might be worth it to take the heat if you can make a long-lasting change for the better.

To the Teachers who believe some things are above your pay grade: We know this country fails its teachers when it comes to earnings and you cannot live on happy thoughts and good deeds alone. However, when you demonstrate a lack of willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, it reflects poorly on you and the teaching community as a whole. If you’ve lost your edge and think it’s time to move on, then do. Why spend your days unhappy with the status quo? Find something else you love but don’t continue to teach the next generation that doing a job halfheartedly is acceptable.

To the Lawyers and Advocates who come stomping into the IEP Meetings demanding change: Take off your litigious-hat and put on your reasonable-cap. The crux of the law is reasonableness and although there are some educational atrocities happening that do need litigation, most of the roundtable in an IEP Meeting is comprised of those who are trying to provide the best service possible in the best way they know how. Don’t scare them. Help them. Help them so they can help the family that you’re serving.  That’s why you were hired. The legal profession has suffered enough name-calling, don’t ya think. Put your degrees to work as a leader for collaboration and change.

To the Support Service Professionals who have an overwhelming caseload: There are not enough SLPs, OTs, Ed Therapists, or School Psychologists. We know this and yet we continue to add more and more students to your caseload. This fact, however, does not mean that you get a free pass when it comes to adhering to the minutes allotted in the IEP for services. If there are not enough hours in the day, then you need to stand up for yourself and the students you’re serving to let your bosses know. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can help too. There are aides and other support staff that you may be able to call upon and train to help you with the less intensive needs of a student. People want to feel needed. So use that principle to your advantage.

To the Students: If you’re old enough to read this, you’re old enough to advocate for your own education. These meetings are supposed to be all about helping you. If something is not working or you have an idea that you think is better- speak up! Make your voice heard. Don’t let the adults sit at that roundtable and drum up countless goals that you have to meet if those just aren’t working for you. Say something! School is supposed to be a gateway to a better, brighter future. We need your input to help you open that door to success.

To the Parents: You have the hardest job of all. Not only did you have to decide what type of diapers, brand of food, and particular toys to buy all before your child went to Pre-K but you now have to decide what their schooling should look like too. You are the best advocate your child has and as such you owe it to your kid to be present at those Parent/Teacher Conferences and IEP Meetings. Don’t sign a waiver and then complain that your child isn’t getting a good education. If you’re feeling overwhelmed then turn to outside resources for help. There are a ton of good people out there who want to help you and your child. Ultimately, though, you are the President and We are your Cabinet. We need you to be an involved parent by becoming an active member in the PTA, staying on top of the homework situation, and making an effort to have a good rapport with your child’s teachers. Without you, we’re left in the conference room with a bunch a goals that may work only part of the time. We need you to help make them work not only in the classroom but at home too.

I know in our heart of hearts all of us chose our career paths in education because we truly and deeply love education; we love the doors it can open, what it can build, the hope it provides, and the lives it changes. All the degrees in the world and extra letters after your name, however, can’t hold a candle to the simple act of empathy. It is this ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes that opens the lines of communication and begins the listening process, one where each member of the team has a valued opinion that is heard and thoughtfully considered. When I speak to parents, this is often what they feel is missing in those meetings. When empathy is a top priority, however, you can feel a shift in the room. Your ability to actively listen to those sitting next to you will be heard louder than all of the finger-pointing in the world. So let’s get our act together, people. Our kids deserve better from us.

Resources that make collaboration a priority:

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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

Respect & Deference in the Classroom

We’re teaching our students to challenge the teacher at every turn. That’s okay! However, we must also teach them to do so with respect and deference to their educator.

That’s what we’re talking about this week on our new YouTube series: 2 Minute Tips with TerryTutors.com-all about the psychology behind school and how your kids do better just by changing their mindset.

Check out Tip #5: You Catch More Flies with Honey & SUBSCRIBE to our Channel for new tips every Tuesday!

SUBSCRIBE for new posts every Family Friday!

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.  We’re pretty cool. Go on, check us out!