Rally Like a Cheerleader

cheerleaderIn 10th grade I transferred schools, again. This was my third school in three years and I vowed this was the year I would be more outgoing and get more involved to make the most of my high school experience.

And so I did. Or, I should say, I tried.

Softball

I tried out for softball but the sport I had played as a wee elementary school student was now full of fast balls that whizzed right by my head. Um, no thank you.

Flag Team

I tried out for the flag team but after a few weeks of band practice in the balmy, late summer, Midwestern heat I couldn’t take it. I chalked it up to heat-related wimpiness.

Cheerleading

Finally, I tried out for cheerleading. I so badly wanted to be a cheerleader. To be part of the pep rallies and walk around in my cool uniform. I could belong.

I practiced the moves once, twice, three times over until I knew them cold. This was going to be my thing. I walked into auditions pretty confident about my choice. The other girls, who had already fulfilled their high school destinies, called us individually front and center to perform.

My journey to high school popularity began. And then it ended during the same three minutes.

See, we learned three different cheers during our practice session and during my audition I performed various moves from all of them in one. It was a sad sight.

To avoid my perceived embarrassment, I preemptively quit. Only later did I find out that the cheer squad was looking for a flyer and since I was petite enough I probably would have gotten the job, despite my failed attempt.

I Rallied Then

I kicked myself about my decision to quit for weeks, nay years! I just wanted to solidify my own high school destiny by being part of something that would come with built-in friends and a coveted title. I didn’t want to start from scratch again. I didn’t want to have to define my own high school standing.

I auditioned for orchestra and choir. These were things I was good at so I fell back on those known skill set. Theater and debate would be added later on. And soon high school would be over and college would present me with a plethora of opportunity to redefine who and what I wanted to be.

I Rally Now

Today, I have a career I love and one I defined based on the many paths I wandered along. I love it to pieces and I will continue on its course forever. It would not have happened, however, if I had not tried something new, failed, taken the bits I did like and mixed it up with something else I tried and failed at once again.

Each time, though, I rallied.

I got up and started again with something new, taking the lessons I had learned from the previous job, school, class, friendship, roommate, boyfriend, car, apartment, travel, argument, conversation, debate, and laughable moment to heart. Never forgetting that each experience, whether I perceived it as good or bad, was one that contributed to who I am today.

Be Your Own Cheerleader

I cheered myself on and kept going in spite of the setbacks. When I couldn’t do it myself, I turned to others in my life who could.

We all need that parent, teacher, friend, partner, confidant who is our cheerleader. But we must, also, learn to be our own cheerleader too.

As a student of life, there will be times when it feels like the dream is too far away and the struggle is too much but do not let that feeling linger too long.

Instead, rally.

Get up and get going.

The world needs you to rally for your own success.

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!”

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Avoid Learned Helplessness by Increasing Your Expectations

Learned HelplessnessExpectations are a funny thing, aren’t they? If your expectations are too challenging, you may be disappointed. If your expectations are not challenging enough, you may become stagnant. Same goes for the expectations you have for your kid and subsequent behaviors your kid exhibits.

We can think of expectations as a mountain: each step up the steep hill signifies a new increased challenge. Not all mountains are the same and everyone climbs at their own pace. Most climbers have spotters, ensuring that if the climber falls, they will be there to catch them.

Parents: you are those spotters. You’re ready to catch your child when they fall. But you also need to be your child’s coach, setting the bar high for challenges and encouraging your child to reach their greatest potential.

Consistency is the Key to Successful Change

As a provider who works with children exhibiting various behavior concerns and academic needs, my first step is to establish appropriate expectation levels tailored specifically for the struggling student. The institution of expectations extends to the family home as well because we know that if we provide consistent expectations to kids who are struggling in school we must also provide consistent expectations within their home life too. This is wraparound support, and this is what we need more of.

Children are able to self-regulate in an environment with clear, outlined expectations and follow-through. Where there are not clear expectations, however, the child is unable to manage their own behaviors because they are unsure of where the boundaries are. Simply, the expectations are not clear.

Parents, Don’t be Scared of Failure

Sometimes parents are hesitant to implement what is perceived as challenging expectations because they are scared that their child will not live up to those expected outcomes. I hear things like, “Issac isn’t good at math but I wasn’t good at math, so that’s okay” or “She just doesn’t like to eat dinner with the family, so I let her eat dinner in front of the tv because I don’t want to cause an argument.” These expectations, and responding behaviors, are not okay.

I understand a parent’s resistance towards change. Oftentimes, parents feel that if the expectations are too high they will set their kids up for failure and, in turn, have failed as a parent themselves. Don’t be scared of failure, Parents. Failure serves to help us identify what we need to improve upon. It’s not a bad thing, as long as you work to resolve the challenge.

For this reason, I always encourage parents to look at the issue with fresh eyes by explaining and then modeling greater expectations for their child. If you increase your expectations, that means you truly believe your child will rise to the occasion. I believe this truth for my students, and set the bar high. Don’t you think you should too?

Avoid Teaching Your Child Learned Helplessness

If you don’t have challenging expectations, you’re essentially teaching your child the concept of learned helplessness:

Learned helplessness is the belief that our own behavior does not influence what happens next, that is, behavior does not control outcomes or results. For example, when a student believes that she is in charge of the outcome, she may think, “If I study hard for this test, I’ll get a good grade.” On the contrary, a learned helpless student thinks, “No matter how hard I study for this test, I’ll always get a bad grade.” ~ The Psycho-Educational Teacher (Special Education) via Edutopia.org

The Standard You Set Will Be the Standard Your Child Attempts

The way we perceive our own abilities really does affect our success, and it starts with setting appropriate but challenging expectations for your child. Like anything we need balance, but if you think the task is too hard for your child to achieve, then it will be. The standard you set as a parent, will be the standard your child attempts to achieve.

Remember, your kids adore you. They love you. They want to meet the standards you set for them. They want to climb to the top of the mountain and see that well-deserved, amazing view. Let’s give them a chance to do so by expecting more and raising the bar for individual 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.

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