Just Take It One Day at a Time

one dayLet’s be honest. Not all of us want to go back to school. Sure, the new supplies make it a little more fun and seeing our friends everyday is a big added bonus but, all in all, the lazy days of summer are much more appealing than the structured confines of the classroom.

Students: I get it. You are not alone. Even teachers have a hard time going back to school.

Transitions are challenging. Nerves set in and our minds start wonder, “Will this year be better or worse than last? Who will I sit with at lunch? What if I just don’t get algebra?”

That’s why this year my classroom theme is: Just Take it One Day at a Time.

Whew. Just saying those words – speaking them into existence – helps calm me down. See, teachers worry too: What if I can’t reach every student? What if this classroom is not the right fit for me? What if the lesson I planned is not perfect and my students refuse to do it? What if I’m just not a good enough teacher?

The wonder of the ‘what-ifs’ can send anyone down a shameful spiral of negativity and fear. It’s okay to be afraid of the unknown; it’s a natural reaction to newness and change. I think the key is to take that fear and flip it into excitement.

It may be a just a trick-of-the-mind or a-flip-of-the-switch — a small change in wording, however, can lead to a big change in outlook.

Students, Teachers, Parents: Your job this year is to Just Take It One Day at a Time.

I’m certainly going to try.


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

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What Type of Tutoring Does Your Child Need?

Tutoring TypesIt’s September and school is in full swing. We’re (nearly) back to the morning drop offs and the afternoon clubs. And as the school year progresses, we’re also back to the nightly homework.

Cue the woes.

At some point in a student’s academic career, there will be a subject or a concept or a class that they will need a little help understanding. There’s no shame in asking for help.

But how do you, as the parent, know which kind of help will suit your child best?

Awhile back we talked about what to look for in a great tutor. Now, let’s explore the types of tutoring that are out there and which ones benefit which type of learner.

Teacher Tutoring

Getting extra homework help from your student’s teacher is always a great way to understand how the teacher (aka the test preparer and homework grader) conceptualized the assignment. Teacher Tutoring also helps build rapport. The problem is time. Coming in at lunch or recess or even after school is great for quick questions. When it comes to digging into the root of the concept, however, there just aren’t enough hours in the school day.

Peer to Peer Tutoring

I love having students work together and learn from each other. When you think about it, school is really a microcosm of our larger society. School is more than just academics; it’s also about social skills and friendships, learning to collaborate and work out differences appropriately. So when the opportunity presents itself, allowing students to teach each other helps team spirit, build confidence and character, practice empathy and patience, and discover a new side to themselves as mentor.

Group Tutoring

There are a lot of tutoring centers that employ the group tutoring methodology. As with Peer to Peer Tutoring, this process focuses on a small group setting (usually 3-5 students) but with a teacher at the helm. It’s usually student-led (ie: what are most people in the group challenged by?), which helps students learn to speak up — that all important self-advocacy piece of the puzzle — and defend their answers, thereby learning through the argument. Group tutoring is great for a self-starter student or one who may be struggling with a particular concept. It’s harder, though, for our quiet or more introverted kiddos who get a little anxious over having to voice their opinions in a group setting.

Online Tutoring

I’m not a fan of online tutoring. Even for the best student out there, there’s nothing that can replace having someone sit next to you for an ask and answer session. Human connection trumps technology every time.

1:1 Private Tutoring

Almost everyone can benefit from private tutoring. Building a strong mentor:mentee relationship is key to student success and with the right person sitting at the table, homework doesn’t become so daunting.

Private Tutoring is great for students who are struggling not just with the concept but study skills too. All those time management, organization, forward-planning skills (those executive function needs) are key building blocks to student success in and out of the classroom.

A good tutor recognizes that they are not just there to practice that algebraic equation or review grammar, but, rather to help the student learn to help themselves by building confidence, strong study habits, and problem-solving skills.

I’m so proud that I stumbled upon my calling as a tutor several years ago and so grateful that I’ve been able to sit side by side with students, helping them blossom into confident, young people who are learning to value learning from their teachers, their tutors, their parents, their friends and themselves.

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 Support, Behavior Management, 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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Pursuing Your Passion When Your Parents Say “No”?

The pursuit of passion in career is often a hard-fought battle between the “have-to’s” and the “want-to’s”, with the “have-to’s” usually winning by a large margin. As a Family Coach, I often witness this battle on the front lines. It’s the classic case of the child who doesn’t like school but is an amazing artist, dancer, musician, actor, singer, or even a young and talented filmmaker. Yes, he may be failing English but his doodles may one day be considered Dali’s, with the right guidance of course. Parents want to see their children succeed in all areas of life but the reality is that kids, and parents too, are not meant to be successful in everything they try. We all bring to the table a personality ingrained at birth coupled with natural, raw talents that are nurtured (or not) through our environmental influences. The Multiple Intelligences Theory agrees that we are naturally gifted learners in a few choice areas with various learning styles to boot! But we have a major conflict in our current schools: one of conformity and compliance over the creative arts. Which begs the question: when you have a child with a strong inclination for the creative do you nurture them to conform instead?

If the answer is yes, you may risk pushing your kid into a career and thus a life plan that is not fully satisfying. If the answer is no, you may risk having them fail English. Like most things, we need a balance of the two but instead I often see frustrated parents giving ultimatums, negating choice all together. When this happens resentment rears its ugly head, often creating long-term scars of depleted confidence and a defeatist outlook. Instead, I coach my families to try to suss out the real reason their child is failing English and how we can incorporate his love of art with his need to learn allegories. Nothing is a perfect compromise but as long as parents are listening (really listening) and kids are talking (honestly and without attitude) the lines of communication remain open– ready for whatever the future has in store. Maybe even something magnificently out of the ordinary.

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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