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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Standardized Testing Limits Potential

test The education world, like any other industry, goes through phases. The importance placed on standardized testing is just one of the phases but it’s been a tough one for educators, parents, and students alike. With the “No Child Left Behind Act” teaching to the test became the norm. “Common Core” is our public education’s response to too much testing and not enough learning.

We’ve Created a System that Requires Us to Measure a Person’s Potential In & Out of the Classroom

Common Core’s true underlying focus is a belief that we all learn differently and that we should promote those learning styles. In fact, the progressive and developmental education movements believe we should be teaching to a child’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. This makes sense because as adults we all learn to compensate for our weaknesses and choose careers that play to our strengths.

Standardized objective tests are not a true indicator of potential. They simply measure where a child stands in relation to his peers at that moment in time. However, the system we’ve created, both in and out of the classroom, requires us to measure a person’s abilities.

A Student’s Self-Worth Hinges on Where they Score on the Scale of Perceived Success

We use these tests to define if and where a student will go to college, what type of job they are most suited for, and how stnd deviationmany public services and how much funding a child will receive. By default, we are defining how much learning potential our students have by how well they take a test. When we continue to define a person by an objective standard we slowly chip away at their uniqueness, which leads to defining ourselves by how well we fit in with the crowd. Our self-worth now hinges on where we fall on that scale of perceived success.

The SCERTS Models Teaches the Foundational Skills to Get that Job & Keep that Job

The reality of life after school is that a person is not measured by how well they do on an exam but rather how well they (a) perform the task, and (b) connect with those around them. EQ is more important than IQ. Simply said, if people like you they want to work with you.

The SCERTS Model is based on the belief that Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and putting in place a Support System to implement those tools maximizes a student’s learning potential. It’s not a test; it’s a way of life.

Traditionally designed for children on the Autism Spectrum, SCERTS can be used for any child because it teaches how to effectively communicate with one another, which should be the foundation of our learning model. Skills such as Functional Spontaneous Communication, Social Interaction in Various Settings, Teaching of Play Skills, Instruction Leading to Generalization and Maintenance of Cognitive Goals, Positive Approaches to Address Problem Behaviors, and Functional Academic Skills are important for every child at the crux of a developmental period.

Furthermore, these skills can be used in multidisciplinary, crossover home and school environments to provide our children with a foundational communication skill set that will not only allow them to get that job doing what they love but keep that job.

Less Emphasis on Testing = More Emphasis on Cultivating Great “Changers of the World”

I realize that our education system will probably never eliminate standardized testing, but my hope is that we place much less emphasis on its scores. Every child is different. Every child learns differently. We cannot expect to cultivate great thinkers, innovators and “Changers of the World” if we continue to define our children by a number. The more we come to accept this truism, the more chances we give each of our children to achieve real 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.

Successful Relationships Make Successful Students

communityAmerica, unlike most of the world, suffers from isolation. Our country is isolated physically and our people are isolated emotionally. Our puritanical roots have taught us to revere independence and as a culture we believe that raising a child to be independent is the best thing we could do as a parent.

All this emphasis on breeding independence, however, has led to the inability to create interdependence, which is really the act of purposely seeking out and engaging in healthy connection with a community.

Here’s Why We Have Trouble Connecting: The United States is not a relationship-based culture and that’s why we have trouble connecting to each other. Collectively, as a society, we value doing things on our own more than asking for help. This truism is mirrored in gender bias (ie: men never ask for directions) and perpetuated by this notion of a do-it-yourself, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, and go-out-there-and-get-what-you-want American Dream. It’s what has made America the land of opportunity and what has made Americans the most overworked, overweight, over-medicated, and over-anxious people in the world.

Here’s What We Can Do About It:

  • First, if you’ve ever felt alone, know that you’re not alone. A lot of people feel alone and are wondering: Am I doing this whole living, working, and raising a kid thing right?
  • Second, we have to learn how to seek out the right community. We need to form relationship with people who share the same value system as us but also challenge us to learn to relate to one another in a new way.
  • Third, we need to teach our kids how to do the same. Children are great at making friends and forming their own little communities. But it’s when competition and lack of respect for a differing viewpoint creeps in that we learn to devalue a community because it’s different.

Community simply brings us together and makes us feel less alone. We can’t do everything on our own, no matter how hard we try. I am certainly a testament to this realization, ’cause darn it I’ve tried my hardest to go it alone and it just doesn’t work out as well as I had envisioned!

Children know this intuitively. Before we grew up and became the independent adults we are, we were able to make friends most anywhere. Jerry Seinfeld has great insight into this idea:

Teaching our Students to Rely on Others is a Good Thing

School is its own community, but it hasn’t traditionally been that great for teaching our students how to develop community and rely on each other for help. This is evident in our teaching models, where the emphasis is on working independently towards an expectation or developing competition by taking a test that measures where a student stands in relation to his or her peers. And when students are struggling, that’s where isolation becomes more of a factor in their success story than we may realize.

Because I work with students who are struggling in school, it is clear that much of their anxiety is perpetuated by the standards that they feel they are unable to live up to. Whether that be a grade they wanted but didn’t achieve or a part in the play they tried out for but didn’t get, they come to me with overwhelming feelings of loneliness that affects how well they do in school. They feel alone because they feel unsuccessful; they feel unsuccessful because they are not a member of the particular community they want to be in. They are taught by us, however, to squash their disappointment in favor of putting on a brave face and moving on to the next thing. We need to let our students know that it’s okay to stew a little bit. It’s okay to feel sad because we aren’t a part of the group. This is natural.

Biologically we are wired to feel empathy because the brain is a social organ. Too often we learn to suppress empathy in favor of independent achievement. When we discredit or discount our disappointment and try to “go it alone”, we are really going against our natural instincts — to reach out to others for help.

When a student is a part of a healthy community, however, they feel better about themselves because whatever struggles they may have, they know they don’t have to go it alone. They know they can always reach out for help. That’s the beauty of teaching our children, our students, that community should be valued. It’s not just a lesson for kids, but a life-long one that we adults need to revisit too.

Take a look at what Dr. Louis Cozolino, Psychologist and Author of several books on neuroscience, including “The Social Neuroscience of Education, Optimizing Attachment & Learning in the Classroom”, has to say about how our brains are wired for social connection.

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.