Waving Your Flag Loud and Proud

When Stella was first diagnosed with dyslexia, her dad and I were devastated.  We were so worried that Stella was now labeled with a disability. We were not sure how to process this, and we weren't sure how to explain it to people or Stella.  Should we tell people that Stella has dyslexia?  Should we tell Stella?  Do we want her to be labeled? What is the right answer?? The answer I tell now to all of my parents is to wave the flag loud and proud.  

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There are countless famous people with dyslexia.  Tell your kids who they are!

When we sent Stella for an interview at The Stephen Gaynor School, we foolishly didn't tell her yet that she has dyslexia. When she got home from the interview, the first thing she asked was if she has dyslexia, because all of the kids at the school did. I answered yes!  We talked about how smart her brain was, and all of the famous people that have dyslexia. She was so incredibly relieved to get an answer for why she had trouble reading and spelling.  She said, "Ok then, what's the plan to help me?" And we had a plan! Send her to Stephen Gaynor School where she would receive multi-sensory  academic remediation. Stella became empowered by the knowledge of her learning difference.  She told everyone.  When she can't spell a word, or can't decode a text, she knows why.  She also knows to ask for help and to advocate for herself. She knows how intelligent she is, and that she has many special gifts. Dyslexia doesn't define her, but it is part of who she is.  It is what makes her Stella and unique. 

So parents. please empower your children to seek help and support when they need it, and to never be ashamed of their abilities and limitations.  LET THE FLAG FLY!!

I Am So De/light/ed!

When you see the work of direct Multi-Sensory Instruction come to life, it is truly remarkable. One of the students that I have been working with, let's call her Lucy, has made great strides in her reading since I started working with her in September.  She has quite severe dyslexia, but otherwise an extraordinarily bright, hardworking, and sweet child. 

When we first started, Lucy could not with any fluency, read simple one syllable words, such as big, ship, bath, etc. Yet through a systematic multi-sensory remediation, she now can decode with accuracy multi-syllable words including sophisticated words with prefixes and suffixes. 

So this is how it works... In order to get to this point, we needed to literally build Lucy's foundation from the ground up.  She learned the different sounds of the vowels, the syllable patterns, the rules for spelling, one by one by one. 

But what happened last week, is that it all came together in the most brilliant way.  We were both elated and ecstatic that she was able to read DELIGHTED! 

  • She knew that igh said long /i/.
  • She knew that de- is a open syllable prefix.
  • She knew that -ed is a suffix that says /ed/ after the letter t.

These things that she knew, I taught her directly and individually over the course of multiple lessons. This is how it works.  The children become experts understanding  the code of the English Language. Fantastic! I am absolutely delighted!

Running Through Open Doors..

My friend always says that if a door is open, go through it.  This can be a very scary concept. What if the door leads to something REALLY BAD or DANGEROUS?  But what if it leads to some amazing opportunity? A wonderful experience? There is really no way of knowing unless you just take those steps forward through the open door. 

I have been working on opening my own doors lately.  I am making connections, seeking opportunities, moving forward in my own career.  It is very scary and daunting, but sooo exciting! My two girls are watching me, and hopefully learning from my passion and enthusiasm.  Teaching children how to read is an incredibly rewarding experience, because you see a child opening their eyes to success and feeling confident enough to walk through their own doors.  As they succeed, I become more confident as well.  Success breeds success. Its a wonderful cycle. 

After this crazy week of elections has passed, it becomes more and more apparent that it is up to hard working, passionate, and educated individuals to lead us forward. We cannot allow narrow minds to hold us back. So if you are feeling disenchanted, my suggestion is to see what doors are possibly open for you, and run through them FULL SPEED!

You can get it if your really want...

Recently, one of my lovely students was telling me how afraid she was to try new things.  She's only 7-years old.  She wanted to try softball, but she feared that she wasn't going to be any good. I reminded her that she never wants to learn a new concept with me, but I always insist that we do it.  I also reminded her that every new concept that I have taught her, she now is capable of doing. We talked about the importance of pushing forward instead of pulling back. I said we need to push forward and get through a difficult time or something challenging in order to conquer it and move forward towards success. We even did funny things like pushing a chair forward and pulling it back.  

I said to her, "what if I just said OK we won't do that today, it's too hard."  She said, "But then I wouldn't learn anything." I replied, "Exactly!" 

 She actually reminded me of this concept today during a lesson.  She said she was nervous about starting 2nd grade, but she was going to push through her fear (like I taught her to do) and  be excited about the new experience instead.  I was really proud of her. 

We all face difficult times and challenging situations.  But it is how you face the challenges that really makes the difference.  By supporting the students that I am working with, I am scaffolding them to push forward.  They learn that through effort and repetition they will at last succeed.  It doesn't happen overnight.  Not everything is a quick fix.  Telling them that it will be hard, but that they are capable of doing it makes them feel very proud of their efforts. I think that is the best idea I can teach my students.  Don't give up, push forward!

You must try, try and try...you'll succeed at last. 

True Colors

This has been an interesting year of trials and tribulations.  We have had many changes in our lives for good and for bad. Looking ahead, I see a bright future for my family.  New exciting things yet to come.  What has been most difficult as well as most rewarding are the true colors that have appeared exuding from the people around me. 

I am very grateful for the individuals that have stuck by our family and other close friends, who have been faced with difficult times this year.  Those who support each other and yearn to be positive shine bright and always will.  Those who choose anger, pride, and resentment, will unfortunately be buried in dark gray clouds that will hinder their true colors to ever come out.  I hope they see the importance of love and charity one day. 

I am blessed with working with my students on an individual basis. Most of them have felt some form of frustration and failure due to their learning differences. What is most exciting is that when they see the opportunity for success while working with me, they light up.  Their true bright and beautiful colors shine through. I must say that I too light up and am left with a rainbow of elation when I see progress and success. It feels better than any strawberry ice cream cone or pair of fancy bright blue shoes that I could ever buy. Someone else's success gives me joy!  Now isn't that a bright idea?

I try to instill in my girls to enjoy life, be kind to others, look after your friends and family, and attempt to see the true colors in everyone. They are there if you look hard enough. 

 

I DID IT! NOW WHAT??

I cannot believe that I finished my last final exam at NYU today.  The final final! I am feeling elated, excited, and a little sad.  I really loved being back in school.  There is a sense of security being in school, that I really did not understand before. Now that's over...

 From Dora the Explorer

From Dora the Explorer

The syllabus is really a life line of what needs to be done.  The teacher writes and presents the syllabus at the beginning of the class. If you get everything done that is written in the syllabus, you will do well.  If you don't. You won't.  It's pretty simple really. It is all mapped out for you in easy step-by step instructions.  

Now I have to create my own syllabus for the next semester of life. Oy, that sounds so dramatic! 

It is quite daunting to think about what to do next, and how to accomplish it.  But I am going to work on steps and try to tick them off one by one.  

Step one: Graduate from NYU and get a bachelors degree. CHECK! Piece of cake...

Step two:  Get certified in Orton-Gillingham. Working on it!

Step three: Graduate School? Move to Italy? Who knows...

One step at a time.  For now...GO ME!  I'm done with College!

Praise..What is it really good for? Absolutely...well a lot!

In my class at NYU this week, the professor was discussing the idea of praise as an excellent strategy for behavioral modification.  Interestingly enough, those of us parents, teachers, and friends think that we are giving ample praise to others, when we are actually not giving enough. 

 From the Schulz Museum

From the Schulz Museum

Most of us strive for attention.  Whether it is positive or negative attention, we still yearn for it. A great way to give someone attention in order reinforce that their behavior happens again, is called positive reinforcement. 

We have to be careful, however about the kind of praise that we give someone.  If you have a child that is excellent in math, and always does well, telling them how great they are in math, won't necessarily make any difference or have any significant meaning for them.  But if that same math wizard struggles with writing, giving them praise for their efforts or small accomplishments in that subject will go a long way. "Hey Milly, you worked so hard on that writing assignment. I can tell you put in a great deal of effort.  Your work really shows that. Well done!" Praising effort fosters motivation and drive.  Praising without substance doesn't. 

So don't be afraid to give praise.  Lots of it.  But praise with meaning, substance, and purpose.  That way it is good for you and good for the ones you love.  See how often you can give praise to your kids, spouse, friends, and co-workers for specific tasks, effort, hard work, and motivation.  Keep a log or mental note to see if that effort fostered positive behavior. I am sure you will see results. 

  • "Thanks Sally for feeding the cats tonight. I really appreciate you taking the time away from your homework to do it."
  • "Julie, I noticed that you  have been putting your dirty clothes in the hamper lately. Thanks for remembering to do that."
  • "Billy you have been getting all of your homework in on time this month. That's awesome."

And by the way... I sincerely appreciate the effort you made reading my blog! It really means a lot to me. I hope you got something out of it.  

Vocabulary Lesson for Today: Antecedent - (noun)

There have been countless instances in my life, when I wished I had said or done something different in order to have prevented a negative occurrence.  Whether it was avoiding the rocky ice before I broke my leg, or making sure my daughter wore a warmer coat before she got a bad cold. Or even knowing when it was a good time to ask my dad for some extra money to go out to a concert. It certainly wasn't right after he announced that  he had a bad day at work!  I have tried to learn from mistakes in my life and put antecedents in place to avoid future issues. Mariam-Webster dictionary defines antecedent as "something that came before something else and may have influenced or caused it." 

 Cameron Diaz in  Bad Teacher.   Not the best example of planned antecedents. 

Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher.  Not the best example of planned antecedents. 

When trying to discover why certain behaviors occur or are reoccurring , professionals look at antecedents to see what may have caused the behavior.  It is also very possible to utilize antecedents to encourage positive behavior.  I was very pleased when visiting my daughters school this past week, and noticed some strong antecedents put in place by the teacher. The teacher was aware that there were kids in her class with different learning styles and abilities, so she added strategies to the curriculum for all of the students to utilize.  There was not one child "singled- out" for their disability.  By using the antecedents, the teacher could possibly avoid any issues with regards to the expectations of the curriculum that might occur with those kids who needed extra.

These were the antecedents that were put in place...

  1. All the books that were required reading for the year were available in audio format and pre-uploaded by the teacher onto the school website that is easily accessible for the kids. (A great strategy for kids with dyslexia or reading delays, or auditory processing disorders). 
  2. All books should be written in, annotated, and highlighted  as they read.  Mark them up! The teacher was going to check that all kids did this every day. This ensured that the kids were not just listening to the audio book, they were reading as well.It also allows them to keep focus, and ask or answer any questions in the story that they are confused about. (This is a great strategy for dyslexia, reading delayed children, or children with ADHD).
  3. All chapters assignments are accompanied by a prompted list of questions to be referred to as they read in order to encourage thought about the story as well as  keep the kids on task. (Great for children with ADHD). 
  4. Multiple levels of books were provided as options for an independent book assignment without calling out anyone's deficits. 

 

Now I mentioned how the antecedents would be beneficial for children with certain learning disabilities or differences, but they are also beneficial and certainly not detrimental for those who are not deficient. Therefore, it seems crazy to me that all teachers do not add antecedents to their curriculum or plan. I hope and encourage everyone to think about how to prevent problems from happening or how to set up a platform for success to occur.  

Questions to  ask...

What makes Johnny act out and disrupt the class? Why is Suzie not understanding the story she is reading? Why can't I get my kid to put a new toilet roll on the toilet roll holder? Why won't my husband buy me a new pair of Balenciagas boots? (well this might be a stretch) How can I make these things happen or not happen? Is there anything I can do ahead of time to change what will occur next? 

A little planning goes a long way...

Working it out!

Recently I have determined what my next career path would be.  I am pursuing a career as a reading specialist trained in the method of Orton-Gillingham. I have mentioned this before.  Imagine you wanted to be a dentist, but could not find a dental school anywhere near you, nor could you contact anyone in the dental community.  That is what it has been like for me trying to get certified in OG.  There is no academy in New York City.  The training classes are few and far between, and there are only a small handful of fellows that can actually train and certify.  The most effective method of helping children overcome dyslexia is the hardest method to learn!

But I worked it out!!!

 From the Beatles album Day Tripper

From the Beatles album Day Tripper

I decided to make cold  calls, ask for  meetings, beg and plead, finagle my way in.  I realized that no one was going to get me where I wanted to be, but me. It paid off!  I was invited to spend a week at the Stephen Gaynor School, where I was able to be trained amongst the teachers at Gaynor by the best OG Fellow.  Basically, the best week of my life.  

I came home one night crying with tears of happiness.  I asked the question to my husband, "Why did I get so lucky?" He said that luck had nothing to do with it.  He said you made it happen. I had a plan, and I was going to work it out. 

This led to a good discussion with my kids about being responsible for your own destiny.  If they have goals, they can work out the details and make it happen.  I knew that step one was to find the right person to train me.  There was no step two with out the first step.  Making a list of steps is incredibly helpful. It makes tasks and goals seems less overwhelming.  Step two was for the OG trainer to take me under her wing and be willing to continue my certification.  Working very hard and showing that I meant business during the class, was how it was going to happen. The trainer saw my passion and agreed to help me finish my certification. Step three, work my butt off and get certified!   I keep humming to myself now.."Try to see it my way..." 

Picking a Pumpkin

I am very excited to read the new Dr Seuss Book What Pet Should I Get?   The premise is about the difficulties of making choices, and how too many choices can be overwhelming.  

A few years ago my family went to a pumpkin patch in the Hamptons.  It was the most beautiful fall day, and we were very excited about picking pumpkins for our home.  We became extremely frustrated by our younger daughter, who found it overwhelming and virtually impossible to make a choice of which pumpkin to pick.  She literally could not choose, running back and fourth from one to the next.  Finally we told her that she couldn't have any pumpkin if she didn't choose one as we were all getting cold, and it was time to leave. 

When we got home, I did some research on making choices, and the difficulties that can be involved with too many choices.  My daughter literally was frozen when it came to choosing a pumpkin. I wanted to know why. 

I watched a fascinating Ted Talk, in which Barry Schwartz explained the Paradox of Choice.   I highly recommend everyone watch this great explanation of why too many choices can be paralyzing and make us actually unhappy. Since our pumpkin experience with our younger daughter, I have learned that she has extreme difficulty making choices.  So instead of being frustrated with her, I help to guide her with less options.  She also is more aware that it is a character trait she has difficulties with, which helps her navigate situations where there are overwhelming amounts of choices. 

One strategy that helps is to recognize what your favorite things are and sticking to them.  For example, we were recently in Rome, where the gelaterias can be overwhelming with options.  The first time we went to the gelateria, my daughter tasted about 50 flavors, before choosing one. She fell in love with the Amarena, which is vanilla with marinated cherries...deli-sh!  So when we arrived at the next gelateria, she just said "Mom, I want my favorite Amarena..."  Good choice! Done and done...

Da da da da da da dun dun....Under Pressure

Everyone has times in their lives when they are under a great deal of pressure.  In my life it seems to come in waves.  Recently I have felt a great deal of stress and pressure.  Deep down, I know that I will make it through, but when I am in the moment, I feel the burden, and it becomes overwhelming. Because, we all have instances of stress, it is not the issue that matters, but  how we handle the stress and pressure that ultimately counts. 

 David Bowie and Queen

David Bowie and Queen

A few months ago, I was extremely stressed about issues relating to economics. Due to hard work, cleverness, and a little luck, thankfully we have been able to handle most economic setbacks. I admit, that I am very challenged when it comes to handling economic issues and financial strains in any capacity. Give me an educational challenge, and I face it head on. Financial, and I am a puddle.  I got myself so worked up about a financial concern, that I actually became dizzy and found myself on the floor of my bedroom. Now, I was quickly assured by my more stable half that we were just fine financially and that there was no reason whatsoever to worry about.  But what got me so worked up?  Why do I feel so much pressure and anxiety regarding anything to do with money? 

There are certain things that get us so flustered, that it eats away at us.  It could be financial reasons, romantic, school, media, anything... For each of us, it can be a personal torture. 

One way to help with stress and anxiety is a therapeutic method called Cognitive Behavioral therapy.  I learned about this in my Science of Happiness Class at NYU.  It is a wonderful approach to therapy, that gives you skills in order to better deal with anxiety. 

Kids now a days are under tremendous pressure. If and when  a child feels as though they can't handle situations, going to see a CBT is a great way to help them build confidence to face whatever challenge is thrown their way. 

I have learned to ask myself "What if" questions when I am feeling very stressed to help me get through the moment.  

Question: The paper that is coming up is really hard, and I am not sure I will do well!!!

Answer: Well, if you don't do well, then your grade may not be an A

Question: What if I don't get an A!!

Answer: Well then, I will get a B+ for my final grade, which will be OK.  I won't die, and my life will still go on. A B+ is actually still a great grade at NYU. 

Going through a Q&A seems to calm me down from my pressure peaks. That is one strategy I've learned.  I still have a great deal of work to do on this matter.  By I will try not to stress about that too...

 

 

 

When in Rome...a few things to do....

Our family just returned from a wonderful trip to Rome. None of us had ever been to Rome before, which made the trip even more special. I thought that I would share with you some of our positive experiences.

 The view from our terrace of Buonanotte Garibaldi B&B. 

The view from our terrace of Buonanotte Garibaldi B&B. 

I have a wonderful friend from Rome, who basically planned our trip.  Being savvy travelers and jaded New Yorkers, he knows that we are not typical tourists.  We enjoy authentic restaurants and special sites. He also knows my husband is a foodie and can be picky and difficult. Furthermore, traveling with two teenage daughters can be challenging to say the least. 

We stayed at the most beautiful quaint and comfortable bed and breakfast called Buonanotte Garibaldi.  Please take a look at the website if you are interested.  It was spectacular and very reasonable. 

 The restaurant Da Olindo

The restaurant Da Olindo

As I mentioned, we are big foodies, so I did a great deal of research on where to eat. A few of the highlights included Roma Sparita. Incredibly authentic on a side alley in Trastevere. Another magnificent meal was Da Olindo.  It was in the tiniest restaurant, where mama literally still cooks the food. Buonissimo!

Ok, when in Rome you have to see the Colosseum and The Forum.  If you have two teenage girls and a potentially cranky husband...

 The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

  1. Buy tickets for The Forum in advance.  You don't necessarily have to go inside the Colosseum.  You can walk around it and get the gist of the expanse of it. Some disagree and must go in the Colosseum, but we just walked around it. 
  2. Enter the Forum on the side Of Via Di Saint Gregorio. There are no lines there, and for some reason, very few people know to enter that way. Oh and don't tell anyone about this entrance of course...
  3. Take time to walk through The Forum.  It's mind blowing. 
 Saint Peter's Basilica

Saint Peter's Basilica

The Vatican is unbelievable, but it is very big! For those, who have very little patience, I recommend the following...

  1. By tickets for the vatican in advance so you don't wait on line.
  2. Bust through the vatican museum fast.  It's awesome, but long and crowded. So if you are with a family like mine, without the best patience, rip through it like a New Yorker walking down 5th Avenue.
  3. At the end you will find your prize of the Sistine Chapel.   Walk in with your head down looking at the floor until you get to the center, then look up. It's AMAZING! MIND BLOWING! RIDICULOUS!
  4. Spend some time in Saint Peter's Basilica.  Truly spectacular, and the dead Pope's are really creepy.
 The Borghese Museum

The Borghese Museum

The Borghese Museum and park are a must do and see. Simply go online and purchase tickets in advance to walk leisurely through the magnificent mansion. Then walk, rent bicycles or segways through the park.  Bike rentals are easy and inexpensive.  It was a great experience.

 Via Giulia Rome

Via Giulia Rome

Finally, Rome is for walking! We walked everywhere. Each block is more beautiful than the next. Here is a list of a few stops along the way.

  1. Piazza Navona: A stunning piazza.  The neighborhood is filled with quaint boutiques and restaurants.  (This what Soho should still be...)
  2. Trastevere: A lovely neighborhood on the left side of the river.  
  3. The Spanish steps- A little too crowded for all of us, but very swanky.
  4. Piazza Popolo:  If you want to be fabulous, have lunch at Da Bolognese. 
  5. The Jewish Ghetto: Great simple restaurants.  The ruins are incredible as well as the culture and historical significance of the area. 
  6. The Pantheon.  It's so old, you can't believe it. 
  7. Pretty much anywhere else in Rome.  I mean it's Rome...

Help! I Need Somebody...But Not Just Anybody...

I am unbelievably excited to be starting my certification in the fall as an Orton-Gillingham educational therapist.  I will be trained to work with children with reading disorders, most specifically with dyslexic children.  

I recently went to a seminar, where the speaker explained in the most simplest terms, how to understand dyslexia.  Imagine a woman's handbag with lots of pockets and compartments.  The handbag is organized in such a way that you can find your keys, your lipstick, your cell phone, with little effort.  This is a normal functioning reader.  Their brain is organized so that they can retrieve parts of language in a simple and quick manner.  

 From Sex and the City.  Most people with dyslexia don't have organized mental  "handbags." 

From Sex and the City.  Most people with dyslexia don't have organized mental  "handbags." 

For example, In order to spell thunder, a normal reader can quickly utilize "th" and  "er" and form the word, or read the word. 

Someone with dyslexia has all of the same information and resources, just without the pockets. The ideas are not organized in order to retrieve them efficiently or quickly.  It is very difficult, takes tremendous effort, and is confusing. 

Orton-Gillingham is a multi-sensory approach that helps build the organization in the brain in order to retrieve the tools to read and write efficiently and quickly. It is one of the most proven methods of treating people with dyslexia. 

Things to remember about dyslexia....

  1. It is not about reading backwards.  That is not true at all.
  2. People with dyslexia have high intelligence, but are made to feel stupid. 
  3. With the right training, a dyslexic can be a highly successful reader, and accomplish anything they want to do. 

In my opinion a person with dyslexia does not have a disability at all. The disability lies in the educator, if an educator is not equipped to work with a dyslexic child.  So when looking to help your child, who has a reading disability, it is critical that they work with not just anyone.  It needs to be someone, who is trained in Orton-Gillingham for example. 

My daughter by the way has had great success with this method.  She also keeps asking for very fancy handbags.  Coincidence? I don't think so....

Keeping Up with The Knowledge

Going back to school after 15 years has its positives and negatives.  On the positive side, I am mature and 100 percent focused on success. I'm not just flapping around.  On the negative side, I am so far behind what the kids know now. They are so technologically savvy and intellectually sophisticated.  It is really daunting, humbling, and truly fantastic. 

15 years ago, I took a class at NYU that taught us the basics of the "world wide web."  I found some homework that I had written where I remarked, "The internet is very interesting. I am not sure how I will utilize it.  I will have to research it further."  Hysterical! 

I had to do a group project for one of my classes that required a presentation when it was complete.  I was making suggestions to the group such as "How about a poster of the results? Or "We can act out what happened?" They looked at me like I was 200 years old. All of the presentations were these amazing powerpoint presentations, or intricate edited movies.  Nothing was from the arts and crafts section of Target. Oh well...We still got an A. I think because we were unique (ha ha). 

I found myself learning "on the job" at NYU.  What are online citations? What is a subscript? What is prezi? Can I quote wikipedia? Does anyone every step foot in the library anymore? All of the  rapid paced information comes so naturally to the kids in school now. My classmates were very kind to me, and helped me navigate this world I was unfamiliar with.  There were a few giggles and eye rolls as well...

I turned to my own kids for information.  A high school kids and a junior high school kid are unbelievably equipped at navigating the technology now. My 8th grader is adept at Microsoft Excel.  My 10th grader knows how to do Powerpoint presentations. 

I would suggest as a parent like me, who hopes to relate to my children as well as help them when necessary, become familiar with basic technological strategies for learning. 

  1. Learn how to use google docs. Your kids will be using google docs constantly for presentations, papers, spreadsheets. 
  2. Learn how to cite properly.  I found easybib.com very helpful when creating proper citations. Remember, schools take plagiarism very seriously. I found citations to be difficult and confusing.  A very good process to become familiar with. 
  3. Learn how to make a nice presentation. Prezi is good. Also google docs has a easy and simple way to build a presentation. 

Alas, no matter what we do as parents we will never keep up with our kids...  

As my kids say, "God, mom...you are so uncool and just don't get it." 

I feel like I said that once too...but in person, not via text. 

Priming for Success

I was incredibly nervous to take my final exam this past semester at NYU. I hadn't taken an exam in well...15 years??!! I studied like crazy, and I was still sweating and shaking the morning of the exam.

 From Saturday Night Live

From Saturday Night Live

The test was in a huge lecture hall in the Stern School of Business at NYU.  It was quite intimidating. But, because this was the Science of Happiness class, our professors managed to "pump us up" before the exam.  

We learned in SOH that priming ones mind with positive emotions can actually increase the capacity to learn and be mentally productive.  So, before the test started, the professors got us all pumped up by inviting a dancer from the Tisch School to do a dance performance.  He was incredible, and got everyone on their feet dancing and yelling. Then the professors shouted out, "let's all take the test now!"  Everyone yelled, "YEAH!!"  I mean....pretty freaking incredible right?

Also while I was taking the test, the professor was going up and down the aisle giving encouragements.  For me he said, "looks like everything is right, Ilse!" 

It seems like such a simple concept that tests, or any stressful situation should be encouraged with a positive primer. I remember taking tests in school with mean, grouchy, and intimidating professors, who seemed to almost wish we did poorly. Needless to say, I didn't do that well on them. 

My daughters had exams this past week.  One night, my older daughter was super stressed about an exam.  I explained to her that she needed to be primed first with positive emotions.  She thinks I'm nuts, but went along with it anyway. So she put on her favorite song, and we started to dance. It was fun, and seemed to calm her down. She did very well on her exam by the way.  Oh and if your wondering, I got a 103% on my final.  Very happy about it indeed....

I Really Like this Song...

It's amazing how a song can touch your soul.  I am funny with music, because I love to listen to music that really touches me, and I get completely annoyed with music that doesn't.   I don't have a genre necessarily or even a favorite band.  If it moves me, I like it. I am the same with people.  I have no particular preferred choice.  My friends can be very different. I can relate to many different types of personalities. Even if they bug the heck out of me, I can handle them (well for the most part).   I have a strong social intelligence in that respect. 

Strong social intelligence means the ability to navigate various and complex social surroundings effectively. I have been trying to relay to my girls that in order to be successful in anything you want to do, you need to learn to navigate different personalities that you come into contact with. Each teacher they have is going to have different expectations.  Their friends may like or want to do different things. You have to learn to ebb and flow. 

It is so important to recognize and appreciate others for their differences.  The number one rule to remember, is that you will NEVER change someone.  So take them or leave them, love them, or learn to deal with them. 

  1. Respect varying opinions. It is hard to believe, but you are not always right.
  2. Listen to what others have to say even if you don't want to or don't agree with them. It's hard, but you can do it. 
  3. Don't put words in their mouth, or try to be a mind reader.  How about asking someone how they feel instead?
  4. If a fight starts, and things get ugly, take a TIME OUT.  Give yourselves time to regroup.  It's a great tactic to keep a relationship strong.
  5. Embrace differences.  You never know, you might learn something.

In school, in work, with your parents, or in life, fostering the character strength of social intelligence will get you far. 

 

 

I don't know...what do YOU want to do?

As a mom and a wife, I pretty much get the last say in what I want to do.  The priorities and wants of my family generally come first.  Moreover, each family member is so different, they all have different desires and requirements.  So I am usually inquiring as to what they each want to do...

 From the movie Vacation. Sometimes we can't force a family trip.  It's ok to do separate things. 

From the movie Vacation. Sometimes we can't force a family trip.  It's ok to do separate things. 

This past Spring Break was interesting for our family.  We went our separate ways.  I don't necessarily condone spending vacation time alone, but if you understand my family, you will understand that it was necessary.

What is very special about my kids is that they are incredibly unique individuals.  They really appreciate and enjoy different things.  They are of  course both amazing and perfect in every way (says their mom), but I don't ever need to compare them. One loves the sun, one hates the sun.  One loves shopping, one hates shopping.  And it goes on and on..

It is so crucial to respect and consider each person who you love's different personalities. Even if we try, we could never change them.  So instead embrace their differences. 

I learned recently in school about different types of personality traits that really resonated with my family.

There is the introverted person and the extroverted person. 

Knowing whether someone you love is an introvert or an extrovert will help you to foster a better relationship with them. One of my kids enjoys quiet time with their friends, and one enjoys a loud music concert and roller coasters.  Both are great and are totally respectable. Let them have their differences. As long as they are happy.  Fortunately, my personality is somewhere in the middle. I enjoy a music concert with my close friends, then cut out early and go to bed.  No roller coasters. It's all good. 

Bring it ON!

Friends and family have been talking about communication difficulties lately.  Whether it is a with a friend, a loved one, or even with a teacher, communication can be challenging.  How can you tell someone you are upset with them without hurting their feelings? It is not an easy thing to do. 

 From the movie Bring it On

From the movie Bring it On

A situation occurred in my class, where a teacher's assistant graded my essay in a negative way. I was surprised by this grade, as I was positive I had done the work completely and thoroughly.  I was extremely upset by my grade, as at this point in my academic career, I am BRINGING IT! So I approached the teacher's assistant to shed light on my sub-par grade.  He told me that he had just "skimmed" my work, and that he missed the fact that I did my work completely.  WHAT??!! OH NO YOU DIDN'T! Needless to say, I convinced him to change my grade. 

My girls have also had occasions when they have felt that their teachers were being unjust with regards to their grades. By respectfully speaking with the teachers, they have been successful in resolving their conflicts.

Communication is really the key to success.  Whether it is in school, work, or socially. It is so critical to communicate an issue rather than let your frustration fester. But communication can be difficult, as you hope that the outcome is positive, but if you aren't careful about how you communicate, the results can be worse.

In my Science of Happiness Class at NYU, my professors discussed making sure that we avoid communication hazards.  It is helpful to remember a few basics rules  when dealing with a situation, where you need to communicate your point in a respectful way.  

  1. Be present.  Make time for the communication. Don't rush.  Look the person in the eye. Display body language that you are ready to communicate and that you care.
  2. Don't put words into their mouth.  You don't know what's going on in their head, so only communicate what you know to be true, not what supposedly is true.
  3. Be respectful of what they have to say. Even if you disagree, listen and understand their point of view. 
  4. If the communication is not reaching any conclusions, don't let it escalate to the point that the circumstances get worse. Communicate that you need to take a break, or it might just be that you have to accept the different opinions and move on. 

It is not easy to speak your mind or stand up for yourself.  But if you do it in the right way, you will reap the benefits. It will also make you feel better. Got anything to say?  Let me know, I'd be happy to talk to you about it.

Mama Bear

As a parent, I have always had an instinct to protect my cubs.  Protect them from harm, keep them warm, safe, and well fed. We chose the neighborhood we live in because of our kids. We chose the apartment, because of the kids. We chose the school they would go to because of the reputation.  

The girls went to a great neighborhood elementary school in downtown Manhattan.   We made wonderful friends, and the kids were very happy.  We had tremendous faith in the school and accepted each years assessment of our girls to be sound. When my younger daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia, was when I started to question the system. 

Dyslexia is  a broad expression for a learning disorder that includes difficulties in learning to read or understand words, letter, and other symbols, but is not correlated with overall intelligence. 

There is really no perfect school for any child.  As I have mentioned before, in New York City there is an abundance of schools to chose from that should fit your child's personality and learning style.  But, when you have to deal with a curve ball thrown at you, and your child is a square peg trying to fit into a school's round hole, that's when Mama Bear should kick in. 

A little to late, I would say that I started questioning the ability of the school to support my child.  I really put my faith in the system, when they told me that they"got it." They were taking care of her.  When my daughter was in 4th grade, I was in full panic mode about her ability to do her work, and what was going to happen to her when school got more difficult and challenging. I wish someone told me to always question the people that are caring for your child.  Because the truth is, they don't care as much as you do. If you believe your child has a learning issue you should leap to action. 

  1. You have the right to question the performance of your child.  Don't be afraid to go to the guidance counselor, school psychologist, or even the principal.  Make some noise about your kid!
  2. Have a psycho-educational evaluation done on your child.  The school can provide for one, but they don't always agree to.  The cost can be high, and there are opportunities to have insurance pay for it.  It was very expensive for us, but it was the best money we every spent on our daughter.  I suggest forgoing that trip to Cancun and do this for your child. It unlocks information about your child that helps decide the course of action needed to aid in any disabilities in education they might have. 
  3. Keep a close eye on your child's homework.  Ask them lots of questions.  What home work do you have? When is it due? Can I read your work?  Do you need help?  My daughter's teacher said she was doing "just fine," but the work that was being produced by my child was in fact not at all just fine. I actually had copies of all  of her homework to present at school evaluation meetings, to prove my points that she wasn't progressing under the current support she was receiving. 
  4. Teachers are for the most part overwhelmed and are not capable of keeping track of every issue that may arise.  They may have good intentions, but not the band-with to be supportive. 

 

We made a great deal of noise about our daughter, and it paid off tremendously. My husband even roared like a grizzly bear a few times, really! With a new school and new support, she is doing really well and has progressed dramatically.  It was not easy, but as far as I'm concerned I am the Mama Bear, and no one is messing with my Cubs!