You Are So Smart

Drawing was more fun than studying.

Drawing became my first love.

How well I recall my mother’s first explanation of my intelligence.  After a sixth grade conference with my teacher, she returned home to tell me, “Dear, you are just average. You will have to work hard to do well.”  I wasn’t sure what it was all about, but it didn’t sound good.  For me, learning seemed easy, it was the tests that threw me off. Somehow the words didn’t match the ideas I thought I knew. Rather than  studying more, I gave up.   Getting mediocre grades was easier that studying when I already knew I couldn’t do any better.

Years later, dear Mother informed me that she had hoped that by telling me I was average, it would push me to try harder and excel. She called it reverse psychology.

I must say when I hit forty years and decided to take my masters in education, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that by studying, my grades went up.  My teenage children wondered how I gotten so smart since they has seen my childhood and college report cards. Studying counts. Lots of studying counts more.

As a classroom teacher, it became important that students knew and applied a variety of study skills.  Tutoring took the same approach. Each child was shown how they learned and the best way for them to study. The mantra was always the same, “You are so smart.”

Vignette.  One young man in fifth grade felt he didn’t need study skills. “I remember everything,” he said. I reminded him that in middle school he would be with others who were as intelligent as he was, and the work would be harder and taught faster. Grudgingly, he learned the study skills.  The following year, he surprised me.  He  returned to tell me that indeed the work was harder, and his classmates were as smart as he was. “I remembered that you told me that I might feel I had lost my smarts and couldn’t succeed, but that actually I was just being challenged. So, I didn’t give up. I used those skills, and my grades went back up. Thank you.”  Big grin from him. He made my day.

 

P.S.  May I mention that drawing became my first love? What a great trade-off!

Options for Writing Based On Abilities

 

Success comes when writing options are offered.

Success comes when writing options are offered.

If a teacher captures a student at the writing level at which he can succeed, the child gains confidence to move forward.   Students who begin at the easier levels will move up as they see how other students succeed.   The options listed below led to the  students’ willingness to move to more independent levels of writing. As they succeed, be sure to provide time for them to share their results!

To cover the range from totally dependent to independent writers, these ideas were used.

1.Two children of the same ability work together.  This works because neither child can lean or dominate the other.  As the lesson on enriching writing is taught, these two students work together to develop their work. Both children are responsible for writing a final copy.

2. A child who wants/needs to copy from the board is seated where it’s easy to see.   This approach shows that copying is allowed. Some children may copy everything with no rhyme or reason. They are happy just to be writing!  Over time, as they hear the other children share their sentence/story assignments, they will ‘catch’ the writing process.

3. Encourage enriching the sentences. Take time during the writing time to ask if anyone has enriched one of their sentences. (See the related blog “Young Writers Enriching Sentences”.)

4. Be available to help copy ‘a sentence or two’.

5. Post the introductory sentence, and let students choose from a list of class generated sentences which ones they will copy next. This takes a lot of pressure off a budding author.

6. Spelling. As they call out a word, write it on the board. (For ideas to encourage spelling, go to the website trudicarter.com then the blog  Trudi Loves Teaching,  and on to the post on spelling.)

VIGNETTE.   In a fifth grade class, we were learning how to give input to help others improve their writing. The students practiced giving suggestions with a piece the teacher had written.  As time went on, they contributed their own writing for a class critique. One girl held back. Her success in writing was low.  After watching other students have their work improved by their classmates, she reached that day when her hand waved, and she said, “I want my story on the overhead. I want to hear what I can do to make it better.” Listening to her classmates help each other and finding out how the improvement process worked, she became willing to join in.

Not only the children improve in writing over time, but you will find more ways for them to succeed.

Defuse Bullying Behavior

book cover

Everyday bullies are everywhere. A clerk delays waiting on one person while serving others who arrived later.

A parent makes a comment in a public place guaranteed to set the child off or vice-verse.  A ‘double bully’ is one person allowing the bullying behavior of another to continue. It takes diligence to defuse the actions that squash someone’s right to the pursuit of happiness.

One approach to stop this behavior is your willingness to act differently. “To change others, begin with yourself.” Pay attention to your thoughts. “What you think, you become.” Are you thinking angry thoughts? This form of ‘mental bullying’ leads to ‘outward bullying’.  Worse, it attracts a bully to you. “Like attracts like.”

In my book Can Dragons and Frogs Be Friends? the bully, a fire-breathing dragon, chases and eats frogs. When the dragon is in trouble, a frog takes a chance and changes his own behavior. This causes the dragon’s viewpoint of the frogs to change, and he stops being a bully and discovers a friend.

Vignette:

On the last day of school, a fourth grade student stopped to see his next year teacher to tell her that he was looking forward to being in her class. The teacher answered, “I can’t wait to have you in my class! We will have a great year!” Off he went with a smile. In the office file drawer, there was a three-inch thick folder of his behavior problems. Over the summer, the teacher barely scanned it. Most important, the file did not become a checklist of expectations that would preclude any possible progress. On the first day of school, the student arrived early along with his mom with his smile and his plan for changing himself. The arriving class was given a heads up to allow the young man to change. They did. He did. It was a happy year. Past behavior was dissolved by everyone’s willingness to change.

A second key to deflect and diffuse bullying behavior is to create an atmosphere in which a bully finds no victim or partner. Increase your compassion for others. Memorize quotes that lift your thoughts. Sing with joy! Pay attention to the good around you. Be grateful. As Forest Squirrel says in the above mentioned book, ‘Say thank you a lot.” A bully’s anger dissolves in the face of true deep down compassion as Throckmorton, the dragon, discovered.

A third key that counters and obliterates bullying is what a friend mentioned after hearing of this article. “You can’t be bullied if you have self-confidence.” The idea resonated. When you know who you are and what you believe, when you know what you love, then you walk tall, speak firmly and clearly and become a confident ‘you’ that simply cannot be bullied. For there is nothing to be bullied!

In essence, to defuse and destroy bullying behavior change your actions, create an atmosphere of kindness, and build your self-confidence. For lack of victim or partner, bullying behaviors will disappear.