Recently, upon reviewing several charts and graphs put out by the U.S. Department of Education through their Institution of Education Services, I was quite troubled as to what I saw. The specific numbers vary from subject to subject, and chart to chart, but our country has seen a steady decline in academic scores as compared to other countries. This fact, considered in light of the constant flood of news related to limited school funding, poor public school performance, etc. should not surprise us, but it should call us to action. We can no longer sit back and wonder what became of the schools that we knew when we grew up, the educational standards that served us well, or the scholars that were seated next to us on the bus. No, we must look at the bigger issues at hand. One of those, the difference between learning and reading is a critical starting point for our future generations.
Learning is not the same as reading. We know this because we can sit in a meeting, looking over reports, and find ourselves rereading the data a second or third time through before it sinks in. We can read an interesting web article and not be able to describe it to a friend several hours later. That is because we are just going through the process of reading, using this skills, but we very regularly fail to engage with the material. We do not learn it, we only read it. This problem is rampant in our educational system as students and teachers push to move through designated amounts of material in limited time periods, all the while leaving their brains “disengaged.”
Clearly this impacts our productivity, our understanding, and our ability to apply what we have read to our daily work, or our learning process. On the other hand, true learning impacts application. It must. That is the end result of wisdom – changed behavior, changed application. Imagine if students across this country, whether in public, private, or home school situations, were able to master the material that they read because they learn how to use their brain and therefore, learn, more efficiently. Mastery is not a daunting task when we allow our God-given brains to do their job! When seen as a tool and not just a container for random information, our brain can do some truly amazing things.
Sadly, though, this is not something that is readily taught in our school system and we are seeing the effects in the national statistics. Students of all ages must learn to be involved with the content of their studies, to understand its significance, to connect to what they are reading and learning, but with a purpose. By doing this and not just going through the motions, students can avoid wasting their valuable time on reading, and apply that time to effective and meaningful learning. If we rethink our methods, this change could impact future generations and all would benefit, but it must start with using our brains more efficiently during the learning process. With our brains as an active partner in our education, we can become educated, not just well-read, which while often having the connotation of “educated,” can often mean something less than that.
True learning can impact our understanding and application which will create more effective citizens for the future – this is what it means to be serious about education. Effecting change, understanding data, and impacting our culture for more than a semester is the natural by-product of brain-based learning! If all educators, no matter what their environment, were allowed to focus on learning, not a checklist of lessons, we would see a change in our future generations.
by Camille Rodriquez
In as little as five minutes a day you can change your world. According to Wayne Dyer “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This insight can lead you to a new tomorrow. Are you game? The process is fairly simple and the results are amazing.
But before we get started I want you to take a quick look around the room you are in and find all the things in the room that are blue. Make a mental note of these items. Now, close your eyes – no peeking and recall everything in the room that is red! Ah, no fair, you asked for blue items! That’s correct, so what happened to those blue items? They became brighter, bolder, and larger. Everything else in the room faded into the background including all the red items I asked you to name. The same principle applies to gratitude, when you are looking for things you are grateful for they become brighter, bolder, and larger in your experience.
My students kept a gratitude journal. At the end of school day they record five things they were grateful for that day in their gratitude journal. At first the entries were very general – my family, my dog, etc. But as time progressed they got much more specific in their journaling and wrote down particular things that had happened that day – they had developed an attitude of gratitude.
So what happened? Well they started to look for the good in their day – look for what they could write in their journal. Their gratitude antenna was up and searching for all the good in their lives and guess what, they found plenty. What an incredible gift to give a child. Give a child a gratitude journal, and watch the magic begin!
by Debbie Elder
Have you ever run into someone that you know in a store or out in public and while you know their face, you struggle to remember their name? Everyone has had this experience from time to time. We finesse our way through the conversation, hoping that we are not asked to introduce this person to anyone else, and as soon as we walk away, either aloud or silently, we ask ourselves, “What was their name?” Typically, within a few hours, the name will come to us, as if it were a slice of toast popping up from the toaster. This is because the name was in our brain all the time, but it was poorly filed, and so temporarily lost to us. However, when you asked the question, “Who was that?” your brain became an eager student and started the process of searching its “files” for the answer. The reason that it took awhile to find the answer has to do with how you managed the information initially.
Let’s look at another example, but one with a hidden method that we can recreate. Think of the last time that you were away from your desk but remembered that you needed something. When you called a colleague to have them find it for you, you probably said something like, “Look in the drawer to the left, under the phone. See the yellow highlighter? Next to that is a green sticky-note pad. There’s a phone number written in black ink with a circle around it on the top sheet.” You may have used mental images when you were picturing your desk and these mental images were like pictures, snapshots of information that could easily be translated to the other person. Visual images such as mental pictures are very powerful in the brain’s filing system for data management, and something that we can readily apply to new information when we learn it.
The primary tool at use here is knowing your purpose when you read or encounter new information, and organizing that information in a meaningful way. If you know why you will need the information, then you can better manage it. Also, by using questions, emotions, and images when we encounter information, we can allow our brain to be actively involved in storing the information. But how can you always know your purpose in advance? One helpful tool in determining your purpose when reading or reviewing new information is previewing the material before you read it.
One method, Inspectional Reading, helps you to pull out relevant key words and phrases that your brain can “hang” the information on when reading. Then you can ask yourself, “What will I gain by knowing this?” or “What will be different if I understand this?” or “How will I feel if I can use this?” Once you have previewed the material, engaged your brain with meaningful questions, and then begun to look for information snapshots and mental pictures while reading, your subconscious mind will be busy at work answering those questions for you, but also sorting the information according to the purpose that you have assigned the reading.
The habit of learning to read for purpose, connecting visual pictures, and answering meaningful questions can take time to develop, but the process is an extremely significant tool that can increase your learning power and information retention no matter what the content of material you are studying or reading.
One final step in learning to manage information more efficiently is to write a short summary of the information, no more than a paragraph in length, when you have completed the other steps. This can be hand-written or typed, but using the hands to write out and capture the essence of the material, and then the eyes to see your summary, creating another visual image, creates a content loop that reinforces the information you have just reviewed. So, take notes – what have you learned from this article?
By Camille Rodriquez
Have you ever been micro-managed? Have you ever been asked to do a job only to be told how to do every step of the job? The typical thought as a result of this micro-managing is to wonder why that person just didn’t do the job themselves. This does not feel good when people do this to us, and our teens are no different.
One way to avoid this is to involve your teens in the process of managing their lives. They need to learn to be their own life managers and the time to start is NOW. Don’t wait until their senior year in high school to start raising a responsible, thinking adult.
There are many areas in which they can contribute and take ownership of their own life.
I am not talking about sending your 13-year-old out to find a job to pay rent and buy groceries, but what about their school life? Free time? Extra-curricular activities?
It’s important that we involve them in their day-to-day life for three reasons. First and foremost, because it is their life. Secondly, because you have agreed to use your teachable moments, and in this area you will be offered many. And third, if you continue to make all of the decisions for them, two things will happen: You’re the one to blame when things don’t work out, and they don’t learn how to make decisions on their own. Not a great recipe for college success.
Let me give you some ground rules for how to make this work for you.
1) When offering choices, only offer those where either outcome is acceptable to you.
2) Only offer what is readily available.
3) Clarify the parameters when you offer choices. Be sure that the boundaries are known to the teen.
4) If the teen chooses choice C and you have only offered Choices A and B (and some will), you need to decide up front whether this is a negotiable or non-negotiable issue. For instance, when given a choice on going to restaurant A or B, if a teen comes back with, “Can we try the new one, C?” then you may not have a problem changing the options.
However, if you are discussing curfew time, this subject may be non-negotiable. In your role as the parent, you need to decide what items are or are not, on the table for discussion. When you are willing to negotiate on the majority of issues, you can pull your ‘trump’ card…. your non-negotiable ‘NO’, without push back. When a teenager understands, is heard, and feels validated they can respect your rules much easier.
Our teenagers need to know that they have a role, a valuable contribution to the daily life around them. However, you also need to respect your teen’s ability to choose when and how to contribute. An example of how this shows up in daily living is with laundry. Often when a parent has completed the laundry and has a pile for their teen that needs putting away, they interrupt what the teen is doing because they, the parent, have decided that the laundry needs to be put away right now. They do not consider that the teen may be watching their favorite television show or that they are finally having a breakthrough on that writing assignment. This shows no respect for the teen’s use of time. Rather than demand that the laundry be done on the parent’s time schedule, what if the statement were, “Please put your laundry away before dinner.” This approach gives the teen time to plan how much television to watch before completing the laundry job. And for the doubting parents out there, this has to be followed up with the parent being the backstop for the teen. If the teen is to have this done before dinner and dinner is served at 6 p.m., then the teen does not have his dinner at 6 p.m. if the laundry is not put away. Again, the parameters must be clear so that the teen can take ownership and manage their time and activities.
I want you to respect your teen’s time, opinions, and ideas. Kids are incredibly smart and have a lot to offer! Kids think differently than us and that is good. They have fresh ideas and very few barriers to the thought process. Plus, we need to continually encourage our teenagers to think and one of the best ways I have found to do this is to value their input.
While we need to respect their opinions, this does not mean that we need to necessarily agree with them. If we agree that we are raising thinking teenagers then with that must follow the development of opinions. Being able to formulate, articulate and defend your opinion is an incredibly valuable tool that I want my teenagers to possess. When they leave to attend college or go out into the work force, don’t you want them to be clear on their values and be able to articulate what they believe and why. With a firm grasp of who they are and what they stand for, you can rest assured they won’t be easily swayed by the thoughts and beliefs of others. But, if they are never given an opportunity to voice their ideas or investigate their beliefs, they are at risk of being influenced by others who may not share your core values. Personally, I’m not willing to risk that for my children, are you?
by Debbie Elder
Anyone who has tried to feed a baby something they don’t want to eat knows the truth behind these words – you can’t change anyone else’s behavior. So stop trying! Here is the answer to stopping all future power struggles between you and your child. This is important – read on!
Stop telling them what to do and start stating what YOU are going to do. Let me give you some examples.
Instead of “Please sit down. We are going to eat now.” Try, “I will serve dinner as soon as you are seated.”
Instead of “Clean your room so we can go shopping.” Try, “I’ll be happy to take you shopping as soon as your room is clean.”
Instead of “Don’t you dare shout at me! Try, “I listen to people who are not yelling at me.”
Instead of “You can’t go play until you have finished your homework.” Try, “Feel free to play as soon as you have finished your homework.”
Instead of “Don’t be late coming home from school.” Try, “I drive those to practice who arrive home on time.”
Instead of “I am sick and tired of picking up your dirty clothes.” Try, “I’ll be glad to wash the clothes that are put in the laundry room.”
Instead of “Get this room cleaned up right now and I mean it!” Try, “You are welcome to join us for __________ as soon as your room is clean.”
Instead of “Don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!” Try, “I’ll listen as soon as your voice is as calm as mine.”
Instead of “Do your chores on time or you will be grounded!” Try, “I’ll be happy to let you go with your friends as soon as your chores are finished.”
When you are clear on what you are going to do you send a very clear message to your child. Using ‘I statements’ removes the defensive reaction you have probably experienced in the past when you have insisted that your child obey your commands. By inverting the conversation you will elicit cooperation. Be patient with yourself as you start to use this new language, it takes some getting use to and it is probably not your ‘mother tongue’. The results you will experience will be amazing, just remember to hold up your end of the bargain – stick to your guns and follow through. Your child deserves it!
Strong, solid family relationships don’t just happen; there are critical elements that must be there for these family ties to develop. When a relationship is built on a firm foundation it can withstand the hiccups of daily life and the unexpected moments of chaos. Mutual respect, time for fun, constant encouragement and communicated love are the four pillars of any strong relationship.
A lack of respect creates problems in any relationship. When dealing with children adults need to remind themselves that respect is earned. Nagging, yelling, hitting, talking down, doing things for kids that they can do for themselves, following double standards are all disrespectful. (Ask yourself: do you require your children to knock before entering your bedroom but feel free to barge into theirs?) To establish mutual respect, we must be willing to demonstrate respect for our children. A great way to start is to minimize your negative talk. Speak with your children when the atmosphere is friendly and upbeat.
Quality time is another key ingredient to building a healthy, happy relationship. It is not the quantity but the quality of time you spend with the members of your family that is important. One hour of quality time is much more valuable than five hours of conflict. Spend time daily with each member of your family doing something together that you both enjoy – invest in the relationship! I know you are busy, but your children won’t live with you forever! Savor the time you have with them NOW! In addition to individual time I strongly recommend that you schedule family fun each week, this should be a time to laugh, enjoy each other’s company and build memories that will comfort you for years to come.
Believe in your family members so they can believe in themselves. Your children will especially benefit from your frequent encouragement. A cooperative relationship depends on how children feel about themselves and how they feel about you. So instead of focusing on your children’s mistakes, point out what you like and appreciate about them. Specifically describe what behaviors you want repeated, give them a recipe for success!
Clearly and regularly communicate to your family the love you have for them. This will increase your children’s sense of security and strengthen any marriage! Let your family feel and hear your love. A gentle pat on the back, hugs, kisses, and tousling hair are extremely important gestures. Your attitude also expresses your love. When you demonstrate mutual respect and allow your children to develop responsibility and independence and that is the deepest expression of love.
by Debbie Elder
“Real communication is meaning transferred from one mind to another – not simply the exchange of words.”
You have probably seen the cell phone commercials portraying what happens a phone call is dropped at the precise time the caller has shared some monumental life changing experience and is waiting for approval or returned excitement, only to be left holding a ‘dead phone.’
What happens next? The caller starts to assume what the other person is thinking and feeling. Always, they assume incorrectly that the other person does not share their enthusiasm for the situation or their idea.
What happens when you assume what your child is thinking or feeling because you have “dropped” communication?
I want to share with you some proven strategies that can help you to have effective communication with your family.
When you use effective communication, you reserve judgment. How many of you have been involved in a dialogue only to realize that you are formulating your response as the person is talking? We are always interpreting what is being said, and judging everything that is being said. That hinders true communication.
I also encourage you to pay attention to body language when you are communicating, both yours and theirs. It has been said that 55 percent of all communication is done through body language. Have you ever noticed that when the words and the person’s body language don’t match we tend to believe the body language? That little voice inside you says: “Something doesn’t add up here.”
Use your ‘I’ statements. Effective communication cannot happen when someone feels defensive or backed into a corner.
How do the following statements make you feel?
“You never do what you say you will do; you are lazy and refuse to pull your weight. You are never home on time and leave me here to do all the housework. You take me for granted.”
If this was being said to you, chances are you would have shut down and stopped listening or you are so angry that you have stopped listening, or you have heard this so often that you never started to listen! What if the sender of this message had said this instead?
“I feel frustrated when you don’t follow through on your promises. I sometimes feel like I am the only one pulling my weight. When you don’t come home on time, I worry and don’t feel validated that I am important to you. I love you, but sometimes I need more from you, do you think we could talk about this?”
What would your response be now? I am guessing, though you may not agree with what was said, you would be willing to discuss this situation in an attempt to clear the air and resume the relationship.
This leads into one of the foundational skills required in effective communication. That is, good listening skills. Too often, we charge off to “fix” the problem when we have missed some of these cues because we did not listen. As a listener, you must also empathize with the other person. Empathy is not agreement, but it acknowledges that there is some reason that this person is sharing with you. It shows that you are capable of understanding the depth of emotion they are sharing. When you can do this, you are able to validate the person’s position. Sometimes they just need to know that their comments are being heard, and considered, regardless of whether you can “fix” their issue.
And finally, good listeners are willing to suspend their judgments. This allows you to hear all that is being said honestly. I once heard someone say that feelings have no right or wrong to them. They are just feelings. It is how you act upon these feelings that make a difference. This may be the most difficult step for a good listener, that of not assigning a “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong” to the statements being shared.
People only care what you think if they think you care! If you are constantly giving advice, children will see your statements as judgments not as caring remarks. Use your times of advice sparingly and preferably when requested, especially as they get older.
Thanks for listening!
by Debbie Elder