In education, there are trends that catch on and spread like wildfire. The two that I hear about the most are grit and a growth mindset.
For me, fads, trends and buzz words will come and go, but what never gets old is a deep respect, honoring + encouraging support for all kinds of minds no matter if they fit the narrowly defined box desired by schools or not. There is such an emphasis on changing the child, but we must not forget that we need to change the conditions of education so that each child can thrive and find areas where they shine. Every child I have worked with has shown me the areas where they shine, though many of their gifts go completely unrecognized and un-nurtured in their day to day school setting. Instead the emphasis is placed on how they can't remember their math facts or can't read at grade level or can't tolerate sitting still for hours on end, and then they are encouraged to "keep trying harder." Imagine how it feels to be on the receiving end of that.
The way we view and support kids needs to evolve. Some children may never commit math facts to memory or read at grade level or sit still in a class that is boring to them and that's okay. Likely fulfilling their unique potential and sharing their gifts with the world will not hinge on those things or if they do, they can use tech/work-arounds/get support from those around them.
My hope is that the timeless wisdom of holding deep respect, honor and providing encouraging support for every single child's mind is the next trend that catches on like wildfire.
Recently I was featured on a podcast. I talk about my work in the world supporting amazing kids who learn differently than school wants them to learn.
There is a write up as well. Here is my favorite part: "Nicole really wants to encourage a mindset shift. If you have a child whose gifts are not in alignment with the school system, it does not mean that there is anything wrong with the child… it's just a mis-fit. The American education system has a lot of problems, so shifting that perspective is the best piece of advice I can give –As well as to listen to your child over listening to the testing."
To listen to the whole interview, click here.
While I love to highlight and focus on the gifts and strengths of learning differently than school wants children to learn, the hardships do also need to be addressed. I remember about 5 years ago, sitting in one of my graduate school classes and raising my hand with a pressing question. I asked our guest speaker how to help children with their self-esteem. At that time, I had worked with many children who were hard on themselves and feeling down about struggling at school. I could see how deeply this was affecting them. Unfortunately I did not get a very helpful answer to my question at that time.
However, I stumbled across the work of researcher Kristin Neff and realized that I was asking the wrong question. It wasn't self-esteem that I could help cultivate, it was Self-Compassion! I came to this realization after watching Kristin Neff's TED talk on Self-esteem vs. Self-Compassion. I learned that "While self-esteem comes from comparing yourself to others, self-compassion focuses on being kind to yourself."
I have since used it in my own life, studied it when completing my Master's thesis and use it in nearly all of my work with children. If a child is beating themselves up about making a mistake, I ask them how they would talk to a friend if their friend made a mistake? Bringing awareness to how we talk to ourselves and showing them that there is another way can be very beneficial.
Want to learn more? I recommend watching Kristin Neff's Ted Talk: The Space between Self-Esteem And Self-Compassion.
I agree with the video below that we need an Emotion Revolution in our schools. Here are the pieces of information from research studies that struck me the most during this talk:
5 reasons why emotions matter:
-Attention, Memory, and Learning
-Physical and Mental Health
In a research study to investigate how American students feel at school, the top 3 feelings were tired, bored and stressed. Unfortunately I see this very frequently and experienced it myself. It is my hope that students, parents and educators can work together to help shift this and create an Emotion Revolution in our schools.
Check out the video below to learn more.
When seeking support for your child, it is common to want the best for you child and focus on getting them the best care possible. This can sometimes be an overwhelming process, so I like to ask parents 3 questions to help shift perspective a little bit.
1. What do you value most about your child?
2. What are your child's greatest strengths?
3. What obstacles and difficulties has your child overcome?