From the Life Coaching Deck: Troublemaker

Girl with labels projected onto herIan’s parents came for coaching about 5 years ago. Ian’s mom, Lou, booked the sessions as a last resort before she divorced his dad. About two months ago, she sent me an email and said, “Hi Ronit, Dave and I renewed our vows last year on an overseas trip. I want you to see Ian. He’s in trouble at school”.

Kids’ coaching is not something that most parents understand, but Lou and Dave, after making a huge change in their own life through coaching, did not need to ask what it was. When I called Lou and asked what she needed and why she wanted Ian to come and see me, she said, “Ronit, I’m not sure how you do what you do, but I need you to do it for Ian. He’s a great kid, but he’s in trouble at school and it’s affecting his self-esteem. It breaks my heart to see him like that. I’ve tried different things, but he is still in trouble. I’m sure if he spends some time with you, he’ll gain some confidence, just like we did”.

Ian was one of the most beautiful 11-year-old boys I had ever seen. In his first session, I went over some assessments to figure out what was making him get in trouble at school. Although he could read high-level books, thought math was easy and schoolwork was not a challenge at all, his grade average was “B”. Not that I think everyone needs to get an “A”, but all my assessments showed he was an “A” student, maybe even one of those smart kids that find school so boring they stir up some trouble to get some attention and make things a bit more interesting.

Read more about why kids get in trouble at school

Misdiagnosing Learning Difficulties in the Early Years

Book: Frames of Mind - Howard GardnerTeachers and educators (myself included) believe in the power of our vision to make a difference in the lives of students. We think that if we start early, we will guarantee their success in the future. The risky part in education is reducing our evaluation methods to using statistics and making false assumptions about what is normal and what is not.

The official introduction of those assumptions occurred in 1904, when the psychologist Alfred Binet was asked by the French government to develop a test that would identify students with learning difficulties that required special help at school. The original request meant to cater better for students who needed help, but it gave birth to the test that later distorted education systems everywhere – the IQ Test.

The Education System Sees the Future

Based on the IQ test, students were positioned in a single, permanent place on the famous “bell curve” and that determined their potential for life. Shortly after its creation, the IQ test turned into the “crystal ball” of the education system. Children took the test and their future was decided. The IQ test took over the education system. Instead of being a helping teachers teach and helping students learn, it turned into an evaluation system that focused on formal scores and taught kids to pass tests.

Read more about diagnosing learning difficulties incorrectly in kindergarten

Real Education

Smiling students after graduationWhen I was a kid, my parents valued education and told my sisters and me that getting a good education was the key to having opportunities in life. My mother was a school teacher, so she could help us with homework throughout most of our school years, and my father, well, he was sorry he never got the chance to get more education, so he just gave us the drive.

But when I grew up and had children of my own, I realized that my path had been laid out for me and that I had pursued education without ever stopping to ask my self why. I may have chosen my fields of study, but the thought of traveling, taking a “gap year” to work or even starting a business had never crossed my mind.

If we look at the history of knowledge, we can see that it was once reserved to special people, such as nobles, religious leaders and professional scholars. Later on, getting a “good education” required no entitlement, only money, and over time, education became more and more accessible to everyday people.

Still, the feeling that education gives you and edge and lifts your social standing remained and was transferred from one generation to the next. Knowledge was power, or so everybody thought.

Read more about education for the real world

My School Horror: Untouchable

Girl looking sadSchool was not one of the best periods in my life. I have become a teacher in hope of making a different in the lives of the many children like I was who are not very good in their studies, have few or no friends and struggle.

It is hard for people to imagine this, but for some kids, school is a big struggle for survival. This struggle is carried with them for years to come, even when those kids become parents themselves. When I talk to my clients about the negative beliefs they have about themselves, I discover that many of them were formed in school, when other kids said nasty things that they had no way of overcoming. I understand this very well, because I was the same. It took me a long time get over it and what really helped me was moving from primary school to middle school.

In 1st Grade, I was not a very popular girl. If there was a hierarchy in class, I was at the bottom of it, with 2 other kids that had their own problems. I loved going to school, because my teacher was the angel for me. She was soft and understanding and always treated me nicely, but the other kids never wanted to play with me.

When I did not come to school, it was very hard for my teacher to get one of the kids to come over and give me the homework (although some kids lived in my neighborhood). In the morning, when we had to stand in pairs in front of the classroom door, I was always left at the end and the child that had to give me his hand did this it in disgust. Although my teacher was very kind to me, I was always alone. Every year, until the end of primary school, when the end of year came and my class gave a performance, I stood at the back, holding a sign or something, by myself.

Was I maybe just not a friendly girl?

Read more about my school horror

Parents are Failing Exams

Girl doing homeworkExams have been a big part of schooling for ages and I think they will be here for years to come, yet every year that goes by, I am more convinced they defeat the purpose they were created for. Teachers use exams to measure the kids’ success, which is OK, but they forget that the kids’ success is mainly related to how successful they were at teaching their subjects.

I am extremely upset with the way exams are conducted. My own children, Eden, Tsoof and Noff, vary greatly in age. They have studied in many places around the world with different teachers and in different school systems, and I have encountered this problem everywhere, so no matter where you live, this post is for you, because parents have the power to change it.

The reason I am extremely upset is that one of my students, a gorgeous girl who came for an assessment, was about to finish 7th Grade and go to 8th Grade, but could not read at 3rd Grade level and was doing very poorly in class. When I did her assessment, I was convinced I was wrong and made some mistake, but she could not read a short paragraph of instructions and failed at 3rd Grade comprehension level.

Now, I have a question for you. What is the point of having tests if a girl is allowed to move from one grade to the next without recognizing she has a problem and without giving her any help?! Her mother was very, very angry. She had sent her precious daughter to private schools from the first day of schooling, her school had complained during the previous year about her daughter’s behavior, but no one ever thought of saying anything about her poor academic achievements, never mind her enormous frustration.

The poor girl had been overlooked for nearly 5 years!

Read more about what parents must do with exams

My School Horror: Lazy Kids

Asa Butterfield - HugoA few weeks ago, I starting writing about horror stories that happen at school when teachers are not aware of how their actions affect the children and when they do not know what is happening in kids’ lives outside of school. The teacher in today’s story is kind, loves her students and does an amazingly great job under tough circumstances, but despite her best intentions, something went horribly wrong.

While my previous post was about events that happened 38 years ago (you can calculate my age now), this event took place just recently at a school nearby.

Sharon was a 6th Grade teacher and tried very hard to make Josh participate in class activities. Josh was just a lazy kid. He did not do his homework, he was rude and violent towards other kids and was a typical troublemaker. Every day he was absent from school was a great day. She tried giving him tasks, helped him and did all the regular behavior management things to get him interested and engaged, but nothing worked. When she thought she had exhausted all her options, she decided to call his home and tell Josh’s parents about his behavior. His parents said, “Thank you for letting us know. We’ll talk to Josh and make sure he never causes any more trouble at school”.

The following day, Josh came to class and was very quiet. It was a summer day, but he was wearing a long-sleeved jumper. Sharon felt something was wrong with that and asked him to stay with her after class. She asked him about the jumper. At first, he said he was a bit cold in the morning, but eventually, she asked him to take off his shirt, just for a second.

Read more about how to help kids learn better

School Horrors: My Torn Notebook

Scared little girlThis week, I had the opportunity to discuss school horrors with 3 of my clients. One of them was a 45-year-old man who could not handle school because he had to “toughen up” at the age of 4 when his father left home. Another one was a 13-year-old girl who was about to start 8th Grade with a 3rd Grade reading abilities and was convinced she was stupid. The third one was a 48-year-old woman who was told all her life she was stupid, never succeeded in her schooling and thought it was an obstacle to finding a job. All three of them described school as a period of horror when they were scared to be there and when teaching was about pumping information without considering their life’s circumstances – teaching out of context.

During coaching, I usually share some of my personal experience with my clients, so it was very natural for me to share one of my horror stories from school. Unfortunately, I have had too many. When I tell them, I re-live them in my mind and have clear memories of them. I remember the names, the places, the settings and the feelings I have had. I shared these stories because I wanted my clients to consider that in spite the horrors of our childhood, we can all make it. In spite of our parents not protecting us, we can make it. In spite of our teachers not teaching us with the right context in mind, we can be very successful. And happy.

All of them just looked at me quietly for a while. One of them started crying (and it was not the 13-year-old). Another one said, “Ronit, you are making this up”. The third one said, “It’s impossible! You look like you’ve been successful all your life”. Then, all of them left their sessions believing they can make it too.

Gal said I should write it down so more people will be inspired, more parents will be involved in their kids’ schooling and more teachers will teach within their students’ context, so here I am sharing with you my first horror story from school.

Read more about school horror stories

State of the Union

clip_image003_thumbAs a parent, a life coach, a business consultant and a former corporate employee and manager, I have become increasingly concerned about morals. Until recently, I read or heard about people doing things that seem obviously wrong to do, and wondered how they could bring themselves to do them.

Now, I believe I know some of the reasons. Better yet, perhaps these reasons can lead us all towards a solution.

Almost invariably, you turn on the news or read the papers and find out about somebody who was caught scheming, embezzling or downright cheating. These people seem to have no regard for other people’s wellbeing, possessions or money. Sometimes, people are killed over what seems like a minor conflict, because the killer values something else – their wallet, their leather jacket or their girlfriend – over their life.

In response to Ronit’s posts on bullying, many readers have shared stories of workplace bullies who abuse their position, physical size or some weakness of their co-workers in ways that hurt them and ruins morale and productivity. Do these people follow a different value system to the rest of us? Given the rise of bullying, probably not.

So what is going on in the world? Has everybody gone mad? Is there nobody who still does the right things?

In his great book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely presents a conflict between two modes of living: the “social norm” and the “market norm”.

Read more about how to make the world a better place

Reading Skills for Kids

Reading babyMost of the new information kids receive at school comes from reading. Even if that information is on the computer, they still need to read it. So if there is something you need to do well as a parent, it is to make sure your kids read well, that they understand what they read and that they read in order to find and use information.

Kids are not born with reading skills, but they still need them to build their knowledge and understanding. We develop these skills in them by reading for fun or by reading to get information.

Although I believe that reading for fun is very important and can help increase your vocabulary and understanding, I think it is limited, because kids cannot check on their own if they understood the stories or not. Many books have layers of understanding and the young reader cannot tell which layer he or she is reading at and what they might be missing.

School is pretty much the only place where we can check kids’ understanding and help them develop their reading skills and teachers are qualified to tell which level of reading and which reading skill is expected at each age, but as a parent, there are things you can teach your kids at home that will help them greatly with their reading development.

Read more about how to teach kids’ reading skills

Bejeweled Sharpens Your Mind

Bejeweled Blitz logo I am not a great fan of playing computer games, because I believe it takes children away from social interaction and from creativity. I must admit that when I was a student, I worked at the Special Education Library designing similar card games and board games and dreaming of creating something like a computer game to make things easy for me.

Computer games are not a dirty word if they support the development of the player. When a child plays a puzzle on the table, their cognitive skills are stretched as much as when they play a puzzle on the computer.

I remember preparing hundreds of pages that ask the kids to circle the “odd one out”. Now, they can play many computer games that are way more colorful and varied that reuse the same “cards” for the children to choose from. I was limited by the number of stamps and my drawing ability and used lots of paper to allow each child to have enough pages to experience and learn. Now, any simple computer game can give the kids endless opportunities to find the odd one out, with great graphics, sounds and animation.

Read more about how to benefit from computer games