Monthly Archives: August 2012

Working With Shyness

Looking at the Tutor Doctor blog yesterday held a nice surprise for me. It had a post about shyness that I wish I had read back many moons ago as a student and perhaps it would have helped me get further past the awkwardness if someone prior to my outstanding Masters teacher took some time and pushed me through some of the baggage I had since 3rd grade. Thank you Dr. Treffinger! You really helped me understand what it means to dive in deep and use knowledge and wisdom to share the love of your work with others.

Here is a copy of the blog. I hope you enjoy it. Have a safe Labor Day!

Coping With Shyness

Being shy can, at times, make your student feel isolated and awkward in social situations. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being shy, and most students will go through phases where they feel shy, but if being shy is negatively impacting your student’s social life, and they express a desire to be more gregarious, then there are a number of ways in which you can help them come out of their shell.

Practice Makes Perfect
Often, shy students don’t know what to say or feel awkward in situations and this causes them to withdraw. One way to overcome this is to practice potential situations at home. Pick a situation in which your student feels shy, like ordering food at a restaurant or talking to a boy or girl they like. Role-play different situations and discuss possible answers or topics of conversation. Get your student to practice on people they feel comfortable with like friends or family members. Set them challenges and give them rewards when they do well.

Actions Speak Louder…
Presenting a good example is also helpful. Make sure that you are friendly and use the same techniques you discuss with your students when you are in social situations with them. You can make a game of social interactions. Start by awarding points to your student when they say ‘hello’ to people in the service industry. Up the ante as they become more comfortable. Set points goals and give them rewards when they reach their goals.

Extra Activities
Encourage your student to participate in anything that they enjoy. Playing sports, hobbies, music and learning new skills will inspire confidence. If there is anything that interests your student, try to get them to take lessons, join a club or a social group. Building confidence is something you can help with too! Steer clear of harsh criticism and complement them when they do well. Never apologise for your student’s shyness.

Coping Mechanisms
Although you should provide your student with support and comfort when they are in difficult situation, try to avoid solving the situation for them. You can discuss ways for them to resolve difficult situations and also provide them with the tools they need to get through difficulties on their own. Being able to overcome difficulties will build their confidence and teach them valuable life skills. When you allow them to overcome difficulties by themselves, you are expressing a tacit belief in their abilities. Having confidence in them will help them to have confidence in themselves.

Remember that shyness is a gift. It’s a personality trait that shows that students are caring, kind, attentive listeners and have a depth others may lack. Being shy is a personality trait that is natural and should never be seen as a disadvantage. 

(This post was taken from the Tutor Doctor blog and was originally presented on Aug. 30th)


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Gifted Challenges

Having a gifted child can certainly a blessing, but most North American education systems do not have sufficient means to challenge and accommodate a gifted student. Large class sizes and limited resources mean that teachers have to focus on the average students and rarely have time to provide the challenges and encouragement a gifted child needs. This often leads to a lack of motivation, boredom and wasted potential. In extreme cases, the gifted student suffers from social alienation and anxiety that result in behavioural problems and underachievement. Gifted students have a propensity for dropping out of academic institutions.

How do I know if my child is gifted?
Gifted children are tested by (among others) the National Association for Gifted Children in the US and by MENSA in Canada. Gifted children excel in one or more fields. Some provinces and states have special programs for gifted children, but most have to make do with the same curriculum as their peers. This poses not only academic dilemmas, but also social ones. Gifted children are often more sensitive or energetic and have a drive for perfectionism.
Identification of gifted children is difficult as educators are not trained to recognize behavioural traits and gifted children often don’t do well in class. The ineffective process of identifying gifted children, and the lack of funding to help them develop means that most of them slip through the cracks and end up underachieving. Most educators and funding are geared towards kids who have learning disabilities or special needs and it’s difficult to garner support for the gifted child.

Challenges gifted children face
Chandra Meseley has a gifted daughter, Nya and she discusses some of the difficulties her daughter faces; “There are other characteristics of giftedness that for many, including my daughter, are telltale signs – excessive energy, unending curiosity, emotionally advanced, early and superior language skills or a need for perfectionism.”
Nya’s teacher, Brenda Natt explains the behavioral difficulties and need for perfection that gifted children have: “While their IQs are high, they have behavioral aspects that need special attention and the right teachers with the right understanding to guide them.”
Boredom and behavioural issues severely hamper the development of gifted children and they often end up at the bottom of their classes or dropping out altogether.  Jack Goldberg, from the University of Alberta, explains; “[The gifted student] may be bored. The loss, though, would be largely his own. Parents would argue it’s society’s loss, because this kid is a budding Einstein. But the truth is that most gifted kids don’t become Einsteins.”

Most parents find the best remedy is a gifted course or a private tutor who has experience with gifted children. While completing their curriculum at school, the students are further challenged with tasks and projects that give them a deeper understanding of what they are learning at school. Tutors also help to build confidence and challenge young gifted minds. Tutors work hands-on with your child to fulfill their individual needs and work at a pace that suits them best.

(Note: This post originally appeared on the Tutor Doctor blog on Aug. 25th)

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Preparing for the SAT and ACT Tests

With High School Junior and Seniors getting ready to get back to school in the coming weeks comes the need for these student and their parents to start thinking about their life and career options once they graduate. If college or university is something they are striving for they need to start looking at what schools need from them such as standardized academic test results. The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT (American College Testing) tests are designed to gauge your college readiness. Getting into a desired college can possibly give you the edge in your career, but preparing for the SAT or ACT can be a very intimidating prospect. The first thing to remember is that you can take the exam more then one time. If you plan well enough in advance you can complete the test more than once before you need to apply to colleges/universities. So relax…nerves are your worst enemy in an exam.

As the SAT‘s publisher states “The SAT and other College Board tests are offered several times a year. Most students take the SAT for the first time during the spring of their junior year and a second time during the fall of their senior year.” Currently, the following are SAT testing dates for 2012-13:

  • October 6
  • November 3
  • December 1
  • January 26
  • March 9
  • May 4
  • June 1

Remember that you need to register to complete the exams almost 3 weeks before these dates and there are fees.  Registering on the College Board site does allow you to sign-up for one of these tests and provides a host of free information and the ability to take a real sample SAT test. Be aware though that you will get a load of information from colleges etc. once you register. Remember that your guidance office can also provide information and often answer questions about the tests, dates, and college requirements.

The second thing to remember is that Practice, Preparation, Review and Tutoring will help you score better.  Tutors are useful because they are able to help plan a schedule that is realistic, and will ensure that you are as prepared as you can possibly be. Tutors will also look at your study methodology. So many students are really bright, but because they have never learned effective study methods, their grades don’t reflect their true talent. A tutor can help you improve your memory and use techniques that make it easier to learn large volumes of information.

Tutors will also help you with exam techniques and how to best answer SAT and ACT questions. Planning your exam strategy will ensure that you have enough time to answer all the questions. Most importantly, a tutor can review your knowledge and identify the missing blocks in your foundation of information and skills. Filling in these missing blocks will help you to take on anything that the SAT and/or ACT throw at you.

Once you are confident in your knowledge of the basics, you need to start taking practice tests. There are a number of books that offer SAT assistance and can be found at book stores such as Barnes & Noble. The official book for the SAT is the College Board’s ‘Official SAT Study Guide‘. There are a plethora of online test sites where you can look at previous test examples. These are listed below for you. Taking practice tests is essential to success. Some of the test questions are tricky and the way in which they ask questions will be very different from what you are accustomed to. This can really trip you up if you are not adequately prepared.

It’s also essential to know how marks are distributed so that you can be sure to maximize your score and spend enough time on each aspect of the answer. There is a very particular way in which to answer these questions, so make sure you practice them.

It’s also important to know that the ACT and SAT question methodologies differ greatly. Doing well on one will not guarantee a good result on the other. This means that if you struggled with the SAT, the way they ask the questions on the ACT might suit you better.

For the best chance at getting into the college you want, it is advisable to do both tests. Just remember that even though you can take the test more than once, all of your test scores are recorded and will be available to your college entrance board.

Useful Test Prep Sites
Test Prep Practice
Test Prep Review

(Note: This post was adapted from the Tutor Doctor blog posted on Aug 21’st titled ‘How to Prepare for the SAT and ACT tests‘)

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

As summer thoughts increasingly shift to school time thoughts for parents, one thing that remains a hot topic for parents is nutrition in schools. This week, study findings from the AAP Pediatric journal, as related at the Health Blog at the National Public Radio (NPR) website, found that regulations around snacks and vending machine items in schools do seem to be helping with the battle over childhood obesity. Daniel Taber, health policy expert and lead researcher from the University of Illinois at Chicago, looked at kids from 40 states between 2003 and 2006. He and his colleagues compared changes in body mass index and obesity status in children in eleven states with strict laws on food sold in schools with children from 29 states without strict laws.

They concluded that children who went to schools in states with detailed nutrition standards were less likely to remain overweight or obese than children who lived in states without such strong restrictions. Another finding of the study was that consistent standards were important. Students were less likely to gain unwanted weight when the strict standards of their elementary schools were reinforced in higher level grades. Additionally, it was found that the schools that fared the best had very specific guidelines for food sold in vending machines, a la carte in school cafeterias, and in campus stores, giving us all food for thought, or at least something to chew on. It is also important that parents remember that they can talk to their schools and school boards with concerns about food in their children’s school. The more school officials hear there is a concern the more likely school food will be improved and made more nutritious!

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A Plethora of Papers

One of the constants of my life since starting school way back in kindergarten has been the excessive amounts of paper that seem to accumulate. Whether it’s homework sheets or field trip permission slips or fundraising paraphernalia, school produces a lot of paper. When I was in school, I did a spectacularly bad job of keeping these papers organized. My locker would build up a solid base of compressed papers, my backpack zipper would frequently snag on the stray papers that I would randomly shove in among my books and binders, and my notebooks would be overflowing with old papers.

Of course, keeping every paper is not feasible, nor is it particularly conducive to organization. So what can you do to help you or your child take better care of papers? First of all, set up a few minutes each day to go through new papers and figure out where they belong. The saying “a stitch in time saves nine” comes into play here. Letting papers accumulate for more than a day means you’ll have a bigger mess to deal with, so take the time up front to control the onslaught. Obviously, recycle the papers that aren’t necessary, but don’t just let the necessary papers grow into a huge messy pile of their own. For classes, make sure you have a binder or folder that papers can be put into. The easiest way I’ve found to stay organized is to put the date in the upper right-hand corner of each paper I get, which makes it easy to refile a paper if it somehow ends up out of place.

As for permission slips and other, long-term papers (such as fundraising sheets), try having bins for each child in the house. These bins will still need to be gone through, but not necessarily on a daily basis.

What are other tips you have for managing the major influx of papers that school brings?

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Sink or Swim? When to Intervene In Your Child’s Life

Today, my little sister came over to use the pool. She’s been in swimming classes for a few years now, and she’s a pretty strong swimmer as long as she’s wearing some kind of floatie. Today, however, she jumped right into the pool wearing only her swimsuit, without waiting for anyone else to get into the water with her. Her mom and I sat on the edge of the pool, a little bit stunned. She wasn’t in any real danger, of course, but watching her struggle to make it over the ladder was difficult.

After all, sometimes what looks like sinking on the surface is really just swimming underwater. (Image Credit:

It made me think about how parenting is often a delicate balance between knowing when to help your child and when to let him or her struggle. There’s a fine line between swimming and sinking, and it’s hard to know when the boundary is being crossed, both literally and metaphorically. As my little sister flailed around in the pool, my immediate reaction was to reach in and help her make her way to the edge of the pool. I didn’t want to see her struggling. However, I managed to fight the impulse, and she eventually did get back to the ladder entirely of her own power. After a few minutes of watching her, I realized that although she was struggling to swim, she was still managing to accomplish her goals. Sure, it took her longer than if I or her mom had swept in to take charge, but the smile on her face when she reached the floating pool chair was something that could have come only from the pride of doing something all by herself.

You might think that the struggle of whether or not to intervene lessens as kids get older, but I think it might only get stronger. After all, the decision to take five extra minutes in the morning to let your son dress himself or your daughter tie her own sneakers is fairly simple. The greatest danger is your son goes to school with his shirt inside-out and your daughter’s shoelaces come untied before she even makes it on the bus. As kids get older, though, the stakes become higher. The mistakes have greater consequences.

Parenting isn’t about being in control of your kids, though. It’s about offering support. As your child gets older, they have to learn to become more independent, and that means you as a parent have to step back. Making the decision about when it’s time to intervene isn’t simple, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

How do you know when it’s time to intervene in your child’s decision making?

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Roommate Troubles

In honor of the beginning of moving into dorm season as well as my own relocation to a new apartment with a new roommate, I’ve decided to write a post that outlines my experiences with roommates through a few tips I’ve learned. I’ve lived with eleven people over the past five years, in various combinations of numbers and in different living situations, from double dorm rooms to a triple dorm. I’ve also spent the past year living by myself in a one bedroom apartment. So learn from my mistakes and feel free to add any of your own experiences!

What’s Mine Is Yours(?)

There were lots of things I didn’t think I would mind sharing when I first went off to college. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever shared a bedroom, but it was the first time that other person hadn’t been one of my siblings. The final straw with my freshman year roommate came with the hairbrush incident, in which I returned to the room to find hair that was obviously not mine tangled up in my hairbrush. Having definite lines about what you will and won’t share in a roommate situation is important. In my best living situation, in which food was involved, we each had our own cupboard and had to share a mini fridge and freezer, but we made it very clear from the beginning that we weren’t to use each other’s food without explicit permission. When it came to dishes or utensils or pots and pans, however, the agreement was simply that if you used it you had to wash it and return it. Setting up boundaries early in the relationship means you can avoid having hurt feelings later, and you can always address issues as they come up, which brings me to my next point.

Communication is Key

There are always going to be roommate disputes, and when you shove three teenage girls in a very small space with all their belongings, problems are bound to come up. What frequently happened my sophomore year of college was the ganging up effect, in which two roommates would commiserate about something the third roommate was doing and rather than having a discussion would start an argument that would end with a lot of hurt feelings. If we had been reasonable and sat down to have discussions rather than putting each other constantly on trial, our relationship would have gone much more smoothly.

Be Assertive

Moving away from home for the first time was stressful enough, but when I got to my freshman dorm room to find that my roommate had taken the best mattress, the best desk, the best chair, AND the side of the room that had the window, my emotions ran high. Rather than discussing any of these issues, however, I simply let them slide and let them breed eventual resentment. Don’t let issues fester, and don’t constantly be the one compromising by default. Bring up things that concern you and give the other person a chance to address the problem rather than assuming the worst.

Be (Y)Our Guest

Guests can be tricky, especially if you’re living in a situation where your sleeping area is also your common/socializing area. When I woke up one night to find a stranger in my roommate’s bed it quickly became clear that she had crossed a line and we had to deal with the situation. Whether it’s about guests spending the night or staying into the early hours of the morning, these decisions should be discussed without the guests present to overhear the conversation.

Can’t We Just Be Friends?

Sometimes you won’t be friends with your roommate, and that’s okay. It certainly is a lot funner to be great friends with your roommate, and I definitely recommend it if at all possible. Certainly don’t attempt to alienate your roommate, in any case. However, the roommate relationship is just as important as the friendship, and you can’t ignore roommate problems in favor of the friendship, because eventually the resentment will boil over and cause problems. Finding the friend/roommate balance can be tricky, but if you prioritize both relationships you’ll find a way to make it work.

Living with people has been a great experience for me. I’ve had some of my worst arguments with roommates as well as found some of my very best friends. Hopefully you’ll be able to avoid some of the more traumatic experiences I had by following these tips! Of course, you should always feel safe in your living space, and if your roommate seriously violates your right to feeling safe, you should talk to your Resident Advisor.

So what are your tips for living with someone new?

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