Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sunday Morning Shout Out


I am new to boys. Our 21 month-old son has been a crash-course in understanding the opposite gender in children. People will ask me if I find it different raising a little boy compared to  little girls, upon which they receive an emphatic,  yes, most definitely!  I have many funny anecdotes. On a serious note, I am very concerned about the “boy crisis” that continues to occur in this country.

From books like The Trouble With Boys, by Peg Tyre  and Richard Whitmire’s Why Boys Fail to the recent article that appeared in  “The Journal of Human Resources,” there is growing concern over the academic gap that boys are exhibiting. The article  “What’s Causing the Gender Gap,”  by Associate Editor Connie Matthiessen, at the Great Schools blog site, discusses how boys are consistently being outperformed by girls; are far more  likely than girls to repeat a grade or drop out of school; and are twice as likely to end up in  a juvenile detention facility.  Moreover, the article discusses how girls are now earning  60 percent of college degrees, with an even greater disparity among minority populations.

What is behind this phenomenon?  -Perhaps learning and behavioral differences. Matthiessen discusses how boys “less behaviorally compliant ways” affect their academic outcomes.  Think of the stereotypical squirmy boy, who may be very bright and curious, but unable to stay in his seat and do quiet work.  Mattiessen discusses how boys do not behave as “well” as girls in school at an early age, in terms of being able to: sit still; sit quietly; pay attention; demonstrate knowledge and participate appropriately in the classroom; and in general show a positive attitude towards learning.  The recent journal article  found that much of the grade that is assigned  during the early years is  based on behavior, as opposed to how you  would expect a boy  to perform  based on testing. The potential implications of such findings is that this early non cognitive lag in learning, persists and is never really overcome.  Different treatment and different experiences of the classroom produce different outcomes for boys as opposed to girls, and not favorable at that!

This is so troublesome to me on many fronts! On a personal level, I want to see my active little boy fully engaged in learning and not penalized by an environment that might not be conducive to his learning style. What troubles me as well as I wonder if this greater academic gap grows with tightened curriculum that limits and lessens time for recess and playtime, in pursuit of class time that favors a sedentary child with high test scores.  As schools  “race to the top” to meet core standards, we are losing learners!  It feels more like teaching to the test at times, as opposed to educating the whole child.  We need a learning environment that allows teachers the chance and time to engage boys and girls differently, based on their different learning styles. We need parents to be aware of this disparity and to help their children be engaged in learning, by doing their part at home to prepare them, and by advocating for the right learning environment and techniques for their child who might not meet the favored sedentary mold.  Too much is at stake for the status quo…..

Happy Easter!

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Classroom Presentation Tips for Students


Classroom-Presentation-tips-for-StudentsOral presentations can be daunting, but they are great ways for students to gain confidence and to learn to speak in front of a group of people. Giving presentations is a valuable life skill that can help to further your career, so it’s important for you to acquire the skills you need to deliver your message with confidence. Here are some tips to help you prepare and to ensure that you get the best possible mar for your presentation.

Write It Yourself

Writing your own presentation will mean that you are being sincere and you’re more likely to remember it. Being yourself is the key to a successful presentation. Write your presentation in the same way that you talk; trying to be too professional will make you sound stiff and unnatural. Put some of your personality into your presentation too. Presentations that are peppered with personality will be warmly received.

Practice Makes Perfect

Place keywords on a series of cards to help you to remember where you are in your speech and then practice, practice, practice! If you know your presentation by heart, you will feel more confident and will sound more natural. Practice first in front of the mirror until you have the presentation memorized. Then ask friends or family members to listen to your speech so that you become accustomed to speaking in front of others. They can help with pointers that will make your presentation better. You can also make a video of yourself to see which parts of your presentation need work.

Visual Aids

It’s always a good idea to have something that helps to illustrate your points. If you are shy, visual aids will divert attention from you and this will help you to feel more comfortable. Make sure your visual aids are appropriate and not too distracting.

Take it Easy

Talk slowly, like you would if you were having a conversation. Talking too quickly makes you sound nervous and makes it difficult for people to follow you. If you have trouble speaking in front of a crowd, try focusing on someone with whom you feel comfortable talking like a teacher or a friend. If you can, make eye contact with as many people in the audience as you can – this helps to include them in your presentation.

Good Start, Great Finish

Make your introductions and conclusions pop! That way you will get people’s attention and leave a memorable impression. Summarize your most important points here so that people really understand what you are saying.

Dress for success

Dress professionally, but not in a way that distracts your audience. Being yourself is the most important part of your presentation. So relax… you’ve got this!

Remember no-one was born a natural orator or speaker. The skills and talents they have come from years of hard work, study and practice. So keep practicing and honing your skills. Break a leg!

Note: this post was adapted from a Tutor Doctor Corporate blog posted on 3/15/2013 titled ‘Classroom Presentation tips for Students

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WNY Egg Hunts


Most adults remember an Easter egg hunt from their childhood. For me it was the egg hunts my parents (aka. the Easter bunny) did at the house on Easter morning. At that time they were real eggs mixed with a few plastic eggs filled with coins. We have continued this tradition with our children and have even added a bit of a Belgian flare to it by including clothing and print items to the egg hunting area.

As a child there were a few public egg hunts but those were not my favorite since they were usually quite competitive and could get nasty. In the last decades the number of public egg hunts sponsored by civic groups, fire departments, towns, villages, etc. have greatly increased. I’m not sure if they have gotten any less competitive but there is a tendency for there to be sufficient supervision, prizes and eggs to please all the participants. The Saturday before Easter Sunday tends to be the day when most egg hunts occur.

To help parents find the many egg hunts that are scheduled in their geographic area sites such as Easter Egg Hunts and Events.org and your local newspaper/TV news or parents/child activity web site will have locations, dates and times. For the Buffalo area Fun 4 Kids has a good listing.

In preparing for a public egg hunt parents should remember the following to make the event more enjoyable:

  • Plan to arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled start
  • Listen to the instructions
  • Bring a bag or basket
  • Make sure your camera batteries are charged
  • Let your child find the eggs and not you…I’ll admit I found this hard to do when she was a toddler!
  • Dress appropriately…here in WNY conditions can range from cold/snow to wet/muddy to hot/dry
  • Talk to your children about manners and while getting eggs to help others they may see having difficulty

MamaNYC has a nice blog titled Easter Egg Hunt Etiquette – A Reminder for Parents and Children! that I’d recommend to parents. I especially found this excerpt from the post to be something to convey to our five year-old:

Sit down with your children before the Easter egg hunt and remind them that there will be other children present and everyone deserves a fair shot. Just as they are excited to get onto the egg hunt field, so is another little boy and girl in your community. Be considerate of others and remember kindness goes a long way. Tell your child how proud you will be at the end of the hunt if you notice he is being the bigger person when faced with the argument “whose egg is it?” when another child grabs an egg at the same time.

Younger children won’t grab as many eggs, so remind them there is no room for bragging on the Easter egg hunt. Some children will get more than they will, but others might not wind up with more than a single egg. Be happy with your basket without gloating — and congratulate others on their finds, too!

Happy Hunting!

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Innovative Ways To Get Your Child To Eat Their Veggies


The obesity epidemicVeggies is growing throughout the world as more and more ‘processed’ food becomes available. Here in North America the problem is compounded by the lack of exercise. As a former dietetic assistant and parent I know it is difficult to get children to avoid unhealthy food and lifestyle choices. If getting your student to eat their fruits and vegetables is a problem, then you’re not alone. If you want to avoid those long battles at the dinner table, then there are some fun and innovative ways to get your child to love their greens. Fruits and vegetables are essential for providing vitamins and minerals. When children learn good eating habits, they will be healthier and happier. This generally leads to better social and academic performance.

Salad Bar
Instead of serving cooked vegetable or ready-made salads, cut up raw ingredients and let your students make their own combinations. Very often, just giving them a choice is enough to convince them to try something healthier. You can also get them to make pictures from their salad bar choices by arranging ingredients on the plate.

Get Cooking
Nothing works better than getting your children to prepare their own dishes. When they have been part of the process, they are more likely to eat the finished product. You can get them to go shopping with you and select the veggies they like best. Get them to wash and dry the veggies. Older children can cut and prepare veggies or make soups and pasta dishes. Involvement now will help make them a better parent.

The ‘One Bite’ Rule
Remember how you hated mushrooms or olives as a kid, but loved them as an adult? Most kids are resistant to new foods or new flavors. When your kids don’t like a fruit or vegetable, employ the ‘one bite’ rule to slowly get them used to the flavor and texture. Don’t force them to finish large portions, ask only for one bite. Studies show that student can take up to eight attempts at a new dish before they are willing to add it to their ‘like’ list.

Rewards
Studies show that tangible rewards encourage children to eat more vegetables and fruit. children who were offered a reward (in this case a sticker) ate twice as much as children who were offered no reward. Children who received praise for eating veggies also ate more than a control group who weren’t offered any praise or rewards.

Rebranding
Creative reinvention is a great way to add pizazz to dishes your children don’t like. My brother hated carrots and I refused cauliflower, but when my mother mashed the two together to make an orange mash she called power paste, we were both hooked. Change the way you prepare vegetables that your students don’t like, add a snazzy new name and voila! They will be inquisitive enough to give it a go.

Lead By Example
Eat well yourself and mention often how much you love your fruits and vegetables. Create a happy family atmosphere at the dinner table rather than a sombre, anxious setting. Be enthusiastic about the meal you have prepared and give your students the choice. Simply asking them what veggies and fruit they want may be the best way to provide meals that they will enjoy. Don’t force them to finish; instead let them leave the table and have some water. Offer them a half portion of their meal later on if they are hungry.

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How to Encourage your Student to become an Entrepreneur: Lemonade Stand Part 2


Business 099: The Lemonade Stand

Business 099: The Lemonade Stand

Will your student be an employee or an employer? Instilling the entrepreneurial spirit is a great way to show them the skills they need to have great business acumen. If they have a hobby or a skill, they can easily turn this into a small business where they can learn valuable lessons on how to be successful.

Grassroots Training
The first thing to do is to start with some training. Show your student the inner workings of the business world by finding them a mentor that can show them the ropes. Get them to pick a business they like and then find a friend or family member who can act as a mentor. Many organizations have mentoring groups and its easy to find mentors on the Internet.

Mentoring can take a number of different forms. Your student can actually work in a business over the summer to learn the ropes, or they can shadow their mentors to learn what it takes to be a great business person. There is so much to master from a business plan to marketing, service and financial management.

Trial Run
Once your student has a basic idea of how businesses run, its time to put their ideas into practice. This can be as simple as running a lemonade stand to starting their own online Etsy store. Etsy lets you set up an online store and list items for sale for very little capital outlay.

Business is about learning in a scientific manner what works and what doesn’t. Adapting to customer needs, and changing aspects of your business in ‘managed’ ways to increase sales is an important part of running a business. For example, if your students are running a lemonade stand, you can teach them about making their lemonade stand more visible by adding decorations. You can teach them about customer service and how being friendly and helpful will keep their customers happy. You can also teach them about diversifying their portfolios by offering cookies with their lemonade. You can discuss their environmental impact and suggest using biodegradable cups. To illustrate your points, start with a plain lemonade stand with no decorations, poor service and no cookies. Add a new aspect every day and see your profits increase.

Online Stores
Older students can try Etsy or eBay stores. Here they can take hobbies like making jewelry or upcycled furniture and turn them into a store. Once they have enough stock for their store, you can help them to work out their costs to price items fairly. You can also explore various marketing methods like flyers, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, guest blogging and craft fares.

These endeavours help your students to make a little extra money while learning about the business world. If you create an online market or do things in your neighbourhood, there doesn’t need to be a large capital outlay. Ensure that your students balance their business time with academic time too.

The bottom line here is that learning how to be a successful business person is not something you are born with. It takes time to develop and parents can help their children in this process. An article on Yahoo from Inc.com titled ‘7 Habits of the Ultra Wealthy‘ illustrates one of the most important factors that distinguishes the ultra wealthy from the rest of the population. That distinguishing factor is having a financial interest in their work. The article states:

An equity position is necessary to get wealthy. Ninety percent of the super-successful say this is true, versus fewer than half of the masses. More importantly, 80 percent of “business brilliant” people say they already have an equity stake in their work. Just 10 percent of the middle-class have an equity position of any kind, and the vast majority (70 percent) say they’re not even trying to get one.

Note: This entry was adapted from the Tutor Doctor blog published on 3/18/2013 titled How to Encourage your Student to become an Entrepreneur.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Almost 20 years ago, my dear friend Yumiko came home with me on winter break. I was a wide-eyed young freshman at Fredonia State, who was ready to travel and be a citizen of the world. I credit my parents with that. Starting at home, my parents built in a love of our own cultural background and tradition. They expanded on that by helping my siblings and I to be curious about the world.  I believe a large part of this is that they showed us they were curious about the world. They introduced us to friends of diverse backgrounds, diverse foods, diverse music, and diverse cultural traditions. Though we lived in the country, we explored urban areas. When we took family vacations, we learned about different cultures within our country, whether it was Amish, urban, Southern, or Native American culture.

A few times, we traveled outside of the country. This planted an incredible seed and thirst within me for more travel. Or should I say wander lust was born!  From an early age, I strove to be culturally competent or literate and now desire the same for our children.

Flash forward to the present, Yumiko, her husband, and her children are set to visit us this weekend.  I have enjoyed an incredible friendship with my dear friend for many years. As a professor of English at a nursing college, she has brought her students to the United States for several years in a row. Most years, I have had a chance to see her. This will be the first time I will meet her husband and her children in person. When I visited her over 10 years ago in Japan, neither of us had children. I was just married.  Now our children will meet.  Our children do not speak Japanese; their children do not speak much English. But I am confident the language of childhood will transcend the situation and some incredible, new experiences of friendship and culture will occur. I will get to hug my dear friend and have tea and conversation with her, to pick up where we left off, like old friends do.

For many, cultural competency is a buzz word in education and career fields. To be able to appreciate, understand, and interact with people of different cultures and worldviews is an incredible asset academically and in the work world. As I am also reminded of this weekend, it is an incredible gift…

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Meaning Through Photo Memories


Me at my old desk and area in the office. I still remember the days when you could smoke in here and it was just a blue haze...glad thos days are gone!

Me at my old desk and area in the office. I still remember the days when you could smoke in here and it was just a blue haze…glad thos days are gone!

Today I go back to the Erie County Home to load up the items I purchased at the recent Auction in the facility. It should prove to be interesting because by now many of the items that were in the facility and gave it character are gone. I’ll try to get some images of the skeleton, but for now I’m remembering what was.

It goes without saying that us humans are amazing creatures…even if it is in our own minds. One of the unique aspects of us is our desire to capture images that convey meaning to the person doing the image. Typically the meaning for the individual is to have a souvineour or picture that they can use to remember where they were, what they did, who they met, who they love, etc.  Often it is their desire to use or share that image with a larger audience. They use it to provide color when they tell a story, brag about something, be a work of art, etc. One sad fact about most images is that after the individual(s) in it or who took it passes away the verbal story and rich emotional meaning of the image is lost forever.

We saw this at the Home in what used to be the patient property room. In these rooms there were still suitcases, boxes and items left in the rooms.  On top of one stack was the very large, framed wedding pictures of a couple in what appeared to be the 1950’s. They were aestetically beautiful but lacked the color and emotional meaning they would have imparted had they been family or someone we had known. Instead there was an emptiness…a sense of loss and despair we had thinking about how these items would probably be disposed of in the coming days.

Standing On skids in the dietary dry storeroom where I worked, played and even slept. What a great way to keep the weight off lifting cases and walking all day!

Standing On skids in the dietary dry storeroom where I worked, played and even slept. What a great way to keep the weight off lifting cases and walking all day!

Our consumer research work on digital imaging years earlier informed us not only of the reasons and joys we find in taking images but also in the sad fact that the vast majority get lost, destroyed or forgotten. All of our research participants expressed the saddness that is brought on when photos are lost. It is like “losing your memory” my boss and owner of a global company told me. He had the sad experience of thieves ransacking his house years prior to our study. No money or valuable were taken. However, the intruders had a more malicious intent and took the one thing they knew he couldn’t replace…pictures and video of his family.

Looking back at my 18 years or employment at the Home I realized I have no pictures of myself at the facility that I can think of. That is not to say there are none, but if there are they are only a few prints in boxes since those were the days before digital. Thanks to my wife I now have a few since she took some of me at the Erie County Home. What I put here are very meaningful and certainly bring back zillions of rich memories I thought I had lost. It helped me remember my ‘path’ to now. I gained a deeper appreciation of the people I worked with. The images also helped me understand ‘me’ more and share a bit more with my wife … and now you!

Me on 'my' Pallet jack. This was my friend and enemy. It saved my back but broke my foot! It sold for a couple hundred.

Me on ‘my’ Pallet jack. This was my friend and enemy. It saved my back but broke my foot! It sold for a couple hundred.

Moral of the story? Protect your images and pass the tradition on to your children.

No I'm not in it but it was the last picture I took and one that has been in my head for decades. I never knew if the artist intended it to be incomplete or not? This was in the basement West Building

No I’m not in it but it was the last picture I took and one that has been in my head for decades. I never knew if the artist intended it to be incomplete or not? This was in the basement West Building

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