When to Conform and When to Follow the Herd

conformityThe balance of school teeters on the seesaw of conformity versus independence. Up until high school, all we want to do is conform. After we graduate, all we want to do is find our own path. This constant push and pull between independent thinking and social herding is what makes taking a risk to do things our own way that much more challenging. Yes, following the herd is easier and some would say even safer. Deviating from the flock is much more difficult and a little scary because now you have to rely on your own discretion.

In your academic life, then, when is is okay to take a chance and do your own thing? (Click to view our video on this topic)

Let’s look at the example of writing a boring 20 page research paper on a topic you know nothing about and aren’t that interested in. Your teacher has given you specific guidelines, including format, page requirement, due date, and discussion points. There seem to be limited things you have control over. So where is the risk? However, what you do have control over may surprise you: (1) the research you use to evidence your findings, (2) how you structure your analysis, and (3) word choice. Ah ha! Word choice– it’s a bigger deal than you may think, and one that will separate your paper from the “herd”. Sophisticated language, voice, writing for your audience — all these creative elements add up to what makes your writing–your take on a subject matter– unique. Your ability to express yourself in language, both written and verbal, is the foundation of strong communication, convincing arguments, and leadership. If you choose, school can be a place where you go out on that limb and make a bold choice to be different, even in the strictest of circumstances.

The flip side of this argument is laden with the fear of persecution: “Will I get a bad a grade for going against the grain? I can’t afford to fail this class! What if my teacher just doesn’t get it?”. With great risk, comes great reward. With no risk, comes complacency. It is of course up to you, but I encourage my students to take a chance (no matter how small) and write just a little bit differently than the person sitting in the next row. Why? Because school is not meant to be purely academic; there is a life lesson to be learned here too.

So the next time you have a writing assignment that looks as if it will be end of you, remember that even where there seems to be limited creative control you still have the opportunity to embrace the challenge by taking a chance.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

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Have a Little Faith

CoexistYour Weekly Dose of Honesty from Terry Tutors.com: At this point you probably know that I’m a little more than obsessed with SoulPancake. It’s just so uniquely uplifting and hopeful– celebrating rather than judging the different viewpoints we all bring to the same topic of discussion. And nothing can get more heated than the topic of religion, right!

SoulPancake’s web series, Have a Little Faith with host Zach Anner, takes you on a religious roller-coaster ride. It does not judge but rather gives you the knowledge from an insider’s point of view as a way to explore an ideology for yourself. I find this non-combative approach towards religion extremely insightful and relevant in our society and culture today, especially because more teenagers, young adults, and moms and dads are choosing to not choose religion. In general, The Millennial Generation (aka Generation Y born between 1980-early 2000’s) is the first generation to overwhelmingly differentiate between spirituality and religion.  So it’s fair to say that they are more likely to raise their children without a religious affiliation too. It’s a counter-shift in our culture that’s becoming more mainstream by the minute. Even The Pope is less concerned about what religion you adhere to and more about your ability to create peace amongst yourselves and in world as a whole.

Despite whether you think Generation Y and its successors are sinners or saints for creating their own creed, the fact remains that more kids are religious-less.  Their thirst for knowledge, community, acceptance, and truth, however, remains abundantly clear.

Check out these Have a Little Faith videos: quick, fun tidbits of one person’s truth. You’ll learn cool stuff too.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

I Made My Student Cry, and I Liked It

cryYep, it’s true. I made my student cry, and I was glad she did.

When my 10-year-old student found out that Beth died, Jo refused to marry Laurie, and then just a few years later Amy swooped in to marry Laurie herself, the waterworks came a flowin’.  See, we were reading Little Women: one the greatest classic novels ever written, and a requirement for young girls making their way towards womanhood. In the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, Little Women makes its mark on young girls today, even though it was written almost 150 years ago.

Little Women is a tale of four sisters, each personally navigating their own destiny with the intuitive guidance of their Marmie. The characters are bright, funny, and layered with complex emotions of the world outside their attic playhouse windows. Together they experience joy, fear, friendship, loss, love, pain, and internal triumph over struggles with gender norms and social status. It was a time when educating a woman was secondary to husband-hunting and learning how to keep home. This book, however, bucked tradition, and instead encouraged young girls to make their studies a priority, an ideal that gave the main character, Jo, permission to become lost in the art of the written word– a nod to the author’s own life.

There’s something almost cathartic about reading a book written long before technology took over. Now, I’m a fan of my gadgets just as much as the next but I didn’t grow up with information overload via iPads and cell phones. When my students find out that fact, oh the gasps of horror that wash over them followed by looks of pity as if to say, “You poor, poor Tutor. How did you ever survive?” Balance, my friends. It’s all about balance.

I ask all of my students to incorporate some classic literature into their nightly reading because I think somewhere along the way of trying to make Young Adult books interesting with vampires, alternate worlds, and magical potions we’ve overlooked the simplicity of writing an everyday, complex character with everyday, complex relationships. Nothing blows up in Little Women, except for Jo’s temper. Yet, my student came to me emotionally distraught over Jo’s choices. That’s a true testament to a story that will stand the test of time because it appeals to our most deepest emotions.

Little Women is one of my favorite stories because it pulls at my heartstrings and reminds me of the importance of family, friends, love, and laughter.  It will most certainly continue to be a staple of sisterhood and an insight into the bonds of those relationships.

So don’t be alarmed when your child comes crying to you about Beth’s death, Pollyanna’s accident, or Anne’s initial refusal to marry Gil. Crying means that they’re invested in the thought-provoking, ethereal world of classic literature.

A few classics that will make your kids cry:

  • A Little Princess
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Great Expectations
  • Heidi
  • Little Women
  • Oliver Twist
  • Pollyanna
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Call of the Wild
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • The Giving Tree
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Velveteen Rabbit

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com