Hannah (7th Grade) & Brandon (5th Grade) Give Advice on Making Friends in School

It can be hard to make friends at any age but especially as a kid, so we’ve gone straight to the source with our friends Hannah, 7th Grade, and Brandon, 5th Grade.

Popular culture dictates who is popular in your neck of the woods, and let me tell ya–it’s not enough to french roll your jeans and tease your hair with Aquanet anymore. Now our tweens must be up to the standards set forth against our fast-paced, technology-driven society.  A little self-doubt is normal but a sea of it often looms over our Middle Schoolers day in and day out:  Where do I belong? Am I good enough to be part of the cool group?

Things that seem trivial to us as adults are the most important moments at school, such as “What table am I going to sit at during lunch?” For some kids lunch and recess often present the most anxiety-filled 38 minutes of the day. Every child wants to make friends but not every child knows how.

What is perceived as an innocuous social situation can often lead to social distress. An S.O.S. call is needed to alleviate the pressure and take hold of those kids sitting at the corner table by themselves, relegated to being labeled as an outsider.

Who can answer their plea? Their peers.

Peers hold a resounding influence at most stages of development. In cases of bullying, excessive teasing, and manipulation the person who can prevent or escalate these acts of aggression are usually the other peers in the class. No one wants to be a tattletale and telling a teacher only helps so much. The answer lies in helping that group of kids who see others in distress learn to have enough confidence and wherewithal to reach out and rescue those who can’t rescue themselves–to advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. With this act of heroism, comes new-found respect for oneself and sensitivity to the plight of others who have a tougher time developing this life skill.

Making friends is simply the act of taking a little risk– putting yourself out there without regard for embarrassment–and following your gut. Without risk there is no reward (like we talked about last week). We want to teach our students to avoid the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” regrets in life. So take a chance and reach out to make a new friend and teach others how to do the same. You never know whose life you’ll end up changing in the end.

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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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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

A Little Confidence Goes A Long Way

confidenceIt doesn’t cost any money to teach your kids the value of investing in themselves. What do I mean by that? Confidence. The key word to change. I don’t think I truly found my confidence until I was well into adulthood. Looking back, I passed up a lot of opportunities because I failed to muster up the courage to take the leap, go out on a limb, and try something new.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I traveled the world and learned all kinds of important skills (and life lessons) but there was still this nagging voice inside that said, “Hold on. Wait a second. You need to work a little harder and smarter to get to that next level. You haven’t earned it yet.” The good news about being internally motivated, however, is that I did end up working harder and smarter than my peers in many arenas and was, therefore, able to succeed on a different level. The bad news is that this little voice didn’t ever really stop, even though I had finally achieved my goal.

Confidence is the key that unlocks the magical thing that sets you apart from the rest. When I first meet a student, their confidence is often non-existent. They have failed a test or class, been sent to the principal’s office so many times the secretary knows them by name, or were erroneously labeled and unfairly stigmatized to the point that their confidence is barely hovering above their self-respect. It is then my task to help each of my students and their families pick apart the reasons why they failed the test, were sent to the principal’s office, or were unfairly labeled. By guiding them through this laborious but logical process, the students and their parents slowly begin to realize mistakes made (by themselves and others) along the way. Once we get to the root of these issues, it’s just a matter of time before the student will begin to rebuild their often forgotten self-esteem, self-respect, and confidence.

All the educational books and specialists will tell you the same thing: the core of a well-rounded, prepared, and teachable student is confidence. It’s less about grades and more about taking the time to get to the real issues underneath the anxiety, anger, and angst. I see this time and time again in my Tutoring Practice. A frantic call from a parent over an academic concern leads to the realization that it’s really something more than their son or daughter’s lack of comprehension during the English exam. Making the time to truly listen (without judgment) to your struggling student will reveal a deeper need for internal validation, which can only come from positive praise by the ones they love the most: You!

So take the time to make the time and call me if you’re in need of backup! I’m standing by to assist in your quest to help your child realize their very best.

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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