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


Links We Love!

Resources1If you’re a parent of a child with Learning Differences, Behavior Challenges, or Social Skills Needs then you know that one of the most difficult things to search out is a trusted service provider– a “child whisperer” who has their “finger on the pulse” of the L.D. community at large, and, above all else, treats your kid like their own.

We’ll, you’re in luck because this past year we, at Terry Tutors, have spent the bulk of our time researching, meeting, and compiling resources for our clients. Throughout this process, we’ve found ways to seamlessly work together with teams of providers for each of our students and families in need of a little or a lot of help. We happily collaborate because that is the only way to coordinate proper care and ensure that needs are met and things get done! We work not only in the home but at the school and with the state too, providing cross-over services because a child’s challenge doesn’t magically go away when the bell rings.

Anyone who has tried to find special education services or the like has received the run-around more than once, where frustration ensues and time is inevitably lost. We’ve been fortunate, however, to make this process as painless as possible for our students and their families, working diligently to create connections so our kiddos are not the ones who lose out in the end.

For example, SSTs and IEPs are often thought of as nightmarish meetings, laden with government bureaucracy–stretching for days on end with little accomplished. But that has not been our experience. Instead:

  • We do our homework! We’re educated, knowledgeable, and passionate about advocating and providing the right support for our students and their families.
  • We extensively prepare our clients for realistic goals, being mindful of the emotion involved throughout the process of evaluation, social/emotional/academic findings, and the tough decisions parents must make.
  • We make it a priority to respectfully maintain open communication with Teachers, School Psychologists, OTs, SLPs, Resource Specialists, Principals, and Administrators.
  • We followup in a professional, timely manner to ensure what is written on paper is implemented in the classroom.

It is through this process that we’ve been able to meet all of these amazing service providers, who are passionate about serving your child and helping you support and advocate for their needs.

Review all of our Free Resources & Recommendations:

  • Terry Tutors: Serving the Whole Student with Private Tutoring, Family Coaching & Education Advocacy
  • Links We Love: a free resource list of providers we’ve met and services we recommend
  • Terry Tutors Facebook: Resources galore for the typical and atypical developing student
  • Terry Tutors Twitter: Connections with like-minded outlets for education: reform, inspiration, and know-how
  • Terry Tutors Blog: Honest Approaches to Serving the Whole Student
  • Terry Tutors Pinterest: Hundreds of pins from healthy kid-friendly snacks to education case law
  • Terry Tutors YouTube: A Series all about the psychology behind school and how you can do better just by changing your mindset

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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