“Whenever I am upset, it’s because I am upsettable.”
My optometrist told me about his Corvette Stingray. He got it from a couple who purchased a brand new car and needed space in their garage. Everything in the Corvette was shot: the engine, upholstery, paint, some of the body was dented. They had it towed to his house.
Two years later, his Stingray is on the road. He fixed the engine himself. The upholstery still needs to be replaced, but the car has come back from the dead. The doc worked on it every weekend for two years.
Sometimes, our dreams might take years, because we “only have the weekends” to work on them. But with diligence and consistency, they WILL actualize.
Here is a continuation of my notes on Paul Tough’s research regarding “grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character” as it pertains to children:
- Grit p. 74
“Duckworth realized self-control has limitations. She believed that a passionate commitment to a single mission and an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission are more relevant when it comes to inventing something new or creating an award-winning (movie)/project. She called this characteristic grit.”
She created a 12 (now 10) question survey that turned out to be a remarkably accurate predictor of success.
It was more accurate a predictor of graduation rates for West Point than their own assessments.
- Quantifying Character
Levin, Randolph, Seligman and Peterson narrowed a set of strengths that were indicators of life success and happiness:
- Social intelligence
They then created a “character report card”
Much confusion among educators regarding “character” – is it moral? Is it “performance character?”
Wealthy families may have “helicopter” parents (parents who hover over their kids as they do homework, sports, etc) but that does NOT mean they are spending quality family time together. In fact, many high-achieving, wealthy families are not closely bonded.
- Madeline Levine, psychologist in Marin County, says that wealthy parents are more emotionally distant than any other parent from their children
- Intense feelings of shame and hopelessness in their kids
- Levine was inspired by Suniya Luthar, psychology professor at Columbia Univ who did a comparison study between low-income and high-income households.
- Found 22% of wealthy kids suffered elevated rates of depression and clinically significant symptoms
- 35% of affluent kids tried all four substances (alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and harder illegal drugs
- 15% of poor kids tried all four
- Dan Kindlon, assistant professor of child psychology at Harvard, also found an emotional disconnect between wealthy kids and their parents
- These parents were overly indulgent in their children’s bad behavior
- Parents making more than $1 million said that they were far less strict than their own parents
- A little hardship – discomfort – is good for children!
- This is an issue in private schools – telling parents they are not parenting properly means you are criticizing your employers (clients)
- A school like Riverdale (expensive, private – graduates include Chevy Chase, Carly Simon, etc) is not meant to help raise the ceiling, but to raise the floor = give kids a high probability of nonfailure.
- They do not develop grit
- Discipline p. 86
KIPP used to practice a lot of disciplinary action (some of which Levin regretted)
SLANT – stand up, listen, ask questions, nod, and track – taught at KIPP 5th grade
Code-switching – you must learn and practice proper behavior for the museum, college interview and nice restaurants
Rich kids at Riverdale wear casual clothes and slouch
Kids at KIPP are taught to have good posture and track teachers…formal speech
The administrators of both schools disagree on this point – what should students be taught?
I was ten and at a slumber party. My parents rarely ever let me spend the night at a friend’s house, so I was thrilled. We had pizza and a pillow fight. As it got late, one of my friends put a large paper boat on top of her head. It looked like a Vietnamese rice paddy farmer hat – a coolie.
She bowed and said,”Ah so!” Everyone laughed. They thought it was funny. I got angry. I was the only Asian girl there.
Now, decades later, I know that anger is a symptom of sadness and pain. I was hurt because what she did made me feel like an outsider, I felt different from them. But did she mean to do that? No. The pain I felt is what I caused because I assumed (at first) that she was being malicious, but she wasn’t. I projected my feelings and beliefs on her.
If you are suffering (worried, angry, sad, insecure, jealous, etc.), you are causing yourself pain. You are choosing it. I know it sounds over-simplified and not entirely true, but it is. Mental illness aside, if you’re wallowing in self-pity or proud to be a road rager, you’re choosing it.
You can choose to be at peace instead.
“Do not take anything personally.”
Don Miguel Ruiz, The Voice of Knowledge
Ruiz explains further, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
What a shame it is to take what others say personally. You cannot control what others say to you or about you. And they don’t even really know you. So why bother?
When I was a teenager, my sister, brother and I studied Tae Kwon Do with the late, great Chung Kim. It was one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve ever done because the studio was very “old school.” Classes were not designed to entice kids to join and have a “good time.” It was all about self-discipline and focus. We had to do knuckle pushups if we made a mistake. We free sparred grown men. We practiced, breathed, and lived according to the tenets of CIPSI:
Indomitable (unconquerable) Spirit
I remember the physical pain of knuckle push-ups, sparring, and sit-ups. I remember silently crying because I failed a belt test or failed at something else. It was more painful than not. It was more frustrating and frightening than not. But in the end, my siblings and I earned our 1st degree black belts.
There was a hearing impaired couple – man and wife – who were practicing in the studio. I watched them, mesmerized. It was already so hard! How did they do it? People are amazing. If person set goals and believe 100% in themselves, they will accomplish their goal. I saw this first hand in the dojang and I see it every day in my students.
Every important lesson I’ve learned in life bloomed in that stinky studio. Focus on what you’re doing. Control your mind and your body. Visualize your goals. Work hard. Never quit.
Master Kim, thank you for leaving such a valuable legacy.
When you are in the presence of a person who speaks his mind freely, spontaneously and thoroughly (often inappropriately) we say, “He has no filter.”
This is often a problem in the classroom when there are 34 students and the teacher has numerous goals she wants to achieve. The outspoken person not only takes up valuable time uttering words that have little to no value, but it can distract other students and take them off-task.
It often causes drama.
That student can filter his words, but it requires self-awareness and self-discipline.
We can ALL filter our minds. We are in control of what we choose to read. We are all, each, in control of who we socialize with and, to some degree, who we engage with at work. You can choose to read the news and get upset or, you can choose to opt out.
But how will I stay informed? How will I continue to participate in my world?
To which I ask, “Are you truly engaging and participating in the world when you read what inflames you and then complain about it?” How about doing some volunteer work? How about starting a rights group? How about writing letters to your state representatives?
There will things you see or hear that you do not like. This is when space is helpful.
Filter your world carefully and you will see a change for the better.
Meet the Teacher Day.
A small, tow-headed boy walks in. He looks like he’s entering second grade, not fourth. His mother, also dimunitive, has a tough smoker’s voice “He’s been afraid of you. His last teacher was a yeller.” I look into his large blue eyes. “Nice to meet you Jimmy*. I don’t yell.” A smile rises from his mouth, into his cheeks and then his eyes. I give him my Welcome to School note, taped with a watermelon Jolly Rancher. Mother tousles his hair, “See? Your teacher is nice.” Both seem relieved.
More kids and parents/guardians come in. They scan the desks for name tags. They sign in at the table, grab information packets regarding our schedules, supply list. A squat woman approaches me. Everything about her is short and wide: the hips, the nose, the voice. She is someone’s grandma.
“Hi. I have to tell you, (her voice lowers) Marcus* has trouble with attention. Marcus!” She calls him to us. He is a little darker than her, but also squat. “Marcus! Say hello to your teacher.”
Marcus speaks in a soft voice, “Nice to meet you.” I am pleasantly surprised by his respectful demeanor. “Nice to meet you, Marcus.” We shake hands. His body stays, but his eyes roam the room. Grandma whispers, but Marcus and I can hear her. “Marcus is easily distracted and lazy.” [By the end of the two hours, I will hear this from fifteen adults: “My child has problems with attention. He/She needs to sit in the front.” Is there some kind of epidemic? Something in the water]?
“Oh, Marcus looks like a very focused, hard working boy to me,” I look at him and he smiles at me.
“No, no, no. He’s not. He’s lazy and unfocused.”
I try to make eye contact with grandma, but her beady eyes are laser focused on Marcus. Stop it. Stop saying that!
“Oh, I see a hard worker, totally focused and ready to learn!” I trump her.
She vigorously shakes her head, no, no, no. “He’s definitely not smart.” Marcus’s shoulders slump, his eyes go slack.
But he is. Eighteen days of school have passed and Marcus is clearly one of my brightest students. My intuition was correct, he IS a hard worker. His third grade teacher told me that he will cry and throw a temper tantrum when something goes wrong. He did, indeed, wail at the top of his lungs when I gave the first assessment, a timed math fact test. “IT’S TOO HARD! I CAN’T DO IT!” Tears streamed down his face. I calmly responded, “Stop crying.” The class looked at him (it was hard to ignore) but they quickly resumed their work. I meet every tantrum (sometimes he has two or three in a day) with a calm rebuttal, “Stop that. There is no need for that. Take a deep breath and focus.” He has not had a tantrum now for a week. The last time he got frustrated over a math problem, I offered to give him an easier one. He shook his head, no. He wiped his tears and regained his composure, all on his own.
We practice yoga poses and deep breathing exercises for stretch time. As I get to know my students, I see that many have personal challenges at home: a sick parent, divorce (a couple are going through not the first, but a second one), unemployment, etc. The stresses our children experience these days are enormous and the kids tell me that their parents tell them to “Go watch TV or play your X-Box.” And they wonder why their kids are distracted and unfocused. When we’ve been working hard at a math lesson, someone will inevitably ask, “Can we take a yoga break?” In just a month, I’ve noticed more focus, better balance and a bit more self-control all around.