Category Archives: Uncategorized

Queen Bee? Mean Girl? Leader.

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This blog post has been brewing in my brain for a few months now. Sometimes it takes a while for experience to gel into words. It is International Women’s Day so I decided it was time to put this into the almost right words. After all, imperfect is the new ideal so I will make this post “good enough.”

I am a woman who is also a leader. However, it took many years for “bossy” to turn into “innovative leader” and I often wonder what could have been different if I didn’t feel as though being a leader were a shameful thing because I was a girl. Don’t get me wrong, I still hear “bossy” and other choice words but it is far less often.

I am also the mother of three amazing daughters (I am completely biased but it is also true!). Their journeys are varied and their life experiences run the gambit. Being a mother to daughters, I often think about how a male-dominant world shapes the lens through which they see themselves. I don’t want them to feel ashamed for having natural leadership abilities and this often dominates my thoughts on how we can do better. I see the difference in how female leaders are described and male leaders are described. Female leaders are “bossy” but male leaders are “assertive” and this isn’t just in adulthood. This labeling begins in childhood: “Queen Bee”, “Mean Girl”, “Bossy”….but where is “assertive” or “leadership qualities”? After all, these girls are showing an ability, at a very young age, to influence those around them and to organize teams. What if we harnessed and nurtured these abilities instead of squashing them or labeling them as negative or worse….we allow them to become bullies? What if we nurtured the Queen Bee and taught her to use her ability to influence her peers in a positive manner? What if we nurtured the Mean Girl’s ability to influence peer groups and taught her how to manage teams and collaborate? We have this amazing amount of raw talent and we allow it to run amok because we are too afraid for girls to be assertive leaders. We are throwing away more than half of our country’s most precious commodity: Innovation.

All because we are afraid of women who are leaders. We are afraid of the strong girls. We are afraid of the girls who don’t want to be placed in any box. We don’t have to raise our girls to feel shame for being a leader.

There are places we can see female leadership being nurtured. It isn’t impossible. For example, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with a school who drops most of the labels we weigh our children down with. Talent Unbound provides a safe and nurturing environment for their “Heroes” (what they call their students) to thrive. When provided with an environment where unnecessary social mantles are left at the door; the students are self-directed, and leadership is a core skill to learn…..well, something truly incredible happens: There are no mean girls. There are no bullies. In fact, it is easily the most positive learning environment I have ever encountered. It isn’t that there has never been a mean girl or a bully to walk through the doors of Talent Unbound because bullies exist in all environments. Because the Heroes hold each other accountable and create their own learning environment, there is no place for a bully to thrive. Bullying is a weed unable to grow in a well-tended garden. For me, this is what makes Talent Unbound a truly special place. (Caveat: I do handle their marketing & communications but it is because I begged them to let me be part of the team!)

Let’s celebrate our girls who are smart, funny, innovative, amazing leaders at all ages. On this International Women’s Day, I want to thank my fellow female leader friends and colleagues. You are amazing women who teach me new ways to innovate and lead every day.canstockphoto22547106

The Ukulele Parade

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The Ukulele Parade

*I know what you are thinking,”It has been a year since she posted!” Rub it in, why don’t you? Yeah, it has been a year since I wrote here. Let’s just chalk this up to not being a terribly prolific writer or ADHD or raising three daughters or some combination thereof. I had something really important to share and this is the best venue so I. Am. Back.

I had the opportunity to receive some perspective last week. A bit of background is necessary here: My daughters attend different schools because they are very different people and require different types of environments. My middle daughter attends our locally zoned public school, Wunderlich Intermediate. She enjoys the large, diverse school because it has many competitive opportunities. My youngest daughter attends The Banff School which is a small, culturally diverse, private school. She enjoys the ability to work with her teachers more closely and the fact that the school is multi-age/multi-grade allows her to work more at ability rather than her age/grade correlation. In her words,”I like that everyone gets their work done without all the drama.” No middle school is drama free but it is a more comfortable level for youngest. I am all for utilizing the environment that works.

Last Tuesday, I received a call from O (middle daughter) saying she had missed the bus through sobs of sadness. Now O is incredibly private and not one to cry easily so my alarm bells immediately began ringing and my inner Mama Bear was on the move. Upon arriving at school, I was fairly horrified to find out that a teacher (who doesn’t even teach O) had caused her to not only miss her bus but had also bullied and shamed her in front of another teacher for not being conversational. Important to note here, the incident she was referring to occurred at the local grocery store over one month before. O wasn’t rude, just chose not to converse which is her right outside of a school setting. O hadn’t done anything dangerous or broken any school rule yet this teacher chose to flex her authority and detain her. I was amazed to hear the assistant principal helped to stop O from getting on the bus and to hear him say that because O isn’t an adult she needs to learn to respect adults simply because they exist and are older than she. I reminded the assistant principal that respect can not be taught through fear and intimidation. You may reach compliance but that is far and away different from respect. Respect is earned and not just because you reach the age of majority. Respect is taught by modeling respectful behavior. We didn’t demand this assistant principal and teacher see negative repercussions, rather we asked they be trained in the research that we know to be true: Teachers who bully students are more likely to be bullied themselves. This Twemlow research shows the negative outcome of teachers and administrators who bully students. Please bear in mind, I do not think these adults were being malicious; I believe they were unaware.

Fast forward to Friday!

I received this photo in E’s (youngest daughter) school newsletter with the following caption: ‘The most exciting event of the week for 6th and 7th grade is a little hard to understand if you are not part of the Banff culture. If no one “signs the sheet” for an entire week in Mr. Crump’s World Culture class, he leads the class on a ukulele parade around the building.  Fun and quirky, but if it works…’

Ukulele Parade

I asked E about the Ukulele Parade and she says,”Oh! If no one has to sign the sheet (gets in trouble) then Mr. Crump takes us on a Ukulele Parade where we march, dance and sing through the school.” I couldn’t believe the timing of this information. You see, Mr. Joe Crump is doing something wonderful here. He is using a currency that is meaningful to the students rather than imposing his currency upon them. There is mutual respect happening here and the kids are responding positively. Now don’t get me wrong, I am aware that large schools don’t necessarily have the ability to have a ukulele parade but the teachers do have the ability to use currency which is important to the students. Then the teacher is part of what builds students up and not part of what tears them down or makes them feel inadequate or embarrassed.

I know many teachers practice positive classroom and student management. I love having the opportunity to showcase teachers doing awesome things. Mr. Crump renewed my spirit with his ukulele parade and I wasn’t even there.

We adults have the power to be a positive or negative influence on the children we are involved with. Childhood is hard; people can be mean. Be one of the people who builds up instead of destroys.

Gratitude and Giving Thanks

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This photo was taken in 2011 at the National Association for Gifted Children conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is a photo of my eldest daughter with her first gifted teacher, Miriam Ellis of Woodvale Elementary School in Lafayette, LA. Mrs. Ellis is not only an amazing support system for the gifted learners in her class but also to the parents who are new to the gifted and talented universe. I have often thought of Mrs. Ellis as my years as a gifted advocate go by and I had hoped to see her one day to express my gratitude.

See, Mrs. Ellis had shown me it was possible to support a gifted learner academically, socially and emotionally. Mrs. Ellis had shown me simple acts of supporting the parents of gifted learners helped them to be more supportive of their children. She showed me how well teachers, students and parents can collaborate. A parent of gifted children herself, she knew how important it was for the parents of gifted students to feel supported. What Miriam Ellis didn’t know was she had been the catalyst for all my years as an advocate. I was fortunate because I had experienced gifted education could support the whole child and a great teacher could be a shining light for parents. We only had Mrs. Ellis for one year as we moved the next summer. Our experience the next fall was quite a departure from having Mrs. Ellis. The teacher didn’t understand our eldest and didn’t want to. The administration didn’t want to talk to us. I could not wrap my mind around how much our world had been turned upside down. I knew it didn’t have to be this way and I knew I would work to do something about it and I hope I have made some small dent along the way.

So back to the story…..

The 2011 NAGC conference was in full swing. I found a comfy chair to sit between sessions and a plug to charge my phone as I was tweeting from the sessions I was attending. I was wholly ignoring the world around me as I planned my schedule and made sure I was everywhere I was supposed to be. Then I heard a couple of teachers discussing gifted in Lafayette, LA. My ears perked up and I yanked my brain away from my thoughts to listen to the conversation. That’s right, I was eavesdropping. I own it. It happens. I looked over only to realize Miriam Ellis was sitting on the couch across from me. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! After ten years I was going to have the opportunity to tell her what she meant to me and what a guiding force she had been. It was an amazing feeling. It was important to let her know how important she had been and in ways she hadn’t anticipated. I have been paying forward her kindness and knowledge for many years since. Her reply to me was simple,”You’re welcome. I was just doing what needed to be done.” Profound in its simplicity. Mrs. Ellis’ idea of doing what needed to be done had a breadth and depth that positively impacted our entire family. Miriam Ellis is a great educator and I am very grateful she taught my eldest daughter.

We met up with Mrs. Ellis at the end of the NAGC conference and took this picture. Kristin, my eldest daughter, was thrilled to see her again and they talked for a long time. Kristin had often thought of her time in Mrs. Ellis’ class with great fondness. It was a nice full circle moment. 

Thank you Miriam Ellis. You make a difference.

Charitable Children

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I sit here and wonder how on earth I got roped into juicing lemons for fresh lemonade again. How do these things happen to me? Oh right, I love my kids and made a blanket statement of support*.

*Note to parents: watch those blanket statements of support because they always remember!

I kid, I kid. I help my girls juice lemons because they had a vision for charity work and their Dad and I try to support them in their charitable endeavors. I have learned a great deal about efficient juicing techniques in the last couple of years but mostly I learned a great parenting lesson: When your child finds a passion let go of the reins and watch in wonder. It seemed like such an easy, simple request: “Mom, we want to buy things for the SNAP wish list so we e-mailed our friends and we want to hold a lemonade stand.” SNAP is the Spay Neuter Assistance Program www.snapus.org and we had spent the day having Ms. Kitty spayed. Their Dad and I decided to just let them run with their idea. How did they want the stand to look? What sort of promotion for their event were they wanting to create? It was a rather epic brainstorming session with a group of seven and nine year old children with a passion and a message.

Fast forward two years and these lemonade stands are no small feat to put on! There have been shirts made and a fantastic lemonade stand cut from a beautiful AutoCAD creation. The lemonade must be made and there need to be cups, napkins, snacks, water, etc. and so on. Oh and don’t forget to procure some change. Dangit, how often do we get to an event and I am running to a bank for change!

The important experience was watching a group of young children make a real difference and reap the rewards of a job well done. They know how to create a cost projection; plan an event; speak in public and a host of other life lessons we would have been hard-pressed to teach them in a meaningful way otherwise.

We can’t always accommodate a child’s passion but if you have the opportunity, go along for the journey.

For more information on my daughters’ charitable work visit their page: https://www.facebook.com/lemonaidgirls