Wednesday, December 7, 2016

When It Comes To Singapore Math in Atlanta - Most Schools Just Do Not Cut It

If you have come across this blog in search for Singapore Math tutoring, please give me the opportunity to introduce myself.

I am an astute educator who has spoken to individuals at your child's school who either have children there or who have administration that have sought my services. Your school has taken an ambitious and lofty goal of using a curriculum that they have not touched before and do not fully understand. It has been my impression - and the impression of those of us who truly love the art of teaching mathematics - that some schools have taken the approach of, je ne sais pas, "Monkey see, Monkey do!" and have bought into a curriculum that they know little to nothing about and frankly, should not be utilizing without approaching it with pure awe and respect.

Welcome to the World of Singapore Math. Parents, Teachers and Students, if you do not know this already: Singapore Math is a culmination of different teaching methods and strategies that continues to help this tiny nation of Asia lead the world in Math Competence for it's students (http://www.bbc.com/news/education-38212070). I'm proud that I use it to help our students understand it but knowing what comes in each lesson, chapter, unit is not what Singapore Math is about.

If you do not know anything about me, it is because I rarely share details of my life and my education. As a student, I have always loved math and there were a several years in my life where the lowest grade that I had received in my math class was a 100.

Before there was "mommy" talking to my teacher about math class and earning a spot in "Advanced Math", there was me - a tiny 6th grade student tinkering at a "mistake" on my student schedule that caused me to never again let anyone dictate who should or should not be in Advanced Math.

On a nasty August Day, sometime between the Cold War and now, I received a slip of paper that described the next nine months of early middle school. Everything seemed to be okay until I started to compare my schedule with that of my best friend - someone not as mathematically inclined. As I glanced at our teachers, I noticed I did not have the words "ADV" attached to my math class and decided that it was a mistake. It had to be because there is no way this honor roll student would wind up in a non-Advanced math class with all my high achieving friends.

Instead of complaining to my family (mind you, my cousin graduated valedictorian that year and was accepted to Berkley) I walked over with my schedule and asked the counselor if there was a mistake. For some reason - the counselor made me believe that I needed to be in that class to which my ten year old self said, "Okay, so I need to be in the class - but what do I need to do to get out?". She told me something that most students now would consider unreasonable: "You can move into Advanced Math, only after you earn a 100% on everything that you do from now until the end of this semester."

One would think that I would come home and cry myself to sleep - or call myself some name that really - does not even fit. I did not want to be in the Advanced Math class because all the cool kids were in there. I did not want to be in Advanced Math class because I thought I was good in math. I wanted to be in that class because unlike other classes that were being offered at that time - Math was the only subject that allowed me to be right, not through arguing, yelling, pushing or shoving - but through pure reasoning. I knew that this counselor wanted to see me walk out of there and never make it past the first week of perfect scores - but I did.

Week after week, I perfected the art of math notes/quiz grades and test taking. Never before had I been given a challenge so difficult that it would take so much concentration and so much effort that nothing could distract me. The only solace I had was waiting for Monday afternoon when my teacher would hand back my math quizzes and tests with a 100 on there and would watch me bite my lip instead of smile as to draw attention to the other students. It was an impossible feat to not feel overjoyed because being in that class where I felt I was unjustly placed was my own Shawshank Redemption - and the only way that I could be placed out is if I chiseled my way to freedom with perfection lining the way.

I know that math may not come as easily for some students - and when I work with students I become very sensitive to that fact. Not everyone is great at math - and I can certainly tell you that many teachers that have been given the curriculum for Singapore math should be giving it back in exchange for a simpler curriculum. Learning how to teach Singapore Math after only listening to someone for one day at a random professional development seminar sponsored by your school's booster club does not sit well with me. If you have not put in the time to understand the curriculum, the concepts, and the culture of Singapore Math, maybe you need to go back and learn math from say, another popular method used in Asia that sells workbooks at Walmart.

I love math and have a particular fondness for using Singapore Math each and every week with various students. There is nothing that compares to helping a student who struggles in math and showing them that it is one of the most beautiful subjects you can immerse yourself in. When I have students work on math problems with me - I approach it methodically and make sure that every step is calculated and they will be set up for success. Unlike my experience when I was in middle school, they have me to help guide them onto the path to success. I'm not sure if the teachers implementing this curriculum have that same goal in mind.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Dilemma (And Depression) of Implementing a New (Singapore) Math Program at Your School

I've had the privilege of working with the Singapore Math Curriculum for over eight years. It was not a curriculum that I found to be very difficult because I have a natural penchant for all things math - especially when it pertains to the foundations of Algebra/Speed Math Strategies and Problem Solving.

As the years pass by and countless students visit me to improve and enhance their math abilities, I've noticed one thing: the more I challenge the student, the better they do. I've seen students walk into my office with their head hanging low and their scores gleaming with an unsatisfactory performance give them a visible inferiority complex that cannot be ignored. I remind them that despite the fact that the initial glance of their abilities may not look good, you need to want to improve.

Parents watch me as I listen in on how students passively answer questions and provide them with the feedback that they do not hear from their teachers. It's not that I am trying to "sell them" on signing up for a gym membership, I simply think that until now - you probably have not come across anyone who knows the constructs of the Singapore Math method as well as I do.

My only guilty pleasure is not revealing to most people that I secretly do love the subject of math (and social sciences). Year after year I work with students who start with "average" math scores and then surprise me with an invitation to be part of an accelerated program that is a result of our combined efforts. Math is a part of life and as an adult, I would hesitate to encourage a student to think that they are not "good" in something because they have had a teacher that has only learned this curriculum for a week during the summer. A teacher that is worth their weight in gold can not only understand the curriculum well enough to teach it, but understand how difficult the concepts may be and forecast a plan of action to ensure that the children will grasp it. My teachers did that with me and for some reason, this type of teaching still works.

If you are having a difficult time with Singapore Math at your school, please feel free to contact Learning Ridge at 404-964-8533. We would love to help your child be the best student they can be.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Code You Leave Behind

In an age where everything is visible through the click of a button, there are a few things that are less, transparent. Whether it is something that you have carried with you since childhood or you leave behind as you get older (or more successful), it is brandished on your shoulders when you are confronted with adversity.

When I was a young child, I felt out of place in my family. Growing up in a non-traditional household where my father worked and my mother did the same, there was nothing that I relished in more than the slow and feeble art of "ethical behavior". Each time we went somewhere I observed the different rules of conduct and found that, for the most part, there was beauty in how people respected and acted towards each other. It was the finest of social niceties would warm even the youngest of hearts.

My grandfather, a man who was wise well beyond his years - taught me that ethics is a set of rules one abides by throughout their lifetime. The last of a "generation of gentleman", he gave me the unwritten pamphlet of listening before speaking, and confirming before judging. As a rule, he gave me books upon books of classics from those whose names a ten year old could not pronounce (Aesop and Socrates?). I relished in the fact that this knowledge was not one that was taught to me in school, but finally handed down to my generation. Realizing that it was now my responsibility to hold the baton of what my family stands for, I've never looked back.

Society has gone completely astray with the actions and inactions of many individuals. During my grandfather's last few years, we exchanged correspondence where he detailed some beautiful aspects of his life, most especially his childhood spent in a more provincial setting. He reminisced of how neighbors would be within arms reach to help anyone in need and values were shared in communities, and not families. My grandfather was fortunate because his father (a twin) raised his family with such grace and class that they were awarded the model family award in their state. In as much as one would laugh at this "prize", my humble self would like to ask, "where have all these people gone?"

Meeting individuals for the first time always gives me a moment to reflect on the ethics that my grandfather has brought me up to be. I'm assured that for the most part, my life has meaning and purpose because of not what I have around me, but what I carry in me. If you have spent your entire life raising a family, the focus should not be on what is "tangible" or "visible", but what values, systems and beliefs are transferred from one generation to another. My greatest gift that I have ever received is not anything monetary or material, but a simple act of knowing that I am the individual that has strength in honor and a commitment to my word. Nothing is more  disappointing to me than an individual who lacks the motive (or ability) to stand behind what they say or what they should do. Invariably, it is a disgrace.

I'm thankful to my family for giving me the courage to live the life that I believe is right and to surround myself with individuals who purposefully do the same. It also makes me sad that there are not more of us.

Friday, September 30, 2016

I Want My Child To Learn To Read, So I'm Changing His Diet.....

At this point in my career, I am entertained as I listen and learn from parents about how their novel approaches to helping their child overcome certain challenges might actually, not work. I'm not sure about what it happening in the world of education but somehow, there are quite a bit of people that are so interested in helping children because their lack of knowledge allows them to make a buck.

Here's what I'd like to share with you. It's a breakdown of the "Who's Who" of individuals who may be  helpful to you when you begin researching information:

1. Your Child's Teacher

Your child's teacher is the person to talk to in regards to your child's academic performance. Please do not ask his/her teacher to diagnose your child. They don't have those credentials - but they can tell you how long it takes them to find their missing assignment.

2. Your Pediatrician

Your pediatrician, albeit a very knowledgeable individual, is not there to recommend tutoring agencies or will teach you how to "hit a school with a lawsuit". They are professionals who at best, can share with you what milestones are important for your child. At times, they prescribe medicine for children but... more information on that if you really want to know.

3. A *Psychologist (not to be confused with a "Psychiatrist")

This is an individual who has spent countless hours learning how to administer, "tests". Occasionally, they will learn about a "program" that might be helpful to a child or, better yet, a set of programs that are administered by a group of people/agency. Now, to be fair, they have a code of ethics when it comes to recommendations (we actually all do, but not everyone chooses to abide by that) so I'm a little weary when they hand out a list of "who you need to go to" at the end of your child's assessment because they only test your child and tell you what's wrong - they don't fix the problem.

4. A Psychiatrist (Not a Psychologist)

I'm going to give you two words: Sigmund Freud - he's a Psychiatrist. These are Medical Doctors who have the authority to prescribe medication to your child if they have a chemical imbalance in the brain. In the state of Georgia, only Medical Doctors (not Psychologists) can write prescriptions. There are a few states where Psychologists can write prescriptions, but Georgia is not one of them.

5. Speech Therapist

Think of anything that you do with your mouth: communicate, swallow, eat, chew- that's what they specialize in. They know how to help your child socialize and integrate with others and can be very helpful in that respect.

6. Occupational Therapist

"Occupational" = "work". This is a person who will help your child integrate their skills sets into something that will be more productive. They help with many short-term physically demanding tasks such as sitting and standing correctly and sometimes even handwriting. Key Words: Fine Motor Skills

7. Physical Therapist

This is who you'll need to see for more severe conditions. They assist with more of the "gross motor" aspects of your child's development or - if you play tennis 20 hours a week.

8. Educational Consultant

These individuals, such as myself, review different aspects of your child's development and progress and make recommendations as to what the next steps are and, if qualified, execute these programs. They work in sync with other providers to make sure that (or at least I hope they do) progress has been made in a satisfactory fashion.

Why am I providing this to you? Because everybody is good at something but some people should not be good at what they should not be good at. Helping your child is more than removing dairy from their diet or installing a trampoline in the back yard. It's a more complex, multi-faceted approach that comes with a great deal of planning and precision. Don't take it lightly.




Thursday, September 29, 2016

JATP: Admission Preparation - Nobody Does It

I've got a bone to pick with some parents here in Atlanta. It comes from the single fact that they love to give their best buddies misinformation when it comes to raising their children and "private school prep".

Don't think that, for one second,  I don't get it either. In the past  I've been burnt by a few so-called "friends" that take the information that I share with them and claim it as their own. At least when I help people, I refrain from using psychological warfare like some parents in Atlanta and say, "you don't need to study" or worse yet, "Go to this person because that's the only person everyone goes to!". But somehow, somewhere, parents get sucked into the "Test Prep Trap" that eats up at their time and unfortunately, their dreams of having a child attend private school.

I'll be honest with you - I am adamant about who I work with and tell them that this process is not easy. The stakes have become increasingly more difficult with each passing year because with each "class" of students, the options for great insiders becomes even more competitive. Many of the people that you call might not even know what they are doing because, to be quite candid with you - they have actually called me pretending to be you to obtain my trade secrets. So if they tell you that they do prep, you can believe them. Now, is it the "prep" that you'll need in order for your son/daughter to do well on the test - that is for you to decide.

I love what I do and (given that there are only a number of hours in the week where I can help those who need Admission Preparation here in Atlanta), I don't think that everyone understands the process as well as I do. It's very complex, from the moment that I meet your child until the last time that you step into the school - every child that I work with has a map of what they need to do and where they need to go. I've seen children receive acceptance letters from places that I knew, from first glance - would take them. Even when the cards do not look like they will be in favor of a student from our initial Opportunity Assessment, we review different parts of the process to ensure a favorable outcome.

Yes, it's true - my clients are asked to not share my information. What we do is so private and individualized that it should come as no surprise that I tell them, "please don't follow me on Instagram or Facebook or whatever social media website you are normally on. I'm not looking to be the McDonalds of Admissions Preparation."

You'll laugh at this because one of the first items of business that I have with my clients is that I tell them to not refer people to me because I'm not in the business to expand, but to excel in my skill sets and, perfect it with each and every child. My inner circle will tell you that I'm a private individual that only others "talk" or "gossip" about and frankly, it just doesn't even raise a hair on my neck. I have to laugh at all these people who show off because at the end of the day - they won't answer the phone when you are in tears after you child's application has been reviewed and declined. I'm not like that - I don't pretend to care if I really don't and if I do care, you'll know.

Business is not a business without people and the people that I work with during Admission Prep mean the world to me (and they know it!) I know what I am doing (a little too well) and I'm really proud to say that I've had more students turn into Mensa members than I would like to admit. When it comes to Admission Preparation - it's not studying for the test - it's preparing for success. If you study for the test - there are flags that will show what you did and you will, invariably - without a doubt, get burnt.

I condone those who work with clients and prepare for the "JATP Test". I'm a professional - and I teach my clients how to blow out their competition, point blank. That's a fact - no matter how you look at it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's Conference Season! How to Prep for that first Parent-Teacher Conference

Fall is - tomorrow,  and in a few days or weeks you will be in your child's classroom (hopefully they will have a nice chair for you and not the miniature sized chair that only your angel can sit in) sitting across or beside their teacher discussing his/her progress for that grading period.

Coming from the other side of the desk, your teacher has quite a bit to share with you but sometimes may not have the time or the professional license to tell you everything you need to know. Here are some "clues" that will help you decipher the hidden art of teacher language.

1. "Frank is a wonderful child!"

Translation: "I would like to say more about your child but they are a wallflower in class and I barely just learned their name. Do you know what it's like keeping track of 28 children and then needing to attend Tuesday faculty meetings and keeping my weight/social life and paper work all in check?"

Used for: Parents who do not show up/volunteer/or interact with other parents at the school and remain "nameless and faceless" because let's face it - they are "interact- less". These students typically do not talk or participate during class and may have a difficult time speaking up because there is just too much going on around them.

2. "I think that Don is very creative."

Translation: "Your child has some hidden artistic talents that you might want to invest in, but our school does not have an after-school program because, it's all about the STEM baby!"

Used for: Parents who may not know their child as well as they think they do. These are the children that secretly draw, play music, write poetry, or hide in the basement with their stop motion figures when their parents are home and do not want to bother them with their hobbies. They might be the next Jony Ive, Steve Jobs, Elon - you know what I mean.

3. "Charles is a natural leader."

Translation: "He (or she) is the boss. Whenever there is a group assignment your child takes control of the group. I don't know if the other kids like it, but I don't have any complaints..."

Used for: Parents who want their child to study business or "take over" when they go on vacation/date night. These are the parents that are likely to volunteer more at your school so they can pad this "unpaid work" on their resume or (worse yet) their LinkedIn profile.

4. "Caleb has problems following directions."

Translation: "I want to say that your child has attention issues, but this is the politically correct way for me to say this without losing my job or you trying to contact my supervisor to find out more information."

Used for: Parents who need confirmation that they need to talk to some psychologist/counselor/doctor/guru/talk show host or friend of a friend who knows a friend that will try to solve their problem. [Deposit $3,000 of your hard earned money below and the gatekeeper will let you in.]

5. "Christine is an angel!"

Translation: Hey, all of the teachers that I had in elementary/middle school and high school told my father this. (Yes, it was my father who had the envious task of attending my parent teacher conferences and I was so embarrassed whenever he was there. He made it sound like I did not have a choice but to be a good student because if I wasn't - he probably would have disowned me, or blame it on my mother.)

I'm not sure what to make of it - (if only my teachers could see me now, relentless when it comes to my strong convictions) but it means that your child is a rule follower. Dependable as they may be - the teacher really does like your child and looks forward to working with your child.

Used for: Parents that need their children to be valedictorian/get into a great university or worse, change the world with their ideas/actions. These are parents that bring up extremely engaging children that have the opinions of a Supreme Court Justice but the work ethic of an accountant on April the 15th.

6. "Charlotte has so much potential."

Translation: For some reason that I cannot understand, your child has commitment issues. Commitment to doing the homework or project and more often than not, commitment to even turning in the homework. They are at a loss for words because they can only tell you what they observe, but not why the child is that way to begin with.

Used for: Parents who show up late to meetings and do not turn things in on time. The apple does not fall far from the tree either.

If you, or a parent you know has had a fantastic or disappointing Parent-Teacher Conference, please feel free to share in the comments below or you can always email them to me at: christine@learningridge.com.

The comments above are the personal opinions/convictions/observations of the author, Christine Javier. If you wish to contact Christine for Educational Consulting, you can call me at (404) 964-8533.

It's Conference Season! How to Prep for that first Parent-Teacher Conference

Fall is - tomorrow,  and in a few days or weeks you will be in your child's classroom (hopefully they will have a nice chair for you and not the miniature sized chair that only your angel can sit in) sitting across or beside their teacher discussing his/her progress for that grading period.

Coming from the other side of the desk, your teacher has quite a bit to share with you but sometimes may not have the time or the professional license to tell you everything you need to know. Let's look at some common phrases used during a conference.

Here are the top 6 phrases you might hear your child's teacher say:

1. "Mark is a wonderful child!"

Translation: "I would like to say more about your child but they are a wallflower in class and I barely just learned their name. Do you know what it's like keeping track of 28 children and then needing to attend Tuesday faculty meetings and keeping my weight/social life and paper work all in check?"

Used for: Parents who do not show up/volunteer/or interact with other parents at the school and remain "nameless and faceless" because let's face it - they are "interact- less". These students typically do not talk or participate during class and may have a difficult time speaking up because there is just too much going on around them.

2. "I think that Don is very creative."

Translation: "Your child has some hidden artistic talents that you might want to invest in, but our school does not have an after-school program because, it's all about the STEM baby!"

Used for: Parents who may not know their child as well as they think they do. These are the children that secretly draw, play music, write poetry, or hide in the basement with their stop motion figures when their parents are home and do not want to bother them with their hobbies. They might be the next Jony Ive, Steve Jobs, Elon - you know what I mean.

3. "Charles is a natural leader."

Translation: "He (or she) is the boss. Whenever there is a group assignment your child takes control of the group. I don't know if the other kids like it, but I don't have any complaints..."

Used for: Parents who want their child to study business or "take over" when they go on vacation/date night. These are the parents that are likely to volunteer more at your school so they can pad this "unpaid work" on their resume or (worse yet) their LinkedIn profile.

4. "Caleb has problems following directions."

Translation: "I want to say that your child has attention issues, but this is the politically correct way for me to say this without losing my job or you trying to contact my supervisor to find out more information."

Used for: Parents who need confirmation that they need to talk to some psychologist/counselor/doctor/guru/talk show host or friend of a friend who knows a friend that will try to solve their problem. [Deposit $3,000 of your hard earned money below and the gatekeeper will let you in.]

5. "Christine is an angel!"

Translation: Hey, all of the teachers that I had in elementary/middle school and high school told my father this. (Yes, it was my father who had the envious task of attending my parent teacher conferences and I was so embarrassed whenever he was there. He made it sound like I did not have a choice but to be a good student because if I wasn't - he probably would have disowned me, or blame it on my mother.)

I'm not sure what to make of it - (if only my teachers could see me now, relentless when it comes to my strong convictions) but it means that your child is a rule follower. Dependable as they may be - the teacher really does like your child and looks forward to working with your child.

Used for: Parents that need their children to be valedictorian/get into a great university or worse, change the world with their ideas/actions. These are parents that bring up extremely engaging children that have the opinions of a Supreme Court Justice but the work ethic of an accountant on April the 15th.

6. "Charlotte has so much potential."

Translation: For some reason that I cannot understand, your child has commitment issues. Commitment to doing the homework or project and more often than not, commitment to even turning in the homework. They are at a loss for words because they can only tell you what they observe, but not why the child is that way to begin with.

Used for: Parents who show up late to meetings and do not turn things in on time. The apple does not fall far from the tree either.

If you, or a parent you know has had a fantastic or disappointing Parent-Teacher Conference, please feel free to share in the comments below or you can always email them to me at: christine@learningridge.com.

The comments above are the personal opinions/convictions/observations of the author, Christine Javier. If you wish to contact Christine for Educational Consulting, you can call me at (404) 964-8533.