Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Atlanta Orton Gillingham Reading Intervention.... I Did What???

I told this story not too long ago and sometimes I have to remind myself that what I do not have in one area, I might have to make up for in (connections/brains/money from Shark Tank) luck.

Many, many years ago in a village called Sandy Springs lived a nice Atlanta family who had two children. One child was a 3rd grader who needed Foreign Language lessons and the other child, let's just say he didn't have any problems that I knew of back then.

Every week I would visit the 3rd grader and work with her in her Foreign Language class. We worked so unbelievably hard that she started teaching the children around her about what she learned with me. Each time I saw her it led into a routined ferris wheel of Foreign Language, Math, Reading, and writing lessons - and anything else that came along. It was a nice few months until suddenly...

Her younger brother needed to leave his "Special School". His mother and father were in a downward spiral trying to find the proper school placement for him as he had "Special Problems". When I would walk into their home, he would be placed away from me because they feared that I did not have the proper training to talk to him. Every week I would see him and they made me feel as if he needed to be "socially quarantined" because of his "Special Problems". Later I realized what these "Special Problems" were - and that is where the story begins.

Every time I meet a young client who has to work on "transitional learning skills", I am reminded of this memory. I worked with this family for several months and when they had searched through all of Atlanta to find someone to help their child learn the skill of reading, they called me for help.

As an educator, it is our calling to help educate children, but I think that sometimes we forget that it is the parents that need the help the most. When this family called me, they felt that I could not only be trusted to learn what I needed to learn to help their child - but would ensure that I would continue to respond to the ever changing needs of both of their children. I spent the first part of the year preparing for the "Art of Orton Gillingham" and the summer was spent sharing this newly acquired skill set with the "little man". There were weeks where I met them at their house here in Atlanta and weeks where I was with them at their beach vacation home in Florida.  There was not one day that I did not enjoy working with them, or any of my other clients.

I love what I do and I have a tinge of excitement every time I meet anyone who asks me to help their child,  (especially those that give me the privilege of teaching them to read). Maybe parents do not realize this, but when I meet  a child for the first time, I look at them and see their smiling faces in one/two/three months when they start prancing in my office showing off letters, words, or paragraphs that they can read out loud. These children become transformed from a child who looks down or away when they read to one that rips the book from your hand and shows you they can do it (only a little bit more.. aggressively). And magically, the tears that was once found drying on the cheeks of a parent have been replaced with a smile from ear to ear.

Orton-Gillingham is not a curriculum; it's a methodology and way of life in the reading world that some people are unfamiliar with, and others celebrate. I'm proud of the fact that this methodology has been faithful in promising the results that I've always expected but in turn, I'm proud of the fact that it's taught me more than just reading... It's taught me how to problem solve!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

JATP Admissions Preparation 2016: Saying Goodbye (for now)

It's almost the end of the journey (for most of my clients; believe it or not - some have just started) and I'm afraid that I might not want to let go of some of these precious moments that I have shared with these wonderful families.

What I do want to talk about, is how great they have all have been, at a very personal level.

One memory I want to share is that of a father who has taken a passive/active role in this process. Most fathers do not involve themselves when they work with me, but this is one father who definitely makes me feel like I have faith in this world by observing him lead his family.

This evening I had one of my final conversations with him. We talked about the journey and how far we've all come and all the hiccups down the road. This father has worked very hard in his life and despite all of that, he spares no expense when it comes to making either myself or my staff feel important when we are working with his children. He is what I would call, "Mr. Genuine Dad". As we wrapped things up, he  told me that as he was beginning to think about their future, he came across some more important aspects of their social development.

The conversation was very emotional  (for me) and real and there was not a filter between the words that were exchanged between us. I asked him why he chose the group of schools for his children and his response was: "After looking at some of these schools, I took a look at my children and wanted them to feel secure and normal. I want them to know what the world is like and not the bubble that most people would like for their children to be in here in Atlanta. I want them to have the same experiences that everyone else has - and not just the chosen few". It took me a bit of time to let that all sink in and then I thought to myself:

This is a real dad. He knows his children and he knows the world that we live in. Unlike other parents, he is sensible in his approach and does not let the world adjust to his children but rather his children adjust to the world. I felt that at the end of the day, he was not planning on sending them to a school so that he could show off the decal on his car (or SUV, I don't pay attention anymore), he wants to send his children to a school that would bring out the best in them and in turn, the best in our community. He's a true father that pays attention to the needs of his family, and not his ego.

This dad has been an inspiration for me to follow in the next few years of this process. I've noticed that his traits and mannerisms have been found in many of my other clients who are fathers. They love their children so much that sometimes you only see it when you pay attention.

I'm extremely proud of the group that I've worked with this year and you all know that I've tirelessly made sure that we get the results that you want. To all of my "Mr. Genuine Dad" clients, it has been an honor working with you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

5 Tips To Ace the JATP Parent Statement

It's time for you to open up the website to begin the application process. You look through the questions and unfortunately, your spouse is not around to see what you have unveiled. It's been several years since you have been asked to write anything that is longer than 50 words. These days the only time you are writing more than five sentences is when you are getting a little too excited about dinner and your Yelp review proves this.

The deadlines approach sooner than you can imagine and you keep waiting to be in the right mood to write the Parent Statement; after all, this is important enough to warrant your undivided attention. You do everything that you can to come up with the best and most honest portrayal of your child. If you are lucky, you know the art of writing and do not have to exert yourself like the other 95% of the population need to do. However, for most people, this task does not come as easily.

For most people who are driving around the streets of Atlanta, writing the Parent Statement is short of finishing off the final pages of your "Great American Novel". As soon as you hit the "Submit" button, all of your time and effort into putting in those key words (or 500 characters) will be scrutinized from now until the doors open again.

Here are my top 5 mistakes made when authoring the Parent Statement

1. Ask the most "Intelligent" Friend That You Know to Write About Your Child

Yes, this sounds like such a great idea doesn't it? Crowd sourcing from your more capable compatriots to bail you out of this... ordeal.  As I have my afternoon tea with clients I'll briefly glance through their Parent Statement and notice one thing: they didn't write it. It's rather comical because parents will tell me that, "Oh, my friend is an attorney and they helped me write it." or "Yes, my friend has a Ph.D in Political Science and they helped me come up with a few paragraphs." The fact of the matter is, you've given up and have taken the short course to the bottom of the pile.

Learning Ridge Pro Tip #1: Your "Intelligent" Friend is "Intelligent" in their own field. I would consult with them for information in that field and in that field only. If you decide to pursue them in matters that pertain to the Parent Statement, then proceed at your own risk.

2. Use Recycled Responses of a Friend's Failed Admission

"There's no way that they will compare my essay with one that was submitted five years ago!" Several years ago I saw the responses of a client who has a child that is now attending school at (Confidentiality). Like most parents, they had a difficult time knowing who their own child actually is. They asked a friend to help them with the Parent Statement and they did what many parents would do, cut/copy and paste. I asked the parents if their friend's child was accepted into the school that they had applied to. Their response was "no", my response was "Are you holding on to this for sentimental value?"

Learning Ridge Pro Tip #2: Don't use the recycled responses of your friend. There are so many ethical reasons why this should not even occur in the first place.

3. Have Your Spouse Write It During Their Lunch Break

"Sure honey, I'll finish this today during lunch:)". That's the text that would make any spouse happy, but would make a professional like me worry. Many clients have spouses that travel a great deal and may not have the time to talk to them about the Parent Statement. So a few days before the applications are due and here it is: all eight paragraphs. The only problem is: there are so many mistakes in the submission that it looks as if you rushed to turn it in like it was your Tax Extension "sans receipts".

Learning Ridge Pro Tip #3: Completing the Parent Statement during your lunch break is a half-hearted attempt that may not allow you to pass the "Parental Involvement" Requirement for most schools. If you think this is how all the parents act at the school that you are dreaming to send your child to,  you may be in for a big surprise.

4. Tell Your Child To Write It

It's disguised as a homework assignment that your child didn't know was due and cannot find it anywhere on Edmodo or the school's designated blog. So your angelic child spends months agonizing over something they cannot answer without offending you.

Learning Ridge Pro Tip #4: If you or anyone you know has done this, please give me a call. I've tried counseling parents on the fact that it's great to have your child be independent, but some tasks are made for you to complete, and you only. I support being a helicopter parent for a few things (safety of children so that they do not end up in another state for one or making sure that they are not posting egregious photos of themselves on Social Media) but having them write the Parent Statement for you and making them change it might be ...... #tacky.

5. Take Out Your Personal Statement From Graduate School and Substitute Your Name For Your Child

You have given up and know that as a successful professional, you have the keys to admissions because you've gotten through undergrad, graduate school and have awards on your wall to signify your contribution to your field. So you have your child turn into your "Mini Me". The only problem is: they are not you.

Learning Ridge Pro Tip #5: During this time, it's important to know that they want to know more about your child than.... you. Albeit, you are a significant individual in your child's life but I would not fabricate their accomplishments so that their file mysteriously appears at the top of the heap. If you think this might work, it won't.

6. Resorting to a Thesaurus to Upgrade Your Vocabulary

If the word that you are typing is a word that you have never heard of before, please do not use it. The sad thing is, there is a certain style in every individual's vernacular that is personalized. When parents have to take a thesaurus to use words that they have never heard of, the problem is that it may not be appropriate for what they are trying to say. Now  your family sounds like a collection of non-existent five syllable adjectives #TryingTooHard

Learning Ridge Pro Tip #6: Choose language that comes naturally to you. Keep it simple and think about what points you are trying to communicate.

7. Submitting a poor essay and thinking that you can just do it better next year

If you think that next year they are not going to compare your "Language Arts Worthy Creation", think again. The first idea that may pop into their heads is that you had someone write it for you the second time around.

Learning Ridge Pro Tip #7: Do it right the first time. If not, "The Ghost Of Parent Statements Past" might come back to haunt you.

If you or someone in your family needs assistance with the Admissions Preparation Process, please feel free to contact us to schedule an Opportunity Assessment: or call (404) 964-8533.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Understanding the Private School Admissions Process in Atlanta

Over the years I have fielded calls from parents who have talked to me about the process of getting their son/daughter into elite private schools here in Atlanta. I'm always pleased to learn more about the process that they had undergone and share in their experiences whether it's the first time they are applying to a JATP school, or the last time they are trying to get into their first choice.

The worrisome aspect of this is that there is a great deal of misinformation that occurs when it pertains to the JATP. As I've observed, there are certain skills that all children need to have when they enter school. There are problems with how this process slightly favors some groups over others. It's not a competition to see which child has which score; as a matter of fact, it's so much more than that.

As we've worked with clients with different needs ranging from private school in Atlanta, college outside of Georgia, graduate school, and board certifications, it is important now more than ever to give people a fair and competitive advantage. Information and proper planning of what is expected of you is the recipe for success in my opinion.