Thursday, March 24, 2016

Those Who Know: Create; Those Who Know Not: Copy!

The very first time I felt innately gullible was when I was a senior in High School. I was enrolled in an AP Language and Composition English class and had a remarkable teacher that everyone in our school adored. Mrs. C. had been diagnosed with lung cancer and we all knew that one day, the cancer would take over and she would no longer be with us. Oddly enough, even during high school - I was an extremely shy student around my peers and the only time that I shined was in the classroom, engaging in rhetoric with my classmates. Occasionally I would study with my more congenial friends and talk about happenings during the week and socializing.

I remember the event like it was yesterday. I brought over my AP US Government Project to work on with my so-called "friend" and we took a brief break from our assignment. As I walked over to grab my bottle of water to take a sip she asked me a question about our AP Lang and Comp teacher. Vulnerable and in a state of heightened lucidity, I gave her the answer that would haunt me forever. "If I, Christine, were  to describe Mrs. C. in one word it would be: free. Mrs. C is free in mind, free in soul, free in spirit." The opportunity for me to voice my opinion and express my ideas did not come as easily as others and I gladly shared my innermost thoughts with my so called, "best-mate".

Four weeks later, I was sitting on a chair in the second row during graduation. I did not graduate at the very top of the class, but I was pretty close in our senior class of 1100. Somewhere between the top 2nd and 3rd percent of students is where I proudly sat and enthusiastically listened to my more socially experienced peers. I remember cheering on my best mate and she proudly took to the dais and was chosen to give a short dedication to Mrs. C, my teacher who had been suffering with cancer. As she started her speech, I was happy to hear what ideas she had compiled about the teacher that we all grew to love so much.

She started her speech with, "If" and then the words that followed were stolen right from my mouth: "I were to describe Mrs. C. in one word, it would be free. Free in mind, free in soul, free in spirit." I felt that even though she was footsteps away, she had punched me in the stomach and committed the very first act of plagiarism that I ever witnessed firsthand. I sat there, motionless and listened to her speech and all the words that were left in her speech was a whisper compared to the roar that resounded my statement of who my teacher was.

Later that evening I shared that peculiar, life changing experience with my mother. She shook her head and told me the only thing that a parent, defunct in any legal background could tell me: "Child, you will never run out of great ideas. Don't ever let all of them out at the same time." Bewildered by her statement, I could never figure out how anyone could steal my ideas, words or even creativity, but it broke my heart and until today, keeps me from trusting people who are not close to me.

To this day, my mother's words could not be so true. As I work on business plans, products, strategies and tactics to help those who need guidance in the field of Educational Consulting, I've found that there is no shortage of thieves. There is a competitor who finds the need to infiltrate my system and has impersonated a parent (multiple times) to gather information on her "kindergartner" who was actually a fifteen year old. Another competitor decided to diversify her product offerings (even though she is clearly an English Teacher) and added math - a subject she told me she has no talent in. I've had people call me and try to gather intelligence on how my modest business has become to what it is today and the only thing I can say is: "If you really love what you want to do, you'll never want anyone else to dictate what you should do for others." I've loved various parts of my life that have shaped who I am and what our business is today and some of that can't be learned from a case study in some textbook or observing a Corporate Ladder Climber scheme their way to the top. It's through those misfirings that give us the opportunity to define who you are and essentially, who you never want to be. In other words, competitors who feel the need to copy clearly have no sense of direction in their business and I truly feel sorry for those whom they serve.

I don't know why I'm sharing this - I guess for me there is nothing that has become more hurtful than stealing someone's ideas. It's creativity and heart that makes ideas valuable in life. I spoke with the checkout lady at the grocery store and shared with her, "I've misplaced purses and wallets filled with my monthly salary and they have always been returned. However, my ideas have been stolen, and will continue to be stolen. I guess they are worth more than the money that I make."

If your child is one that is gifted with a creative mind, teach them the following two words: "Intellectual Property". It will help them to grow up and value their insight more than those who do not.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When You Know That Someone Is a Good Parent: Georgia Milestones Preview

Just recently, we had several hundred parents inquire about a sampling pre-test to see how well their children would adjust to a new assessment in the state of Georgia. Like many parents in this state, they "talk the talk" telling their friends, family and neighbors of how important the test is to them and how they know their child is prepared for this high stakes assessment. Fortunately, I was able to see firsthand what a good parent actually does in order to help their child better prepare for the future.

Several weeks into the registration period and I felt as if I was hired as a Call Center Supervisor for my own company. Many questions were asked as to "how I know" what is on the test and what I provided in order to help these students. Unlike the standard tutoring operation that many people have here in Georgia, I pride myself first and foremost on research (okay, I let it slip - I've taken a few Graduate Statistics and Research classes) and correlation/causation/validity. All the terms that parents could care less about. Needless to say, many people asked about our sample test but a group of a select few took it upon themselves to take the plunge and find out, what this was all about.

Saturday morning and the first of several parent/children pairs come strolling into my office. I operate a modest and humble operation (similar to how I live my life) and was excited to see such a wonderful gathering. The children came in, sat down,  and we had a nice talk about school, birthdays, and the wonderful weather that is an opportunity for mischief in this southern state. After the last individual arrived, we promptly began the test and the rest is expected.

As with many tests, this new test is in a league all of their own. Some of the children sighed as they perused through various sections of the reading passages; one almost looked as if he would faint after reading some of the questions. I was happy (despite the fact that I am no longer in a classroom) to see them work their hardest and overcome the insurmountable task of "finishing what you had started". The best part of the day was not grading the test, but in how the children, despite not knowing who the others were, could come together and behave as well as they do.

The parents that attended this session are the types of parents whose peers look up to. They are trailblazers in their community and are willing to do what needs to be done to help their child. I was excited to grade the work and as I read the responses from the different students in the group, I can hear them talking to me about what they had learned in that short period. It's given me insight not on what the child had scored well or poorly on, but their thought process and the way that they perceive the world.

Kudos to these parents. I know that you are great parents because when you are not there, the whole world can see how great your child is! Keep up the great work because we need more mothers and fathers like you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The "Mommy Corps" in America (Atlanta)

Yes, I said it, but I am afraid that you might not even know what this is unless I define it for you. I suppose that you can hear the Liberal Arts major in me as my voice resonates with the sound of complete hysteria when I tell you about the "Mommy Corps".

One day, there was a mommy who thought she knew more than anyone in her circle. She knew more than her physician, her pediatrician, her husband, even her own parents that spent the last 26 years putting her through undergrad and grad school. When she stepped into the second phase of her life, she decided that she knew more than everyone because she had..........children. Does this sound familiar? I'm afraid that it has become more common than not.

Enter, the "Mommy Corps". It's a nice battalion of soldiers that come together to discuss the trenches of warfare as they enter the next 18+ years in raising their children, and everyone else's children. Being part of the mommy corps only has one requirement: being a mommy. The sad thing is that the only opinion that matters is yours or that of your friends or the friends of your friends, and who is to say if you are a good mommy or a bad mommy because the only opinion that counts is yours? In this day and age, research, rationalism and experience does not matter. Veterans of the "Mommy Corps" only believe in one thing and one thing only: themselves.

I have a few individuals in my circle who have risen in these ranks. Some have done extremely well preaching their own gospel of motherhood. Others have been able to provide a living for their 5th Avenue lifestyles sharing their inner circle of who they would like for you to do business with. Others hide in fear of public spaces and judge from the inner workings of the internet. They are here to stay and the only person who can manage to live around them are their husbands who live in dire straits when they are under attack.

I'm not one to say that the "Mommy Corps" is, or is not effective. I have one mother who has graduated from the "Mommy Corps", helped her child - and has helped everyone else's child in her community. She was one mother who spent her mornings, afternoons and evenings researching ways to help her child. My staff and I admire her for her hard work and she did it all to help others in need who were not as fortunate as her.

When you are looking at helping your child, sometimes it is best to determine what is best for your child and to seek the guidance and wisdom of a professional who may have the ability to understand how the process works from start to finish. I would not go to a person who has never been a doctor to give me medical advice - why should you consult with someone who is in the same position as you to help with the future success of your child?