Posts tagged “Indiana Academy

Don’t Rescue Kids! Really?

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. As parents, we struggle to find the path of appropriate support. Kids need our protection, especially early in their lives, and our guidance as they get older. It’s easy, though, to become convinced that as adults, we know what is best for our children, including what ranks as acceptable goals and performances in school, and ultimately even the career path our child should choose. We can become so convinced about the path our children should follow that we create a life map for them and force them to follow it.


Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult, recently gave a TED talk entitled How to Raise Successful Kids – Without Over-Parenting. It has already been viewed over a half million times.

Lythcott-Haims, with insight and humor, describes parents who are desperate for their kid to get into one of a handful of colleges and universities that routinely deny almost every applicant that seeks entrance into their hallowed grounds. Desperate parents, anxious to Bask in the Reflected Glory (BIRG) of their kid, create desperate students who are withering under high rates of anxiety and depression. Such kids are absolved from chores and even sleep as they try to attain the impossible. The purpose of childhood, she emphasizes, should not be about grades, scores, awards, and accolades, which are based on a super narrow definition of success, a process, whether successful or not, that comes with a long term cost to children’ sense of self. With eloquence and her own conviction, which is all the more impressive given her role at Stanford, she concludes by urging parents to be less concerned about elite colleges and more concerned about their children having the habits of mind to be successful wherever they go, to be less concerned about grades and more concerned about success built on love and chores. Yes, chores.


“I gotta get this lawn mowed.”

I first wrote about the BIRG acronym in Vexed in California (January 9, 2013), and then described it more fully in Why Fulfill Your Own Dreams, When Your Kids Can Do It For You? (February 28, 2013). Click on these titles for a quick review. BIRG parents seek to have their Basic Need for Power and Success met through the achievements of their children. BIRG parents are much less concerned, if at all, with their children discovering and establishing their own identity, and the schools classes and career path that ultimately come out of that identity, and more concerned about their child performing in a way that makes them as parents look good – not just good grades, but great grades in honors classes; not just sports involvement, but starting roles on multiple varsity sports; not just being involved in a club, but being president of the club. You get the picture. Hiding behind the guise of simply wanting what is best for my child, parents exploit their children’s efforts and even health for their own gain. Should parents, instead then, let their children flounder as they go about “discovering” themselves. As Lythcott-Haims forcefully replies, “Hell, no!” Loving support that honors the interests of our children does not have to morph into BIRGing. It’s just that we don’t do our children any favors when we prevent them from finding their own sense of self.

I wonder if Julie Lythcott-Haims is aware of the work of Denise Clark Pope, a fellow Stanford professor and author of the book, Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students. I really recommend Doing School for high school teachers and parents of high school students. It is very readable, partly because it is based on five case studies – real students Pope shadowed at a top high school in the Bay Area. Wanting to discover what engaged students in the process of learning, she discovered instead that students are committed less to real learning and more to creating an impressive resume. Students, she found out, are simply “doing school,” which, unfortunately, is another way of saying they are trying to win the game by playing according to the rules we, as adults, have created. A really interesting and important read.


Finally, Glasser talked about the importance of not rescuing kids. Over-parenting prevents kids from leading their own lives, including solving problems of their own creation. We establish our identity as we are given chances to experience success, all the while keeping track of what we did well, and failure, which then can include fixing what we messed up and then making a better plan for a future attempt. A story from scripture comes to mind, the one where John the Baptist is trying to explain his role to his disciples, who are concerned about a new preacher, someone named Jesus, who was taking attention away from John. To this John explained, “He must increase and I must decrease.” This phrase might be good to keep in mind when it comes to parents (and teachers) having specific pictures in their head of what their child’s success and future look like. “My pictures need to lessen as I help my child nurture the pictures that are important to him,” a parent can decide. Our love and support are never removed during this shift toward their freedom and responsibility. Unconditional love is always the key!


It was so good to meet and work with the staff at Indiana Academy last week in Cicero, Indiana. Steve Baughman, the principal, is leading a young, committed team toward a school culture that is based on the concepts of choice theory.


Partners discussing how schools may use the Deadly Habits without intending to.


Head deans at the academy during one of the partner activities.


Partners squaring off during the “You’ve Got to Be Kidding” activity.



There Was This Teacher


The current cover of Educational Leadership, the journal for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, headlines just two words – Relationships First. I love it that thousands of teachers across the U.S. and beyond are being reminded of this essential learning element. There is no getting around it, no shortcuts to it, and no technology that replaces it. When it comes to learning, relationships matter.

Care is in the eyes of the receiver; care doesn’t exist unless those being cared for truly experience it.   Elizabeth Bondy


Glasser emphasized the importance of 3 Rs when it comes to kids learning in schools – Relationships, Relevance, and Relf-Evaluation. (Ok, it was really two Rs and an S, but it isn’t as catchy as 3 Rs.) From the outset of his career and his work at the Ventura School for Girls, basically a prison school, he recognized the absolute importance of positive connection. This connection is especially needed with any of the students we work with who have struggled with school, who have been traumatized in their past, or who are English Language Learners. One of the keys to Reality Therapy’s success, Glasser’s approach to counseling, was his emphasis on what he called involvement between patient and therapist. By involvement he meant a warm, caring connection. In 1965, when he introduced Reality Therapy to the world, this therapeutic emphasis on connection was fairly unique. The point here, though, is that whether in the classroom or the therapist’s office a positive relationship is vital.

The most urgent questions students ask as they begin a new school year are Am I safe? and Do I belong?   Rick Wormeli

I began attending workshops in cooperative learning from David and Roger Johnson almost 30 years ago, yet I still remember some of their key points like it was yesterday. They explained that there are three important relationships in every classroom – 1) the relationship between the students and the material, 2) the relationship between the students and the teacher, and 3) the relationship between the students themselves. Not to devalue the importance of the other two, especially the relationship between students and teacher, but the Johnson’s felt the most important relationship that exists in any classroom is the relationship between the students. This stuck with me and during my years as teacher, principal, and superintendent, I came to agree with them. Students enter a classroom unsure about how they will fit in and unsure about how they will be treated by others. Until they experience a classroom environment where they feel safe, learning takes a backseat. Threats and sanctions regarding lower grades or trips to the vice-principals office only contributes to their performance being worse.

If you find yourself frustrated with a student, try to find something that you genuinely like and respect about that student and repeat it to yourself.   Lisa Medoff

Rick Wormeli, who contributed the lead article, What to Do in Week 1?, in the recent Educational Leadership, shared something that Rabbi Harold Kushner said during a 1998 interview –

Often I will read about someone from the most unpromising circumstances – inner city ghetto, drug family, single-parent home, abandoned by father, abandoned by both parents sometimes – and the child will have grown up to be a star athlete, a successful politician, or a doctor. The reporter will ask, “How did you get to be who you are?” And the answer will always begin with the same four words: “There was this teacher.”

It’s true. Whether it’s about our relationship with students as teachers or their relationship as students with each other, relationships matter. And rather than relationships being touchy-feely fluff, they directly impact learning.

I realized very early in my career that to successfully and thoughtfully teach my students, I needed to imagine life through their eyes.   Cherish Skinker

In Choice Theory Speak, as teachers we want students to place us in their Quality World and we want them to place our subject matter and our classroom in their Quality World, as well. We can’t inject ourselves into their Quality World. We can only behave in a way that invites students to place us there. We can only create classrooms that students come to value. Coercion has no place within this dynamic.


As I write this it is early in the morning in Cicero, Indiana, where I am giving a two-day in-service on choice theory to the staff at Indiana Academy. They had already read Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators, so I am now joining them in their journey toward a non-coercive life and a non-coercive classroom. Yesterday we focused on Glasser’s Big Four – the Basic Needs, the Quality World, Creativity, and Total Behavior. Today we’ll focus on application of the ideas here at the academy.


The Indiana Academy campus is well kept with sprawling lawns leading to classic brick buildings. It feels peaceful here.


The school is located north of Indianapolis and is the academic home for 129 students.


A quiet hallway at the end of the day. So busy between classes. So empty now.

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