Paige Strickland is back

Paige Strickland Head ShotPaige Strickland, my WOW tour guest on August 11, has returned and I’m thrilled. Thanks WOW! Women on Writing for scheduling this addition stop.

Not only is Paige a memoirist with a book called Akin to the Truth about her adoption, she has had a long career as a teacher. Here are her thoughts about how children can have a positive school experience. It’s perfect timing. School has just started  or about to start in the next few days.

Tis The Season!

by Paige Strickland

            Our TVs and radios are clogged with advertisements about new sneakers, jeans on sale and handy lunch snacks. Discount stores and larger groceries have updated their seasonal aisle with rows of colorful binders, magic markers and Crayola 64-count crayons. These reminders began to trickle in just after July 4th with hopes of creating excitement and anticipation among parents and youngsters for back to school. As much as I detest having my relaxed-paced summer vacation day at the pool bombarded prematurely with ads for fall, I realize these commercials can serve a purpose: To help us prepare our children and ourselves for a significant stage in their developing lives: Going (back) to school.

School is a huge deal, and all good parents want their sons and daughters to experience success and satisfaction. We may try to set the stage by purchasing cool sports gear or that backpack with the awesome superhero or princess imagery, hoping this will sweeten the school experience and give the child a feeling of having a leg up among peers.

However, even in the best of schools, at any grade level, some children adore learning and the academic life, some struggle the entire way, and some experience a great shift as the elementary years progress from an atmosphere of school being a happy place where children are praised and helped to the secondary level when the setting becomes more of a challenge to compete academically, socially and athletically on their own.

Not every child / student is perfectly ready for the next level, even if their numbers say they are or your best parenting efforts demonstrate otherwise. I personally saw big changes and a few triggers during my children’s second grade, fifth grade, seventh grade and 11th grade stages.

Kids are both encouraged and pushed harder all at the same time. This comes from both the school systems and the parents. As moms and dads, we want our boys and girls to excel and do their best work. We don’t want failure. It’s not in our values. Schools are driven to have students achieve on mandatory testing, (Common Core) and other standardized tests, which are part of how schools attain excellence ratings. Kids do sense this pressure, and it is up to us as adults to reassure them that pressure is OK to a point; it’s always good and right to do your best, but if they struggle, they are still loved and accepted.

What we need to remember is that not every child is ready at the same time, and that their readiness or lack thereof is not a marker for overall success or failure in schoolwork, sports of relationships with people.  For example, a second-grader who is slower than typical in reading skills can be just as capable of appreciating and comprehending To Kill A Mockingbird by high school as the four-year-old who already knows his or her continents and has read The Very Hungry Caterpillar over and over. Even the best child is a work in progress.

As a parent, if you think your child may have a true learning disability, by all means pursue having them assessed and take advantage of all the assistance available for your child’s benefit, but understand that learning any skill or concept is a process, and it cannot be rushed. Every child works ultimately at his or her own pace.  Helping your kids learn just about anything takes lots of time and a ton of patience, especially if you want them to develop good habits and consistency.

When students hit major milestones like changing classes every hour and traveling throughout a large building, learning to use a locker with a combination lock, even taking a bus, there might be some fear, resistance and even regression at first. If your child who loves to write poems and stories suddenly receives a  spirit-crushing C- on their first book report in eighth grade English, this is not a crisis. It is an opportunity for you and your son or daughter to find out what can be done for improvement next time. Consult the teacher’s rubric or other posted instructions and learn from experience.

Most importantly, as your child matures, this is a time for him or her to personally take responsibility for their assignment(s) and ask their teachers in a respectful and timely way, How can I do better next time? The lesson as a whole isn’t always about the grade but about the process of improvement and personal growth.

The start of a new school year is a lot like the start of any new year. It’s about resolutions and setting goals. It’s about opportunities to try something new. It is a time to renew relationships with peers, meet new people and form positive memories. It’s a time for team-building activities and (literally) starting new chapters.

If you are sending a young person you love off to school, be it pre-school or college, it can be both joyous and bittersweet. I wish you and your kids a sense of security, fun times, success and a very happy new year!

***

Thanks so much, Paige, for returning to Choices.

 

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Recognition and accolades for Akin to the Truth:

  • Akin to the Truth has been featured by memoirists Kathleen Pooler (http://www.krpooler.com/2013/10/09/how-i-got-ideas-for-my-memoir-akin-to-the-truth-a-memoir-of-adoption-and-identity-by-paige-strickland/) and Mary Gottschalk.
  • Back in October, Angie’s Diary (http://angiesdiary.com/writing-creativity/interviews/paige-strickland-alone/) gave a promo and Paige received recognition from Sonia Marsh (http://soniamarsh.com/2012/09/my-gutsy-story-by-paige-strickland.html#comments).
  • Mariette Williams at Those Four Little Words provided a feature this spring (http://thosefourlittlewords.com) and most recently, Dayton, OH adoptee and writer, Lynn Grubb, featured Akin to the Truth and reviewed it on her site, Lost Daughters.
  • In Paige’s hometown, radio DJ, Jeanine Coyle from WGRR 103.5 had Paige live on the air speaking to a local book group about Akin to the Truth.
  • Chapter 14 from Akin to the Truth came in 3rd place out of 200 entries and was featured on the scinti website in 2010 ( http://www.scinti.com/family-reunion/)_. Adoptive parent and blogger, Jane Ballback also featured the same story on her site in 2012 (http://adoptionvoicesmagazine.com/secrets/family-reunion-part-one/#.U3rOpuZdW3k)!

Please go to my August 11 post for more information about Paige and her memoir.

 

Comments

  1. This post is packed with wisdom, Paige. I appreciate you both for featuring this timely advice. What strikes me the most about what you share, is the importance of recognizing that children learn in different ways. Also , a failure is an opportunity to make future improvements. Clearly a positive school experience takes a commitment from both the parents and the teacher to support children with their individual needs. This post is of particular interest to me because I have seven little grandsons, ages 6-12, whose futures are depending on what they are experiencing now in school. I can only hope their teachers will be as compassionate and insightful as you are, Paige. Thank you both!

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