Thursday, May 23, 2019

Thank You for a Great 2018-19 School Year!

As we all prepare for graduation tomorrow followed by the more relaxation of summer, this week’s (and the school year’s last!) article summary is 18 Super Wise Quotes to Live Your Life By.

As we move into summer, I hope that one or two of the quotes below inspire you to think and reflect—on both your professional and personal life.

A few quotes below resonated for me and made me think about what I value in my life. (I’m a little embarrassed to say I liked the Reba McEntire quote!)

Thank all of you for another extraordinary school year!

The end of a school year is always bittersweet. Students are graduating and leaving the comfortable confines of Trinity. A number of colleagues are also leaving Trinity--we wish them the very best yet also realize that we will never replicate the feel and fun of this current school year. Noting remains static and change is constant. We 150 individuals worked as a team this year to provide our students with meaningful experiences and memories. I thank all of you for your dedication and commitment to your students and to Trinity!

Thank you for such a special school year!


Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose: Bill Gates

Each person must live their life as a model for others: Rosa Parks

Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking: H. Jackson Brown Jr.

If you can't tolerate critics, don't do anything new or interesting: Jeff Bezos
A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination: Nelson Mandela
Success is where preparation and opportunity meet: Bobby Unser​
Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions: Harold S. Geneen​
Predicting rain doesn't count. Building arks does: Warren Buffett
Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you: John Wooden
To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone: Reba McEntire
Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time: Jim Rohn
To get rich, you have to be making money while you're asleep: David Bailey
The most simple things can bring the most happiness: Izabella Scorupco​
There is always space for improvement, no matter how long you've been in the business: Oscar De La Hoya
Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all: Helen Keller
Friends and good manners will carry you where money won't go: Margaret Walker
Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness: John C. Maxwell 
Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for: Bob Marley

Friday, May 17, 2019

Why Girls Beat Boys at School But Lost at the Office

It’s a follow-up to an earlier article How School Kills Girls' Confidence.

As teachers, we face two gender-related issues in the classroom: girls more often work harder than they need to while boys more often don’t work hard enough.

Most boys get used to hearing from their teachers and parents that they need to work harder to fulfill their potential. Most also (my two boys and I are prime examples) learned to play the game of hollowly promising to put in a better effort the next time just to get parents and teachers off our backs.

Teachers and parents often use girls’ effort, organization, and achievement as a positive example for boys. Yet as the article explains, this creates the ideal that girls measure themselves against, pressuring them to put it superhuman effort to achieve and maintain. Boys seem naturally inclined to ‘fake it til you make it’ and rely on their wits and confidence, not their developed competence while girls begin to doubt their natural ability and often compensate through over-work. Girls typically are over prepared for tests while boys are under prepared.

The article provides some tips for how we can help girls avoid becoming overcome with the need to be perfect:
  • Too much effort can be counter-productive: Often you don’t need to prep for a test by studying for all night. Test how much you already have learned and then assess how much study time you need. 
  • Don’t over-praise herculean effort and get girls to understand that economy of effort needs to be the goal.
  • Talk about how we can’t be perfect in all things all the time.

In these ways we can help girls become more confident in their natural abilities and not have them rely on effort.



From elementary school through college, girls are more disciplined about their schoolwork than boys; they study harder and get better grades. Girls consistently outperform boys academically. And yet, men nonetheless hold a staggering 95% of the top positions in the largest public companies.

What if those same habits that propel girls to the top of their class — their hyper-conscientiousness about schoolwork — also hold them back in the work force?

When investigating what deters professional advancement for women, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence. When it comes to work-related confidence, they found men are far ahead. “Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect.”

As a psychologist who works with teenagers, I hear this concern often from the parents of many of my patients. They routinely remark that their sons do just enough to keep the adults off their backs, while their daughters relentlessly grind, determined to leave no room for error. The girls don’t stop until they’ve polished each assignment to a high shine and rewritten their notes with color-coded precision.

We need to ask: What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?

This possibility hit me when I was seeing an eighth grader in my practice. She got terrific grades but was feeling overwhelmed by school. Her brother, a ninth grader, had similarly excellent grades, but when I asked if he worked as hard as she did, she scoffed. If she worked on an assignment for an hour and got an A, she felt “safe” only if she spent a full hour on other assignments like it. Her brother, in contrast, flew through his work. When he brought home an A, she said, he felt “like a stud.” If his grades slipped a bit, he would take his effort up just a notch. But she never felt “safe” enough to ever put in less than maximum effort.

That experience — of succeeding in school while exerting minimal or moderate effort — is a potentially crucial one. It may help our sons develop confidence, as they see how much they can accomplish simply by counting on their wits. For them, school serves as a test track, where they build their belief in their abilities and grow increasingly at ease relying on them. Our daughters, on the other hand, may miss the chance to gain confidence in their abilities if they always count on intellectual elbow grease alone.

So how do we get hyper-conscientious girls (and boys, as there certainly are some with the same style) to build both confidence and competence at school?

First, parents and teachers can stop praising inefficient overwork, even if it results in good grades. Gendered approaches to learning set in early, so it’s never too soon to start working against them. Recently, as I read “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” to my 8-year-old daughter, I stopped at a passage in which Hermione — the fictional poster child for academic fastidiousness — turned in an essay that was “two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns asked for.” Hermione, I pointed out, doesn’t make great use of her time. She’s a capable student and could probably do just as well without working so hard.

We can also encourage girls toward a different approach to school — one that’s more focused on economy of effort, rather than how many hours they put in. Whenever one of the academically impressive and persistently anxious girls in my practice tells me about staying up until 2 in the morning studying, I see an opening. That’s the moment to push them to become tactical, to figure out how to continue learning and getting the same grades while doing a little bit less. I urge my patients — and my own teenage daughter — to begin study sessions by taking sample tests, to see how much they know before figuring out how much more they need to do to attain mastery over a concept or task. Many girls build up an incredible capacity for work, but they need these moments to discover and take pride in how much they already understand.

Teachers, too, can challenge girls’ over-the-top tendencies. When a girl with a high-A average turns in extra credit work, her instructor might ask if she is truly taken with the subject or if she is looking to store up “insurance points,” as some girls call them. If it’s the former, more power to her. If it’s the latter, the teacher might encourage the student to trust that what she knows and the work she is already doing will almost certainly deliver the grade she wants. Educators can also point out to this student that she may not need insurance; she probably has a much better grasp of the material than she gives herself credit for.

Finally, we can affirm for girls that it is normal and healthy to feel some anxiety about school. Too often, girls are anxious even about being anxious, so they turn to excessive studying for comfort. We can remind them that being a little bit nervous about schoolwork just means that they care about it, which of course they should.

Even if neither you nor your daughter cares about becoming a chief executive, you may worry that she will eventually be crushed by the weight of her own academic habits. While a degree of stress promotes growth, working at top speed in every class at all times is unhealthy and unsustainable for even the most dedicated high school students. A colleague of mine likes to remind teenagers that in classes where any score above 90 counts as an A, the difference between a 91 and a 99 is a life.

To be sure, the confidence gap is hardly the only thing keeping women out of top jobs. Women also face gender bias, sexual harassment, and powerful structural barriers in the workplace. But confidence at school is one unequal advantage that we can address right now. Instead of standing by as our daughters make 50 flashcards when they were assigned 20, we can step in and ask them why. Many professional men brim with confidence because they have spent years getting to know their abilities. Women should arrive in the work world having done the same.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Advice to Parents

For those of you who have children, a common question we ask ourselves is “Am I a good parent?”

As you’ll see in the article below (written with parents in mind yet clearly applicable for teachers as well), in trying to be a good parent, we often opt to provide more safety, control, and structure in our kids’ lives.

While our goal for our kids is for them to be both happy and successful, too much adult supervision and oversight can lead to increased anxiety and dependence in our children.

I was fortunate that my parents intuitively followed the advice of this child psychologist and I tried to do the same for my kids. Now that I’m a grandparent, I keep mum regarding how my son and his wife are raising their children. I resist sending them articles like this but hope that they will receive sage advice from doctors, friends, common sense, etc.

To me, the best parents nurture, support, and guide their children while most importantly giving them enough space to find their own path and uniqueness.



As a child psychologist, I speak with so many parents who are concerned about their child's development or behavior. Mostly my clients aren't sure what behaviors should raise a red flag for them—"Should I worry when my child does this" or "Is it weird that my child said that..."

When I became a mom to two boys, my work only heightened some of the concerns I, like all parents, have. After all, I witness firsthand how parenting can affect kids. Parents have a whirlwind of things to worry about, but we just can’t worry about everything.

I don't worry...

If I am being a positive role model: As a working mom, I don't always get to spend all day with my boys. But what’s more important than the quantity of time you spend with your kids is the quality of the time you do have together. When I am with my children, whether for an hour or a full day, I am responsive to their cues and needs. During the work day, my children are with experienced caregivers who help teach them how to be resilient and adaptable to change. Even if you don’t go to work, time apart from you can help teach your child autonomy and independence.

If they are meeting their milestones: Children meet developmental milestones when they are ready. There are ranges of what is considered appropriate and what may be considered delayed. One piece of advice is to not compare your child to others. Focus more on how your children make progress by comparing them to themselves—if they are progressing each day, each week, each month, that’s what really matters. If you do have concerns, share them with your pediatrician not with other parents.

If there’s a change in our routine: I keep my children out late on holidays and will sometimes skip a nap to do a fun activity. So many parents feel they have to stick to a strict schedule or their children will fall apart. There's no question that children thrive from routine and benefit from clear expectations. Children, like most people, do better when they know what to expect. But changes in your daily routine or schedule will not break your children. Schedules can be adjusted, sleep can be retrained, and bad behavior can be extinguished, but having ice cream for breakfast on his birthday is something your child will remember forever.

If my kids are picky eaters: As long as the pediatrician doesn’t have concerns about their weight or health, I don’t fight my kids on food. I have found that when I try to force my toddler to try something new, he is resistant. However, when I give him the option by putting it on his plate with other familiar and comfortable foods, he is more willing to take a bite since the pressure is low and the choice is his.

If my kids have screen time: Like everything else, exposure to screens and technology can be useful, if it is carefully monitored and regulated by caretakers. Engage with your child while watching TV and discuss the characters and themes of the episode during commercials. Most devices have parental controls—take advantage of them. If you have an older child with an iPhone, set up Screen Time, which lets you monitor how they are using their devices and set time limits on app categories like games or social media. Tablets can also be great educational tools and they are often a must-have on long car rides or in waiting rooms.

I do worry...

About who my kids’ friends are: Focus your energy toward getting to know your child’s friends and educating your children on how to make good friends. It's OK to suggest things he may want to do differently during the next playdate. For example, if you observed your child never getting to choose the activity, you can say “I noticed that you always agreed to play what Johnny wanted to play, what did you want to play?” Role-playing is a great way to help your child develop self-advocacy skills. I also try to encourage my son to do activities that are of high interest to him, as opposed to choosing an activity just because it's popular. Expose your child to a variety of activities and pursue the ones that your child seems to enjoy. This will teach him to be a leader and not always follow along with the crowd, and he will likely meet peers with similar interests.

If my child is kind: I sometimes observe children acting mean, not because they are actually mean, but because they have heard or witnessed others being mean. Kids are like sponges, they take everything in, even when you don’t think they are paying attention. I always try to teach my children to use kind language like “everyone’s included” and “kindness counts." I also have honest (age-appropriate) conversations with them about when they observe others being unkind. We discuss what we observed and explore what other options the person had that could have led to more positive outcomes. Teach empathy: your children do not have to like everyone, but they should still be kind to everyone. When my children and I observe someone being unfriendly we try to evaluate the situation from a different perspective: Is it possible that the person is just having a bad day?

If I am making the right educational decisions for my kids: As educational standards shift, so do societal expectations. So much so that it often feels like our kindergarteners are being prepped more for college readiness than social adjustment. As parents, we are constantly faced with the question of are we doing right by our children. Have we signed them up for enough extracurricular? No decision you make for your children is set in stone. If you think you may be pushing them too hard, try pulling back and see how they do. 

If my child is happy: Sure, I know my toddler is happier playing than doing homework but is he really truly happy deep down at his core? This is something that feels so out of my control as a parent. Rather than just worry about it, ask your children directly how she is feeling on a daily basis, and try not to be dismissive of her concerns. If there is something bothering her, suggest strategies for her to use. Then follow up with your child on how it went. If your child is still struggling, seek professional help. Low-level issues that are not addressed can turn into larger problems later in life.

Knowing what concerns to prioritize makes the parenting journey much calmer. If you're feeling worried or stressed, remember you are not the only parent to feel this way. You can turn to your friends, family, or professionals (like a school psychologist or pediatrician) for help.