Sunday, September 1, 2013

Doha Home Educators Boot Camp

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Sept.1, 2013

My goodness! It is the ber months now!

I felt so recharged and so inspired by the boot camp I attended yesterday with around 50 moms and 3 dads ! My super dad acted as a baby sitter to my 2 kids in the nearby pool while I absorbed the good vibes of Brenda Kent, writing ethics in Engineering professor of Texas A&M here in Doha.
The potluck table was filled with lovely treats. Our host Angie Daniels was the perfect host even fresh from an early morning visit to the ER last Friday for Streph throat, 8 month cutie baby in one arm, she welcomed us graciously, gave us specific directions getting to their club house, hosting the program, giving out instructions on what to say in the introduction part, handing beautifully wrapped door prizes and just making sure we were filled physically and spiritually.
Naomi, a light colored abaya wearing mom greeted us right away with “ Angelli? I recognized you from your pic in the big tent!” and that gave me the cue of what an awesome group this is I have debuted into. Marina kept raving at how beautiful Naomi was with her very light green colored  eyes. It was like jewels in an ivory  canvass. Wow!
After the hi’s and the hello’s, Margaret and Angie opened the morning with some welcome words. Angie gave instructions on what 2 things we needed to answer in introducing ourselves. She said, tell us if you are a morning , mid day or evening person. Then try to recall who is your favourite teacher and why?
The answers were so varied and candid. The myriad of accents was so amazing. One table were mostly expats from the States. Texan drawl.  So mesmerizing. On my left side table, Fiona had this wonderful British accent and it was so lovely when she recited by memory 5 lines  from a Dr. Seus book Cat in the Hat.  The 6 tables had  scattered books  by this wonderful author. My favourite was just sitting right in front of me and I did not notice: I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! Darn! I missed  a door prize.
I  joined Kindra from Oregon in the middle back table. Widati and Utami, an Indonesian couple with their 2 pre schoolers joined us a few minutes later. They are fresh from a working  stint in Manchester, England.
The table to our right had a couple from South Africa and their maybe 10 year old daughter. I love their Australian like accent. Then an Indian dad stood up as well for their group.  Then there was this red abaya donning lady ( I forgot her name) in the next table, who  shared a lot of wonderful inputs. She reminded me of Oprah. She shared bits about her son Mohammed who was learning from a slightly different way than the usual. The whole room broke into laughter when she was emphasizing a point about teaching our children to focus on areas of  control and areas beyond our control. She said, sometimes, we are able to prepare a good dish for dinner, sometimes not, so, this is something beyond their control, so...
I missed her exact words with the laughter..but, I knew what she meant. It was funny to have so similar experiences with the other moms. I am trying to discipline my children to eat what is on the table and to say No, when the cereal box is more of a tempting/preferred option to them.
Their table was the most talkative in the room.  And their inputs were so apt and timely.
Brenda opened her pep talk to us with reference to the Suzuki method of teaching children in Japan. It aims to develop children’s character first before ability. She said, musicability is open to each and every child. Every child can be a master musician. Teacher and parent  and the school have to link arms on this.
Then she mentioned Carol Dweck, psychologist, professor at Stanford University and best selling author of a book about breaking the fixed mind set and developing a growth mindset.
Brenda summarized the salient points:
1.  We should not fear failure. We should ask ourselves, what is the learning point here?
2. We should learn how to embrace the learning process. Not to be so focused in looking smart.
3. We should check how we are praising our children. Are you sure, telling them they are so smart that they breeze through an exam and got a good grade is giving them a right message? Are we putting a premium on speed and scores?
4. Let us handle errors or failures in our children because fear of failure paralyses.
5. Teach your children how to think for themselves. No spoon feeding.  Brenda says, a lot of university level students are into remedial classes into critical thinking because of this bad teaching habit. Children just “ regurgitate” what is fed to them without learning how to think for themselves.
6. Let us help ourselves and our children learn how to think well, and think hard.
7. So, how do we differentiate the fixed mind set and the growth mindset as based on the book by Carol Dweck:
a. A fixed mind set views intelligence as static.He/she desires to look smart therefore has the tendency  avoid challenges. Gives up easily. Sees effort as useless or fruitless, ignores useful negative feedback, feels threatened by the success of others.
b. The growth mind set views intelligence as something that can be developed. Has the desire learn therefore embraces challenges, persists at the face of setbacks, see efforts as the path to mastery, learns from criticism, find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.
The end result for the first mind set is a deterministic view of the world because he/she plateaus early and achieves less than his/her full potential.
While the growth mind set person reaches higher levels of achievement and gives him/her a greater sense of free will.
Mind altering indeed!
So, how do we develop the growth mind set?
Brenda says:
1. Live it.
2. Discuss it.
3.Maintain it.
Oh...I really do want to detail every anecdote she mentioned, each story of her 3 girls 2 of whom are in a different continent in law school and not remembering the course of the middle child who is I think into tennis. No ranking yet but has beaten players in the roll.
The sports mom kids stories elicited a lot of lively discussion. One mom said, according to one book, it requires 10,000 hours for a kid to master a sport. 10,000 hours. Whoa!
It requires a lot of persistence and steel determination to handle all the failures and discouragements.
Finally, one thing I got reinforced during this whole affair, which closely echoes the Thursday movie time night we had with Nanny Diaries with Scarlett Johannsen, parenting is an honor and a privilege, we should not abuse or misuse this very laudable calling.

May I add, we are our children’s  first teachers and maybe their last reverberating we should give the right message by the life we lead as we go through our own  struggles and hardships as well.

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