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“Every child deserves a champion … an adult who will never give up with them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson

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Intelligence Isn’t Everything

Kai piano featured image April postElle racing



I’m one of those moms who had their kids tested for intelligence at a very young age. I insisted they be placed in gifted programs as young as kindergarten. I made sure they had music lessons, Eric and I coached Arielle’s Odyssey of The Mind team, and I insisted on straight A’s for many years. Why? I knew my kids were capable of the work and I didn’t want them to be slackers in school like Eric and me.

Eric is one of the most all-around intelligent people I know yet in school he did next to nothing and was once sent out of class because he was reading instead of paying attention and accidentally laughed out loud interrupting the teacher.

As for me, well…I never picked up a book, rarely did homework, wrote my term paper in one night and thought college was a place teens went to party. Since I wasn’t interested in partying–I wasn’t interested in college.

No one told me I was capable. I knew I learned differently from others. Every time someone would give me directions I often had trouble understanding exactly what they meant because I could see many different ways to interpret their instructions. I was too shy to ask questions and I thought I was dumb. Teachers stuck me in the “average” class so I performed average to less than.

There were two exceptions, however, that may have been the sparks to leading me to believe in myself. One was a fourth grade teacher named Mrs. Paterno in Vineland, New Jersey. She placed me in a group for creativity. It was the first time I felt good about school. Thank you, Mrs. Paterno! The next was a stranger. He was an acting teacher in New York City. I was 17 and determined to move to the city to pursue acting. I spent the afternoon auditioning and being interviewed by this man. When my father came to pick me up he told my father that I was “a very smart young lady.” I was shocked! No one had ever told me I was smart. Did he really think I was smart? Maybe I was just that good of an actor.

Anyway, it is for those reasons that I have a bit of an issue with leveling classes. I think it’s more important to try to get students to believe in themselves while teaching multiple intelligences rather than placing them in full-time classes based on a test score. Let’s face it. No matter how we try to hide the level of class to students they know where they fall. I did. Lippincott. It was the name of the highest reading group in elementary school that I was not placed in. Do the students who are in high level classes become more successful adults? What is it that makes people successful and what defines success? Many parents will say they want their children to be happy. That’s success. Absolutely, but we also want them to be able to pay their own bills and contribute to society.

I’m confident with my choices I made for my own children. I was involved and my kids had and have great teachers! It’s the students who don’t have parental support that I worry about. I was a teacher and I know it’s impossible for teachers to take the place of a parent that isn’t involved in their child’s education. How many of those children believe they are dumb, incapable of learning,  simply because their intelligence is stronger in something other than reading and math? Maybe they see the world differently and feel like a fish in a room full of owls. How many of those children can we inspire by simply teaching  about True Grit and how passion and perseverance in every aspect of life from education to friendship to making a difference can outweigh intelligence? Perhaps True Grit is its own intelligence…

A benefit to having a daughter in college is that she can share with me what she’s learned. Arielle and I had a conversation about True Grit and she told me about these videos. I think it’s the future of education and in our fast food world an essential lesson for students. Passion and Perseverance. True Grit.

It’s a holiday weekend which means I’ll only be writing my new novel not a Sunday post. Every time a student asks when the sequel to MYSTIC will be out I panic. I’m working on it. I promise! I’ll be back here on Wednesday probably with a chocolate pie recipe if all goes well. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Featured Image by Stuart Richards

I was standing in the kitchen doing dishes. Arielle was on my laptop at the dining room table. Calmly she said “Mom, I got accepted to UCF.” I’ve heard many sentences from my children throughout eighteen years. “Mom, I’m hungry. Mom, can you wash this? Mom, can I go to the movies?” This sentence was unfamiliar. College. My daughter was accepted to a college. I congratulated her, kissed her and told her how proud I was of her. I went back to doing the dishes because I had five minutes before I had to pick up Kai at the dentist. He was getting braces. In the middle of our everyday life an extraordinary event had occurred. Acceptance to college.

Riding to the dentist it hit me. Alone in my car I suddenly realized that what I had wished for and strived for for eighteen years had come to fruition. My beautiful girl was going to college. I felt as though a goal I set the day she was born had been reached and the realization of that thought came pouring over me like the rain that was pummeling my car. Although I was sad that soon she would be leaving her room for a dorm room, I felt a great sense of relief knowing that she would have the opportunity to pursue her studies and have the college experience before taking on all the responsibilities of being an adult.

I have had this blog for over three years and I’ve written many stories about my life, but there is one that I have not told. It is about the time I felt the greatest fear and loneliness that I have ever felt in my life -the time I discovered I was pregnant. This past week I subbed at a high school. I saw a young girl walking toward me with a huge round belly. I suppose it was because of the news of Arielle getting accepted into college that my first thought was… I know how she feels.

In a way, I do. I was twenty-two and living in Los Angeles managing an apartment building near Beverly Hills. I rented apartments to UCLA students my age from around the world. They were studying for degrees in law and finance and I was auditioning for acting roles. Mostly, I was collecting rent and making sure everything in the building was running smoothly and the apartments were full.

Eric and I had been dating for over two years but he lived in Newport Beach and we only saw each other on weekends. I didn’t have any other friends or family nearby.

One weekend the two of us went shopping. I was standing in a huge record store with rows of fluorescent lights. I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach. Immediately I had to sit down. It was nothing I had ever felt before. I knew. A little thought – quietly persisted from within – I was pregnant.

I waited until I was alone, went to a drugstore and bought the test that confirmed my belief. I remember standing in my room, shocked. A light of happiness was inside me but quickly was covered by dark shadows of thought. How was I going to take care of a child?

It was at that moment that I understood what a mistake I had made with my life by not pursuing an education. It never occurred to me that I would become a mom at twenty-two with no means of supporting my child. I was angry with myself. How could I have never seen this coming? And I was embarrassed. I had lived in a small country town for my middle and high school days. A town where soon everyone would know I was pregnant and not married. I thought of myself as a failure.

The weeks that followed were the scariest, loneliest weeks of my life. People told me I had a choice to make. For me, there was no choice. It was me and my baby… and somehow I would make it work.

I continued managing the apartment building and watching my belly grow. Luckily, I had been saving money. All of my savings went to prenatal visits. I had two wonderful female Dr.’s that treated me with great kindness and respect. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that they weren’t that much older than me and doctors.

I learned about prenatal vitamins, Braxton hicks, and sciatica. Eric moved in with me and we began our life together going to Lamaze classes.

When the doctor said “it’s an Arielle.” I felt intense love followed by intense responsibility. I was overwhelmed with joy and frightened of the word “mom.” My first day home from the hospital, I was showing apartments to prospective tenants with Arielle snug in my arms still wondering about our future. I vowed that I would do all I could to keep my daughter from experiencing the same fears and pain I had gone through. I wanted her to have as many doors open to her as possible and I knew that the key to those doors was called education.

Now, Arielle has her first set of keys and the freedom to choose which college door to open and begin her own journey. Meanwhile, I keep picturing the newborn that I held in my arms gazing at me with big blue eyes, alert, calm – watching me smile. Eric by my side, beaming, calling friends and family to tell them about our daughter. How is it that in ten short months we’ll be taking that newborn to college? Eighteen years has gone by very fast.

The twenty-two year old who was scared and felt like a failure has grown up into a woman who is proud to say I have always put my children first in my life and took my title as mom seriously. I feel as though I faced a giant mountain. I climbed slowly enjoying the landscape along the way. Now, I’m at the peak and for the first time able to see the beauty in the big picture. It took overcoming all that fear to make me and my daughter what we are today. It was totally worth the climb.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go.

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There is little that upsets me more than when I hear a child say they aren’t smart. Unfortunately, I hear it often as a substitute teacher and it always breaks my heart. Sitting in the back of the room, arms crossed, the high school sophomore blurted out “This is an ESE class. That means we’re stupid.”

Not wanting to lecture, but wanting to help, I gave a brief lesson on multiple intelligences. According to Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory, there are eight intelligences.
• Linguistic Intelligence
• Musical Intelligence
• Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
• Spatial Intelligence
• Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
• Interpersonal Intelligence
• Intrapersonal Intelligence
• Naturalist Intelligence

I explained that our traditional education system still favors students who are strong in the logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligence. Those who have strengths in the other intelligences may feel lost at school simply because they are not challenged in the intelligences that show their strengths. I liken it to art class. What if there was a section on standardized tests for the ability to draw. I’m sure with a tremendous amount of practice I could be a mediocre artist but those who would excel would be students with a strong spatial intelligence. If drawing was held in as high regard as reading and math, I certainly would feel inadequate.

From what I’ve seen in my years as a classroom teacher and now as a substitute teacher, our children are feeling “stupid” if they struggle with math and or reading. This begins as early as third grade and carries through to high school.

Please, teachers and parents help your children and teach them that we are all smart in our own unique way.

Henry David Thoreau
Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.