Where should my child go to school? This is a common questions parents ask who’ve recently had their child evaluated at our practice. In fact, help with school placement is often one of the reasons that children are brought in for evaluations in the first place. Let me say first that the psychologists and the neuropsychologists at The Stixrud Group and the educational consultants from Stixrud Educational Consulting do not have a preference for private school or public school. We believe that both systems have their place and making the right choice is a very individualized decision, because of the myriad of factors that impact ultimately what the best option might be for an individual student. Last week I discussed that a critical component in school selection is locating a school where your child’s teacher can be a non-anxious presence in the classroom. This week I want to discuss what I think it means to be a non-anxious presence and why I think this is such a critical concept. The notion of a non-anxious presence was identified by Edwin H. Friedman, PhD in his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. A working definition of non-anxious presence is someone who can be honest and expansive without causing undue fear. This kind of emotional approach can be expressed from a micro-perspective, (e.g. individual relationships) as well as from a macro-perspective, (e.g. how the teacher thinks about the class and the school). You may be reading this and wondering “how can I as a parent possibly have any impact or input on my child’s classroom teacher with respect to her emotional approach?” (i.e. the non-anxious presence feature) . I contend that, as a parent, you actually have a fair amount of influence over this. To affect the anxiety level your child experiences in the classroom, and one of the most valuable things you can do for your child’s experience in class, is to become a non-anxious presence in your child’s teachers life. One of the techniques that I employ in this type of circumstance is to actively try to place myself in the other teacher’s shoes and to actually try to imagine their perspective, so that I can have a deeper appreciation of their reality. Almost always with this kind of role play, I am able to develop an insight and a viewpoint that is more empathetic. When I am more empathetic, I am less reactive and then I am less reactive I am less fearful. Back to the teacher and my child. As a parent, I saw my relationship with my child’s teacher as shifting from that of a silent partner to an active team player, depending on the need of the situation. I believe that if the teacher saw me as a supportive partner, he/she was less fearful of me and thus was able to see my child in a different light. It was clearly the teacher’s classroom…he/she was in charge but I was her willing and active accomplice. My perception [...]
Getting to Know You My name is Starr Stixrud and for the past 23 years I have been the administrative director for The Stixrud Group (TSG). We are a group of psychologists and neuro psychologists who evaluate children, adolescents, and adults with a wide range of learning differences and or social difficulties. In addition, I recently partnered with Martha Ein, M.Ed, to form the Stixrud Educational Consulting (SEC), where we work with families to find the optimal educational and social avenues for their children. (For more about SEC and our backgrounds, please feel free to check us out here.) My dual role at TSG is unique in that I spend equal amounts of time running and managing a business as I do working closely with psychologists, parents, schools and referral sources. If I had to identify my favorite role, however, it is listening to parent tells me about their child and their family; in our office we call this the clinical care manager (CCM). I have heard many, many stories about kids and their families. Each story is unique and yet there are some common themes that are nonetheless present. Without a doubt the primary underlying theme is that the parent expresses a deep love for their child and at the same time a fear that things are not going as expected. We live in complicated times and yet I would say that this is an ongoing universal themes about children, families and development that transcend time. My hope is that in sharing my perspective and experience I will answer some of your questions and relieve some of your fears. In the coming weeks I will talk about many of my experiences as a teacher and as a clinical care manager from which I believe we can gleam some timeless and universal truths about children and families. As parents and educators the greatest and most important gift we can offer our children is to be a non-anxious presence in their lives. I know as a teacher and as a parent, when I feel calm and at ease, my students and my children are more likely to feel the same. If this feeling does not transfer to them, at least my response and actions are not magnifying the situation. I will come back to this theme over and over. Today I bring it up as something to think about when asking: what is this best school for my child? The answer: when the teachers are smiling, waving and happy to see my child get off the bus or out of the car. It is only with this joy and ease can a teacher be a non anxious presence in their student’s lives. More on this next week.