Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dr. Leonard Sax Presenting on Gender Issues at Dallas IECA Conference

For the last few months, I have been obsessed with reading two of Dr. Sax's books, "Boys Adrift" and "Girls on the Edge". I have found myself preaching the sermon according to Sax to anyone who will listen, and have had a wonderful time exchanging snippets of his books with friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter; and, oh yes, and in person as well!

In "Boys Adrift" Dr. Sax describes the five factors driving the decline of boys as:

Video Games. Studies suggest that some of the most popular video games are disengaging boys from real-world pursuits.

Teaching Methods. Profound changes in the way children are educated have had the unintended consequence of turning many boys off school.

Prescription Drugs. Overuse of medication for ADHD may be causing irreversible damage to the motivational centers in boys’ brains.

Endocrine Disruptors. Environmental estrogens from plastic bottles and food sources may be lowering boys’ testosterone levels, making their bones more brittle and throwing their endocrine systems out of whack.

Devaluation of Masculinity. Shifts in popular culture have transformed the role models of manhood. Forty years ago we had Father Knows Best; today we have The Simpsons.

In "Girls on the Edge" he looks at:

Sexual identity. Why bisexual girls may be more numerous and/or more evident today, particularly with regard to the sexualization of girlhood.

The cyberbubble. The typical teenage girl in the USA now sends 80 text messages per day, compared with 30 text messages per day sent by the typical teenage boy.

Obsessions. How common is cutting? Is cutting more common among girls than among boys? Even ten years ago, it was unusual to find girls cutting themselves. Today it's common.

Chapter 4: Endocrine disruptors. The risks of PET (polyethylene terephathalate)

These are fascinating reads, and ones which make you really think about children, and our role in helping them help themselves. I am eagerly anticipating attending Dr Sax's sessions at the IECA conference later this week in Dallas, and am looking forward to reporting back here with new insights gained...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Travel and the Independent Educational Consultant

“No sweetie, really, it’s actually colder here!”

That was part of the phone call I had with my 12 year old daughter, when I called her from Newport Beach, CA last week. I had to laugh about it; I had left ME, where one expects it to be cold in the fall, and landed in a cold, wet, and I dare say dreary, southern CA. I know I shouldn’t complain, as IEC’s we do travel to some pretty remarkable places, and yes there are certain perks to the number of miles we fly (no checked bag fee, yeah!) But still… Rain? In Southern CA? Really?

Because of the amount of time we as Independent Educational Consultants spend on the road visiting schools, programs and clients; sometimes I think we get a bit jaded, overwhelmed, and well just plain old tired. After all, to maintain our membership in good standing with IECA, we have to visit programs and schools constantly, and in a busy year we can - when you figure that for those of us in the therapeutic world many of the programs are quite remote - sometimes be out of the office for a week and only have the chance to visit a few programs.

With that knowledge, when I kept hearing about School Connections and the opportunity it presented of meeting one on one with up to 30 school representatives, coupled with the fact that I had only heard great things about it, and the fact that this fall’s offering was in an area near a few programs I wanted to visit, it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me to go.

After a day and a half of 20+ 25 minute meetings with program representatives, I can honestly say SC is a wonderful opportunity for seasoned IEC’s to complement the visits they do as members of IECA. I found the time flew by, and after every meeting I came away with a new idea/fact/nugget about each program. Many of the programs I had visited, and this time together gave us uninterrupted time to get caught up on new initiatives etc. As for the programs I hadn’t visited, or didn’t know, they were able to give me enough information to entice me to visit so I could make a true assessment after a site visit. O.K. I’ll admit it; it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me to say I’ll visit the Hawaii programs!

As usual during my travels, I had a brutal schedule filled with meetings, clients, phone calls, etc from breakfast through dinner, and as usual I ended the trip with that odd mixture IEC’s often have of feeling simultaneously utterly exhausted and energized. I’ve only been back for 3 days, and I am already looking forward to meeting up with some new found friends at the IECA Conference in Dallas next month, and, oh, maybe I need to book that trip to Hawaii, I hear the rainy season is almost over!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Teamwork and the Independent Educational Consultant

“Don’t worry Bar, most of them are small rapids. “

Small rapids…to me the expression small rapids is akin to jumbo shrimp; an oxymoron plain and simple.

So as I braced myself and plunged down river through the seemingly 12 foot walls of water, and 20 foot waterfalls (ok; an exaggeration I’ll admit, but still it was scary!) I realized, all too quickly, that my life, or at the very least my ability to walk without a significant limp, was in serious jeopardy.

I knew that this trip was a leap of faith; after all, I was putting my life in the hands of not only a guide who seemed to be younger than some of the t shirts I own but also a group of friends, some of whom I had known a grand total of 2 days, and others who had literally never whitewater rafted…yes, nervous is a good word to use…

As I did that day on the river, our families take a leap of faith when they retain us as IEC’s. Just as I wasn’t initially aware of my guide’s training, often times, through no fault of their own, our clients aren’t aware of the training and hard work that goes into a placement. Also, as I drifted down the river, I wasn’t aware that the rest of my team was going to be there for me at every turn, and we were going to work together to steer our way out of danger. Similarly, my families aren’t often aware of the team approach we use to help them through the difficult times, usually by the time families contact us at Loeta they are in dire straits, are seeking out answers, and are ready to work as a team; they just don’t know it…

So I learned a lot that day on the river; I gained a further appreciation for my clients and where they are coming from on an emotional level, I learned that teamwork isn’t just a phrase, but is a very important and real concept, and, pehaps most importantly, I learned that when a guide yells paddle right hard; she means it, lest you get very wet!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Advice for Parents of At-Risk Teens or Know What You Know...

A while ago my check engine light came on.

“Uh, oh.” I thought.

You see, my trusty old Subaru, like its owner, isn’t the spring chicken it once was and is starting to show its age. Despite that, and the fact that to me the internal combustion engine is akin to magic, I decided I needed to open the hood and take a look. After a quick survey, I came to a realization; I had no idea what I was looking for.

I actually started to laugh at myself as I realized that me simply staring at the engine isn’t going to somehow magically fix it. Alas, I realized, time to accept what I don’t know and take the car to a mechanic.

Once I got home and thought about the events of the day, it got me thinking about a session I did at the last IECA meeting entitled “Know What You Know, Know What You Don’t Know”. With three IEC’s leading the discussion, it was a great session exploring an issue we as IEC’s often grapple with; that of wanting to serve as many families as we can countered with how we must remain true to our acquired specialty. There was some wonderful and lively debate, but all of us came to the same conclusion that we all need to, as the session title said, know what we know and know what we don’t.

The advice we were giving ourselves in that session is the same advice I often give my families. I feel that they, as parents, have a unique and important perspective and that information they have is crucial to me offering well-informed and pro-active choices for them to consider. Too often families come to me defeated, thinking that somehow that because they have a child with behavioral issues then they are a failure as a parent and that they should just give up. They have been beaten up so much, that they sometimes forget how much they know, and therefore how important they are. I always advise my families to share everything, and to take solace in knowing that if I can’t help them, I’ll make sure we get the experts who can.

I think a lot of my parents find it a relief that I don’t expect them to know everything; just to know what they know…

So my car…

Turns out it was the catalytic converter; but because I brought it to the right mechanic, he was able to get the repair covered under warranty, so not only did it pay off to go an expert, but to the right expert; but that’s a blog for another day…

Monday, March 28, 2011

You Are What You WUPHF; Or The Changing Face of Independent Educational Consulting

Recently I was catching up on some shows I had recorded on my DVR, and I found myself involved in a 3 hour marathon of “The Office”. One episode which really stood out was last year’s season finale where Ryan developed a new social media mega-site called WUPHF. On WUPHF (pronounced Woof) you could link all of your contact information into one account so when you received one thing, say a fax, it would come through on all of your accounts. There is one great scene where Ryan is in his closet/office and everything starts ringing/buzzing and chirping at him at the same time… Of course typical of the show, they beat the joke into the ground (anyone who knows my family, knows why I love this humor so much) and by the end the WUPHF sounds completely ridiculous.

But is it?

Sure we don’t WUPHF, but if 15 years ago I had uttered this sentence; “Hey, got your RSS Feed, and I’m going to link it through to my Facebook and Twitter in a few; you mind if I blog about it too?” You most likely would have looked at me as quizzically as you would if I told you you’d be struggling with the decision of whether to get the iPad2 with or without the 3G capabilities. It’s true, what once seemed crazy is now normal.

In a similar vein, the field of Educational Consulting has grown in ways no-one could have imagined. While 15 years ago there were some incredible people doing amazing work, it was in many ways, a cottage industry. One was able, through hard work and word of mouth, to build and maintain a strong, profitable business. For good or bad, that is no more. The new normal is that there are now over 800 members of IECA , the majority of these new members go through a 5 day rigorous training session, the IECA Conferences now draw over 1,000 participants per conference on average and IEC’s, in general, are more trained and specialized than ever before. In addition, most IEC’s have websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts and many Blog (which is an awesome verb by the way). And, most importantly for those of us who are IEC’s, more and more families are utilizing our services. Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all of this change is for the better; I feel that many of our more seasoned consultants can teach us all a thing or two about more traditional office practices, like phone calls, face to face time and word of mouth advertising, but this change is, for better or worse, normal.

At Loeta we look to these new ideas as opportunities, not only opportunities to present and promote Loeta Educational Consultants, but, more importantly, to promote the field of Educational Consulting. As members of today’s IECA, we are able to combine these new technologies, both within IECA and the schools themselves, with the more traditional aspects of school or program evaluation to assist us in developing not only a strong rapport with the schools, but also a stellar reputation as independent voices for our clients. There isn’t another profession which can lay claim to that fact.

Now we don’t have the hubris to think we know where all of this electronic media is going, but we do like the fact that IEC’s, partnering with IECA, are able to use these various social media tools, known and future, to spread the word of Educational Consulting as a profession. We look forward to that day when the first thing a family thinks of when they have a educational decision - whether it be for college, boarding school or wilderness therapy - will be to reach out to their neighborhood Independent Educational Consultant…

And who knows, maybe they’ll WUPHF us…

Learn about WUPHF here…

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Parenting Teens in the Age of Facebook" or "You Did WHAT Last Night?"

This morning I was scrolling through my Facebook page and came across a poll which my daughter had filled out. It was pretty benign stuff really; whom she had texted last, who was her last “crush” etc. Actually many of her answers amused me, but reading it made me think about two things; how much I know about my 15 year old and how little my parents really knew about me as a 15 year old…

I KNOW I don’t know everything about my child; as a matter of fact I can honestly say I don’t want to know everything my daughter does, there are certain things a Dad just doesn’t need to know. But it did get me thinking about the amount of information we as parents and adolescents have today about each other as opposed to only one generation ago and how that has changed how parents and children look at each other.

With the exploding popularity of electronic connection and social media, it is even harder for parents to hold the line. We all know that many teens are connected seemingly 24/7, but what is really blurring the line is parental use of these same social outlets. Parents have their own Facebook pages, they text, they tweet, they post videos to YouTube. And, like kids, they often post things on the internet which they later regret. Parents are, for lack of a better word, more humanized than parents of previous generations. I didn’t know what my Dad did at his 25th high school reunion, but a quick glance of Facebook will tell you what countless 40 somethings were up to at theirs.

One thing that comes along with this more open virtual dialogue between adults and teens (because let’s face it, because of our voyeuristic tendencies many of us find ourselves reading these on line polls and questionnaires) is that we feel we as parents know what our kids are up to and they’ll tell us everything because we’re their friends.

We don’t and they won’t.

In my work as an Independent Educational Consultant, there are two rules I tell my families about, the first is the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule is pretty simple; parents think they know about 80% of what their children do, and they really know about 20%. Think about it for a minute, how much did your parents know? I know what you’re thinking; “But I’m his friend on Facebook.” or “She always texts me when she’s someplace safe.” The reality is that it is normal for teens to rebel; it’s a part of growing up and we are fooling ourselves if we feel our kids are any different.

The second rule is pretty simple also; we are parents first. Our kids have enough friends, they only have 2 parents. We must remember that our number one job is to be the parent, and that our decisions must be made as parents. We have to accept that we will sometimes be unpopular and that’s ok because it’s our job.

It’s not all doom and gloom, there is a lot of good that comes from this new openness between parents and children. I think that there is a strong upside to having parents more humanized; it shows that we too have our own struggles, conflicts and issues, and I feel quite strongly that the more children and parents openly dialogue the more we can have our children feel confident that they can come to us with issues and concerns.

But, as the old adage goes, take it all with a grain of salt.

By the way, in an earlier Facebook question my daughter talked about me being the “coolest Daddio in the whole world”

I bought it.

So yes; I am wrapped around her little finger, but i know it, so that makes it ok. Right?