I am a teacher, thinker, strategist, and math gentler. I am trained and certified as an elementary and middle school teacher and have worked with young people in many different educational, therapeutic, and recreational settings. I now work one-on-one as an independent tutor and coach to children and teens, and as an adviser to parents who are striving to understand, support, and relate more effectively to their children. For more about my approach, see working with me.
The young people I work with have a wide range of strengths and challenges. I have worked with young people who…
have trouble with school work
love learning but not school
love learning but not academic learning
fight with their parents about doing homework
are bored in school
hate school and want to do something else instead
wish they didn’t have to go to school
are asking to be homeschooled
want more time to work on their own projects and interests
think they’re terrible at math
hate math and want to hate it less
can’t figure out what they’re interested in
wish they could be more organized
have parents who wish they were more organized
feel like they’re not good at anything
[To read more about my approach, see working with me.]
As you can see most of these descriptions are school-referenced, and many have something to do with math. There are at least two reasons for this. One is that many school-related issues are math-related. The other is that I like math and like helping with math. I help kids who struggle with it and I help kids who love it and want to be doing more of it than they’re offered in school. So it happens that I have an interest in and facility with one of the academic subjects most likely to inspire a parent to seek outside support when a child is struggling in school.
In the course of my work with young people with a range of challenges and strengths, I also end up strategizing with kids and parents about tapping into some of the potentials and capacities not generally acknowledged or supported in school. A cornerstone of my work is a belief that many important and useful human potentials lie outside of the academic realm, and that when we emphasize academic development at the expense of other development, we shortchange young people whose natural strengths are not academic. We also undermine their ability to use academic study for what it can be most useful for when it’s not a person’s central focus and strength, and on a large scale, we shortchange ourselves as a civilization by undermining bodies of potential that could grow into great contributions in a time of great need for problem-solving. [include the David story here]
One of the significant flaws I see in the [Or: At the core of our…] current cultural approach to educating and supporting young people is an emphasis on getting kids to be more like they would need to be in order to fit a description of an academically strong student which while well-intentioned will often come only at the expense of realizing the range and extent of a child’s individual strengths and capacities (which may often lie tangent or peripheral to the content with which traditional compulsory schooling concerns itself). Recent literature on neurodiversity, the wide range of high function possible in the human brain and the temperamental realities that can accompany that capacity (much of which does not synch up tidily with the content of traditional schooling) suggest that by pushing young children to be more like the ideal of the good school student (educationally and socially) we not only miss out on the potential contributions of a huge segment of society, we drive many young people to the fringes and to heightened risk for anxiety, depression, drug use, and other dangerous conditions.
When the adults in a child’s life notice and encourage the development of non-academic strengths, honoring those capacities as they would a strength in math or writing, it can be the difference between that child spending his or young life feeling like a failure and building the set of skills and capacities that will serve him or her throughout his life as a confident participant and contributor.
A lot of the work that’s done with young people is a response or reaction to perceived problems, designed to get kids to be more compatible with and adaptable to school environments. Many of the interventions that help kids adapt to school environments pull attention, effort, and energy away from areas of interest and strength that kids could otherwise be pursuing.
I think it’s possible to work simultaneously on actualization (supporting the development of a unique set of strengths and capacities, based on affinity and interest) and adaptation (existing in a school, family, or other environment as it is). It can seem as though if a young person is empowered to pursue his or her interests and develop existing capacities, he or she will never get a job/never learn things they’ll need in order to survive/be an outcast. But it’s been my experience that this does not have to be the case. All of my work takes into consideration the realities of a young person’s circumstances – the current social mechanisms of education, credentialing, and other conditions – as well as the individual person’s interests, affinities, strengths, and temperament.