Framing Criticism

How often has what we considered a simple direction or instruction to a child escalated into a power struggle of mammoth proportions?

Denise Savidge, Academic Dean

Denise Savidge, CCBS Academic Dean

We want our child to do well in school, be fairly neat in their home environment and abide by simple rules, and when they fail to do so, it becomes a battlefield.

In a wonderful Psychology Today article (March/April 2013), writer Mary Loftus talks of the importance of giving constructive criticism in a way children can hear it. She writes, “Criticism is the single most significant factor in a child’s perception of the parental relationship. It’s important to criticize without demeaning or humiliating.” Often when we think we are giving direction, we are really beginning by condemning them, which can damage the parent/child relationship.

For poor grades or a failed experiment in something new, she suggests asking your child to evaluate his performance and ask what he got out of the experience. Then she says to turn the conversation to how they might do things differently the next time to achieve their desired result. Framing it as a lesson learned and giving options to do better the next time gives children power to overcome a failure.

How often do we come home and say, “This place is a mess. You have until so-and-so to get this cleaned up or there will be no (insert activity here.)” which is usually followed by a big argument, talking back, or worse. The problem, Loftus explains, is that we go right to the grilling and the incorrect behavior without first going on a “fact-finding  discussion.”

Instead of saying, “This playroom is a mess, you’re not having any friends over until it’s clean,”  she suggests explaining first and skip complaining, by stating “I’d love to see your playroom cleaned up by this weekend so you and your friends can have fun this weekend.”

I thought while reading the article that it sounded a little wishy-washy, so I tried it out on the messy playroom in my own basement. My daughter was having a big skating and slumber party for six girls and I had no time to straighten before racing around town to borrow a vehicle big enough to transport them all to the festivities. So I used the phrase above, word for word. Her answer: “Ok. I’ll go do that now.” I almost fell off my chair. By acknowledging that her party was important to her and phrasing the request in a positive manner, she was willing to jump right on it. Everyone was happy.

Science LabAround campus, the phrase, “How could you have done that differently resulting in a more positive result?”) is common.  (Sometimes we abbreviate to boy lingo, like, “How’d that work out for you?”)  Either way, the boys reflect and take ownership of mistakes while giving thought to what they will do better next time. There is no blame or judgment in these simple phrases and there is always another chance to do better. Often, the positive redirection with an additional chance to try again will get them to where they need to be.

Denise Savidge serves as Academic Dean at Cherokee Creek Boys School in Westminster, SC., and also teaches Language Arts and Social Studies.

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Serendipity Part 2

As promised, here is the video students wrote and helped produce during the first nine weeks. For the first installment of this blog click: Where Serendipity Meets Design.

As I said before, it’s a wonderful thing when serendipity and design come together to create beautiful and meaningful outcome.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SwVI0LZSFg

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Where Serendipity Meets Design

Jimmy on the front porch with B-Shoc

Jimmy on the front porch with B-Shoc

Serendipity is one of those great words in life: five beautiful syllables to say “luck,” “chance,” “fate,” “fortune,” kismet.” It makes you sound really smart when you use it. Lots of people have to go look it up after hearing it used. And I personally enjoy making people look up definitions — it’s the Language Arts Diva within me!

“Design” is its opposite. Things that happen “by design” are most definitely not serendipitous. It takes a process to make it happen. It needs a grand plan, a blueprint, or a complicated drawing. Like a house. The boys’ therapeutic work here at Cherokee Creek is a very good example of a well-designed plan. There is a “PATH” they must walk. There are processes they must go through. It is a long and sometimes arduous journey of self-discovery. They graduate with new skills, new self-concepts, and a new vision for their future.

Toward that end, this quarter in the classroom we have studied the Way of the Visionary. We have talked a lot about whether we make things happen or whether things happen to us. We studied people who made a difference in the world and discussed how to become a person who makes a difference. We talked about careers, college paths, and causes. And we talked about their personal plan.

In the same quarter, I had the good fortune (here’s the serendipity part) to meet two gentlemen with an inordinate amount of musical and technological talent. Neither is my forte, so these are indeed good people to know. One of the gentlemen, Shannon Chiles, offered to share his skills with our boys to help them voice their visions of themselves. The process went something like this:

First we came up with the “hook” to a song. One of our boys then took on the task of writing lyrics. Shannon next came to campus and taught a lesson on how to storyboard a video. The boys went to work filling 4.5 seconds with their personal stories.

Some music chords were then chosen as the backbone for the song. Shannon took these pieces to his friend, Bryan Edmonds – also known as B-Shoc– and the two mixed it all together to record it. Three trips back to the school with a camera, and there was enough footage for a music video.

It’s a wonderful thing when serendipity and design come together to create beautiful and meaningful outcome. We can’t wait to share the music video with our families next week at Family Seminar, and then with the world on our website.

Consider for a moment where serendipity and design come together in your life. Where does your plan meet up with chance or kismet? How does your vision for the future change when that occurs?

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A Different Lens

Academic Dean Denise Savidge

Academic Dean Denise Savidge

This past Monday, Language Arts dovetailed with Current Events and History as the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden became the topic of the day. Most of the boys here at CCBS were 2-4 years old when 9/11 occurred, too young to remember the event itself and to experience the shockwave of emotions that overtook the nation at the time. But many knew someone who was affected by the tragedy in some way and had very strong opinions on it.

The natural reaction expected from the boys was received: the, “justice was served,” “he got what he had coming,” and “I’m glad he’s dead,” comments were numerous. But then the discussion went another way…the boys researched and viewed the celebrations that were held near the White House and in Times Square. They read the backstory of the Navy Seal operation and the history of Al Qaeda ad Bin Laden himself. They heard of the woman who lost her life as a human shield for a terrorist. All the appropriate news sources were fair game for digging in and finding the story without YouTube assistance.

The boys were then asked to rethink the situation and decide how the celebrations fit with their own personal values and the values expressed in our Lessons of the Medicine Wheel: How did the people involved show Love, Truth, Courage and Wisdom? Were they behaving as Visionaries, Warriors, Teachers and Healers?

Their words are inspiring:

We need our leaders to tell the truth without blame or judgement. We also need our leaders to be insightful to see what the terrorists could be thinking before they do it. We need the people to be healers. We need to be loving and lovable…we need to shine the way when all other lights go out. To our country’s thinkers, they need to be wise and trust that we’ll find the way and be flexible to whatever could happen. We can make this country stronger than it has ever been before. -AB

I think the celebration of the death of Bin Laden does not fit well with any of the four levels of CCBS. I think (that) solemnity would fit more. With the Visionary you are supposed to accept his death. For Teacher…you are supposed to be trusting. Therefore, you can trust the US Military and all of our armed forces. Healer would be most relevant because you are supposed to be forgiving, therefore forgive what he has done even though it would be really hard because of everything he has done. -SD

They (the people celebrating) are not being Teachers, because if we are celebrating someone dying, what are we teaching a kid and everyone that looks up to us? -MH

Each of us has our opinion about the recent events surrounding Bin Laden’s death. The exercise was not meant to bias our students one way or another, but to offer an opportunity for them to think for themselves, to examine this story through a different lens and to apply their understanding of the medicine wheel to a world event. I was impressed by the seriousness they brought to the assignment…and look forward to watching these bright young men continue to grow!

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River Lessons (Part 6)

We continue the River Lessons, a series of blog posts from our students’ perspectives.Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they learn to explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher.

Note: A “duck” or “duckie” is an inflatable kayak. They are frequently used with beginner and novice paddlers to experience whitewater rivers. They are by no means “baby boats” and require effort and skill to move and keep on course.

Student: Dominic
Aspect: Teacher
Statement: I am Flexible

“For me I was flexible because I haven’t duckied before much less been by myself in and on the river. I was originally going to go in a double duckie with Zack but we all did singles so I had to learn and make all the decisions.”

Dominic demonstrates the Wisdom of Flexibility and the capacity to address a challenge alone.

When have you unexpectedly found yourself alone in your own boat and faced with new challenges? What have been your greatest accomplishments of flexibility?

Lessons of the Medicine Wheel

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Westminster, SC.

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River Lessons (Part 5)

Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher. The River Lessons are an 8-part blog series sharing these unique student perspectives.

Student: Greg
Aspect: Visionary
Statement: I am Creative

“I think that in the Visionary I am creative because I found new ways to do things. For example, making a light overhead so I can read in my tent, or putting up a tarp, or making a fire like building a teepee and building a log cabin around it – also on the river I made it fun by playing on the rapids – that is also creative.”

Greg’s playful, curious nature empowered him to create more comfort in his tent and and more fun on the river.

What kinds of things do you do to make your world more fun or comfortable? How have you approached a recent situation and improved it with your own authentic style of creativity?

Lessons of the Medicine Wheel
Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Westminster, SC.

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River Lessons (Part 4)

River Lessons is a series of blogs from our students’ perspectives. Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they learn to explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher.

Student: Mike
Aspect: Warrior
Statement: I am Courageous

“The Warrior is someone who shows up and chooses to be present. The I am statement courage was used more than any other skill on Trek. I used courage when I set up my tent in a difficult staking area, hiking Tallulah Gorge, sliding on the rock and talking to two girls, Danielle and Stephanie, and was able to ask for Danielle’s number in front of a big group of people. I had many self-confidence struggles before I came to CCBS and feel I made a huge change in one social conversation.”

Don’t you just love Mike’s courage and the way he stood up for himself!? He so clearly defines a rite of passage when he describes the, “huge change in one social conversation.”

Where do you stand up for yourself and declare your own value? When have you had to gather every drop of your own self-confidence to address a situation?

Lessons of the Medicine WheelCherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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River Lessons (Part 3)

We continue the River Lessons, a series of blogs from our students’ perspectives. Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing  and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they learn to explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher.

Student: Scott
Aspect: Healer
Statement: I am Joyful

“I think on Healer I’ve been more joyful because I can always have fun on Trek even if it does not go as planned. Another reason why I think I have been more joyful is because when I’m not on Trek I can just let things go and I can almost always be more joyful.”

Scott makes the ultimate “go with the flow” statement, doesn’t he? This statement is a great Healer-Teacher combination of joyful participation and flexibility – the perfect river lessons.

Are you inclined to “go with the flow” and find the fun in most situations? What are the fun activities in your life that allow you to be open to outcome?

 Lessons of the Medicine Wheel

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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River Lessons (Part 2)

This week we continue the River Lessons, a series of blogs from our students’ perspectives. Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they learn to explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher.

Student: Ben
Aspect: Visionary
Statement: I am Creative

“I am creative. I was able to make a “think-fast” decision when I missed the course on the rapid. The creativity flung me over a rock avoiding the hydraulic sideways and landing me at the bottom. This has also helped me gain confidence.”

Ben details well the creativity involved with problem solving as he adapted to his circumstances. He reminds us that we can always make a different choice.

What circumstances bring forth your creative best? When facing a situation where you need to “think-fast,” how do you respond?

*A hydraulic is a river feature where the water flows over a smooth ledge and then rolls back towards the ledge. In smaller rapids they become fun spots to play by keeping your boat on the wave – or “surfing”. In larger rapids their “sticky” nature makes them a hazard best to be avoided.

Lessons of the Medicine Wheel

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys located in Upstate South Carolina.

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