Deficient? Detoxing from Negative Framing

equal testing has all animals climb a treeI attended the welcoming reception at the education conference I am at this week – an opportunity for vendors to entice people to their booths with free food. Obviously this works on me because I was there. I enjoy looking for new tools or strategies for our students, so the exhibit hall is a favorite part for me. However, as I went from one booth to another, there was one I hesitated approaching. It was huge, dominating a large portion of the room, but I passed by it several times. I was struggling with first bullet point on their sign: deficiency diagnostics.

Now, I understand the concept of deficiency diagnostics, and the importance of knowing where the gaps are – especially in a mastery-based program like ours. So I forced myself to finally read the rest of the booth’s signs to see if there was anything to redeem the negative feeling.


What’s my hang-up? After years of detoxing kids from negative framing, I find that instead of becoming jaded, I have only become more sensitive. We often get students who see themselves as “deficient” and who need to be “fixed” because of all the things “wrong” about them. It takes time to help them reframe their approach: use their strengths to tackle the challenge areas to the best of their abilities, and focus on their gifts and personal goals to define themselves as the wonderfully unique beings they are.

Maybe there isn’t a better way of saying “deficiency diagnostics” that would fit on a display sign. However, is there a way we can help students recognize and work on areas for growth without them feeling “broken” as a result? Can we – the teachers, parents, and other potential mentors – model this, or are we struggling with this for ourselves?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Also, if you know of any tools, strategies, or other resources that focus on a positive growth mindset, please share them with me.


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Thanksgiving: All About the Presentation (In Your Mind)

When it comes to Thanksgiving, it’s all about presentation.  And I’m not talking about the food on the table, but what’s served up to you in your own mind.

Perspective determines reality. What most people don’t realize is how much control they have over that perspective and – in turn – reality.

The past few weeks leading up to this Thanksgiving serve as a good example. One kid was slammed with a flu and fever that kept increasing in spite of medicine and tepid water, almost warranting a trip to the ER before it finally broke. Another kid seems to be going out of remission with Von Willebrand symptoms. And my husband had no less than two near-death experiences while out of town, one resulting in some quick hustling to get him back home, requiring four flights over the course of two days.

And how do I feel about all this? Graciously happy! Yes, a little tired… but thankful.  Thankful that the fever broke, and that my daughter is healing. Thankful that our modern medicine gives my oldest daughter options for a full life.  Thankful that my husband is home, safe, and recovering. And thankful that we have medical insurance to help with the costs!

Life is good.

Yes, sometimes life is hard, and things happen for which it is difficult to perceive anything to be thankful about.  Sometimes the distance of time, and the gained wisdom during that time, is needed. For example, the loss of a parent can be a source of grief; the loss of a parent at a young age can create questions of fairness.  However, in looking back at such experiences in my own life, I am able to see that there was a purpose in the timing.  I can also celebrate what was.  Not everyone is so blessed to have something worth grieving.  As Dr. Suess said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Some people are better than others at choosing happiness. When born and raised in a society that encourages negativity, this happiness thing can take a whole lot of practice! However, brain research suggests that we can “fake it until we make it” on our way to happier (and healthier) thought patterns, and conscious practice can lead to mastering our perspectives and habits. In A Complaint Free World, Will Bowen addresses this by noting the following steps in breaking a bad habit or forming a new way of being:

  • Unconscious Incompetence: you’re not aware that you are engaging in the bad habit.
  • Conscious Incompetence: you’re aware, but you struggle to overcome the habit.
  • Conscious Competence: you avoid the bad habit, but only with conscious effort.
  • Unconscious Competence: you are now a natural! The bad habit is gone, and you don’t even have to think about it anymore.

Avoiding complaining puts the focus on creating solutions.  Instead of saying what you don’t like or don’t want, begin stating what you do like and what you do want.  This helps build an appreciation for the good things currently in your life while inviting more good things your way.  As Gandhi explained, you can “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Try this. Look at any social media site to notice how many complaints or negative comments are posted, even those supposedly nested in humor.  Do the negative or the positive posts get more interest? Pay attention to your own communications, both written and verbal.  Do you let others entice you into negativity? Do some people even react negatively to other people’s positive or proactive statements, as if they are somehow personally threatened or worried that a positive perspective is a judgment on their negative ones?

More importantly, how do you respond to these situations?

How do you define your own reality?

May you be blessed with many things to be thankful for… and the ability to recognize each and every one.