Alexandra Mayzler, Executive Director, Thinking Caps
We did it!
This year seemed to have flown by so I want to pause time to really thank the Thinking Caps community for another wonderful school year. I am so grateful to have learned alongside all of our wonderful students. I am humbled by the trust that families grant us to educate and mentor their children. This tremendous responsibility is an honor and one that we look forward to every year. Along with our exceptional families, we are incredibly fortunate to spend our days with our passionate teaching team. We so look forward to our continued collaboration with dedicated educators, psychologists, and community members--your work with us is much appreciated.
As we wrap this school year and start planning for the next one, we'll be spending the summer combatting vacation brain-drain.
We'll be heading to the Hamptons as well as continuing our NYC and Nassau and western Suffolk services. The summer months are a great time to gain momentum for fall testing or to boost reading comprehension and math skills. We do individualized prep for ISEE, SAT, ACT, Regents as well as subject tutoring and study skills support. Please reach out to discuss your child's needs.
I'm sitting across from a student who has suddenly but surely found himself in the heavy footsteps of Victor Frankenstein’s monster. Just one very basic creative writing prompt—write a narrative from this character's point of view—has unleashed a wild potential for self-expression that I knew was lingering latently under the tip of Tom’s pen.
Narrative voice, I tell him, is not just a category of interpretive analysis used by standardized tests to measure his critical thinking ability. Narrative voice is what will make literature palpable to him.
Stumbling through unfamiliar terrain, questioning the parameters of his existence, the monster through which Tom speaks holds a mirror up to this young man's conception of outsidership. Tom's monster—derived from the solemn, alienated creature of Mary Shelley's gothic text—is a character that this student has psychologically occupied. Shivers run down my spine as I read this fresh, raw prose penned with undeniable hunger and potential.
I ask Tom if he has the opportunity to write creatively like this in his elite, competitive parochial school. Rarely if ever, I'm told, is he given the chance to do so. That's something he did in school when he was younger, but it's been left in the dust now that the more rigorous academic assignments have taken priority. The endless stream of assessment tests and entrance exams, as well, do not leave much room for ingenuity.
This reality that many of our students are faced with—the precedence that formal, academic writing and tests have over creative, expressive writing—is not just something to shrug and sigh about. We are doing a great disservice to our students by denying them the opportunity to think and write creatively, and then in the same breath, we wonder why they are not enraptured in literature.
I ask Tom, "Which character does Mary Shelley want us to have the most empathy for?" "The monster, of course!" he says with a wide grin. "Victor's the one who went all crazy making the creation only to abandon it. But the monster didn't ask to be created. All he wanted was a companion and to be left alone. He's really not that bad, after all," Tom reflects.
I wonder how many footsteps Tom will find himself mirrored in. How many characters he will truly come to understand, and how many ways he will begin to understand himself as a character. This creative writing exercise stretched not just his imagination, but also his muscles of compassion. And to think that a little out-of-the-box literary nourishment would give birth to something like this.
Maria Tsepilovan Edman, PsyD
Assistant Professor, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai
Division for ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and Related Disorders
Learning to become independent is a challenge for many college students. Those struggling with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who have executive functioning difficulties face additional challenges related to initiating projects, sustaining their attention on tedious tasks, remembering facts while solving problems, and shifting from one task to another. While their parents, teachers, and others may have reminded them to bring materials to school, break down projects into smaller parts, and maintain a regular sleep and eating schedule, students may not have had as much practice managing these tasks on their own. With a less frequent class schedule, they may erroneously view time between classes as wholly available for social activities. There is a need for students entering college to consider how they will manage academic planning, organizational systems, and medical and psychological needs while away from home, as well as identify key individuals in their college environment who will help ensure that they stay on track.
5 tips for parents/students to prepare for this transition:
A student asks: I used to be really good at math. I never had to study, and formulas just made sense. But now math isn't clicking like it used to and I have to study more than ever to fully understand math.
Answer: The first step here is to acknowledge that not all math stars have natural talent in math. That is a myth. It takes hours of strenuous work to understand math. It is very important to remember that math is built on previous knowledge so review and practice is completely necessary. Give yourself practice tests every week and work on solving problems faster. Develop your own memory techniques to help you remember math concepts. Make flashcards for formulas and vocabulary. Know the core ideas of your textbook before moving on. Power through the problems until you understand them perfectly, and accept that you will spend hours doing math drills so make it a game to see how much you can do in a given amount of time by setting a timer. Most importantly, if there are any math areas you are weak in or don't understand, go to the teacher and review. Avoid being careless, but instead be proactive and try to understand what you do and do not know.
A parent asks: My son will be attending camp all summer. I want him to enjoy his vacation, but I don't want him to forget the skills he learned this year. How can I "sneak in" a little learning even when there's no classroom?
Answer: Few parents would advocate noses-in-books throughout summer, but in keeping with the idea that learning should be fun and interesting, summer presents a great opportunity for kids to practice skills and avoid the summer brain drain. You don't have to teach your kids anything new, just reinforce the skills they already have. Take your son to the store and let him pick out a fun book to read. Kids who are allowed to choose the books themselves are more engaged, and feel a sense of accomplishment when the book is finished. As a fun activity, have your son create a book report sandwich. You'll need to photocopy drawings of ham, tomato, cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, and slices of bread. The basic ingredients depicts the following:
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