Posted by Sandra Clifton on May 16, 2013 in Academic Coaching
Dear Parents, Rising Seniors, and yes—high school college counselors.
I have news for you.
It’s chaos theory, college style. I’ve explained this phenomenon for years, but here it is repeated by one of my colleagues at IECA: you can’t predict “the acceptance answer” from college admissions. Why? Because there IS no pattern.
Here’s the official post, “Defeating Anxiety in the College Application Process,” by Jason Lum:
“Lesson Two: Don’t expect patterns. Some families aggravate their existing anxiety by trying to establish patterns of schools that accepted their kids and schools that denied or waitlisted them. It’s human nature to want to figure out patterns in decision making. However, I tell my families to don’t even try. I’ve had students this past application year who got into Stanford but were waitlisted by Harvard, and vice versa. I had a student who got into Stanford and was waitlisted by Washington University in St. Louis. There is no explanation for this craziness except to say that every school makes their admissions decision in a vacuum. They have no idea what other schools are doing regarding their decision-making. On top of that, some admissions offices might have unique needs or goals they seek to accomplish which may have nothing to do with the merits of a given student’s application. So to use a cliché, expect the unexpected. Why bother trying to make sense of a process that is inherently subjective and dependent, to a large degree, on the personalities of the people reading a given application.”
You can read the rest of the blog here.
In the meantime, if you need help riding the wave of a constantly changing terrain, don’t hesitate to reach out. That’s what I’m here for—clifton*creativity all the way!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Mar 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
I live in a quaint neighborhood in Brooklyn, full of children, dogs, parents, strollers—and schools. But on my way to work at the Corner each afternoon, I recently witnessed an advertising campaign from a small boutique that has had a big impact—not on my pocketbook, but on my heart. At first I tried to dismiss my rising angst, but with each passing day, my concern mounted. You see, I understand that New York City is a mecca for fashion, and I “get it” that one of the core consumers in our society is young people….But the poster I was seeing on a sidewalk across the street from my rent-stabilized apartment wasn’t focused on clothes: it zeroed-in on something which is, quite simply, sex appeal. The model in the picture was heavily made up with thick eye-liner, large gold-leaf earrings, pink pouty lips, and seductive tresses of hair framing something which I can only describe as a look of “come-hither.”
Now, while I understand that “sex sells,” and that women have the right to express themselves in whatever style they so choose, what disturbs me is that this model is not 21 or even 18 years old—she is the very tender age of maybe THIRTEEN, perhaps even twelve. You can take a look at the photo here:
I’m providing an extra-big pic so you can see the impact of this young girl’s heavy make-up and her sophisticated expression…an image which finally caused me to take a moment and visit with a salesperson inside the store on a cold Tuesday last week….And after calmly articulating my concerns, what I was told is that the shop-keepers here have “no say” about what happens—that they “have to follow corporate orders” and that if I want to call headquarters in California, that I could follow up that way.
However, I continued to speak to the local rep (who had just moved here from a small town in Pennsylvania) about how school kids pass this store every day—that it wasn’t like the other LF shops in the fashion district of SoHo, or on 5th Avenue in Manhattan—that this is a residential district, and that it happens to be the neighborhood where the families I serve as an educational therapist are trying to help their young people to make healthy personal decisions and to treat each other with respect each day. I tried to express that we have a social responsibility to protect the young rather than to trick or confuse them.
The clothes clerk looked at me helplessly as other customers waited to try on shoes.
And then she admitted, “Well, thirteen IS the population we’re targeting.”
When I did try to call corporate headquarters and discuss this matter with them, I heard a message from the Chief Advertising Officer, Alex Sherman, whose voice sounds like even she could be in high school. Unfortunately, her mailbox was full, and I couldn’t leave a message.
But together we can raise our voices. I’m doing that here. It’s not okay to target my kids. It’s not okay to lure young girls into a store on the premise that looking sexy is the goal when they are underage and impressionable. And it’s not okay to send a message to young boys (or grown men) that objectification of females is acceptable—especially in my ‘hood.
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Feb 24, 2013 in Emotional Literacy
Reflecting on the gifts of winter this Sunday in February, I stumbled across a quote from Thoreau:
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “
This passage came from an article in Edutopia about neuroscience and how we can help students to create neural pathways in their minds, which is a favorite subject of mine. While the writer provided many insightful angles to consider, he was ultimately focusing on accelerating the brain’s ability to move, work, and produce. In our fast-paced society, we often think that our students should “get it” quickly, on the first time or initial try—and that if they don’t, something must be “wrong with their wiring” or maybe even “broken” in their brains. Nothing could be less true. Consider another article to help process that “greats” like Michelangelo and Einstein were dyslexic or a great blog about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule. So let’s allow ourselves something quite precious: TIME. Kids are like gardens….they need space and air and rain and sun for thoughts to germinate, take root, and then blossom.
This is a beautiful season to let things shift under the surface and not expect external outcomes. Be patient. Invest in supportive routines and rituals that bring comfort and consistency to kids’ lives. (You might even benefit too!) And then, come spring, you just might be surprised–
In the meantime, as our wonderful Transcendentalist teacher reminded–
I was lucky enough to have a tour of the Robert Louis Stevenson School in Manhattan this past month, and was so moved by the sensitivity of this alternative option for education. Administrators, teachers, and staff all work together to recognize where a student is and to move past former obstacles…by meeting him or her with unreserved faith about what is possible. Located on the Upper West Side, the school is nestled in a cozy building that feels a bit like a brownstone home, with a winding staircase filled with art and life-affirming quotes. Classes are small and conversations are long—a hallmark of what I find both valuable and meaningful in a society full of too much fast-paced pressure. From the warm greeting I received from each person along the way, I got the sense that Stevenson is an oasis for both ideas and individuality. Perhaps most encouraging was that my tour guide, Mr. Matthew Mandelbaum, and the head of the school, Mr. Douglas Herron, spent over forty minutes visiting with me one-on-one, exchanging opinions and insights about education, innovation, and introspection. Although I exited into a cold winter rain that day, I left this school feeling connected and affirmed. I can’t say enough good things about a place where people truly come first—and Stevenson is one of them.
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Oct 31, 2012 in Emotional Literacy
During the last days of October, in the aftermath of Storm SANDY, I thought it might be helpful to share something that’s giving me strength: Brene’ Brown’s most recent book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. While I have taken a course that Brene’ created on shame resilience called “Connections,” I have not yet read this book—but I am listening to the free audio (which Brene’ provides for each chapter!) and her gentle voice both calms and nourishes me with nurturing and powerful insight.
One of the reasons I especially want to offer this resource is because I had the honor to speak to parents at Packer Collegiate this past month about “Positive Parenting,” and one of the main themes that surfaced during that evening was the vital importance of being vulnerable with our teens….Because this transparent honesty is actually a source of strength rather than a sign of weakness. Kids need to see us when we don’t have ‘our ducks in a row’ and learn to trust that a “failure” doesn’t destroy us. In fact, these are the very moments that give our teens the vision to realize that life may not go as planned, but it certainly goes on….and what better time to demonstrate that resiliency after a storm like this one? We weather it together because it was a natural disaster—but we can also model that kind of “grit” when we own family troubles within the safety of our homes and say, “This ______ is ruined, but we are not.”
If you’d like to continue this conversation, please contact me. Authenticity is a journey, and I’m honored to be on it together. I believe we can model courage each step of this multi-faceted journey….whether it’s a day of blue skies or tumultuous shadows. In the meantime, tune into Brene Brown—she will uplift and encourage you….
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Sep 26, 2012 in Academic Coaching
, Emotional Literacy
The Happiness Wall–
One of my clients, with whom I’ve been working with for over a year, has been going through a major transition in her life—from 8th grade to high school. Despite the fact that 7th grade had significant struggles, when she came to my private practice, this young woman could not have envisioned recreating her life into a positive and nurturing experience midst an alienating middle school. But step by step, we carved out a different path for her—and ended the year with so many beautiful memories that she is actually struggling with the loss being a freshman all over again….
It’s been painful for my client to see all of her friends go off to various high schools and experience the natural fractions that happen with different directions and other demands. But during a session together, this artistic and creative young woman shared that she had decided to dedicate a whole wall of her bedroom to everything in 8th grade that had made her feel so fulfilled, and to my delight, she has named it her Happiness Wall. It’s a wonderful reminder that our kids can source such magic and meaning when given a canvas for their deepest desires….And I was so touched that I asked if I could share her creation with you here:
I shared with my client how another teenager over in Amsterdam once upon a time decorated a wall up in her Secret Annex to help get through the Holocaust—and described the tears that welled up in me as I viewed Anne Frank’s collage of happiness when I visited that museum while studying abroad. You can take a tour of this special hiding place online here. This photo of her wall shows a glimpse of Anne’s visual dreams of becoming a writer, actress, and dancer:
On this most holy day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, I think it appropriate to celebrate hope, happiness, and the effort for each of us to reach for our highest dreams—and out to each other. If you have a young person in your world who feels imprisoned by forces beyond his or her control, take a moment to envision a different reality with her or him….clear a space to imagine new possibility and potential, and then post these images somewhere in your home—perhaps on the fridge, in your family room/bulletin board, or in their bedroom. And if you’d like support to create this canvas of creativity, please contact me. I’m here to reach the hearts of all our kids who might be hiding in the secret annexes of our world today…
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Jul 27, 2012 in Student Success
As July swings to a close, I want to share a follow-up from a parent of one participant in The Happiness Circle at the Corner this spring. After meeting each Monday afternoon for ten weeks, here’s an excerpt of what one mom reported in an email to me: “Our daughter really enjoyed and benefited from the work you did together. By the end of the year she stopped complaining about school, and she did beautifully there. She even got the Principal Award from being such a wonderful, well-rounded kid.”
As I reflected this quote to my own mom on the phone today, I said, “I may not give guarantees, but I do get great results!” I think this sentiment is something I’ve been feeling lately about being an educational entrepreneur—because my forte just is not marketing. The business owners who promise an outcome for their clients’ financial investment are more savvy and strategic than me. My work is an act of art that starts with a student’s heart, and the possibilities are endless….
Perhaps parents can consider this angle when contemplating the next opportunity of academic enrichment and support for their tween or teen. Sometimes the potential for growth and happiness is so much greater than any prescribed promise.
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Jun 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
As June draws to a close, I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate the path of my business….I’m currently sorting, sifting, and packing countless layers of professional supplies in the effort to completely clear Studio #3A for a kindergarten program this September. My sessions with students will be shifted across the hall to a “share” with an incredibly talented artist. I am so grateful for this space to land in the Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture, which has been the home-base for the Corner since it began in an attic office over six years ago….
In the meantime, I’ve been re-evaluating almost every angle of my practice. And what I’ve had the “luxury” to realize in this challenging economy is this: the only thing that is getting me through a tough transition—besides wonderful family and friends—is Faith. I believe I have a special professional purpose on this earth and my passion is helping kids to unlock their unique and unparalleled gifts. But in the effort to bring joy to the journey of learning, I’ve definitely encountered the school of hard knocks.
Marketing experts, business classes, and traditional educational views had me convinced of some things that no longer work in my small service of school support. One of them is to cover and/or disguise my deeply spiritual nature. I remember when an uber-successful professional in PR took me out for coffee in Park Slope a few summers ago. She critiqued my monthly newsletter and offered some interesting angles, but one comment scathed me to the core: “This looks like a religious organization. Your colors say ‘spiritual‘.” I hurried to change the format to what some might call “corporate cute” and “white wash” religion from my brand by completely revising away any and all spiritual undertones or overtones.
But no more. This spring, I had the opportunity to interview at a Friends school and was reminded again of my dad’s assertion many years ago: “You’re a Quaker, through and through.” My father is a Baptist preacher serving as the interim minister in a little Presbyterian church outside of Pittsburgh, so any religious traits in me, “I come by honest,” as they say. At any rate, through this job interview, I was re-introduced to the core philosophy and grounded beliefs of Quakers—their vision of the divine spark in each of us, their passion for the truth, their mission to serve as a light of peace and compassion.
In the “Aims of Quaker Education,” from Samuel Caldwell, a Quaker education seeks to nurture someone who:
* knows deep down that sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and hearing are not all there are to life;
*has first-hand experience of the reality and importance of Spirit in life, especially in this age of rampant materialism;
* is rooted as much in the unseen as the seen, as much in the spiritual as in the physical;
* has a capacity for reverence and is as well equipped to experience the Spirit as do work in the world;
* is optimistic about the ability of love and good will to mend the affairs of humanity.
As so much of these beliefs are rooted in both my Baptist background and my training in Social & Emotional Intelligence, I must also quote this passage about Quaker Social Action: “Friends education strives to teach social responsibility. Peace, war, racism, poverty, injustice, and nonviolence become subjects for study and issues to engage as students learn to become effective citizens. Because Friends believe that FAITH requires action in the world, Friends schools emphasize the development of a caring community, peaceful resolution of conflict, and service to others. Friends have a long tradition of putting LOVE into action…Students grow into compassionate and responsible adults who recognize their interconnectedness with the larger human family.”
So as my practice becomes smaller, my mission becomes brighter. Let this be A Declaration of My Faith: I am a Quaker educator down to the core. My commitment to the “Inner Light” of children (of all ages) is fundamental to my purpose on this planet, and although I do not much like traditional labels, I now proudly claim my place in this community of harmony, peace, and service.
You are always welcome at the Corner—a place of Spirit and Soul—and perhaps someday there will be a school for Highly Sensitive Students called Clifton Friends. Until then, happy summer~
Posted by Sandra Clifton on May 27, 2012 in Academic Coaching
, Emotional Literacy
This past Monday evening, I was lucky enough to visit The Tibet House in the West Village to hear Maureen Healy speak about raising the confidence of our children through the wisdom of the world and celebrating the “divine spark” in each of our young people. This expert on Social & Emotional Intelligence inspired the audience gathered there to view mistakes as “stepping stones to a deeper strength.” Maureen took a twist on idiosyncrasies that I just love and have framed into the slogan: “Make your quirks work!” Confidence, she reminded us, comes from the Latin root, with FAITH, and is a daily practice that we must model for our kids. Part of this process is to access deep inner resources that are the foundation of peace and trust for the path of authentic living: “When you take responsibility for your own life, that’s just pure power,” urged this visionary leader.
If you’d like to learn more about growing happy kids, you can read Maureen’s new book that outlines her experiences and teaches the pillars of confidence. A practical skill that Maureen offered is to focus daily attention on gratitude. As someone who is guiding a Happiness Circle at the Corner this spring, I couldn’t agree more! One family that Maureen coached decided to start each day with the question, “What can I give today? ” and to end each evening over dinner together with the reflection, “What am I grateful for today? “ These two anchors of positive emotion just may provide a frame of faith that can transform a family, a team, a country….
So on Memorial Day Weekend, I ask you to let me know—what can I give to you today? As I end each evening at the Clifton Corner, I offer this reminder with humble happiness….I am so very grateful for each of our kids…and our commitment as a community to help raise happy ones. May we celebrate the possibility and power of their divine design with each new sunrise~!
Posted by Sandra Clifton on Mar 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
There it is. This question, translated, means: “What the heck do you do with your time?” No offense to the rest of the ‘traditional working world,’ but most of you struggle to comprehend the non-stop, 24-7 spin of the educational entrepreneur—So of the rare moments that I do remember, here’s a little trajectory that might help you understand a little bit of what I attempted to do last week…which ironically was supposed to be “spring break” …
3/18, Sunday—from 3:30-6pm, I attend the “Brooklyn Wellness Connection Meeting” at the Shambala Yoga & Dance Center to network with other holistic practitioners. Walk home for an hour from Prospect Heights in the nice weather, eat dinner, and work from 9pm-3AM to revise the landing page of my website, reorganize the pages/titles, and completely re-configure the layout of this online information—yet again…
3/19, Monday—attend yoga class, send follow-up emails and flyers to contacts at yesterday’s meeting, and decide to fill out a profile on the US Directory, which actually takes quite a while and requires that I create an additional web page in their portal (what’s wrong with a link to my already-existing and over-invested website?!). Write a blog post and make follow-up phone calls before going to the Corner for five straight sessions, from 2pm through 7pm—one of which is a networking appt, another that is a pro-bono college counseling session, and a third which is a scholarship student. Run into the city to connect over a late dinner with an old student from Poly Prep who has now graduated from American University and is selling real estate, midst creating her own original online video-sketch project. (Student confesses total admiration for my career in education after trying to lead five teens in a group session of school support earlier that weekend.) Get home at 1am and work on job applications until 2am or so.
3/20, Tuesday—get called at 7:30am to substitute at Hanah Senesh Community School for elementary classes. Do educational improv all day as a music teacher. Run downstairs to library during lunch break to draft an outline of internships available at the Corner, for a biz fair the next day. Reschedule a college coaching call after school due to subbing and accidentally double-book another networking appointment—call to apologize and reschedule. Answer messages at the office and organize projects before running to xerox handouts for business fair, and head over to coffee shop in Park Slope to meet old teaching assistant from Prep for Prep. Discuss finding a way to get my SEL workshops accredited with CCEU’s for teachers. Walk home and work until 2am on job leads.
3/21, Wednesday—work until 11am and then conduct a free phone consult for half-an-hour with potential parent in NJ about son with executive functioning challenges. Research places for each of us to meet halfway for sessions in the city, along with other tutoring spots she mentioned, before jumping in the shower and getting ready for Fordham University’s Small Biz Fair at the Rosemont Campus in the Bronx. Take the MTA North to Jesuit campus (arrive obnoxiously early) and schmooze with merchants and students from 2:30-6PM. Hand out cards, make unofficial pitches for education, look at baby photos, promote my programs of SEL, encourage graduating seniors. Collapse on train at 7pm, answer emails on the subway, stop by drugstore on the way home, walk in the door at 9pm. Eat some salad and work until after 1am on job leads. Mourn that my free consult decided to pursue other options.
3/22, Thursday—get up and out the door by 8am, and into the city for a 9am workshop at the Aaron Academy, “Applying to College for Students with ADD/LD.” Participate in discussion, get asked for several cards, and run to coffee shop to meet current college kid at U of Chicago. Head back to the office together and organize receipts for 2011 while finishing our talk about midterms and study abroad. Work on taxes/PayPal documentation and paperwork for accountant for four hours and then conduct a two-hour pro-bono counseling session with struggling college kid who is taking a leave of absence from an elite school in New England, while a tutor rents my side office for a few extra dollars. Stay at office to clean up and organize for another hour, in the hopes I might get away for the weekend.
3/23, Friday—get called to sub in the main office at Hanah Senesh to answer phones and fill in for receptionist from 9am-4pm. Catch up on some email midst helping prepare challah bread and making sure that little girl with scarlet fever has books to read in lobby. Realize I don’t feel well myself (bad eggs during coffee shop quiche yesterday with student?—) and decide to cancel weekend upstate. Head to office at 4:30 to finish paperwork for accountant—end up organizing and shredding documents until 9pm. Buy soda water on the way home and eat yogurt before falling into bed at midnight after writing another blogpost and researching jobs.
3/24, Saturday—get up and respond to emails….research Seth Godin and Schools That Learn; order Wounded by School from Amazon and send a tip to client about a school lead for her son after reading “The Relationship School” article in NY Times sent by both father and friend. Go to pilates and then conduct first coaching session at 3pm with new client on “The Book in You,” a program I’m launching for amateur artists creating first-time writing projects. Talk with next-door neighbor until 7pm and clean apt. Work on another blog post as an old college buddy calls to chat about college basketball. Get inspired by “Women Who Rock” on PBS. End up working on job leads until 2am. Post tweets and tips on Facebook Fanpage.
3/25, Sunday—depressed about not being upstate and friend’s cancellation of coffee date. Do laundry, watch political shows, and read. Discover NYSACAC and CACNY, along with new job posts and professional organizations I haven’t yet joined… Write follow-up emails for contacts made through entrepreneurial fair at Fordham, workshop at Aaron Academy, and other contacts with future speakers on SEL in the city. Tell Hanah Senesh that I can sub the next morning for fifth grade….and crash in bed before starting the week all over again—only to realize as my head hits the pillow that my ‘spring-break-investment-spin-cycle’ did not result in one job interview or a single new client….But I think we might have a better idea about how I spent my time last week.