Newsletter Library

Alexandra in Tutorland

A calendar on a cork board

Thank you to all of our TCers for inspiring us every day. And thank you parents, families, and education professionals for helping us grow our community. It’s been an exciting year at Thinking Caps. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with so many great families and dedicated professionals in New York and Texas.

I am so grateful to share my work with the entire Thinking Caps team. The enthusiasm and energy of our instructors, academic directors, and office staff truly defines us as a team of educators working to help bright students become brilliant learners.

As we head off for the summer, we are going to spend some time celebrating this year’s successes. We are also going to take some time in the upcoming months to expand our Study Jet program to include technology skills. We look forward to seeing everyone in the new school year! Happy summer...and remember to keep you Thinking Cap on!

A Tale of One Tutor

Christine Reilly,
New York

This year, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, and it wasn't so much a decision that motivated me as much as a calling. I know it sounds trite, but as a teacher, I am my most useful self. Teachers, I believe, often measure how much they enjoy the profession by how fulfilling the results seem. These results often take time; as I've learned, the virtue of patience is a requisite for those in education.

I arrived at teaching after years of learning about myself. After graduating from college, I went straight to get my Master’s in Writing at Sarah Lawrence College. When I graduated last year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher or go the publishing route. I decided to take an internship at Tin House magazine and also work with students as a tutor. I finished the Tin House internship in December happy with my experience but absolutely sure I wanted to pursue a career as a teacher. I enjoyed the internship, but my favorite time of the day was always meeting with my students. My grandpa always used to say, “You do what you love and try to make it work”. This is incredibly valuable advice, and life is too short not to take it.

I delved further into teaching by working as a leave replacement teacher at a local school. It was my first time as a full time teacher and what has been, to date, the most enriching, fruitful experience of my life. My time as both a teacher and tutor has taught me how to recognize each student’s strengths and weaknesses, which I found served me well in working with different types of learners.

After these experiences in teaching, I am excited to start next year following my calling!

The (academic) Odyssey

Dr. Jephtha Tausig-Edwards
Clinical & Supervising Psychologist, New York & Massachusetts

A picture of Dr. Jephtha Tausig-Edwards

Children are being exposed to technology and all that it offers from the earliest age. Smartphones, TVs, DVDs, computers, digital cameras, and e-readers, are a part of the environment that surrounds them. As a clinical psychologist, I am frequently asked by parents, teachers, and even children and teens themselves about technology. What limits should there be? How best to implement them? What is reasonable for parents to do? Here are some suggestions that seem to work well in the fast-changing technological world we live in.

  1. Decide ahead of time what the boundaries are for your family. Texting at the dinner table? Surfing the internet freely? Posting photos online? Gaming on a school night? If you know what your rules are ahead of time, then you will be prepared to implement them when these issues come up (and they will). That said, I usually recommend that starting in middle school and at least by high school, fun time with technology be limited to non-school nights and on weekends, once homework is completed.

  2. Investigate the options available to you. There are many companies that offer parents assistance in everything from setting up nannycams to monitoring inappropriate language in texts and on social networking sites. You may be more comfortable with some and less with others. The point is, it will be up to you which oversight options you choose to implement or not. Remember, consistency is key. Don’t initiate something you cannot reasonably maintain.

  3. Keep communication open as much as possible. If your child already knows he/she can come to you if they experience difficulties in other areas of their lives, then they are much more likely to do so if something goes awry in their technological world (bullying, impersonating, or cyberstalking for example).

  4. There is no real anonymity. If you would be embarrassed/upset to see your post/text/photo/message on the front page of the newspaper, don’t push send. The apparent anonymity of emails, tweets, and other postings can cause poor judgment in the content and tone of these communications. And once something is out there, it’s out there for good.

  5. You already know your family and friends in real life. Despite the false anonymity of anything you post, the internet was conceived as an anonymous system. Chat rooms continue that original vision. One never knows who is on the other side of a chat even in a so-called “monitored” chatroom. Most accounts in general (chatrooms, social media sites, or anything requiring a user registration) are not verified. Anyone can create an account and portray themselves as someone they aren’t. Unless you already know the person in real life, you don’t know who you are really communicating with.

  6. If it seems too good to be true, avoid it. Sites that offer deeply discounted or “free” software that is copywrited are soliciting illegal activity (downloading the copywrited software). Also much of what they provide is infected with malware (viruses, Trojans, worms, keyloggers) which you don’t want on your computer.

  7. Basic safety rules apply: keep computers in common areas in your home, restrict internet access (times of the day, and sites), don’t open any attachments from unknown sources, do not click on links received in emails from unknown people, install virus and firewall software, update software on a regular basis (operating system, firewall, programs, virus definitions). Any updates can be set up to occur automatically.

As always, trust your gut. If something does not feel right, don’t allow it. If you have questions or are concerned, reach out to those who can help: other parents, teachers, school guidance counselors, school administrators and technology specialists, psychologists, and other health professionals. Technology itself is neutral. It’s what we do with it that matters.

Sense and Sensibility

Question: I’m going to camp for a month and my mom wants me to do my summer work while I’m there. I think that’s unfair and I would rather do the work when I return home. What do you think?

Answer: Thanks for a great question…we hear it often as more and more schools are assigning summer work. The truth is that doing some maintenance and review during the summer is important to avoid what is commonly known as summer brain drain, or the loss of fluency with newly learned material. Two months is a long time to not practice, and as we know: if you don’t use it, you lose it. So, while you don’t necessarily need to practice during the time you’re at camp, you do need to find time to practice at some point during the summer. It’s a good idea to spread out review over a few weeks rather than cramming work in the few days before you go back to school. Think about the best way to spread out the review so you can stay fresh with the material you learned last year and be ready to begin the new school year on the right foot.

Much Ado About Learning

A shelf full of books

"The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk is really probably one of my favorite books. It explains the science of genes and talent in a way that's extremely interesting and easy to read. Basically, the book makes a pretty good case that genetics don't make nearly as much of an impact on our abilities as people think, and that all of the "genius" and "talent" we see around us is really nothing more than the product of hard work. It's very inspirational." -- Andrew Gulde, Austin, Texas

"I recommend Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is a truly touching story and one that I had a difficult time putting down. The main character, Oskar, is a quirky and curious 9 year old boy, who ends up on a journey throughout NYC to find the meaning of a key which belonged to his father. Along the way he meets many interesting characters who help lead him to his discovery. The author does an amazing job of depicting how Oskar is feeling and what he is thinking. He makes you feel as if you are alongside Oskar the entire way! A great read!" -- Tonia Barbato, New York, New York

"My favorite book of all time is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. This science fiction novel first appealed to me because of a cool looking cover. However, when I finally cracked the book open, the story just blew me away. With all the emotions and motifs in the book, I became so attached that I've read it five times already. And not only that, I've also been able to use it for many of my SAT as well as school essays. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read." -- Minh-Huy Tran, Dallas, Texas

"The Awakening by Kate Chopin was hard for me to put down. The book was especially intriguing to me because it was a time period, culture, and society I didn't know a lot about. In addition, it was short, so I almost wanted to just dive into it and then jump right back out to take in it all at once. The main character has been raised with a purpose and plan for the rest of her life, but gets to a cross-road where she questions if she is ready to define the rest of her life. Knowing that I was about to go to college and live on my own, I was aware that I was about to live as an independent person and was curious about the decisions I was going to be making as an "adult" and a "woman." The book helped me learn to make decisions for myself." -- Hannah James, Austin, Texas

"Moby Dick by Herman Melville is my absolute favorite novel, and I would tell anyone to spend their entire summer reading it. I mean, at least pick it up; the book tends to polarize people and they end up either hating it or loving it. If you're in the "love it" camp, though, you'll know almost immediately. Melville's prose is enthralling and readable, unlike some of the more allusive and abstract modernists, and his ideas about society, spirituality, and morality will change the way you view the world. Also, whaling is just really cool; not because I want the whales to die, but because it's inconceivable to us today that people used to spend four years in the middle of the ocean fighting giant underwater monsters with spears in a rowboat in order to provide the oil that lit everyone's homes." -- Sawyer Huff, New York, New York

"I recommend The Alchemist. It is easy to lose yourself in the exciting journey of a boy who travels across continents and cultures on a mission to fulfill his own "personal legend." Filled with words of wisdom, this thought provoking tale is one that many readers can enjoy." -- Chandler Amaroso, Austin, Texas