“I don’t want you to waste another minute of your life focusing on your big butt or other imperfections. Instead, I want you to embrace your vulnerabilities and go on to conquer your dreams.” Those wise words come from Baltimore businesswoman, motivational speaker and, now, author, Laura Black, who spent much of her life focused on just that — molding herself into the physical ideal of womanhood our culture often promotes. Finally she realized it wasn’t her body that was holding her back, it was her attitude about her body.
University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik wants to accept one of the biggest compliments of her life. So what’s stopping her?
The other day I received an email from a woman named Marjorie, who’d just read a short memoir I wrote, set in Austin back in 1981. She, too, had vivid recollections of the period and people described — a serious flood, a piano in a tree, a dog the size of a pony, a jazz musician the size of a Volkswagen, a suicide. Her letter was a surprise to receive and interesting to read, but there were two sentences in particular that knocked me over.
University of Baltimore Asst. Prof. and Bohemian Rhapsody Columnist Marion Winik gets nosy…
These days, no aging star appears on my television without getting the verdict. She’s had a little work, I’d say.
But before I go too far in my vilification of Steven Tyler’s cheek fillers and whatever sad experiments have been conducted on Jessica Lange and Ellen Barkin, let me come clean.
I have already had work. Like today’s movie stars, I started young. And as with their modifications, things are not holding up as well as one might hope.
From the outset, my parents saw me as a fixer-upper, and engaged many contractors to rehab my lazy eye, crooked teeth, pigeon toes, persistent chubbiness, and so on. The prow of the whole pontoon was my nose. It was big, humped at the bridge, fleshy at the tip. A slightly more refined version of it looks excellent on my 23-year-old son, but my parents were not wrong in thinking that it didn’t suit a 13-year-old girl. They may have been a little wrong in taking me in for a nose job as a birthday present.
I looked through the book of noses the doctor showed me and knew two things — if I did this, I would end up with a miniature pig snout like certain unfortunates in my Hebrew school class, and my parents did not love me.
After years of doling out gold star stickers and supportive smiles, teachers in some school districts — including Montgomery County are learning a hard lesson: that building students’ self esteem may make them into worse learners.
According to several studies, the foundation of many schools’ approach to self-esteem building (giving praise without worrying too much about actual outcomes) doesn’t help students learn. Instead of offering empty praise, teachers should be rewarding students for real-world skills that will help them throughout their lives: persistence, risk-taking, resilience.
Even praising students for being smart can backfire. Studies have shown that students who are rewarded for their braininess become less likely to seek out challenges, presumably because they don’t want to erode their reputations as brainiacs. This can result in bright kids who tend to coast through assignments that are too easy for them, and/or kids who become frustrated when success isn’t immediate. Smart students become, in effect, “praise junkies.”
Montgomery County schools are among many nationwide that are incorporating new neuroscience findings into their education philosophies. What kind of positive feedback do you think is helpful for teachers (and parents!) to dole out?