James Robert White, Ed. D.










SUCCESS                   SUCCESS                   SUCCESS


[Copyright © January 25, 2005]


(Dr.) James Robert White, Ed.D.

Assistant Principal ▬ Catawba Heights Elementary School

101 Ivy Street

Belmont, North Carolina 28012

(704) 827-3221 Fax: (704) 827-2419



Camping Trip Lesson

Trying to do too much is a theme in the lives of many educators, but we make it work because we love life…  every complicated minute of it. Wednesday, my husband made reservations for a tent site at a campground a couple of hours away from home.  He wanted to take our son on his first fishing trip.  At first it seemed like it was going to be a father/son trip, but then my daughter and I were invited too.  Despite the fact that I had a six hour graduate class on Saturday and a few chapter reviews due, I agreed to join the fun.

The trip didn’t get off to the best start. Our son had an audiologist appointment yesterday afternoon. After a communication malfunction regarding the time of the appointment, we faced a two hour departure delay, and set off on our trip with a little mommy/daddy tension.  Dinner at Chick-fil-A was great, but our navigation system caused some minor confusion. Then it started to thunder… lightning…, and rain.  The kids began to feel frightened and said they wanted to be safe.

A bird flew into our windshield.  That didn’t help matters.  Once we got to the site and realized all the fun stuff was a really long walk from the tent site, my husband began to have strong reservations about spending the day there alone with the two kids while I drove his truck an hour and a half away to class.  The ground was wet and the kids weren’t giving any impression they were excited about getting out of the truck in the dark to crawl into a tent in the middle of the wet wilderness.

So, I alternated between patiently supportive and quietly prayerful, giving my husband time and space to battle his indecision (expletives unmentioned).  My husband contemplated a night’s hotel stay and trying again today, but when he stopped to ask for directions and the locals said, “hold on while we figure out where we are…” my husband concluded they didn’t have enough sense to be of any help and decided to head home.  Once we were back on the interstate, he asked, “What have we learned from this trip?”  My answer was, “Pray before we head out rather than once we start hitting obstacles.”  I would have said, “Plan better,” but he had a pretty good plan, albeit spontaneous.  So, we found ourselves pulling into our driveway 1am.  After 4 hours on the road, with a few bird feathers stuck to the windshield, our children groggily climbed into our arms without complaint.

Today, after class, I got the text from my husband that he and the kids had set up tent at a state park closer to home.  I called my teenager and asked him to meet us here.  He did.  My in-laws arrived with my niece and nephew and we ended up having a much better time than if the original trip had gone as planned!  The two teacher words I have long lived by come to mind, “modify and adjust.”  When we modify our plans and adapt to the needs (social and emotional above academic) of those we serve, it is truly a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

Teachers Need Respect for Learning Styles Too

Preparing our school district to implement Common Core Standards, the training schedule has been demanding. Over a dozen instructional facilitators and district leaders have been leading teachers through modules that consist of videos, slide shows, and activities as part of a year long process.  Today was the first time I ever had to ask a staff of 20 to do a “close” reading of a dense, six page article (filled with SAT words), without the benefit of a group or “jigsaw” strategy. One said, “I’m a visual learner, I can’t read this!”  Another said, “I’m auditory,” implying I should play a read aloud of the article. I just smiled and said, “This is a very important article with a lot of information that everyone needs to have an opportunity to construct their own understanding of…”  There were a lot of moans and sighs.  Some picked up the highlighters I provided and got to work; others attempted to “pretend read” and talk to a colleague at the same time.  One asked, “can I move to a separate room so I can concentrate?”  I nodded and welcomed her to step into the computer lab adjacent to the library and spoke up to invite others to break off separately if needed, emphasizing the importance of reading closely and annotating text to prepare for discussion.  It was as agonizing for me as it was for them (helping dentists pull teeth on a mission trip in Nicaragua several years ago was much easier!). The resulting conversation revealed that no one understood what they had read.  As I attempted to redirect and clarify the article, they seemed hopeful.  Sadly, some still held doggedly to their preconceived ideas.  As we moved on to the videos, it wasn’t much better.  A few were attentive and took notes, others flipped through a fundraising catalog or checked their email via iphone.  I came very close to doing what I did at the last training…shut it off…and wait…making the offer to continue another day, but I didn’t.  I just let myself reside in a state of bewildered amusement, wondering, do teachers need 504 plans or IEPs?  How many among us would benefit from working with the vocational rehabilitation department?  Are we all as literate as we need to be as professionals…especially considering we are charged with the responsibility of educating future generations?  Am I expecting too much?  As I read the exit tickets after teachers left, I faced mixed reviews.  Some appreciated it, others complained that it was like being in college again, as if that were a bad thing.  We are part of a business that advocates life long learning. Shouldn’t we model that value with positive attitudes toward information that can help us refine our craft?

In case you’d like to read the article: 

Educational Standards:
To Standardize or To Customize Learning?

Writer’s Brain, Not Writer’s Block

Thought-provoking advice…great for all language arts teachers and educators who have a writer’s brain. We must cultivate empathy for our students and our selves. Self-awareness is an excellent tool!

A Writer's March

[By Guest Blogger Randi Beck]

According to randomly chosen sources with important sounding names, these are the 10 most frequent warning signs of early memory loss:

  1. Disrupts daily life
  2. Problems planning or problem solving
  3. Difficulty completing tasks or managing a budget.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Difficulty judging distance, contrast, or color.
  6. Problems with words in writing or speaking, not sure how to finish what one is saying.
  7. Misplacement and difficulty retracing steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

Now. Read that list again and thing about writing a novel. Or a poem, essay, blog, to do list, or short story for that matter. Think about what it means to be a writer. Creepy, huh?

I’m not suggesting we’re all doomed to early onset Alzheimer’s (though it does run in my family and Sam can attest to my displaying a large…

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Exceptional Students: ADD, AIG, Anxiety, & More

There are students who show signs of disorders that may share similar symptoms to ADD. Teachers do not have permission to share their insight with parents.  A teacher may know the child needs a medication refill.

A teacher may believe (based on years of prior experience, reading the latest research, or involvement in graduate classes) that a child would benefit from re-evaluation that could lead to a prescription change or reveal a different or co-existing diagnosis.

Few parents know that giftedness could seem like ADD and medicating a gifted child that didn’t truly have ADD could compromise their potential (there are also twice-exceptional children who do need to be treated for ADD, while also receiving gifted services…sadly one often cancels the other out because many doctors will write a prescription without referring the child to a psychologist); likewise Bipolar and Aspergers are frequently misdiagnosed as ADD – the medications used to treat those conditions usually affect the dopamine chemical in the brain, whereas ADD meds are often stimulants.

And sometimes ADD meds are given when what the child really needs is one of the following: coaching to manage over-excitability, strategies to cope with anxiety, or appropriate behavior modification.  Some parents are ill-equipped to provide the sort of interventions or discipline their child needs because they themselves may have been raised in a home where denial, bullying, guilt-trips, sarcasm, shame, isolation, or other forms of abuse and negligence to their human needs was the norm in terms of responding to undesirable behavior. Some copy this & some go to the opposite extreme.

Some well intentioned parents admire their predeccsors authortative approach and consequently become bullies. Others, afraid of being too harsh are too liberal, quick to find excuses. Medication is merely a band aid for either case.

In fact, is it worth considering that ADD may not always be a bad thing.  What if a child could go so much farther academically, intellectually, and socially if their minds were allowed to wonder (but engaged enough to prevent wandering).  Vearing off conventional paths is what has brought us many things.

Some parents seek meds to design more compliant children.

Teachers often spend more time with students than their parents do, especially in the elementary grades, where early diagnosis and intervention could make a dramatic difference in the life of a child.

It is unfortunate that teachers feel silenced.  They don’t know where to turn when they suspect a deeper level of disability or even they suspect there is no disability. Yet they know that in the end they share the responsibility for the suffering the child experiences emotionally & academically. They are also frustrated by the fact that the disruption these students present in the classroom infringes on the right to learn of their peers. The best answer they have is use of our social worker.

What if the batteries of tests that students eventually take as they go through the RtI process were given just as the Cogat is routinely given to identify gifted children in 2nd grade?

Preparing Children in Other Countries for U.S. Higher Education

If you live in another country, whether you are homeschooling or your child’s school asks how they can help meet the goals you have for your children, you may be interested in the Common Core Curriculum Maps: http://commoncore.org/maps/ if you are considering sending your children to a U.S. College or University. Forty-six of the United States are adopting Common Core, so having educational experiences that meet these standards will help your children when they apply for admission.

It is also helpful to Google Colleges or Universities that you may be interested in. Click on their admissions requirements.  Then click on International Students to find out more.  You should be able to learn more about requirements for international applicants, how to submit appropriate documents, what test scores you will need and whether or not you will be tested for your English language ability. 

If your children have dual citizenship with the U.S., that could be an advanatge with regard to fees.  If not, you may want to consider relocating to the United States, to the state they will attend school a year or two before they will begin their higher education.  In most cases a year or two as a state resident will prevent “out of state” fees (which are sometimes triple the cost they would be if you had been a resident for 24-48 months).  Again, look at the college’s website to get all the details.  Follow up by calling an admissions counselor if the site is ambiguous. If you need help with this process, I will be happy to serve your needs by making calls, sending letters, and assisting you in the process of working toward your family’s goals.  

ELA Live Binders: A Great Resource for You

Heather's Weblog

Have you had an opportunity to check out the two live binders developed by the English Language Arts Section at NCDPI?  These binders were developed to support ELA teachers and administrators through varying levels of study and understanding.  The Self-Study Binder and the Resources Binder provide a great place to start your study of the Common Core State Standards for ELA or to increase your understanding of resources available to support your work at the classroom, school, and district level.

Here’s what you will find in each binder:

The Self Study LiveBinder of the ELA Common Core

This LiveBinder is directed to those interested in learning about the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards and provides an overview as well as an in-depth, close reading of the standards. The range of tasks offers users an opportunity to determine their own specific needs and follow a path that is suited…

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Gestation as Self-Preservation

As educationists, we really need to be aware of this line of thinking. It is real. I especially enjoyed this quote, “…an act of creative defiance.” I wanted a life, and I started to build it with the only tools at my disposal – my love, my energy, my creativity, my unshakable optimism and my own body. I got pregnant.” I was 17 (almost 18) when I had my son. Fortunately I had already made the decision to get my GED and start college before I knew I was expecting. I hope to see our educational system become such that girls and boys both see their self worth and find outlets of creativity that don’t make them feel they must resort to their bodies to create something meaningful. Yet, I also hope that we build a system that is so empowering that if the biological clock compels young men and women to reproduce in their late teens or early twenties, they have the emotional, intellectual, and financial stability to do so with courage and fidelity.


I used to have this friend, Allison Crews, she was a teenage mother, like I was, and an activist, like I am.  She wrote about being a young parent, and she made a community for young mothers called GirlMom.com.

She used to say something along the lines of “If I told the whole story of my life, no one would ever believe me.” If they made a movie of my life, the script would be rejected as too fantastical.  So I tell my story in parts. Build up to the required suspension of disbelief.

One part of the movie script of my life is that I was a teenage welfare mom.  Like a lot of children from violent homes, I graduated high school and immediately tried to create the safe feeling of family that I never had.  I moved out at 17, got married at 18 and had a…

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