What I Learned from My Grandson, Eric…

December 9, 2009 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

posted by Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author

As a therapist, I know the importance of asking the right questions in order to help patients focus on how they’re thinking and what they’re doing to process their experiences. However, it’s often true that in everyday life a seemingly innocent, simple question can lead us to places in our brains that we wouldn’t necessarily have thought about.

The other day, I had one such “AHA!” moment with my grandson Eric.

It all started when he saw me using his family’s computer to check the number of votes I’d received that day in WELLsphere’s contest for TOP BLOGGER. I explained that I write a blog each Sunday, A PSYCHOTHERAPIST’S JOURNEY, and that so far I’m 12th in the top 20 bloggers. “That’s pretty impressive,” my not yet 9 year old grandson said.

I then went on to show him the title of some of the past blogs I’d written and I stopped when I saw the one I’d posted in September which talked primarily about his sister Sophie, entitled UNICORNS EAT STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM. He immediately proceeded to read it and even laughed at the appropriately funny places. But, then, he politely suggested that in all fairness I needed to consider writing a blog about him. Of course, I decided he was right. The question was what topic I would choose to write about.

Within seconds he suggested I discuss the new writing program instituted for the first time this year in his school. Designed to teach children how to improve their critical thinking skills, he explained that he’s learning to distinguish between a Personal Narative and an Essay.

He explained that “a personal narrative is written about a moment that something happened to you in your life (please underline the word you, grandma)… and an essay is a topic written on a subject with a particular theme.”

When I asked him to give me a sample of how his thinking is becoming more critical, he said: “Here’s how you start. First, you draw the letter T dividing a page into 2 columns. One says,”I noticed,” and the other says “I realized.”

“So,” he continued, “I noticed that we have 5 computers in our classroom at school. After noticing them, I realized that when my Mom and Dad were in third grade they didn’t have computers in their classrooms and that must have made how they learned very different from the way I learn.”

I must admit that at that point I was as impressed with the school’s new curriculum as I was with Eric’s ability to understand and explain it … he, my 3rd grade football, baseball, guitar playing grandson.

This led me to think about what I said at the start of this blog, namely how often we notice things without stopping to think about them. For instance, when we’re driving down a country lane in the north-east during these brisk autumn days and we notice that the once lush green-leafed trees of summer are now bursting forth with leaves of reds, oranges and golds … do we stop to wonder about or realize how it came to be that this seemingly magical transformation isn’t merely a part of the scenery that we’ve come to expect to see each year?

Then, too, how often do we notice things about people: the way they dress or talk, the habits they have, the passions they talk about which we may or may not share. Yet, because we want to like them or because we’re at a particularly lonely time in our lives and feel in need of friendship, we don’t take the time to realize that what we’ve noticed should tell us something, be a reminder of what’s important to us, what and whom we wish to welcome into our lives and what would serve us better to avoid.

I understand now – perhaps better than ever before – that our children and grandchildren can make us realize so many things when we take the time to talk to them and listen to what they have to say.

When asked what else he would like me to share about him, Eric said not to forget to mention that he Loves (capital “L”, grandma) all sports and has been playing all of them including: hockey, soccer, tennis, swimming, ping-pong, and air hockey for as long as he can remember.

“And, oh,” he added, “I think a good ending would be: ‘As Eric was lying on the carpet crunching away on UTZ potato chips, with his hands all greasy, we both laughed at the bag with the name UTZ written across it, wondering how it got its name.”

So, to honor Eric’s curiosity, I will end as he wished me to and ask any of you if you have noticed a bag of chips with the name UTZ, what have you realized about the origin of its name?

Here’s to noticing and realizing all that matters to you!

Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81 is a psychotherapist, addictions counselor, oral historian, and author.  Her book is available at amazon.com and also as an audio book from Recorded Books Inc. (narrated by actress Suzanne Toren).  Linda shares more of her thoughts and experiences on her blog www.beyondatrauma.blogspot.com.

Entry filed under: dialogue, families, social-emotional learning.

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Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
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Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
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Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
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Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
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Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
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Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
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Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
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