Average or Not

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

The four stages of man are infancy, childhood adolescence, and obsolescence.

Art Linkletter


Art Linkletter was joking of course, but did you notice that he did not say average was an option? In The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness, Todd Rose asks the question “How did our society come to place such unquestioning faith in the idea of the average person?

Historically Rose traces the idea of average back to 1819 and a twenty-three year old Belgian scientist named Adolphe Quetelet. The idea has become so pervasive that anyone considered below the average threshold is seen to be inferior or lacking. His idea has taken on the idea that average is normal. One of his most devout followers, Francis Galton, expanded the idea to include a ranking system.

So how has this affected us? The average brain looks like…the average child develops….the average man or woman looks like….weighs…the average bmi….

The fundamental flaw is that an average is a composite of measurements. Rose starts the book with the story of how the Air Force created airplanes for “average” pilots and discovered the system was designed to fail since no pilot actually fit the average. This led to adjustable seats, adjustable pedals, etc.

Maria Montessori stressed the importance of follow the child not averages. Children develop at different rates.  The average child walks at age….talks at age….reads at age….

The Montessori environment is developmentally adaptable encouraging learning in all areas and children learn at their own pace.



Hard Work

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

All jobs are mission-critical, whether an employee takes incoming service requests from customers six hours

a day for 50 faithful weeks a year or works 2,500 billable hours each year with clients.

Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived from Gallup


What is hard work? It varies from job to job. Some jobs are physically demanding, take great strength, or take endurance. Some jobs are mentally taxing.

Thanksgiving is only a month away and just thinking about the work of putting the meal together makes me ache. Yet, I’m writing the final chapters of my doctoral dissertation and sometimes my brain is stuffed so full I have to get away from it to get a clear perspective.

Gallup says that every company must determine what hard work means in their culture and the measurement of hard work is useful only in relation to what the best can achieve.

 So the hard work of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner is useful to achieve a wonderful meal for family and friends. While the hard work of finishing the dissertation achieves the goal of a doctoral degree.

Hard work is practiced over and over. Beginning cooks don’t usually start with a meal like Thanksgiving dinner and there is a reason why only 1% of the population earns a doctorate degree. It all takes practice!

Children have hard work at every developmental stage – as they learn language, motor control, social skills, and as they learn how to learn. The Montessori classroom is an opportunity-to-practice environment.

What is your hard work? How are you practicing it?

Celebrate Girls

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

October 11, evidently, was the day to celebrate female children and many articles were written about how hard it is to be female in many cultures. Coincidently, I was reading a white paper from Gallup about women in the workplace and the difficulties women face.

I now have two granddaughters! I hope they will be educated, go to college, graduate school, create a life for themselves, and be independent thinkers. I hope they have long, happy, and healthy marriages too.

Interestingly, education plays a part in long, happy, and healthy marriages. It also plays an important role in the ability for young women to have career success. Independence and self-confidence are especially vital characteristics for young girls because of the cultural obsession with superficial things. Montessori schools provide terrific opportunities to develop independence and self-esteem that is not based upon the superficial obsessions of our culture.

Women are more likely to choose jobs where they believe in the mission of the organization and where they can make an impact for others according to the Gallup white paper, Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived. Women also want the flexibility to meet the needs of their families. Many women choose to make sacrifices in their careers to gain the flexibility to successfully raise a family. My grandmothers helped my mother and she worked as a teacher all of my growing up years. My mother-in-law raised a family and then had a very successful career.

Women are extraordinary – whether they are stay-at-home moms or career women! I want to support our girls, young women, and older women to be educated, work where they feel they are needed, and be independent thinkers but I support men who do this too!


Quotation to Ponder

Regarding the speed of development of technology:
The invasion [of technology] has been astonishing, exciting, entertaining – and now troubling. The swift takeover has transformed tech from the merely helpful tool or harmless diversion that it once was, to a dominant role as the hub and hearth of family life. The transformation has been nothing short of a revolution.

From The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ph.D.

Technology changes the written word

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

“Technology is redefining the fundamental cues, content, and cadence of our communication and the improvisational, uniquely human dimension of connection.” 

Catherine Steiner-Adair in The Big Disconnect

I sent my BFF a wide-eyed emoji…LOL! Texting has changed our written language forever! wide-eyed-emoji

Communication via texting is limited – as is communication via email. What Steiner-Adair says in the quote is true – it changes the human equation involved in connection.  What is that missing link? Some of it is facial expression.  Some of what is missing is tone of voice. It may be hard for the recipient of an email or text to understand if a person is being funny, sarcastic, or angry. That in turn makes it hard to know how to respond. Should they laugh it off and risk offending or making the sender angry or angrier? Should they be insulted by a sarcastic comment? Or should they respond either in a calming manner to calm the sender down or respond in anger back?

Communication has two components: 1) what the sender sends including meaning, emotion, and clarity of thought versus 2) what the receiver receives including interpretation of the meaning, emotion, and clarity of thought.  When we talk face-to-face and we say something that the receiver misinterprets we see by their expression that we miscommunicated. That factor is missing from texting and email.

Texting and email are exceptional for quick interchanges that include pictures of new grandbabies! LOL! emoji-lol


Life without technology

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

I went to lunch one day and forgot my cell phone on my desk. One of my colleagues asked me, “How can you forget your cell phone?!!” Well, it’s actually pretty easy.

I grew up without a cell phone. We played games like Monopoly, Parcheesi, Scrabble, and Twister. We rode our bikes, skated, skateboarded, and many other things outside. My dad taught me to catch and throw a softball and a football. My mom taught me to sew and cook. We didn’t worry about being disconnected – we didn’t know anything different – everyone was disconnected. We did talk.

Most of my life I drove around town without a cell phone. After 9/11 people became obsessed with being connected in an instant…just in case something bad happens. One of my work colleagues bought his eight year old a cell phone so that he could reach him at any time.

Cell phones have become very sophisticated. Once used only to make calls and store phone numbers, now they are mini computers that we use for everything from banking to social connections to recording devices, mp3 players, and calculators.  Oh yeah…don’t forget games!

My goodness what did I miss in that hour without my cell phone?  Think about it. This is hysterically funny and also hysterical in the sense that our emotions are so strong that fear is controlling our lives.

What is the statistical probability that something will go wrong for any hour we disconnect from technology? Disconnect once per day – your family will love you for it!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Have your child draw a picture of family life.  What do you see? If the mom and/or dad in the picture are holding cell phones and the children are wired up with ear buds…you might want to consider establishing no technology hours or zones to actually connect face-to-face with each other.

Catherine Steiner-Adair author of The Big Disconnect, says that parents view cell phones as an excellent compromise to balance work-life but children see them as an endless source of frustration – not compromise. When children are trying to talk with their parents and parents’ heads are down, looking at a text, email, or message, children feel that lack of attention – multitasking does not work. Cell phones have the power to pull parents away from anything, yet children don’t have that power. Steiner-Adair says that children who grow up with an emotionally absent parent don’t do as well. They feel let down, abandoned, and see only broken promises.

I love that I can text with my daughter who lives in another state. I love that I can text with my son across town. Texting, Skype, email, Facebook – all these things are wonderful but certainly can’t compare with a grandchild in my lap that I get to cuddle.

When technology disrupts face-to-face communication and connections then it becomes an intrusion and has taken control.

Take control of your technology – I dare you.  Dare to turn off all technology and reconnect face-to-face at least once per day.


Want to Connect with Your Children?

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

I sat in a restaurant yesterday and watched a family of four sit down at a table nearby. Both children opened their iPads and then the parents pulled out their phones. Here are several reasons why this is not an uncommon practice:

  • Technology is the entertaining babysitter and it’s too much bother to  teach children how to behave in public, or
  • Technology for children means parents can use their technology with no guilt, or
  • Parents think real relationships that includes talking, with their children are not important.

In The Big Disconnect, Catherine Steiner-Adair states that children tell her they feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, hurt, unwanted, and ignored when family dinners turn into opportunities for parents to check email or text messages. A brief 30 second check often turns into 30 minutes or more of attention focused on the technology and not at the children.  Children develop parent attention deficit disorder when they feel they are the least important people in their parents’ lives.

A few years ago it seemed like every time my husband and I went out for dinner, he would get a phone call that first interrupted our dinner and second, destroyed an enjoyable time together because we would end up talking about whatever “crisis” that phone call generated. Finally, my husband agreed to simply turn off his phone while we were eating dinner. All of the “crisis’s” simply disappeared.

If you want to connect with your children – disconnect from technology for a specific time period. Instead take a walk, play, throw a ball, talk, wrestle, cuddle, read together, bake cookies, or just enjoy each other’s company.


Quotation to Ponder

“We need to create environments – in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our public offices – where every person is inspired to grow creatively.”

Ken Robinson in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

Where is this world going?

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

I read the biography of a man I knew when I was 18 year old. At the time he was 93 or 94 years of age.  In the biography he said that he had lived from the time of the ox cart to the time of the rocket. He thought it was incredible that a man landed on the moon. When you think about the span of his life and all of the changes he saw it seems unfathomable!

First graders this year will retire between the years of 2076 and 2082! Digital technology is moving quicker than a rocket or an ox cart. What will these first graders see in their lifetimes? It’s a safe bet they will see changes in digital technology that most of us can’t comprehend.

Twenty years ago, at the age of 70, my mother took computer classes because she felt she needed to know something about them. That drive to continually learn is what will help those first graders be successful over the next 60 or 65 years. It will be the people who are not afraid of change and seek to learn new things who will thrive.