IECA 2015 Spring Conference: Baltimore

 

As members of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), we have the opportunity to attend two national conferences each year – both of which feature workshops, discussion groups, vendor displays, and esteemed keynote speakers. This May, after much reassurance from conference coordinators that our safety would not be compromised, IECs from across the country traveled to Baltimore, Maryland: the sports-loving, waterfront “City of Neighborhoods” whose national reputation was recently – and temporarily, we hope – tarnished by racial tension and local violence. Fortunately, the conference ran smoothly, no one felt unsafe, and our stay in Baltimore was quite enjoyable, thanks to moderate weather, plenty of crab cakes, and a few beautiful sunsets over the Inner Harbor.

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In addition to offering roundtable discussions, content-rich breakout sessions, and interactive happy hours hosted by admissions officers from colleges and universities across the country, IECA conferences typically feature several well-known keynote speakers who are leaders in education, parenting, or adolescent psychology. This year, conference attendees heard from two dynamic individuals: Rosalind Wiseman, acclaimed educator, speaker, and New York Times-bestselling author of Queen Bees and Wannabes (among others), and Jose Antonio Bowen, accomplished musician and educator, author of Teaching Naked, and president of Goucher College. Both Ms. Wiseman and Dr. Bowen have too many accolades to name, and we were privileged to hear them speak in Baltimore.

(Parents, if you haven’t yet read Queen Bees and Wannabes or Masterminds and Wingmen, Wiseman’s most recent book for boys, we highly recommend that you do so. Fun fact: The popular movie Mean Girls is based on Queen Bees and Wannabes!)

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Though both speakers enlightened and entertained us, we were particularly excited to listen to what Ms. Wiseman had to say about raising, educating, and positively influencing young people. In her 1.5 hours with us, she touched on a number of emotionally charged topics related to adolescence and parenting, but she really honed in on two issues: bullying versus drama, and teasing. According to Ms. Wiseman, bullying occurs when “one person repeatedly abuses or threatens to abuse his or her power against another person”. In contrast, she defines drama as “an exciting, unexpected, emotional series of events”; drama involves two individuals equally, and it can be serious or hurtful if left unresolved.

Acknowledging that many adolescents are often heartbroken, betrayed, silenced, not invited/included, rejected, and angered, Wiseman asks parents to in turn ask their kids to think about social skills – and inevitable conflict – in terms of a game. Who’s on your team? What are your strengths and weaknesses? From there, she suggests using her “SEAL” Steps as a method of resolution:

  • Stop. Who is the conflict with and what is it about? When and where will you talk to the person?
  • Explain. How are you feeling, and what do you want to happen?
  • Affirm and Acknowledge. What rights do you and the other person have in the situation? Do you have a role in the conflict?
  • Lock. What do you want your relationship to be? Do you want to lock in the friendship, lock it out, or take a vacation? (You may need to decide this after you speak to the person.)

Beyond those simple, problem-solving steps, Ms. Wiseman bestowed practical, appropriately colorful advice on her audience, and we left the session feeling affirmed in our practice of guiding students through a developmentally formative stage of life. Masterminds and Wingmen has been added to our summer reading list, and we’d love to know what you, our readers, think of it as well!

As any parent, coach, educator, or mentor well knows, being a young person – teenager or otherwise – isn’t easy, and the process of helping one attain his or her goals with confidence and good problem-solving skills can be just as stressful. As IECs, we strive to equip ourselves with resources that will empower and equip us to positively influence our clients, and we truly enjoy learning more about different schools of thought. Many thanks to Ms. Wiseman for a great session – and to IECA for a well-run conference. Next up? Boston, Massachusetts, in Spring 2016!

Warmly,

Morgan and Stephanie

 

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