Friday, January 31, 2014

When Opportunity Knocks: The Anatomy of a Viral Post, Part I

This is a repost,'s been one year. One year since I spotted a post somewhere on the interwebs about a study on allowing kids to fail. One year since a writer friend first read my article on that study and sent me an Atlantic editor's email address because, she said, my article might fit there. One year. 

One year. 

First posted in February, 2013. 
What a difference one week makes.

I wrote an article one week ago Saturday about the value of failure. I submitted it to various media outlets, it was rejected by most, but a lovely writer named Helaine Olen told me that the piece sounded like a great possibility for The Atlantic. Yeah, I laughed, I'll send it, but the Atlantic is on my bucket list, a periodical I had not really considered because it's, well, the Atlantic.

I sent the article to the Atlantic editor Helaine recommended around 10:00 AM in between a Latin class and an English class (we do, after all, have three whole minutes to ourselves between classes), and at 2:00 PM, I found out my article had been accepted.

I ran around the campus, a stupid smile on my face, and then settled down to the reality of editing.

The Atlantic editor was insanely good. Her edits were perfect. She tightened the piece and every change only rendered it more pointed and effective. I have been incredibly lucky with editors. K.J. Dell'Antonia and Robert Pondiscio are two of the best I've ever worked with, and I figured the gods had simply smiled on me. But three great editors? Whatever they get paid, it's not enough.

The article, "Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail," went live first thing Tuesday morning, and by Tuesday afternoon, it was obvious that something was going on. It quickly went from the top story on the National page to the top story overall, to the headline story and the number one most successful article on the site. And it stayed there, more or less, for almost a week.

On Wednesday afternoon, Fox News called. They asked me to do a segment on Fox and Friends from their Manchester studio. I was able to speed down there, get made up in about sixteen pounds of makeup, do the segment, and speed back in time to teach Robert Frost at 11.

Here's the clip for that video; there's no way for me to embed it.

As soon as the segment was over, however, they emailed back to ask me to be on the show again on the weekend broadcast. As I had meetings scheduled for Monday in NYC, I decided to head down for the weekend.

I arrived on the Crossroads Academy campus during our "Discover the Difference" day, and despite my sixteen pounds of makeup, prospective parents managed not to laugh and shook my hand while I talked up our English, Latin, and writing program. And then I washed my face for about an hour.

The weekend in NYC was a whirlwind, and Fox and Friends Weekend was a hoot. Besides, my lovely and handsome husband accompanied me to NYC and my parents took the kids, so we managed to have a wonderful (if busy) early Valentine's Day weekend in the city. He even sat in the Fox green room and held his liberal tongue.

Here's the link to that appearance, again, with sixteen pounds of makeup that looks good on air, but trust me, in person, it's just silly.

As of today, "Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail" has been shared 82,000 times on Facebook. I mean, really. It blows my mind, and I've hardly had the opportunity to revel in the fact that I was published in The Atlantic.

I really should not be allowed to hope for more.

But today, with three signatures on an agency agreement in triplicate, I celebrated a huge milestone. I signed with the agent I've been submitting to, stalking, complimenting, adoring, and respecting for six years. Six years.

What I've learned from this week? Patience is a virtue.

And when opportunity knocks, ride that puppy for all it's worth.

Here's part two of this story. 

P.S. My second article at The Atlantic just went live. "Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School." I have a feeling my vacation from negative comments has just ended.

P.P.S. I had the thrill of having two articles on The Atlantic's top ten articles, as this new piece has been shared over 4,000 times now...wheeee!

P.P.P.S. Here's the audio of my appearance yesterday on WBUR Boston.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How Noble in Reason

Thanks to the mother of a friend of my son's, I received the following article yesterday. I'd been down to Noble and Greenough in October, and had a fantastic time. It was a gigantic honor to present on the stage as Wendy Mogel, as I've been a fan of her work for years. She was a lovely person, quick with advice, and a fantastic listener. The best part was that the next day, we appeared on the Today Show together. As coincidences go, it was a doozy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Listen to What I Say, Not What I Do

Yesterday, I circulated a link to a story out of New Zealand about a school that has abandoned rules at recess as part of a study being conducted by two universities. I loved the story, as did a lot of other people, but I don't trust the love. While parents may do a lot of cheering for these posts, and help them go viral, I don't think we are ready to allow our own children to get physically dinged up or emotionally bruised. The post went live this morning at the Atlantic, here.

So...what do you think? Could you handle no-rules recess?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Piece of "The Lucky American Girl"

A gaggle of the most talented writers I have ever met are celebrating the release of their book, The Good Mother Myth. I loved the whole thing, but my favorite chapter, predictably, is by one K.J. Dell'Antonia, my friend and editor. I am so proud of all these fantastic writers, but particularly proud of K.J. and wanted to share her chapter excerpt, recently posted at Mutha Magazine. You can read the excerpt here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oh, The Places I'll Go!

As I will resume my travel and speaking schedule next month, and my new super-duper and more professional website is not quite up and running yet (soon!), I thought I'd post my upcoming public appearances in case anyone would like to show up and listen to a talk about intrinsic motivation, autonomy, Henry IV and his attempts to convince his son, Hal, get serious about his courtly duties, and the research on rewards, praise, and learning. All presentations are one hour unless otherwise specified, most are at schools, so please, if I indicate you should RSVP, please do.

February 4: NEST+m, New Explorations into Science Technology and Math, 6:00 PM. Please RSVP to if you plan to attend, as three schools have been invited. 111 Columbia Street (Avenue D and Houston. Subway - F train to Second Avenue.  Sit in the first two cars. About a 15 minute walk to the school)

February 5: International Charter School/St. Joseph's High School, 6-7 PM with time for chatting afterward. Located at St. Joseph's, 80 Willoughby St, Brooklyn. Evite is here, please RSVP so we can get our arms around attendance as several schools are attending. 

February 6: Gill St. Bernard School, Brueckner Hall. I will be speaking to students in the afternoon, but the parent talk will be after drop-off at 8:30 AM-ish (you know how drop-off goes...).

February 21-22: Association of Illinois Montessori Schools "One Voice, One Mission" conference. Parent Night, is the 21st, from 7-8:30, and open for registration here. I speak on the 22nd as well, but it's full and wait-listed. Feel free to register for the wait-list here.

March 27-29 EARCOS Teaching Conference, Bangkok, Thailand. Yeah, that one's kind of out of the way...and unless the protests calm down in the wake of the February election, who knows...?

April 17 Joslin Memorial Library, Waitsfield, VT, 6PM.

There are a few others in there, but sadly, they are private. I will post them if that changes. And if things go well, it looks like I will be speaking at some Upper Valley NH/VT public schools, too! I love speaking at schools; it's one of my favorite parts of this gig. But speaking to schools where I know the parents, teachers, and students? That makes me a little nauseous. 

I will be doing a Google Hangout tomorrow, January 22, at 9PM with Zoobean on the same topic I'm always prattling on about...if you've never done a Hangout, try it. It's fun! 

And today's post at the Atlantic, "Students Should Be Tested More, Not Less," is about the benefits of frequent, formative assessments on learning and memory. Yes. I know. Testing. I will get to work on a new piece about TESTING v. testing v. tests v. quizzes v. the assessments every good teaching does every day to check in on where students are with the material, collectively and individually. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I Must Love the Little Birdies

I'm on day seven of life without concussion symptoms. I was hesitant to speak these truths out loud at first, as I could hardly believe it, but with an entire week under my belt, I'm ready to shout it from the rooftops. I'm still being careful about how much I write and read, but so far, so good.

To cap off four months of dizziness, memory lapse, headaches, visual migraines, and word-finding problems, I wrote an article for the Atlantic about a recent study that showed kids who take some cognitive rest after suffering a concussion recovered in 20-50 days, while kids who returned to their normal, pre-trauma cognitive levels took twice as long to recover, an average of 100 days.

Then, in a fun twist, I was asked to appear on WGBH's show, Greater Boston, to talk about how to properly praise your kids, and I met the author of the same concussion study in the green room. He walked in, and we introduced ourselves. I asked what he was on the show to talk about, and he started to tell me about his study. I opened up my computer and pointed to his name, Dr. William Meehan, in my article, and we had a good laugh about the serendipity. I'd spoken to his colleague for a quote, so we had never met. We spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how we know each other. We never figured it out, so he settled on the fact that he thinks I look like Nancy, the blonde married to Timothy Busfield on Thirtysomething. Whatever, I was tired of working through our possible social connections, so I took that and we moved on.

His segment on the show was being taped just before mine, so we were on set at the same time, on opposite sides of the host. I sat quietly during his segment, and when his segment ended, he had to slither slowly and silently out of his microphone and sidle away from the desk. It was quite difficult to keep from giggling during the start of my segment, what with all that sibilant, silent slithering.

I've done a fair amount of TV at this point, but I'm still learning a lot each time I have an appearance. Two important things I learned this week:

1. Greater Boston (and many other shows, for that matter, train their camera on the guest during the guest's introduction, so don't do "dead face." I always forget about this, and don't tend to smile until the very end, as my name is mentioned. I think that's a conversational thing. I've watched, and this is what people do during casual, real-life introductions. I forgot to remember this fact on the show, so for a visual example of dead face, watch the beginning of my interview (link below). Warning, it's not pretty. When I watched the segment at home, Ben walked into the room and quipped, "What are you doing with your face?" What, indeed.

2. When Greater Boston does two one-on-one interviews in a row, the first guest goes to the right of the host, and the cameras shoot that interview straight on. HOWEVER, if you are the second guest, they will put you in what the floor guy told me was "position five," which is to Emily's left. Now, even though there is a camera in front of you, they are not using that camera to shoot the two-shot in the interview (I assumed they were). They are, in fact, using the camera to your left. Therefore, if you have a honkin' schnoz, as I do, the entire interview will be conducted as a profile shot, and your nose will be the third guest. I watch my interviews in order to find ways to improve, and I have to admit, this one was hard to watch. I'm not sure what I could have done about it if I had known ahead of time; maybe angled out to my left more than I did.

3. This was not a huge deal, but I would also have chosen a different shirt. I knew I would be waist up, behind a table, but did not know my billowy top would be shot from the side, thus tenting out in such a mummu-ish fashion. I should have thought of the time my father informed me that I look pregnant in that shirt, and selected a different outfit.

Here's that segment, if you dare.

I actually had a lovely time and really enjoyed being on the show. The staff of Greater Boston are quite lovely, and I can't remember when I have laughed so much in a green room. The Today Show may be exciting, and Fox and Friends was certainly a trip of another kind, but I don't remember a lot of giggling (well, unless my friends Alicia Ybarbo and Jennifer Hartstein are with me). Every experience is an opportunity to learn, I just did not know I would be learning so much about my potential as a love interest in the film Roxanne II: The Marriage of Cyrano.

Luckily for me, the powers that be at Greater Boston liked the segment and have asked me to come back and do more commentary on education and parenting issues. Consequently, I will have ample opportunities to commit novel crimes of television broadcasting. In the meantime, enjoy this lesson in how to avoid 1) dead face and 2) unfortunate angles and 3 ) a tent-like appearance when sitting in Greater Boston's position five.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Long December

I've had a quiet end to my year as the snow finally blanketed my little corner of New Hampshire. The cross country skiing has been beautiful, and as I'm still not allowed to gallop around on horses, careen down mountains, or slide around ponds on metal blades, I'm spending a lot of time on my skate skis...

...with my lovely husband, who took some time off to hang out in the woods with me.

I got to spend Christmas with my parents, which was perfect. Bittersweet, but perfect. My grandmother was in her final days with my aunts in Florida, as we did our best to celebrate the holiday with cheer for my children. She passed away at home, with family, knowing she was loved and cared for, and for that, I am exceedingly grateful.

I'm still at work on the book edits, but I'm also peevishly aware of the reality that I still have to to pace myself. If I push it, and continue to edit or read after the tight pressure band on my forehead sets in, headaches and visual migraines descend. I really miss reading and am looking forward to finishing all the books that have piled up on my side of the bed. Wonderful books by people I adore, such as Averil Dean, Melissa Atkins Wardy, Avital Norman Nathman, and Annette Haws. You should check them out by clicking on their names and buying their books because they are great writers, all.

I've rescheduled my January speaking dates to give myself that time to heal up from my concussion, but despite the irritating details of what I've come to think of as "the brain mishap," I've been able to tell some stories and do a couple of interviews with some fascinating people, and that was a great way to round out the year.

Here's a story I told about exploring the woods with Ben, my teenage son, for Vermont Public Radio.

And here's an interview I did about how teachers can make sure they are not overlooking introverted kids in their classrooms and giving them every opportunity to learn and succeed. Which was lovely, as I took quite a whuppin' for this piece I wrote on the importance of encouraging introverted kids to speak up in school earlier this year for the Atlantic.

Tomorrow, (Thursday, January 2nd), my new "Parent-Teacher Conference" piece will be up at the New York Times Motherlode blog, about how parents can help kids return to school after the holidays with renewed vigor and dedication. Or at least without whining.

Happy New Year, everyone.