Sunday, September 26, 2010

Developing Your Child's Self-Efficacy

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While sifting through studies exploring the antecedents of entrepreneurial intent, I came across some statements that might help answer questions for some parents I've talked with recently. Although the following paragraph is cited in the context of an academic study, think about how the message would fit into a more personal, developmental context -- specifically, the development of your own kids or kids you often interact with.

"Actual abilities only matter if a person has self-confidence in those abilities, and also the self-confidence that they will able to effectively convert those skills into a chosen outcome (Bandura, 1989, 1997). Evidence suggests that general self-efficacy is central to most human functioning and is based more on what people believe than on what is objectively true (Markham et al, 2002)."

I get a lot of questions from people curious as to what my parents did that triggered something that drives me to succeed -- or at least try to -- in pursuits that they claim most people my age wouldn't think about and/or wouldn't try.  There are a lot of factors here, but two seem most relevant: (1) personality traits, and (2) family orientation.  


A lot of people who hear my story say, "I wish I could get my kid to do the same thing."  I think that what these parents are most often trying to say is, "I'd love to see my teenager seek out similar opportunities," but what they usually (perhaps unknowingly) convey in their attitude and speech patterns is a disappointment in their child, or a personal doubt in their child's capability of following through with projects similar to the ones I'm tackling.   I've always felt a little saddened by conversations like this, and I think that if parents could just see themselves on film, having this conversation with me, it might give them the answer to what they perceive as their children's "under-achievement" and "lack of motivation." 

I don't think I possessed any extraordinary abilities or intelligence that made me any more capable than most other 15 year-olds to sign themselves up to study abroad.  
What I did have was an inextinguishable belief that I really could do it. 
I had self-efficacy.
And according to Markham et al., this counts for a lot, because 
general self-efficacy is central to most human functioning and is based more on what people believe than on what is objectively true.  

"So what" that I had never flown before.  "So what" that I'd never touched a passport, much less owned one.  "So what" that the only official paperwork I'd ever filled out was an application for a Safeway Club Card.  According to Markham, my belief deep down inside that I was capable was more important than any training I might have received on how to go about studying abroad.  It's that deep down belief that would drive me to spend 100+ hours researching different organisations, perfecting application essays, and conjugating French verbs.  It's that deep down belief that led me to work three jobs for over a year and save every cent for the trip.  


So where does family fit into this?  In my opinion, parents play a big role in developing self-efficacy in their children.  You are the ones they look up to the most from a young age, so your continued attention to and support of their every hope and dream will allow for them to blossom into confident teenagers with an ability to make and achieve goals.

I think that a unique and wonderful gift to me has been the fact that my parents have never told me, "You can't..." in response to an idea I've had or a trip I've wanted to take.  They may say, "we can't afford to sponsor this trip," "we can't go with you," "we can't wait 'til you get home," but they've never said, "No way, you can't do that." Instead, their response to my (sometimes naive and crazy ambitious) new ideas has always been, "That sounds really interesting, you could do that," and sometimes, "Okay, great.  Have you also considered....?"  


Just try it.  The next time your kid proposes an idea for a project, idea, or career they're interested in, listen to them.  Support the constructive brain activity that went into crafting the concept.  Tell them they could do it!  Then let that affirmation soak in.  After you've established your approval, consider diplomatically voicing your rational concerns or suggesting some new perspectives and alternatives. This is a surefire way to support the development of self-efficacy.



I'll leave you with a last encouraging word from the researchers....


"Research...has consistently emphasized the importance of self-efficacy as a key factor in determining human agency (Bandura, 1989), and has shown that those with high self-efficacy for a certain task are more likely to pursue and persist in that task (Bandura, 1997)."

So today's take-away:  If you want your kids to study abroad, make them think they can do it!!


----------------------------------------------
Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, nor a child psychologist.  These are theories from my own experience and observation, and I will be glad to explain them further, but you should not sue me if your own attempt to test my theories ends in disaster.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Belmont Ranked #18 in Best 2010 Entrepreneurial Colleges

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I don't brag on my university too often, but this one really deserves a shout out. We've moved up to the #18 Best Entrepreneurial College in the U.S., according to The Princeton Review.
Not bad, eh?




Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Unthinkable has happened

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Two years ago, I walked into the office of Belmont's most forward-thinking Sociology professor, and told him I was planning a trip that would be the apex of my college experience and the culmination of my life schooling.  A trip that would incorporate my thesis research and result in a documentary promoting youth study abroad.


That is, a self-directed study abroad journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

21 days and 5,772 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok.


I put an initial proposal together, set out a book list of sociological, economic, political and historical volumes and other material that would provide me with a solid foundation of the area, researched a budget, read up on logistical concerns such as visa requirements and lodging.

But there were obstacles.  Time, money, credit transfer, administrators who were quick to point out risk and liability concerns, individuals who said, "cool, good luck!" but didn't buy into the dream.


....Until yesterday.  After finding out I had secured an internship in Russia with the State Dept. and would able to extend my stay for intensive language study programs through the School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS), I once again became hopeful that my Trans-Siberian dream trip might materialize in the near future.  I had not given up on it, merely put it aside for a time.  At any rate, I emailed the director of SRAS yesterday morning, explaining my vision for the trip and inquiring about any interest her organisation might have in sponsoring the trip -- not financially, but more in the way that a friend would attend  your concert for moral support.  A sponsoring organisation takes on logistical planning, helps travelers to obtain visas, arranges for lodging and other excursions, works with the traveler to set an itinerary, gives advice, purchases tickets, assumes liability, provides travel insurance, and provides emergency support.  Sponsoring a trip like this is no small matter.

The Trans-Siberian Route in Red - click map to enlarge

Yet, just hours later, I received a reply from the Director, saying "It is something that requires a lot of planning,".....but "definitely something we can help with.....And it certainly is something we would be quite interested in getting involved with."


I literally about fell out of my chair.  This is the response I did not let myself even hope for.  I read the email once, twice, a third time -- still not convinced that what I was reading was real.   I had restrained my enthusiasm in writing the first, proposal email to the Director, attempting to appear casual, calm, and nonchalant.  But now....I couldn't hold back.  My reply to her was an outpour of all the ideas and possibilities that had built up in my head for this trip.  My only request was that she somewhat sort through them, dismissing the unfeasible ideas and working with me to develop the good.


The implications of securing a sponsoring organisation go far beyond the simple logistical planning of the trip.  Having secured such a sponsor, I am now eligible to apply for a Lumos Scholarship -- a grant available through my university to students who propose a specific voyage that will enable them to "travel with a purpose."  I would never be able to pull together the resources for a trip like this without a financial sponsor as well.



As I mentioned before, an objective of this trip is to film a documentary promoting study abroad, appropriate to share with 6th graders through high school and even college students.  My next task: find a videographer. I have an idea of what I want this documentary to look like; I want it to be professional.  Belmont has an abundance of skilled film artists, but it's not simply about skill.  This person must be mentally, socially, and physically prepared for the rigors of a trip like this.  They must be able to stay calm and work well under pressure, deal with conflict well, have a desire to integrate into a new culture, and be able to handle spending 21 days in a small group in a foreign land.  Doesn't sound like much to ask, but believe me, quality travel partners can be few and far between.  


But for now, I'm still reveling in the excitement of acquiring sponsorship and moving this project onto the next step!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paraprosdokian Humour

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My mom forwarded this to me today, originally sent as an email to subscribers to the Patriot Post.
I've had one of the most academically rigorous days of my life today, and on top of that seem to be coming down with some kind of flu bug. This was exactly what I needed to keep me going :) 

A "paraprosdokian" is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect.
  • Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  • I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
  • Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
  • We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.
  • War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • Evening news is where they begin with "Good evening," and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
  • How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted pay checks.
  • A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it.
  • Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR."
  • I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
  • Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
  • Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
  • A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  • Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
  • Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  • I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
  • There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
  • When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  • You're never too old to learn something stupid.
  • Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
  • A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
  • If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The Seduction of Achievement"

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The sermon this morning at Crosspoint was on the tendency to fall prey to chasing after success and achievement at all costs.  Our society is largely performance-based; we learn from a young age that desirable behaviour and small accomplishments are met with praise from our parents.  Or, for some, they go through childhood doing everything to try to gain that parental nod of approvement, but no matter how much they achieve, they never get it.  I count myself lucky to be in the first group.

Either way, there is a lot of emphasis placed on achieving, progressing, succeeding.  Success isn't inherently bad, but, as one psychologist put it, "Achievement is the drug of our time."  A society of people whose identities are success-based is doomed to produce workaholics, people addicted to the high of achieving grand things.  I certainly thrive on the excitement of setting goals, working hard to achieve them, and watching them come to fruition, but I don't do it at the expense of a balanced life.  I work really hard to not let my days become focused on what I'm doing and what I hope to achieve, but rather on the people and relationships that bring so much joy to my day.

But one statement that Pastor Pete made this morning really stuck with me.

He said, "God didn't make a human-doing, he made a human-being." Sometimes we need to stop, take a deep breath, smell the roses, hug our loved ones, and leave that next big pursuit for another day.  At the end of it all, we shouldn't find our identity in our status, the title we've attained, the company we work for, the deals we've closed, the dollars we've banked.  Life is so much more. 


"And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process?"
Matthew 16:26

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've been craving music lately.

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It sounds strange, I know.  But I've felt this irrepressible desire to connect with music in a way that I haven't experienced before.  There are a lot of songs that have come up recently that I've just latched onto and haven't been able to give up.  I find myself looking them up online, playing them over and over, savoring lyrics, enjoying harmonies, and swaying to melodies. 


Maybe it's something about being back in Nashville....  :)





And this is another of my favourites....

Friday, September 17, 2010

My writing style suggests I'm a 66 year old woman?

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I'm finally getting settled into the semester (which is fantastic, by the way) and starting to fall into a weekly routine.  The way my classes are set up, I have only one class on Monday and one class on Friday.  This is desirable, because packing the bulk of my courses into a three-day mid-week rush allows me to more efficiently manage my time outside of class with minimum interruptions.  However, my Tues-Weds-Thurs require more of me than is almost humanly possible, leaving me no time to blog during the week.  


Which means that Friday is BLOG DAY!  I sense that the space between is going to be spasmodically updated these next few months, but you can probably expect me to indulge in a blogging spree most Friday nights.  


Now, this is funny.
I happened upon a website that analyzes blogs.  I just entered my blog's URL, and POP! out came a series of pie charts showing the results of a computer analysis of my last twenty-two blog posts.  
Pie chart that shows the Mood, happy 78%, upset 22%
MOOD



This is what the computer concluded: 


the space between is probably written by a female somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.
Pie chart that shows the Age, 13-17 7%, 18-25 17%, 26-35 15%, 36-50 21%, 51-65 14%, 66-100 26%
AGE



I'm rather used to acquaintances over-estimating my age, but 66?  
Tu exagères! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Words that don't exist in the English Language

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A few months ago I blogged about French words that have no direct English translation.  And well, here's round two of a similar theme.  Except these ones are even more amusing, and come from all sorts of different languages.  I've always found this type of study fascinating, because the fact that there is a word to describe a very specific situation in a certain language signifies that the situation in question is either valued, very common, or very rare.  Basically, why would you have a word for something that (a) never happened, or (b) didn't matter?  


If you've read one of my earlier posts today, this logic would lead you to believe that the Germans value lippenflattern --  the act of "chattering one's lips."  :)


Anyways, take a look....


L’esprit de escalier: (French) The feeling you get after leaving a conversation, when you think of all the things you should have said. Translated it means “the spirit of the staircase.”
Waldeinsamkeit: (German) The feeling of being alone in the woods.
Meraki: (Greek) Doing something with soul, creativity, or love.
Forelsket: (Norwegian) The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love.
Gheegle: (Filipino) The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.
Pochemuchka: (Russian) A person who asks a lot of questions.
Pena ajena: (Mexican Spanish) The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation.
Cualacino: (Italian) The mark left on a table by a cold glass.
Ilunga: (Tshiluba, Congo) A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.
saudade (sow-da-jee) (Portugese, Galician) the feeling one gets when realizing something one once had is lost and can never be had again
Sgriobn: (Gaelic) The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky.

I'm betting it's only going to take a few days in Russia before I'm pegged as a pochemuchka.
hehe

Friday, September 10, 2010

GERMAN word of the Day

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My German friend, Svea, is a Musical Education major studying abroad at Belmont this semester.  Today at lunch she was telling me that she was a little bit nervous about leading vocal warm-ups for her women's choir, as her professor had asked that she prepare one for today.

So she pulled out her prep sheet and was walking me through it.  One of the exercises was labeled "lip chattering."  I inquired as to what that was, and she couldn't describe it, but made the sound.  She meant the thing where you put your lips together and blow air through them.  I couldn't remember if there's an English word for that, but told her to say "flubber" or "blubber" your lips.  hehe

Anyways, I learned that there is a German word for precisely that action.  

It's called Lippenflattern!

Thanks, Svea, for a truly educational moment. :)

International Student Retreat 2010

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In the craziness of the past few weeks I have woefully neglected my little blog.  But I have accumulated many great stories to share in the process.
Here's a snapshot from my mom's and my trip to Nashville, where she helped me move into my new dorm and, more importantly, enjoyed her first outing to Pancake Pantry, Nashville's all time favorite breakfast joint.

Munching away with my cousin Kelsey and her roommates.
Another of the highlights of the past few weeks was Belmont's International Student Retreat that I helped out with last weekend.  We drove down to White Bluff, TN -- about an hour south of Nashville -- and spent a day and a half at a "camp."  It's not proper camping, by my standards, since we sleep in cabins and eat every meal in a mess hall....but there was a low ropes course, volleyball nets, a pool -- plenty of fun opportunities for teambuilding and getting to know all the new exchange students.

We have five German girls this year: Senta, Svea, Cindy, Yana, and Elisabeth; three French students: Arthur, Laure, and Chloé; two from Hong Kong: Jimmy and Cherry; an adorable girl from Japan: Nozomi; a guy from Denmark: Ali; a girl Sydney from Canada; another guy named Jimmy, from London, and four other students from Moldova and Brasil that are in their second, third, or fourth years at Belmont.  The international student community at Belmont is small, but tight-knit.  I love having the opportunity to learn so much about different places and cultures through my foreign friends, and reciprocating in showing them America - our many cultures, traditions, and values.  I know exactly what it's like to enter a new school or country knowing nobody and barely knowing a few phrases in the local dialect.  Most of the foreign students who come to Belmont speak English quite well, but I know quite well the implications of the lost, dazed look on a few of their faces.  So reaching out and befriending them - especially those that are struggling with the language barrier - is a huge goal of mine.  Since coming back from the retreat last weekend, I don't think I've eaten a meal in the caf without at least one of them in tow :)



Belmont International Student Retreat 2010
Sometimes, in life, you meet a person who shares the same enthusiasm and passion that you have for a particular topic, goal, or hobby.  I've learned over the past few years to really treasure my time with these people, because you never know when a change in circumstances might see them drift right out of your daily life.  I recently met one of these people - Jimmy, from London.  We must have spent over 20 hours talking this past weekend on the retreat.  We've discussed traveling, religion, politics, philosophy, history, languages, cultures....the list goes on and on.  Our beliefs certainly differ in many ways, but I think it's our shared enthusiasm for learning and exploring, as well as a genuine respect and eagerness to understand each other's beliefs and values, that makes our friendship work.

It was really hard for me to make friends during my first semester at Belmont, back in 2008. The last few years of my life I had spent overseas, and during that specific period -- age 16 to 18 -- is when you really start to solidify who you are.  Thus, your experiences during that time become wholly integrated into your personality and the way you understand the world.  So, naturally, every new experience is going to be judged or compared to a recent similar experience you've had.  For me, the new experiences I was having in Nashville all related back to people, places, and events I had encountered during my time overseas.

Americans don't have as many opportunities to travel internationally as many citizens of other countries, so our slightly isolationist attitude can't be judged too harshly.  But with this lack of travel and exposure to other cultures comes a sort of fascination mixed with jealousy of people who do travel often.  I've found that this reaction is especially pervasive among young Americans.  And so by simply trying to find common ground and share my life experiences in the process of making friends, I found that some students here at Belmont were a little put off by my lack of "American-ness."  I felt that some were jealous that I had gotten to travel, and others were tired of hearing about my life experiences in other places and cultures.  It was just difficult.  I had become so much a different person than I was when I had left Oregon at age 16, so it's not like I could just try to remember and pull out some experiences from back home that would aptly describe my interests or personality.  My character is a conglomeration of all these different places and cultures; it's not a fad - it's just me.

So, with that in mind, imagine how I felt when I met Jimmy, whose first words to me were, "Wait, so you're from Oregon.  So why are you on the International Student Retreat?"  Of course I had to explain, and of course we discovered in about ten minutes that between the two of us we had covered every continent and most of the countries on them.  He had even more exotic stories than I did...I think I was listening to one about monkeys coming down out of the Amazon trees and drinking his beer when I decided that we were going to be very good friends.  It was like I was free again to be myself, to share the stories that are a little too "out there" for most American students.  All in all I had so much fun that weekend, and my days are now full of fun new facts that I learn from my foreign friends!





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