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How to Create Change in the Smart But Struggling Student

Pennies. The Cognitive Emporium

How Small Change can Create Joy in the Smart but Struggling Student

One day, I was at the LAX airport waiting for my flight back to Tennessee.

I was standing in line ordering food when a gentleman with an Australian accent held up a penny and politely asked, “What is this?”  When I quickly replied, “a penny,” he immediately asked, “What is it worth?” “One cent”, I told him.

He appeared confused and his next question seemed to get to the root of his inquiry, “What can I buy with it?” I laughed and said, “nothing.”

We then exchanged this universal body language of closure that said, “Thanks for the small talk. Have a good life” and, just like that, I the way that I looked at the penny was forever changed.

1 in 5 Students Learn Differently

Call me an advocate for the underdog, because that small talk left me curious and sad at the same time.

I immediately thought about my life’s profession and how I focus on that ONE The 1 in 5 student who learns differently and who I now refer to as the pennies of this world.

These pennies often struggle with low self-esteem due to their academic struggles. They find themselves being judged based on their performance at school rather than on their strengths.

Isn’t it ironic that the penny itself is part of a larger classification known as “change”?  Oh, when I thought about that analogy my heart skipped a beat and I giggled.

This made me determined to create a project that would show the pennies of the world that they can become the change that they want to see in themselves and, in essence, show the world their worth.

Each summer I try to do something different to improve our intensives at the clinic. This year I set out to prove my point about the penny by adding a new activity. In addition, I wanted to add an element of habitual gratitude.

I know that gratitude has a profound effect on happiness. In order for gratitude to become a part of your daily thought, it needs to become a habit.

So I developed a “See and Do” activity to jump start their habitual gratitude routine. At the end of each session, our students are given a penny and asked to verbally state one thing that they are grateful for.

When they leave the room and place the penny in a jar in our waiting room, they receive a tally mark that the office assistant records. At the end of the summer, one student will win the jar of change.

In addition, I plan on matching the money collected and donating it to Mary’s Magical Place, a playground being built here in Sumner County where people can gather and play regardless of their abilities.

Construction of Mary’s Magical Place is currently underway and, one day soon, every student will drive by the playground and know that they played a part of the change that created joy for someONE in need.

It became my summer project’s mission to show the kids the value of the ONE. It has been amazing to see how it has taken shape and transformed the atmosphere in the clinic.

I pride myself on running a joyful workplace. However, I always know that I can improve. We added ONE new element to our summer intensives, and every therapist can attest that this has been the best summer to date.

We seriously have pinched ourselves and asked, “Could this ONE addition have made that much of a difference”?

The answer is “YES.” We have proven it amongst ourselves as clinicians and, by the end of the summer, we will have proven it to the kids as well.

EveryONE will leave The Cognitive Emporium knowing the profound impact that the penny (aka “THE ONE”) can have in life.

They will come to realize that everyONE has worth and they will realize that being grateful for just ONE thing can produce CHANGE.

They will learn that, when given a plan and a purpose, the penny can make a difference.

My prayer is that they will then come to understand there is value in being that ONE and that THEY have the power to change the world.

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