Free Workshops of Interest for Parents

Sponsored by the School District and the Elementary PTAs, workshops and speakers are offered on various topics each year.  The events are free and open to all (staff are always welcome).  For more information on programming for parents and guardians please see

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 ♦Ungifted – Intelligence Redefined: The Truth About Talent, Practice, Creativity and the Many Paths to Greatness with author Scott Barry Kaufman
7:30pm @ South Mountain Elementary School      find the flyer here

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 ♦Video Screening – How Difficult Can this Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop
7:30pm @ Marshall Elementary School, South Orange

This unique video lets viewers experience the frustration, anxiety and tension (F.A.T.) faced by children with learning disabilities. Workshop facilitator Richard Lavoie presents a series of striking simulations emulating daily experiences of learning disabled children.

Frustration, Anxiety, and Tension

The F.A.T. City workshop and video are my contributions to the important process of understanding learning disabilities. F.A.T. stands for Frustration, Anxiety, and Tension — and that’s exactly what the participants experience. This workshop and video provide teachers, parents, caregivers, and siblings with the opportunity actually to experience the emotions and stresses that children with learning disabilities face daily. By using simulations and contrived activities as models (for example, telling a story without using any words that contain the letter N), the participants temporarily experience the frustration, anxiety, and tension that is the lifestyle of students with special needs.

For the first time in years, these parents and educators are asked to sit on the other side of the teacher’s desk. They are required to recite aloud and complete timed spelling and writing activities under great pressure. I play the role of an unforgiving — and uninformed — teacher. I yell. I scold. I ridicule. I interrupt. I embarrass. (“Try harder!” “Pay attention!” “Are you trying to be funny?” “Why can’t you do this? Everyone else can.” ) I recall the results with myriad emotions:

  • The elementary-school principal who stormed out of the workshop . . . only to be found crying in his office about his own long-undiagnosed learning disorder;
  • The divorced dad who left the workshop and drove directly to the airport to fly to his son and hug him for the first time in 10 years . . . because he finally understood the boy;
  • The tenured teacher who approached me to say, “I have been teaching school for 22 years . . . and tomorrow I am starting all over again!”;
  • The teacher of English who mailed me all of her red pencils . . . with a note promising she would never use another one again.

The workshop gives teachers the opportunity to “walk a mile” in the shoes of the students who invariably cause complications and disruptions in the classroom. By viewing the world through the eyes of the child, teachers gather insights into a child’s troubling behaviors. As I often remind my audiences, “The pain that a troubled child causes is never greater than the pain that he feels.”