Full Transcript

Interview with Melody Valenzuela, Rapport Education

July 10, 2020

Dr. Gwen:         Hi, friends. Welcome to my channel. My name is Dr. Gwen, and I'm a clinical psychologist who's obsessed with empowering disabled individuals and the amazing families and systems that support them. In this video, I interview an educational therapist, Melody Valenzuela, of Rapport Education. We explore what an educational therapist is, how educational therapists are different than tutors, how creating safe learning spaces is the responsibility of the provider, and, well, how kids are underdogs. We also get into the power of shame and how shame suppresses learning and our most authentic selves. Timestamps are in the description below. This one is so much fun. You're in for a treat.

Hi, Melody.

Melody:            Hi.

Dr. Gwen:         Thank you so much. Thanks for joining me today.

Melody:            Oh, my gosh. You're welcome. I've been looking forward to this.

Dr. Gwen:         All right. Let's just jump right in, shall we?

Melody:            Talk to me.

Dr. Gwen:         Okay. Talk to us about you. Tell us about you, who are you, what's your gig?

Melody:            All of me?

Dr. Gwen:         All of it.

Melody:            What's my gig? Let's see. Well, that's a lot more broad than I was expecting, but I'll give you snippets. So, what's funny how I got into this whole teaching thing, it's a little circuitous, my route. I went to school for Spanish language. I studied Spanish language because I love how language and cultures interact. I love picking apart language. Like "Why do you say it like that?" In Spanish, they have a saying for "the straw that broke the camel's back, and they say it as like, "The drip that tips the pitcher." It's so cute. I love learning that kind of stuff. So, I went to school for that. And then, I'm a musician as well, so I was recording and writing music, singer-songwriter. And, I started tutoring to kind of pay the bills because I was like, when you're just starting out as a musician, it's rough. It's rough on everybody, especially LA.

                        So, I started tutoring, and I loved it because I've always loved kids. I've always loved, loved kids. I was the kid at church that went to the nursery right after service to hold babies. I would take them to their parents, totally inappropriate. I would take them from the nursery and take them to their parents. I love everything about every age. So, I started tutoring, and it was great for me. And, I kept running into cases that we're getting just a little more complicated. By year five or six, I guess my name had gotten around town a little bit because I wasn't advertising, but just word-of-mouth started really growing to where this became a full-time gig. And, my cases were just more and more difficult, and I started having to really consider why these kids were struggling. And, most of this was math at that time. Why are these kids having such a rough time, and the parents are totally stumped? They're like, "It seems like she understands the material in class. And then, she takes a test and she totally blows it." Or, "The teacher says she's doing fine, but at home, it doesn't really seem like things are clicking."

                        So, yeah, I just started getting these kids where I really had to dive into talking to the parents and the teachers and the student to feel out what it was that they were experiencing and where the struggle is coming from. So then, I decided I need more school for this. I'm like a Spanish major, uh singer-songwriting. Well, that, relationally, I think, helps to have that curiosity about language and how people think and how they interact and how to communicate, that kind of feeds in, and kind of the artsy intuitive nature of song-writing and music and connection with people. So, I think those feed into it, but I needed more. I needed more schooling. I needed to learn, specifically. Okay, I've got this kiddo, and seeing this issue, how do I deal with it? So, that's when I went to school for educational therapy.

Dr. Gwen:         I love it, I absolutely--And, I love hearing people's origin stories because this place of creativity and curiosity which leads you to becoming an ed therapist or an educational therapist. Let's get into what is an educational therapist.

Melody:            Like, what does that even mean?

Dr. Gwen:         What does it mean? What does it mean?

Melody:            No one knows what it means, still. It's so new. We're really talking about this field growing in the US since the '70s. So, the title, I think, gives it away, "educational," "therapy." We're working on education, but it's the therapy. When you're in therapy, you're building habits to, maybe, break down something that's not helpful, that's not serving you. And then, you're building new habits that do serve you. So, I'm doing that in the realm of education. So, it's this interaction. And, this is what people started seeing. You're talking about filling this need for your community. You're working with your clients, and what is this need for my students that are in transition? And, how do I fill that gap?

                        So, in the '70s, we're like, "Okay. I'm not quite a teacher. I'm not quite a therapist, but there's a need here, where we need to bring these together and make this make sense why are kids struggling." So, an ed therapist will--It's so multifaceted. Like, I was saying with some of my families, "Let me help you figure out why your kiddo is having a difficult time learning." But, it's also, once we start to kind of figure out what's causing the problem and to kind of try to remediate the issue academically, what we're doing is using research-based practices to say, "Hey, this is how reading comprehension works. These are the proven ways or the most studied ways that give us the best results. And so, we're going to use these specifically, intentionally," which makes it different from just education within a broader classroom where you have a teacher teaching to 25 or 30 kids. And, it's just straightforward covering the curriculum, but there's not a real opportunity to address any underlying issues. So, an educational therapist will address those underlying issues.

                        And, the cool part is that, yes, we're going to use this, we're going to teach the subject matter--when we talk about the differences, I think, this is part of the confusion for people when you say educational therapist, "Isn't that just the same as a tutor?" No, totally not. That's why we call them different things. There's a tutor, and then, there's an educational therapist, right?

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah.

Melody:            So, what a tutor will mainly focus on teaching the content. "So, you've learned this at school. It didn't make sense. I'm pretty sure, if I sit down with you for an hour, I can make sense of Chapter 8 Section 3 with you. And, we're going to look at polygons and we're going to make that make sense." So, when you're doing that with a typical learner, tutoring works. Great. You had a couple of extra hours. Now, geometry makes sense. You're good to go, good to move on. When that doesn't work, what do you do, then? That's where we need to start looking into the nitty-gritty.

                        So, a tutor's going to teach content. They're not going to teach strategies specific to a learner's individual profile. How does that kiddo learn? What works and what doesn't? And, it's far beyond just learning style. There's actually, I think, not been tons of research to support that whole idea of learning style, that this kid is just more visual and this kid is just more auditory. I think we have those preferences, naturally. Gosh, I'm just now thinking, that's probably how some of the songwriting has helped me with my kiddos and being just more auditory, musician artists because the visuals didn't help me in school. And so, when the teachers are putting up all these visuals and it's not helpful, we need to find a different route. Anyway, I got off track with the question. Does that make sense?

Dr. Gwen:         Absolutely. And, you already answered and illuminated something which is so helpful here. And, that's really the heart of these kinds of things and videos that I'm doing, which is what is the difference between an ed therapist and a tutor, where we're talking, one, a tutor is really going to help you with the content, but the ed therapist is not only going to help you with content, it's going to help you with process, right?

Melody:            Yes.

Dr. Gwen:         How do you, as an individual, come to learning with all of the ways you attend, encode information, learn the best, and kind of hack that system? See where the rubber’s meeting the road with the content. And then, go back to process, tweak process. And then, that way, the process that gets really articulated, because that's what happens, and I think, sometimes, that's all it takes. It takes someone who knows what they're doing, someone who's attentive to say, "Hey, I noticed that this is the way you learn and this the way you learn the best. So, let's stick with that."

Melody:            Also --Okay, sorry.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah? No, no. Go ahead.

Melody:            But, also, being attentive to--and this is a thing, a tutor can't sit there and tell you what's not working. She's just not getting graphing. Linear graphs do not make sense to her. Okay. But, why? Why? Is there a visual processing deal going on there? Is it that she doesn't get the representational connection to that abstract idea that this equation that I'm looking at represents a line in actual space? You can't draw that for a kid. So, helping them make that leap from something more concrete to something more conceptual is, those are the gaps we're trying to help them to fill in. And, it's taking--it's noticing. This way, you have to be highly creative, flexible, because you have to be keenly aware of what that kid is going through and experiencing as they're working through a problem.

                        For example, I mentioned trying to sleuth down is a visual processing issue, or is this a vision issue? So, I was going to give you the example, one kid I was working with totally understood the concept of math. I'm going to be super basic about it because I can’t remember the problem. But, something as simple as if you can picture how you're writing out, let's say, 7 minus 3, or, let's say, 20 minus 13, okay. So, that negative sign was running into the one on the 13 for her and doing a crisscross action creating a plus sign. So, when she looked at that problem on the board, she was like, "Pretty awesome. 20 minus 13 makes total sense. I don't need help with that." Then, when it's 18 inches in front of her face, her eyes were doing that binocularity crisscrossing it and she would come up with 33, or 23, 20 plus 3, instead of 20 minus 13.

                        So, it's like, being that detailed, let me actually go through your work. Let me analyze these errors. This is why half of my job is not with kids. I spend the time with kids. And then, I spend time after the session just figuring out what was going wrong to sluice that down.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, yeah. Really seeking to understand, right? This idea of, "Let me seek to understand why this is happening, because if we can see why this is happening and we can address, let's say, in that example, a visual processing issue, then, we're going to address the visual processing issue." Because if we can do that, then, it's not only going to just be in math where she's going to experience a difference, it's going to be in social relationships where I'm looking at something and interpreting it, or reading, or how important that is. So, in so many ways, you're really doing a deep dive.

Melody:            Deep dive.

Dr. Gwen:         And, this is kind of the difference between deeply understanding versus widely understanding.

Melody:            Totally.

Dr. Gwen:         Because I see deep dive to be this sleuthing down to the nitty-gritty details of what's leading to what, versus, "I have a lot of information about something." And, it's very superficial. "I know that, okay, well, all of these five concepts in math, this is hard for this student," versus, "but why?"

Melody:            But, why?

Dr. Gwen:         Why? And then, there's something really empowering about understanding the whys, because if you can understand the whys, then, you can build your workarounds, then, you can truly be strength-based, and then, you can say, "Okay. Well, if I process information auditorily in a stronger way, that's a stronger way for information to come in, I'm probably not going to do really well in a class where the professor doesn't really get into things and have dialogues about things but just goes over a PowerPoint.

Melody:            Right, right.

Dr. Gwen:         So, how do we do that?" And, the foundation of this is being self-awareness, right?

Melody:            Yeah.

Dr. Gwen:         If we can empower the people we work with with a solid and comprehensive understanding of how they understand themselves, then, they can advocate, then, they can get their needs met, right?

Melody:            You're right, yes. And so, some kids will really own that process. "Oh, my gosh. You're right. This totally works. I learned this so much quicker when I did XYZ versus sitting there for weeks and pouring over my notes." And, once they have those moments of, "Oh, my gosh. Notes, that doesn't actually serve me very well. I'm not going to do that. I'm going to record this session, and I'm going to listen to it over and over. And, I'm going to go on a walk and listen to that. That's what works for me," then, you're empowering them.

                        Well, let's talk about what happens when kids start to feel or become aware that they are not thinking the way the rest of the class is thinking. What happens? Once that confidence, it just gets chipped away at little by little in class. Every time they raise their hand and they don't have the right answer. How many times are they sitting there, praying that the teacher doesn't call on them because they don't know the answer, and, "Dear, God. I do not want to be called out on this in front of my peers?" Again, confidence just starts being chipped away at little by little. And, once they're on that trail, they're in real danger of being able to attend to their situation. They're not even aware of, most the time, how anxious they are in class. But, good luck trying to understand anything when you're in that anxious mode or that self-defeated mode. So, this is what a lot of the kids are experiencing.

                        And, the class is so large, or even if they're in this small group, there's the potential for constant comparison. "My neighbor can read this much more quickly than I can." So, we're building in them self-awareness that does empower them. "Hey, this is what I'm not so great at, so I'm going to do it this way because I'm actually really great at this way." And, it becomes a strength-based practice.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah. And, I think it's a little bit kooky to say, "In order for me to truly utilize and parlay my strengths, I have to know what's hard for me. I have to know those things." And so, I think there's this misconception when people say, "I'm totally strengths-based. I'm a strengths-based therapist. We write goals to strengths." That's great, but you never looked at the weaknesses. What you have to do is, in order to be strengths-based, you have to look at weaknesses. Period.

Melody:            You don't know what he's strong at. How do you identify the strength if you don't have that comparison? Yeah, absolutely. That's why we do all the assessments, all the assessing, to find those weaknesses.

Dr. Gwen:         To find the weaknesses. And, that's not a reflection of a person. That is a reflection of a learning system. And so, I think that, sometimes, we worry that we're going to offend somebody when our intention is really to support. My argument here or my encouragement here is you've got to own the weaknesses because, then, you'll soar, because, then, you can crack open and hack your own system to get to where you want to be. So, that's awesome.

                        You've been touching upon these concepts that are related to psychological safety. So, this idea that we need to feel safe in order to learn and how risky learning is, because learning is kind of risky. When we're learning, we're learning new things. So, it's showing what we don't know. So, you've been talking about kind of the effects of what happens, and I hear this a lot of my clients who have learning disabilities, which is, "I always feel like I'm working harder than everybody else to get what they're getting so easily," and how that works. And so, there's this really going back to the words or your title, educational therapist, that there's a therapy part to this. Talk a little bit about the importance of, for you, anyway, psychological safety in the process of learning and empowerment.

Melody:            So, you make a good point that learning, it's a risky endeavor because you're so vulnerable. These kids are walking into a situation. First, let's see what this feels like, okay. Here's the problem, okay. I get excited about this.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, let's do it.

Melody:            Okay. So, I feel like so many just parents, professionals, just adults, in general, have forgotten what it feels like to be a kid, how much power do kids have. This is an adult world. Everything is controlled by adults. Everything. So, they're the underdog. They're coming at this without any power and any control. So, they're walking into an office, let's say they come to my office, I'm a total stranger, and they know they're there for extra help. How does that feel? You're 10. You have no control. You're meeting a stranger for the first time, and mom is talking about you. That's not great, sometimes. And, this person's going to help you because you need help. So, that kid is coming in totally loaded.

                        So, my job is to be excited to see them, because I actually am, because I already like them. They need to feel that. To come into a space, this is why the office has mild colors. It has lots of neutrals. We're dampering all the noise that they've heard all day, all the questions, all the probing. Come in and feed the turtle, and just give them a second to feel safe. Look around the office. "There's cozy things here. I can grab a snack." So, we're, in a lot of ways, breaking down some damage that they're just walking in with. So, we don't start out with a clean slate. We don't get to just paint this pretty picture, this comfortable picture for them. We have to start the get-go breaking down some of that mindset that's hurtful and harmful to their learning. So, I think creating that space where they can, then, learn is huge. It's uncomfortable. Studies have shown that anxiety doesn't work. When you're already up here in this red zone, you're not taking in anything. You're in survival mode. You've got the reptilian brain going crazy in survival. What do I need to do to get my needs met right now? But, if we're meeting the needs or start out meeting the psychological needs, "You are safe. You are liked. You are welcome. I'm excited to be with you. I think you're smart. I've never worked with a dumb kid," it's impossible. And, this is my whole job, is to make this make sense to you.

                        I tell my kids, I think this is probably one of the things that I repeat most often to my kids. And, we're talking about psychological safety. A lot of the problem, I think, is the learner takes on the burden of learning. And, to help them remove or, at least, share that burden, there's two people in the room. You're learning, I'm teaching. Actually, I've been teaching a lot longer than you've been learning. Also, I already know all the math. Whose job is it to make this make sense to you? That's me. So, if it doesn't make sense to you yet, whose problem is that? That's me. I didn't do my job well. So, giving them permission to say, "Hey, this doesn't make sense," it frees them. "This doesn't make sense to me, and it's not because I'm bad at learning. It's not because I'm not smart. It's because you're the teacher and you didn't explain this very well yet." And, empowering them to say that, "It still doesn't make sense."

                        And, I think building that into the relationship that like, "Hey, this is my whole job, to make this make sense to you. And, I'm going to work really hard at this. And, I'm not going to be able to do my job unless you tell me, "Melody, I'm not making sense of this yet." So, I can't tell you how many times a day, "Does that make sense? Does that make sense? Does that make sense?" And, they're so programmed to say, "yes," so then they can just move on and get it over with because I'm so tired of solving for x. So, they just want to move on, so they're going to say it makes sense. So, that's where the deep dive comes in. It's my job.

                        It depends on the kiddo. Sometimes, I'm like, "Well, prove it. Explain this to me." And, sometimes, I just try to explain it a different way to see if the light bulb goes off because you can tell when they're like, "Ah-ha," they start saying, "Okay. Let me try this one by myself," when it makes sense. So, if you ask if it makes sense and they say, "yes," they're going to say that, anyway. Some kids talk about psychological safety. Some kids are so afraid of hurting your feelings as a teacher that they're not going to tell--They go full-scale codependent here. "I have to make my teacher feel okay about what they taught. It's not even I have to make them feel like I'm smart. The teacher just tried to explain something to me and I'm afraid of making them feel bad by saying, 'No, I still don't get it.'" So, all that weight is on the learner. To start to remove that weight, the burden off of learning, removing it from the learner, create psychological safety for them. So, we talked about some of the things environmentally that we can do to kind of create that safe place in that initial introduction, but to continually unburden them, set them up to be able to take in new information.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah. And, this makes so much sense just from a resourcing perspective, because if I'm spending all of my resources on carrying a load and a burden, I don't have anything left for learning. But, if I can say, "Wow, I can be vulnerable here. Melody has got me," all of a sudden, I'm not putting all my energies into carrying a burden. I now can let some of that go in order to learn. And, I kind of visualized this transfer of responsibility where it's like, "Melody, help me." Hopefully, they come in and say, "Help me," and you help them and scaffold and help them understand the information which ends up empowering them where they can say, "I got this. Let me do this on my own." Those little movements are the exact opposite. They're the therapeutic counter to feeling overwhelmed and feeling like, "I'm not like the other students," or feeling like, "I'm never going to get this," or feeling like, "I'm a little lost in class, but I'm not going to really let on to that." That secret or that shame, sometimes, that can come from having a different style of learning or not being able to learn in a traditional classroom. How does that work? By the way, we're going to make shirts for you. And, it's going to be like, "Making Learning Safe." I don't know. I've come up with my lots of different T-shirts. We'll talk about it after and we'll just come up with the whole merch line for you. I've got lots.

Melody:            I need T-shirts. I need one that says--no, gosh, maybe, that's too rude. I'm feeling a little direct about my T-shirts. Mostly, "You're not dumb."

Dr. Gwen:         Yes.

Melody:            Who gets to say that about you.

Dr. Gwen:         Love it, love it.

Melody:            Or, "I'm not dumb." I'm going to start wearing that around. I'm not a dumb person.

Dr. Gwen:         You can own it. You can model it. You can model, right? Model it. Just model it.

Melody:            I'll do it. I'm in.

Dr. Gwen:         You're in. Who do you feel, or who do you find, is a really good candidate for educational therapy? What is that kind of student or client where you're like, "Whoa?" When they come in with this blank and they need ed therapy, magic happens?

Melody:            This is when it works.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah. Describe that student.

Melody:            That student. Can I describe that parent first?

Dr. Gwen:         Absolutely, sure.

Melody:            It's always the parents. It has to do--Okay, we'll get to the student part, but so much of this, so much of whether the process takes hold and takes root and bears fruit is reliant on the attitude of the parent. So, I'm bringing my kiddo in. They can take a hands-off approach. "My kid needs help. Here you go. I'll pay you. Bye. See you later." Versus a parent that has the same attitude, a good ET is going to have toward that kid. "I like you. I'm concerned. I'm engaged. I want to hear how this feels to you. I want to know what works and what doesn't work." So, a parent with that attitude, first of all, at home, they're passing on that attitude to their kid.

                        And, secondly, gosh, are they super easy to coordinate with? Those are the parents that are saying, "What can I do at home?" And, I'll be like, "Here, read this article. That is going to help you as a parent understand where your kiddo is at." Okay, so, the student part... Couple different kinds of kids. So, if the lack of confidence hasn't fully gripped them yet, if we're talking about that side of things, they're a good candidate for ed therapy if they're ready to engage in figuring out how they learn best. So, we're talking about they're not reached the point where they're down on themselves and their self-esteem has totally tanked. But, they're able to recognize, "I really want some help," because like you said, some of our kids with learning disabilities are seeing everyone all the typical learners around them, and saying, "How come this is so much easier for everybody else?" So, when the kid comes in, knowing, "There's something I really need help with," but there's not that feeling they haven't reached a point of defeat or hopelessness, so that's one student. It totally works for them.

                        The second student, we have to start somewhere else. We have to start rebuilding the self-esteem. So, we have to start with some very definitely aware that they're not where all the other kids in class are. But, we start there with the building the self-esteem. These are small tasks that you can do. Here's what actually did work for you. So, we're going to build in some of that self-confidence, some of that self-awareness. Some of the awareness of strengths and weaknesses because these kids are hyper-aware of their weaknesses. But, has anyone sat there to figure out with them, "Oh, my gosh. You learned that so fast. I wonder if you learned that so quickly because you're a very visual person. What made it easy for you? Was moving the blocks and the magnets around much easier than looking about this on paper? Or, should we draw it out and cut it up and fold it? Does that make more sense?"

                        I get so excited about how to teach this that I literally forget where I start it. So, we're going to start with self-esteem and confidence. Building some small successes so they can rebuild themselves, and then, build some awareness, and then, want to start hitting the issues and tackling issues.

Dr. Gwen:         So, because educational therapy is so much about understanding your process of the way you encode the world, take in the world, and what you do with it, specifically, as it applies to academics, a lot of times.

Melody:            Education.

Dr. Gwen:         In education. Then, a good candidate for ed therapy, and you refer to it earlier as ET, so a good candidate, then, for ET is someone who is willing to be open to this process of building self-awareness, be able to have some resilience to look at themselves.

Melody:            Resiliency.

Dr. Gwen:         To have some ability to introspect with help.

Melody:            And, that's where I'm saying the parents come in. Because, if you've got a parent that is absolutely unwilling to help identify or is in total denial that there could be any saying a typical going on with their learner's process, then, it's going to be really hard for that learner to get anywhere. But, if the parent is at home, saying, "Oh, my gosh. Let's figure this out. Hey, we've found someone great that really wants to help you understand how you learn. Wouldn't that be so much easier if you understood how you learn? Then, we could just teach that way. And then, we'd have all kinds of success. That's the short path. Let's do it." Versus a parent at home that's just saying, "I don't care what these test scores show. I don't care what the psychologist says. My kid doesn't have any issues." Or, maybe, they're saying they agree with, "Yeah, my kid has some level of struggle," but there's this acceptance mentally that hasn't fully found its way to the heart of the parent. There's still a level of denial. They're not really willing to help share responsibility in building awareness in their kid.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah. This kind of what I might call building a culture of curiosity, you have a culture of curiosity in your office and in your mindset, and you want your student that you're working with to, also, be curious versus judgmental, because the judgment is what's taking things down. The judgment is what's closing things off, versus being curious opens you up. So, this idea of also promoting curiosity in the parent or that system to say, "Hey, this is really not about labeling or judging. This is really about understanding through curiosity, being open and curious which, then, can lead you to answering or meeting the need, whatever that is." There's no judgment there. It's actually very A-B, right?

Melody:            Yes, it's clinical.

Dr. Gwen:         I see it. I need it. So, you hit upon this just a little bit. Some parents get to you or students get to you because they've been referred by a psychologist, let's say. How are other ways, how do parents know, "Oh, maybe an ET or an ed therapist would be helpful here?" What would some of those flags be, maybe, versus a tutor?

Melody:            So, a lot of times, I mean--It's a little bit complicated because you have a toothache or you need a teeth cleaning, you go to a dentist. Parents know exactly who to call. So, ed therapy is so fresh that it can be hard to know that that's actually a resource out there. So, referrals from psychologists. This is when the parents have already identified that there's something going on with my kid's learning. The teachers have identified it, maybe, for the parents and cycle them through a psyche to get evaluated. But, when you get to the point about the tutor, how does this compare as opposed to a tutor? It's like they've already tried tutoring. They've already seen, "Okay. This kid is working his behind off and he's still getting Cs. And, he's a smart kid. I know he's smart. He's super jokey." You know how kids just sometimes have that super quick wit. You say something snappy and they snap back at you. So, you know there's a bright kid there. So, it's when you see the brightness not spreading, not finding its way through the academics, that you need to start to consider that there's a block there.

                        Or, you've tried tutoring. This kid's working so hard. He's still getting a C or D, or he's not passing, or he understands it in class, and then, he fails the test. And, you've tried tutoring. So, in the public education system, we've talked about this three-tiered support system. So, you start with kind of Tier 1. And, if Tier 1 doesn't really make a significant change, then, we're going to try some Tier 2 supporting kind of work our way through. So, what you're doing is, in the classroom, the teacher is raising a hand or there's a flag raised for the teacher that says, "This kid needs extra help." You try to extra help. You try the Tier 1 support. You try the Tier 2 support. And, you know this kid has had solid instruction. They've had small group instruction. And, it's just not really cutting it. That's when you need to find an educational therapist to say, "We need some intensive intervention." So, if you've already come through the psychologist or you've had an evaluation, then, an ed therapist knows exactly what to hit. We're going to read the report. We're going to talk to that psychologist, and we're going to say, "These are the strategies that I'm going to implement just kind of fundamentally out the gate and see what sticks."

                        But, otherwise, if they haven't gone that route, we're going to try that intensive intervention in the areas that kind of show themselves or just show up as we're working on things, and hit those. Does that answer your question?

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah. I love that. I love that idea of, if we're really being curious and we're throwing things at the wall, and paying attention to see if they stick or not.

Melody:            What sticks?

Dr. Gwen:         If they're sticking, maybe, we've thrown them a few times. Because, sometimes, we just need to throw them a few times.

Melody:            Throw things.

Dr. Gwen:         Right. We escalate this because that's what the need is showing. Again, there is no judgment there. We meet the need where the need is presenting itself. And, that is, really, I think, the most authentic way to see people in our life that we care about and we love, whether that's in our families. And, you spoke a lot about parent support and how the culture of the family is so important in this kind of mentality of a learner. What is the culture of making mistakes and being yourself and all of these great things that are happening? So, it's almost like there's more sleuthing that needs to happen. We need to figure out why everything we've tried in this educational space has not worked. That's, maybe, where an ET comes in. Go ahead.

Melody:            Yeah. And, you start to consider, we've tried all the academic tools. So, what is interrupting the learning? And, looking at the whole human--we talked about psychological safety being so important. A tutor is going to look at or a teacher is going to look at, educationally, what's happening. An ed therapist is going to look at the whole setting. What is that kid's environment like at home? What is this kid's history? Is there a trauma there? What other professionals need to be involved on this team to help fill in the other gaps? Because, it could be a learning disability. It could be a processing issue. It could be trauma. So, helping the parents identify, asking all those probing questions. Okay, she's not doing well enough. I hear this all the time. "Well, mom's not good at math, so I think she's just not a math person." It doesn't exist. Kids can learn. Our brains are built to learn. We're built as people to expand and grow.

                        So, when that's not happening, what's the block? What's the kink in the hose? That's part of a therapy aspect of it, too. We don't provide psychotherapy. We're not psychotherapists. But helping to identify what other issues may be present and advocating for other professionals to become involved. So, you have a certain level of--what's that--What I'm trying to get out is that there's a different level of trust when the parents come in to an ET in terms of, "I'm expecting you to help me find answers." So, there's a broader concept there, not just academically, but help me find out, help me understand what's going on with my kiddo that goes beyond academics. Is there anything beyond academics that we should be looking at?

Dr. Gwen:         Where the academics are really just the content, right? It's like you're coming back to a process. You're coming back to what are all the things that are leading to this? Because, something might be suppressing. I love you said this, the kink in the hose. What's cutting that off? What's cutting off the flow that we might expect, and the flow that we might say makes more sense for this kiddo?

Melody:            Right, we expect the flow.

Dr. Gwen:         That kind of sleuthing. Yeah, but it's not happening. Which is so lovely because, then, there's this assumption of competency which is such a beautiful place. When we approach any human being with the presumption that they are competent, that already sets the stage from a feeling perspective that, emotionally, we're saying and transmitting, because that's what happens with emotions, they're transmitted, that, "We trust and respect you in the space that you're in." Let's start there, and then, let's go. I know you and I can talk on and on and on about this.

Melody:            Love it.

Dr. Gwen:         I end all of my interviews this way.

Melody:            I'm feeling nervous. I'm already nervous. Well, this is a weird question. That's going to be a weird question.

Dr. Gwen:         No, it's not. It's not. If you could only choose one skill to empower with your students, what would it be and why?

Melody:            Shame removal. Empowering kids to recognize the shame that they're under and giving them tools to remove it. Because I'm picturing shame right now is like a blob of slime over my mind and my face, that's got to go. I can't think under that. And, the world constantly throws that at us, just constantly. And, maybe, they're even getting that in the environment at home. Maybe, they're getting that through peers. Maybe, they're getting that from a teacher. Maybe, that's just really poor self-talk. That's a habit they've created. But, if they can get that off, then, they can learn anything.

                        You have to teach them how to see that. Shame removal, you have to teach them how to recognize. "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. We already know that your brain works." We've seen that over and over. Your brain does work. So, right now, you're believing something about yourself that's not true. That's usually called shame. And, here's how we take it off. Gosh, that's serious life skills. I love that.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, absolutely. Anyone that can move through life without the burden of shame can live more expansively and more authentically.

Melody:            And, you give it away. It's alluring. It's magnetic. And, it's expansive. You see someone walking, "Girl, that girl has no shame. Oh, my god." You want to do that. You want to do what she's doing.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, because there's a confidence to that and a self-assuredness to their presentation, right?

Melody:            Yeah, right.

Dr. Gwen:         Okay. So, if people wanted to reach you, Melody, how would they do so? And, I will also put, of course, this in the description below. But, how can people reach you?

Melody:            So, they can reach me, specifically, by going to rapporteducation.org. Rapport Education, R-A-P-P-O-R-T. Everybody forgets the "T." It's relationship. Rapport means relationship. So, rapporteducation.org. That's how they can find me, specifically. But, how can you find an ET? Because, I'm sure, hopefully, lots of people are getting curious about what educational therapy is and how to find an ET. You can ask your learning specialist at your school. You can ask your psychologist. You can go to the AET website, which is the Association of Educational Therapists, and it will list ETs for you in your area. And, there's some good ones. There's some good ones out there.

Dr. Gwen:         Yeah, you included. You included. Thank you, Melody.

Melody:            You're so welcome.

Dr. Gwen:         Thank you for joining us today. I loved it.

Melody:            Absolutely.

Dr. Gwen:         Thank you for being in this space, too. You're a gem.

Melody:            Oh, my gosh. You are. I'll talk to you later. Thank you so much.

Dr. Gwen:         Okay, bye. Thanks so much for watching. I hope this interview with Melody shifted, moved, or nudged your thinking in a meaningful way. Contact information for Melody and how to find an educational therapist is in the description below. If you got any value from this interview, please hit that Like button and subscribe to this channel, where my goal is to empower through connection, inspiration, and transformation. See you in the next video and thanks for watching.



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