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Hillsborough Director Ruma Varshney defines excellence as a JEI Center of Excellence
Our Director Ruma Varshney has been with JEI Learning Center since 2012. After seeing immense success with her first location in Hillsborough, which has grown to 200 subjects, she opened up her second location four years later in Bridgewater, which is quickly catching up. Her impressive success in Hillsborough is why she was awarded the Center of Excellence on the East Coast at the 2020 JEI Award Ceremony! But what does excellence mean to her? Director Varshney defines “excellence” as giving what is expected, attributing her center’s success to doing precisely that with her parents and students: “For me, excellence is giving what is expected so the parents are satisfied and have trust in us. It’s the trust that we build with the families over the years. I have some students who started with us when they were in kindergarten, and they’re still with us in the 6th and 7th grade because of that trust. When you say the Center of Excellence, it’s all about what kind of relationship we have with these families as well as their trust and confidence in us. That’s what took us this far.” She maintains this trust by putting students on the path to success early on and explaining the process to the parents. For example, Director Varshney would help her students set goals and encourage them towards those goals instead of leaving them to their own devices and have parents figure things out alone. She emphasizes the importance of constant coordination with the parents by keeping in touch with them, so they understand what goes on within the center: “To me, more than the students, it’s the parents who need to understand the program and the system and why we are doing this. Parents have to be convinced of what we are trying to do. A lot of counseling goes into it. We ask why they feel a certain way and explain that they have to be patient for their child’s benefit. Their child is not always going to be doing their best, and the parents have to understand why that is happening. I think making parents understand is more important than making students understand. To keep a child motivated, the answer is to keep the parents motivated.” To further help her students with their motivation and confidence, Director Varshney revealed that she would never place focus on low test scores. She did not want to emphasize the results but the process, and in order to keep the process going, her students shouldn’t be disheartened or feel like they are behind. The important thing is that they keep on trying. She explains how she helps students keep going: “I’m on top of every single class, every single hour. If any student is missing in class, we call them to make sure they don’t forget to join. That also helped parents understand how careful we are and how responsible we feel for their students. We especially try to be in touch with children who are having a hard time, unable to keep up with the things, and not finishing the work.” She explained that a lot of families who saw how well her center worked would refer JEI to other families: “Whatever we do is based on JEI’s philosophy; the overall system is the system that has worked for me. My whole team focuses on every child to make sure they are getting what they should, even if sometimes we have to contact the parents frequently to check on what the student needs. I don’t want to waste their time, so I always work on what they need to work on by doing the evaluations, using those diagnostics to pinpoint what they need to work on, talking to the parents, and so on. That I would definitely say is missing from the competitors in our area, that individual approach.” Despite the pandemic last year, both of her centers were able to maintain their staff and subjects as well as post 100% better in 2020 than they did in 2019, earning her another award at the 2021 JEI Award Ceremony—the Tenacity Award! She attributed her success to JEI headquarters and her hardworking team members: “I feel great about the support that we get from the JEI head office. JEI was proactive during COVID. We were ready with Zoom and the online platform even before the schools shut down; because of that proactive-ness, I did not have to close the center at all to figure out how we’d offer the classes. My staff is the strength behind our programs because they are really focused, and they follow my method and what I believe in, so they definitely work with me and make sure we are delivering what we promise to the family. Teamwork is the key to my success.” She hopes to continue moving forward toward even greater excellence by not losing sight of her goals and motivation: “I keep myself motivated by thinking about the end goal, how we are doing this for the child’s success. Some days, it’s really frustrating, but then I think about why I started this, which is eventually seeing children succeed. That’s the goal, so there are highs and lows, but we overcome it.” We congratulate Director Ruma Varshney on her success and thank her for her hard work and dedication to JEI students and parents. Learn more about our programs by viewing our JEI Parent Guide and encourage your child toward excellence by finding one of our excellent centers near you.
Must-Have Skill for Children #20: Drawing
Just like how studying nourishes the brain and sports nourish the body, artistic activities like drawing can nourish the soul. But there are even more benefits to drawing than that, from practical like motor skills to abstract like creativity. That’s why drawing has been chosen as the Must-Have Skill for Children this month! Whether your child is artistically inclined or not, they should pick up a pencil today and start sketching. “I think there’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us.” Bob Ross What are some other ways that drawing can benefit your child if done as a consistent habit? Improved Attention and Focus You may think a child doodling in class means they aren’t paying attention, so they’re missing the entire lesson, but research has suggested otherwise. A psychology professor at the University of Plymouth conducted an experiment in which one group was asked to doodle during a phone conversation; that group retained 29% more information than the control group that only listened. This suggests that the act of doodling was a means of active listening. Drawing may even help with attention spans, memory, studying, planning, and more depending on how it’s used. For example, visual students may benefit from drawing in their planner rather than simply jotting down tasks. Project Completion A common problem with children is that they get excited about starting something new, but lose interest and don’t see it to completion. The nice parts about drawing are that they can see the end result unfolding before their very eyes and the work of art is done whenever the artist decides it’s done. It’s easy for your child to fall into a certain workflow, get lost in their artwork, and, before they know it, have a finished drawing that they’re very proud of. This provides them with a sense of achievement and an improved tendency to finish what they start. Anti-Perfectionism “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.” Bob Ross Although there are plenty of artists who seek perfection for their artwork, they are usually masters of their trade. For hobbyists, they may actually be able to fight any perfectionistic tendencies by doodling and sketching freely with no expectations because there are no rewards. Drawing is also about experimentation, erasing, and interpretation, so your child is less likely to be stressed or pressure themselves like when they’re studying for school exams. They can get messy with their drawings and call it a creative work of art that others just don’t understand! Self-Expression Particularly if your child has a hard time expressing themselves with words, they can consider drawing as an outlet for their emotions and thoughts. If a traditional journal isn’t for them or isn’t enough, your child can pull out a sketchbook whenever they feel bogged down by feelings or thoughts and release all of that onto the pages. Even if they aren’t feeling particularly overwhelmed, drawing is a great way for them to express and explore who they are as individuals. Do they like bright colors? Do they like abstract images? What symbols or themes often pop up in their works? Drawing is a great way to figure all of that out. — Now that we have gone into some of the benefits, you must be eager to help your child hone this incredible skill of drawing. Art may not come naturally for some children, but it’s a matter of experimenting. Help them experiment with different mediums. If drawing with pencil isn’t for them, how about drawing with pens or painting instead? They can also try different types of drawing. Do they prefer something more structural like architecture plans or skylines? Would they rather do something abstract and physical like Jackson Pollock, who is famous for flicking and pouring paint onto large canvases? Do they prefer drawing portraits, and if so, as a form of realism or surrealism? To inspire them, show them all the different artists and artwork out there! You could plan a trip to the museum or watch anything art-related from YouTube tutorials and Bob Ross reruns to documentaries and digital speedruns. There’s no right or wrong way to start drawing. Get out some paper and encourage your child to draw today! The most important thing is that they start. It doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad—it’s about finding their style and getting better. JEI Learning Center is always emphasizing the process of improvement over immediate results, so we hope your child will pick up this must-have skill and turn it into a lifelong habit that they enjoy!
Grit & Growth: Edwin Binney, the Inventor of Crayola Crayons
Grit + Growth Mindset = Success Grit: [noun] Passion and perseverance in working towards a goal you care deeply about Growth Mindset: [noun] The belief that talent and skills can be developed through hard work Our new Grit and Growth series celebrates the accomplishments of amazing people, past and present, who can serve as role models for our students. Through their examples, we hope that our students gain the courage to pursue their passions with grit and explore their infinite potential with a growth mindset. Our first role model is Edwin Binney, the inventor of Crayola Crayons, who used both his grit and growth mindset to achieve and succeed! --- Who is Edwin Binney? Edwin Binney is an inventor and businessman who created many things that have to do with colors. He sold a black pigment used for shoe polishes and rubber tires. He created white chalk for teachers and a protective coat of paint called “barn red” that farmers loved. However, he’s most famous for creating the colorful Crayola Crayons that children still use today! How did he show grit? Part of being an inventor is experimentation. He was so passionate about his ideas that he tirelessly experimented with ingredients until he achieved the end results he wanted. When he decided to create slate pencils for school, he tested out various mixtures of materials, like cement and talc, until he made the first dustless white chalk! When he saw the need for affordable wax crayons without harmful chemicals for young children, he rolled up his sleeves and started again with new materials, producing his first box of crayons in 1903. How did he exhibit the growth mindset? He always knew that there was room for improvement. Whenever he hit a wall, he did not give up and think, “I guess I’m just not cut out for this. Might as well stop trying now!” He kept on going until he achieved what he wanted, getting back up every time he fell. He didn’t see his failures as limits to his inventive mind; rather, he knew that as long as he put in the time and effort, he would eventually see results. What can your child learn from his example? Like Edwin Binney, there’s always a solution to a problem you feel passionate about if you experiment and work hard without giving up. Failing over and over leads to success as long as you are failing purposefully. That’s why he engaged so thoroughly in the trial-and-error process. Similarly, another inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison, had to try many different tools to successfully complete the invention of the lightbulb. He said: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Like these inventors, you can allow yourself to keep failing in order to weed out what doesn’t work until you find what does! Recommended Reading: The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons Written by Natascha Biebow / Illustrated by Steven Salerno