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Lecture to redefine student potential

Date: 9/6/2011

Sept. 5, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW — Christine Duvivier wants you to start thinking differently about education and the set standards that define a child’s perceived potential.

That’s why on Sept. 19 she will speak to parents, educators and students at Bay Path College about the “Eight Gifts that Hurt Your Child in School.” The lecture, part of the college’s fall Kaleidoscope series sponsored in part by PeoplesBank, will take place in the Breck Suite in Wright Hall at 7 p.m.

Duvivier has taken it upon herself to bring to light what she believes are flaws in the accepted way students are judged and assessed both in school and in the community, which are based upon a narrow set of criteria.

The focus of her research is primarily on students who do not fall into the elite category, specifically those who are in the “bottom 80 percent” of their class and the fact that they still have potential to do great things.

“We get pretty caught up in what I call myths of education and what it means to be smart and gifter, Duvivier said. “We have this view that something is wrong with a student if they don’t fit a specific mold. I offer a way of understanding what’s possible for these kids and how to recognize gifts they have that don’t fit into the model.”

Duvivier, who has a masters degree in applied positive psychology, began her career helping Digital Equipment Corp. — now Hewlett-Packard — improve their employee and customer loyalty until an unfortunate incident caused her to change her focus.

“My focus shifted to the next generation because of a personal tragedy. A boy that I knew while I was studying positive psychology killed himself and I was profoundly grieving,” Duvivier said. “This particular boy didn’t like school, but was truly amazing.

“That’s when I got to thinking, ‘What if I took a look at what are true gifts and strengths?’ With my business background, I thought, ‘What does it mean in the long run for these kids who are going to be the world’s leaders?’ I looked at leaders and successful people in certain walks of life and I also looked at the financial future of this country. I realized that a lot of kids have amazing gifts that will make them successful that aren’t appreciated in the current educational system,” she continued.

Duvivier said that having those gifts go unrecognized can lead to serious negative emotional impacts on students.

“Some students are so clear on who they are that it doesn’t bother them,” she said. “But some start to think that they are not good enough and that’s the thought process I am trying to break.”

But the bottom 80 percent of students are not the only ones feeling pressure by using the widely accepted measuring sticks for education.

“I didn’t study that specifically, but one thing I can show [with my research] is that many of the things we have built into the model of a good student actually cause anxiety,” Duvivier explained. “So if a student fits into the mold in school, they are doing things that actually raise their anxiety level. Caring about looking smart can be very negative for students.”

Duvivier said the main purpose of her research and education of parents and educators is not to put down the current educational system, but to offer hope to those students who are not in the top 20 percent of their class, their parents and the teachers who care about them.

“I hope people end up feeling inspired and feeling better about themselves and their students,” she said. “I like to think I offer good news that kids have a pretty good sense of what’s right for them and when we understand their hidden gifts, we can see so much potential. Then it’s a question of how to draw it out.”

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