Episode 006 Transcript

How to Connect with Teens, with Maureen Mazzarese (10/30/17)
    

KATRINE SINGHBABA [bumper]: Hi, this is Katrine SinghBaba. I teach English at a local community college, and no one in high school was more important to me than the woman you're about to hear. Stay tuned for episode 6 of the Point of Learning podcast.  

VOICEOVER (Peter Horn): On today's show, Maureen Mazzarese, an expert on the social and emotional worlds of adolescents. 

MAUREEN MAZZARESE: The need for independence has to be preceded with attempts at independence, which for parents and kids, are often awkward and sometimes angry. There are not a lot of kids that become fully independent without some strife with their parents.

VOICEOVER: We'll learn some of what she has figured out over the course of her career. 

MAZZARESE: Where families have strong cultural bonds or strong family bonds, that's probably one of the biggest assets you have in the bank of living is that you're validated by your community. 

VOICEOVER: She's worked with parents for 40 years, and the subject still fascinates her. 

MAZZARESE: The common theme in everything I read is the parenting out of fear for your child's safety, that constant fear of "Is my child safe? Are they going to be OK?" And it comes from school violence, it comes from 9/11, it comes from Columbine, it comes from all those places, it comes from night after night after night of seeing all kinds of things happening to kids. And I think that that creates an anxiety in parents that they might not even be aware of that says, "I need to keep them safe!" 

VOICEOVER: As you know, Point of Learning is a show about what and how and why we learn. Today we'll be learning from Maureen Mazzarese, who has helped kids and parents of every age for 40 years. She began her career working with high-risk pregnant women in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital. There she began to recognize her ability and desire to help people who were feeling worried, anxious, and fearful. A counselor's counselor in many senses, Maureen is currently the Director of Counseling for the Westfield Public Schools in New Jersey. But for many years as the Student Assistance Counselor [SAC], she provided specialized support to students and adults in crisis of all kinds: break-ups, terminal illness, addiction, divorce, suicide. She's been there for kids and families and staff at their saddest and angriest, in their worst possible times. She's listened and consoled, but also asked challenging questions and delivered hard truth when needed. Maureen was one of the first people I met when I joined the faculty of Westfield High School 20 years ago. I can remember clearly how she greeted us new staff members saying, "You matter to kids." Throughout the 18 years I spent at Westfield High School, I had the opportunity to see how Maureen kept and continues to keep kids at the center of her work, and at the center of any school- or district-level decision making she's a part of. As someone who has relied on Maureen's guidance and friendship more times than I can count, I'm delighted to share some highlights from my conversation last month with this extraordinarily talented and wise counselor. This episode will be of special interest to anyone who works with teens, but also those courageous enough to try to raise them. Parents and families, listen up! 

[04:02]
Act 1: Kids Today! Parents and teachers get frustrated

MAZZARESE: That's one word!

HORN: --with teenagers, we sometimes begin sentences with exclamations like, "Kids today!" implying, of course, that there's something fundamentally different about this species than when we were kids. In your experience, in your professional practice, what if anything has changed about the social and emotional lives of high school-aged kids--and what hasn't? 

MAZZARESE: I think that there are fundamental tasks of adolescence that will never change: identity, connection, validation. And with that comes experimentation. And I think that has always been true--at least as far as my life's history-- 

HORN: "Experimentation"? You mean like, pushing borders--

MAZZARESE: Pushing borders, trying things on ... whether it's cutting your hair or not cutting your hair, whether it's bobby socks or whether it's mohawks at one point, or whether it's piercings, or whether it's sexual experimentation, which is more openly talked about. I think that that has always been part of it. And I don't think that ever should go away. I think it's an essential component of adolescence, and it happens in schools. I think it's almost built-in in schools, because of the ways that schools contain kids and the ways in which school sometimes offers obvious routes to go: I can go there or I can be that, or I can join this. And it provides opportunities for that kind of identity search, but it also is very confining and constricting. The search, the need for independence has to be preceded with attempts at independence, which for parents and kids, are often awkward and sometimes angry. There are not a lot of kids that become fully independent without some strife with their parents. Some "Why? I don't want to do it that way!" "Well, you're grounded." "No you're not"--those kinds of things. But I do think that a couple of things have changed rapidly, really rapidly, in the past maybe 15 years, I don't know ... The ways in which adolescence has been forced down. The idea that there are 10 year-olds struggling with those issues that maybe were better struggled with at 16. I think that we have a lot of kids in things, experiencing not just activities, but the feelings that go with those activities much earlier. When I go to the middle schools, I watch and I hear the discussions, the language, the relationships of an 11 year-old. And I think, "Wow! You're young. You're young to be having those experiences. And I think the other thing that has changed: parenting has changed more than anything. The intense nature of the parent child relationship, and the intense need in all communities, but in some more than others, to to provide for your child that clear path to whatever it is you think they need to get or be to be successful. And I think my view, my experience is very much contained by the community that I have worked in for a very long time, and I have to acknowledge that. I have worked in a small, affluent suburban school district for a very long time, but I also see, as you listen and you try to learn, that same urgency--Black Lives Matter, or Moms Against Guns is parents trying to protect children from a world that they don't necessarily feel is safe. Or where they don't go to bed at night trusting that they'll be OK in this world. And I think that sense of anxiety affects kids. You know, first they were "Helicopter Parents." Now we call parents "Lawnmower Parents," parents whose primary purpose in life is to plow the road, so that there is never a bump in a child's road. And I think that is significantly different than parenting in other places, and certainly parenting in other generations. So I think that that has created a kind of anxiety for kids, a kind of performance anxiety, a kind of fearfulness that creates a lot of turmoil inside kids. And I think probably in my last 10 years that is what I have dealt with more than anything is kids who can't handle the anxiety of not being "that kid."

HORN: So some of that anxiety, if I'm understanding the way you're explaining is that this is brought about, or abetted, by some of the parents' maneuvers, that may be well-intentioned.

MAZZARESE: Absolutely.

HORN: But complicate things for kids later on.

MAZZARESE: Most of my reading now is about parenting, and it's about the world of adolescents, and I think the one thing that's the common theme in everything I read is the parenting out of fear for your child's safety, that constant fear of "Is my child safe? Are they going to be OK?" And it comes from school violence, it comes from 9/11, it comes from Columbine, it comes from all those places. It comes from night after night after night of seeing all kinds of things happening to kids. And I think that that creates an anxiety in parents that they might not even be aware of that says, "I need to keep them safe. I need to protect them. And their safety, often ensuring their safety translates into "I need to make everything perfect, I need to fix it. I need to fix it." And as a result, I think that we threaten kids' resilience, which is my new favorite word.

VOICEOVER: Resilience, in kids as adults, is marked by the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.

[10:38]

VOICEOVER: Act 2. A Few "Givens" of Adolescent Development. Everybody's a little different, of course, but there are some common aspects of adolescence that it can be very helpful for parents, teachers, counselors, employers, and friends of teens and young adults to keep in mind. For instance, one helpful fact Maureen encouraged me to remember is that kids develop at different rates--not just one kid as compared to another, like who hits their growth spurt first--but different dimensions of a given kid's personality: physical growth as opposed to intellectual growth, as opposed to social and emotional growth. These different facets can occur within a given kid at quite different speeds. So a freshman might act much younger than he looks, because right now he's physically more developed than he is emotionally. And in fact some current neurological research suggests that some people may not become adult in terms of brain development until as late as age 25. So it's critical for everyone to remember that "There's more to me than what you see." I asked Maureen to talk about some of these "givens" of adolescent development and contrast some of the features of adulthood that can sometimes make it difficult for adults to remember what it was like to be a teen. She starts with two of my favorites. One she calls the Personal Fable, which is basically the normal adolescent conviction that "nobody's life is quite the same as mine, nobody knows the trouble I've seen."

MAZZARESE: I think that as a teenager you believe that your story is the only story in the world, that your life is the hardest. It's the best, it's the hardest, you're the prettiest, you're the ugliest. It's all lived in the superlative adjective.

HORN: Number 2 she calls the Invisible Audience, which is the suspicion that everybody's always watching--they definitely know, for instance, that you're wearing those jeans for the second time this week!

MAZZARESE: And it's all lived in the notion that "Everybody is looking at me, and my mistakes are so public, and my choices are so obvious." I would hope that when you get to be an adult, you realize that you are not the only person in the world and that you share experience. One of the things that you bring to your--whatever it is you do, your marriage, your family, your friendships--is a common experience, and so you become much more comfortable with that.

HORN: Identity takes time to develop. A caring family helps, a caring community helps.

MAZZARESE: I also think, you would hope, that as you get to mature that you become comfortable with-- You know who you are, you're comfortable with who you are, and you're comfortable being who you are in the presence of somebody who's not exactly like you. Where families have strong cultural bonds or strong family bonds, that's probably one of the biggest assets you have in the bank of living is that you're you're validated by your community, which teenagers don't always feel. They feel validated by their community as long as they are like the community, you know, they're exactly like them. I think as an adult you might see that a little bit a little bit more genuinely. The other thing though is I don't not sure that every adult leaves their teenage years behind them. I think that a lot of us bring some of that with us. We learn to live with it. We learn to put it in the context of time. You know, one of the hardest things for a kid to do is put what they're experiencing in the context of time because they have a lot of time. How can I say to a 12 year-old, "Oh you're going to get over this, you're going to get through this some day, you're going to come out on the other side"? When I say to them, "Ten years from now," and they look at you and say, "Ten years from now? What about tomorrow? I can't do this tomorrow!" So you would hope that an adult has the perspective of experience. You know I think that's probably the biggest advantage. Let's take an adult who loses a parent. It's always terrible. And the loss of someone you love is not quantifiable, it's not measurable, and it's certainly not comparable. But I think as an adult, you have a better concept of the fact that death happens. At least you hope you do. You also have more years to have enjoy the relationship than you did when you were 15. So you take that experience of prior loss--maybe you lost a grandparent, maybe you lost your dog--and you use that experience to inform your ability to manage or to cope with whatever comes now. A kid doesn't have that experience, ever. Especially if they have been sheltered from those experiences, which is what we're seeing now. 

VOICEOVER: Speaking of challenges related to the perspective that time can provide, another important given of teen development is sometimes called Now/Not Now. 

MAZZARESE: I think the other part of adolescence is the notion of Now and Not Now: if it's not happening now, it's not happening. And if it is happening now, it's never going to end. And I think that's very adolescent, and can make can make a day for a student or a kid at home eternal. 

VOICEOVER: Let's go back for a sec to the idea of the Personal Fable and explore one implication for teens, in talking with teens--and everybody else. 

MAZZARESE: The Personal Fable--

HORN: --we call it--

MAZZARESE: --which I love, the Personal Fable: it's my life, it's the most important life, and it's the most, the most in any way I'm living it right now. It's the most beautiful, it's the most horrendous, it's the most.

HORN: You could never understand me.  

MAZZARESE: No. So you never say to a teenager "I know exactly how you feel," because you just made them angry. You just made them angry.

HORN: "I understand, because I remember what it was like when I was your age."

MAZZARESE: And then they're saying, "No you don't, and you're not paying attention to me!" And I think that's, I think that's actually true for people in general.

HORN: It's a bad idea to say--

MAZZARESE: Yeah, I know.

HORN: So "Stop talking, I know what you mean!" 

MAZZARESE: And so sometimes I've learned to say, "I can't, I don't begin to understand how you're, what's happening right now, how you're feeling, or what your family is going through. But if you want to talk about it I'm here, if you don't want to talk about it, just know I'm thinking about you. Let me know." But I think that dismisses a lot of people because-- We do that, most people who do that, do it to ease their own discomfort, not necessarily the person. They think they're helping the person, but they're not. 

VOICEOVER: One other common feature of teen development is a sharpening of a sense of justice in the sense of right, wrong, fair, unfair. Toddlers will sometimes declaim events as "Fair!" or "Unfair!" of course, but with adolescence comes an increased ability to reason about the world. So it's often during teenage years, for example, that kids begin to express an interest in political issues, sometimes hewing close to their parents' ideas, sometimes defining themselves in opposition to those ideas. 

MAZZARESE: I think the idea of justice is, well, I think it's very adolescent. The confusion between "fair" and "even" is really key. 

HORN: And how do you explain those things when you do peer counseling or mediation? Y 

MAZZARESE: Well, you know, I think the first thing I will say to them is "What about this feels unfair? Where do you see the unfairness?" And "What would seem fair to you?" And then and then we will talk about that. "Fair" is not "same." You know, if we want, and sometimes depending upon how concrete they are, or whether you know: "If I want it to be fair, that doesn't mean we each get 20 dollars, because if you have 50 to begin with and this person has 20, fair means they get 30. You don't get anything." And that's very infuriating for kids, but it's also introducing a concept of justice. And it's also the idea that fairness isn't guaranteed, and that's the other thing is that "I have a right to fair. I have a right to (those kinds of things)." And to explain-- That's again part of the resilience. Resilience is understanding that it isn't always fair, that it can it won't always be even. It won't always be just. But how do you manage the injustice in a way that allows you to continue to grow, and not get stuck in your anger or your frustration. So sometimes I'll simply say, "It just isn't always fair. I wish it was, but it isn't always fair. How could it feel fairer?" Because that's the other thing. I think that the world of adolescence, and the world in general, is getting more and more in the realm of black and white is getting-- The range of gray has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller. And so it's a world of either/or and sometimes it's about saying, "No, it's both."

HORN: Just check Facebook. 

MAZZARESE: And I think, you know, if you bring up Facebook, part of Facebook and adolescence this idea of the perfect life, the perfect persona, and you know, you can present yourself any way you want on Facebook. And that makes--or Instagram, or whichever one--

HORN:--or Twitter, or Snapchat--

MAZZARESE: And then that makes other people try to measure their life by that snippet of your life. That creates a tremendous amount of anxiety.

HORN: The snippet of your life that you have assiduously curated for public presentation.

MAZZARESE: Correct. Correct.  Yes. Yes. Yes. And so, how real is that?

[21:18]

VOICEOVER: Act 3. Some Basics of Connecting with Kids. In the spring of 2000, I took the most important school-based professional development course of my career. It was called simply "Connecting with Students," and it was taught by Maureen, and a middle school counselor named Carol Gerson, and Cas Jakubik, who was then Director of Guidance at Westfield High School. The premise was that understanding some basics of what skilled counselors do in conversations with kids could be helpful for anybody, especially anybody working with teens, to understand. Now of course, it's important to remember that you are still an amateur if you're not formally trained in counseling. However, as I've worked with parents and families over the years to recognize that raising a teenager is a lot like trying to nail jello to a tree--and you are not alone in feeling this way--I've continually benefitted from the strategies and techniques that I learned in that class. 

HORN: What kinds of questions do you find most powerful in situations where you really want to connect with somebody else? 

MAZZARESE: My favorite question with kids, in meeting a kid for the first time, would be "I'd like to know a little bit about you. So tell me who you are, but please don't tell me what you do." And I would say that 8 times out of 10, the response would be a deep long-lasting silence. Because the tendency is to say, "I'm this: I belong to this, I do this, I live here, I do that," and asking someone to tell you a little bit about-- "Share something about yourself, about who you are" ... It changes forever the kinds of conversations you have with that person.

HORN: But you don't get to tell me you're a football player, or that you're in the orchestra--

MAZZARESE: No you don't, or where you live, or what your grades are, or where you're going to go to college, or anything like that. But tell me who you are. And it's really been probably one of the most effective questions I've ever asked. And sometimes it's "I think you're having a hard time with with this, so we don't have to do it today, but the next time we meet, you know, can you think about that a little because I really like to know who you are." And I think that has really given kids a bit of a challenge, but I think it's given them permission to talk about things beyond labels and those kinds of things. Sometimes they'll say, "I'm a good friend." "So, as a good friend, tell me what that means, to be a good friend. And do you have good friends?" Because that will bring us to the discussion of "I don't" or "I do, but they're not as good a friend to me as I am to them." Or "Yes, but they don't really know who I am." "I'm angry," "I'm confused." They'll often go to labels, but they'll say, "I'm a son" or "a daughter," and I will say to them, "Well what does that mean? What does it mean to be a daughter in your family?" I had a great mentor once, and you know him, and the thing he taught me was to remember that everybody has a story to tell. And so sometimes I will say of a kid, "What's your story? Where you want to begin? You want to begin a birth, or do you want to begin last week?" but "What's your story?" And then really believing, when you're sitting with them and showing them, in all the ways that you show somebody, that I am listening to your story. 

HORN: What are some of the kinds of things that you try to to keep them mind as you prepare for, or participate in a meaningful conversation, that is, a conversation where you are trying to connect with somebody as an empathic listener?

MAZZARESE: I think you know, I think in early trainings as a counselor, you go to the obvious. You established a safe space. You need to pay careful attention to your seating arrangement. You know, you never talk to a kid across a desk--

HORN: Why?

MAZZARESE: --because the barrier is real. The barrier is real, and especially in a school setting, behind the desk comes with a-- you know, a hint of authority. So I think you want to establish a room that, or a space that feels quiet, that feels private. I think you want to really get a sense early on about the comfort of the person that you're meeting with. If it's a person that you're meeting for the first time, I always invite them to take a seat. And then what I do is I sit, and then I invite them to sit in any seat in the room that they choose, and they'll always tell me by the distance how how close they want to get to me. I think that after a while you get a sense of how long this meeting should go. Sometimes you can do some really good work in 20 minutes because that's all that the student, that's all the kid can handle right now. And then sometimes you forget the bell and you go for an hour; it depends on where you're at. You do want to know a little bit about their background, and their attitudes and values towards counseling, and acknowledge that in the beginning. I think that one of the things that that you need to do with anybody is to really go over the boundaries, and the promise of confidentiality, and what that means. And then mean it. You really gotta mean it. 

VOICEOVER: Because Maureen has counseled probably as many parents as kids over the years, I asked if there was anything fundamentally different in her approach when she deals with people of different ages.

MAZZARESE: The basic premise doesn't change, in that you establish an atmosphere that says, "I'm listening. I'm attending. I'm really attending. I'm non-judgmental," that "I'm going to listen for the purpose of listening, not for the purpose of reacting or responding, not for the purpose of advising, and then we'll talk in whatever way makes sense for us to talk." I think the basic fundamental principles don't change. You know, if I'm talking to a 6 year-old, I'll get down on the floor, or I might talk to a 6 year-old while we play with blocks or we play with Legos--or I might talk with a hyperactive kid while we walk instead of while we sit, and I might choose to walk side-by-side instead of face-to-face, because that allows you a certain degree of comfort there too. 

HORN: Oh, I use that when I'm talking to boys especially. 

MAZZARESE: Yes, boys especially-- and you know, dealing with fathers is very different than dealing with mothers, but the the fundamental practice of "How can I help?" or "What is it--Why are you here? What can we do together that's going to seem helpful? What's happening in your life? What brings you here?" It remains the same. I think it remains the same.

HORN: One of the things that you taught me to ask, when I was trying to sort out the difference, whether I was listening to a student or a colleague, who was upset about something--listening for a while, but trying to sort out the difference between somebody who was just venting, and somebody  who really might have a complaint or a difficulty that warranted further investigation, further action of some kind, was the question, "Well, how might this be different? What do you want to change? You've got these things that you're upset about right now, but really, what would you like to see happen?" And that's been such a useful go-to. I don't feel like I'm presenting this as a question to you right now. It's just saying, "Thank you!" 

MAZZARESE: You're welcome!

HORN: Yeah because it's been useful at various different points to tell the difference between "Are you really--" Because that's something that we need to do sometimes.

MAZZARESE: Absolutely.

HORN: But you as the interlocutor, you as the listening other, and somebody who wants to care for that person, you can be blindsided by that request sometimes, and say like, how do I navigate this conversation? You know, it's important to be able to say, "Well are you asking me to do something? Or are you just asking me to listen?" 

MAZZARESE: And that's that's an important distinction is is to be able to to figure out in the moment--even if the moment is an hour--what should be happening right now. And I think one of the challenging things is Where is the pivotal moment? How do you identify the time that you can start to move this in a different direction? And I think that's hard sometimes, and I think sometimes it happens almost naturally--when a person has the opportunity to vent, or to cry, or to be angry. The release of emotion has sometimes an almost natural calming down, and then you can see that, OK we're at a moment now where where we can talk about something different, but sometimes you don't see that. So sometimes you have to say, "Is this a person, or a time and a place where I can say we need to stop?" You need to stop, you need to take a breath. Let's walk around the block. And we need to take a little walk and see if walking in silence will allow you to calm down in a way that will allow us to have a conversation. I think therapeutically as a counselor, you begin to know when that person will not ever be able to do that with you in that space. And then it's very clinical. When you have that kind of overwhelming anxiety in a kid that no matter what you do, it doesn't dissipate. It can't be brought down enough to get into "What can I help you with? What would you like to happen next?" You have to know that. And I think that's also very hard, because when you are a really good listener and you want to help a kid, you can find yourself being a listener, and listening and listening--but it's not affecting anything. It's almost not helpful. That's really hard to do. So I think that seeing, assessing, looking for that pivotal moment: When can when can I move this into a more helpful direction, without invalidating the feelings, without violating the spirit, the experience of the person ... when it happens, it's wonderful, but it doesn't always happen. And sometimes you have to know that. 

[32:39]

VOICEOVER: And finally, Act 4. About six minutes of Advanced Guidance on the topics of suicide, referral networks, and owning vulnerability. During her years as the Student Assistance Counselor Maureen was the go-to person in the building for certain kinds of crises, including if a student might be contemplating suicide. Because suicide, of course, remains an important issue for schools and school systems, let alone parents and families, I asked about how Maureen viewed this model of a specialized counselor or "SAC" today. 

MAZZARESE: I don't think any school can afford to rely on one person for anything. In the State of New Jersey, every teacher, every staff member in the district is required to have suicide training--suicide prevention training--in order to be able to respond to kids, and to to be able to listen, to identify, to refer. Listen, identify, refer. So I think that whether a school has a SAC or not is ... it's not an issue. It's lovely if you do. But you can't rely on that person. You have to have a system in place, you have to have a team, an organized response practice for suicide identification, intervention, and referral that cannot rely on one person. Especially now, most of the suicide flags that pop up don't pop up in school anymore. They pop up in an e-mail to a teacher, or an Instagram or a random post. And so that notion that a SAC is sitting in their home 24 hours a day, ready to respond is not going to fly. It doesn't work. So who else is there? Who's your team? Who's your suicide intervention team? And it can be led by one person, and that one person can be responsible for training. But you can't put that on one person anymore. It's too scary, and it's too dangerous to do that because circumstances have changed so much. I think that there are a lot of schools in this country that don't have a SAC and they have a suicide prevention/intervention plan that works very, very well. But you have to know what it is. 

VOICEOVER: About 10 years ago when I needed some therapy, Maureen was able to recommend someone she knew would be a great match for me. One of Maureen's strengths as a counselor and director of guidance is that she's familiar with dozens of therapists, local and not so local. I asked her how important it is for any counselor to cultivate that referral network.

MAZZARESE: I think it's essential, and I think it's especially essential because we don't have in any school system the breadth of expertise that we would need. And so I think that there is an urgency to have a strong referral network. I think it's also important to have a strong referral network that takes you beyond the familiar. I mean especially now with insurance the way it is, your net has to be much wider. And I think sometimes we have to get on the phone and interview people. You know I've called people like, you know they'll send me a card and say, "Would you like-- Please refer," and I will call them and have them come in and meet with them, and find out what their particular areas of expertise are, and you know, "What is your relationship with adolescents?" One of the most critical things: if you have a person in need, a person in crisis, a person who needs individual therapy, a program. whatever. When you get that person at that point when they are ready, what you don't want to do is send them to the wrong person. Because you may not get them back. So you need to be able to send them to a person that you feel will be a good match for them, but also, I mean one of the things that's that's worked well for me is to be able to call that person and say, "I'm referring someone to you, and with their permission, these are some of the reasons why I'm sending them your way." Because that first cold visit is so hard for some people. And if it doesn't go well, they don't go back. So I think a referral system is very important. I also think that as a school-based counselor--and even a private practitioner--knowing when you're not that person anymore is really important. And so, when I look back on my career, I can think of many times when I should have referred sooner. I should not have been the lifeline for as long as I was because, because! Because you get too close to it, you get too connected. You also build a false sense in that person that there's only one person in the world that can help them, and that's really-- You need to be really careful about that. 

VOICEOVER: As we were finishing our conversation, I asked if there was an issue she'd wanted to address that I hadn't asked about.

MAZZARESE: I think that we still have to work hard at the stigma around mental illness, or emotional weakness, because I still think that there's there's a judgment there. And be ok with the idea of vulnerability. And I think we still have to work hard at that.

VOICEOVER: And how to begin?

MAZZARESE: When you are a teacher or a counselor, honor your own set of vulnerabilities, insecurities, feelings, uncertainties. Don't sweep them away because you're so busy taking care of everybody else's--which could be a good intent, and also an avoidance tactic.

VOICEOVER: Maureen shared some about her own support network, how she had an excellent supervisor when she was starting out who helped her think through difficult cases, and how she continues to consult with other professionals about recommendations she's making. She was candid about some of the questions she continues to ask herself regularly. Here's one.

MAZZARESE: I have to step back and say, "Are you the real deal, or are you pretending to be the real deal, or where do you need to own your own imperfection, or your own anxiety?" It's not easy. I think I'm good at what I do. (I can't believe I said that--on tape--but) I do believe I'm good at what I do. And that's nice.

VOICEOVER: But,

MAZZARESE: I have to be willing to say, "I wasn't so good at what I do today." So I think the last thing I say to anybody in the helping profession, whether you're helping your family, your neighbor, your student, your whatever--is that sometimes, as the helper, you can screw it up too. So, self-assessment is not a bad thing. 

VOICEOVER: That's it for this month. My great thanks to my dear friend Maureen, who, you may have inferred, is a huge James Taylor fan. I asked some friends to supply stylized takes on some JT hits for this episode's soundtrack, so thanks so much to guitarists Justin Rosin and Jason Grant, and to pianist Gil Scott Chapman for their original recordings. Thanks as always to Shayfer James for allowing me to use his music to open and end the show, and thanks to you for listening, subscribing through iTunes--oh, just do it already!--and sharing the word about this program to anyone interested in what and how and why we learn. See you next month! 

HORN: True or false: When in doubt, listen?  

MAZZARESE: Oh true! True beyond true! You can't go wrong when you listen. Have I said that enough? You can listen too long, but you can't go wrong by listening-- 

Peter Horn