“The impact of an arts education on children, Part 2” – with Amelia Gold

In part 2 of this episode, Dr. Fox continues his conversation with Amelia Gold, Head of the Lower School and the Director of Arts for the Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood, NJ. She discusses her love of teaching, the importance of helping students cultivate their authentic artistic voice, and more.

Share this post:

♪ [music] ♪


Dr. Fox: Welcome to today’s episode of “Healthful Woman,” a podcast designed to explore topics in women’s health at all stages of life. I am your host, Dr. Nathan Fox, an OBGYN and maternal-fetal medicine specialist practicing in New York City. At “Healthful Woman,” I speak with leaders in the field to help you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy, and wellness.

We’re back with Amelia Gold. We had an amazing conversation last week, which actually, between you and me, was just about three minutes ago, but you know, podcasts, in the podcast world, it’s like dog years, it was last week.

And I wanted to get into the specifics of what we’re talking about, because it was kind of general last week, which is great, and we sort of learned, like, a flavor of your philosophy. But I wanted to get into the specifics, and the first question, actually, that popped into my head is how many students do you think you’ve taught over the years, if you had to estimate?

Amelia Gold: So I actually know the exact number, which is [crosstalk 00:00:56.195]

Dr. Fox: Oh, my God. That’s so you.

Amelia Gold: I do. 11,647 students.

Dr. Fox: Are your five children amongst that group?

Amelia Gold: Yes, and including the String Festival.

Dr. Fox: Am I amongst that group, even though you never taught me [crosstalk 00:01:10.631]

Amelia Gold: No yet. You were not enrolled.

Dr. Fox: Okay. But I do feel like I’m a student of yours in, like, a sensei type of, you know, relationship.

Wow. So tell me, what do you love about teaching music?

Amelia Gold: So I love teaching I could teach typewriting, and I would still love it. But what I love about teaching, and what I love about teaching music above that is that I love watching the light go on in a child, you know? I said to someone the other day, I still teach the very beginning violin class in my school. And I can teach any class I want, because I run my division, so I get to decide. But I said, there’s a moment, as a parent, when your children say, “Mama,” and you’re just…you have that overwhelming feeling, I don’t have language around it, but of joy, of watching that human being child become who they’re destined to be.

And I would say that that is it, having the opportunity to help a student cultivate their authentic artistic voice, and cultivate that creative spark, that’s really what we do at the Elisabeth Morrow School, that is our why, right? I mean, our why is teaching children, but that is like, how I think about it. I think about every child being a diamond, an uncut diamond, and that they all have that brilliance and sparkle. And how do we, as the adults, facet that stone with the parents, the child, and the teacher together to bring out the brilliance?People who know me know I often say, you know, we cut with a laser, right? What we say and what we do changes the facet of that stone.

So the way we approach children matters. I often say, if you have something hard to say, say it in a way that makes it the least hard for a child to hear. One of my mentors at school, you know, when I questioned why, when the child was three years old, she was sitting in a chair next to a child, just quietly, and the child had done something they should not have done, and so the teacher, 20 years ago, was sitting next to that child in a chair. And I said to the teacher, why is that child not in timeout? And she said, “Amelia, do we want to punish the child? Or do we want to help the child to learn? This is a time in. They’re being separated in the classroom, but I am staying with that child so that we can talk it through, and to help them understand.” And that mindset is definitely one of the most exciting things about teaching children.

And in music, you know, you help teach a child a piece, and every single child will play it differently, right? If you teach math, which is an amazing subject, two plus two is four. It’s four, no matter who you teach it to. If I’m teaching “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to a child, it is going to sound distinctly different with each child, and I just find that, like, forever amazing and exciting. And hard.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, I was going to ask what your teaching style is, because you’re… I don’t want people to get the impression that you’re a pushover, because you are not.

Amelia Gold: Oh, no. No, I was…

Dr. Fox: You are… Because I was thinking, you have a reputation as, like, you are tough, you know? Or I guess maybe demanding. I don’t know what the right word is.

Amelia Gold: Demanding.

Dr. Fox: Yeah.

Amelia Gold: I love that you’re naming that. Because whenever you’re going to talk about love and care, people think that there’s no rigor. Rigor comes out of love and care. You know, what I attempt to do with children every day is bring them into a state of flow, where they are captivated by who I am, what I’m saying, and we train that, you know? We train that level of focus. And that only comes through love and care. It’s not from yelling at people. Then you live in a state of fear. Which some people think is an elevated space, but it’s not, you’re in fight or flight, right?

So what I want to do is have, you know, high standards, high support. That is, like, how I view it. So in our school, we have a tradition, every child who comes in the building, you know, I shake their hand every day as they come in, and I say, Good morning, Natie. How are you doing today? And we have that time together. We’ve built that relationship. So you can only bring them beyond standard if they have that relationship with you, or else they’ll….I call it spiky, the kids are spiky. They’ll do what you say, but it’s not intrinsic. You have to be much more skilled as an educator to begin in that space.

And the reason I’m able to teach, like, 300 children at the same time is that I have trained them to hang on my words. And that only happens if they love and care about me, right? If they don’t, you can only hold that for about 12 seconds.

Dr. Fox: I assume it’s also a matter of trust, that they trust that you’re going to teach them, and they trust that if they don’t do it correctly, you’re not going to necessarily punish them, you’re going to redirect them, and you’re going to help them get it right. But that takes a lot of time and effort.

Amelia Gold: Yes, it does. And every year at the String Festival, I have a different quote on the back of my t-shirt, and I spend all year looking at the quote. Because you have to remember, you know, 400 people are going to be walking around with this t-shirt with a quote that I chose, and that becomes the theme of the String Festival. And one year, it just was my quote, which says, “Do it again.” So what I’m trying to also teach the children is that they have to practice, you know, that things come over time. And I call it skill and thrill versus skill and drill, but I’m just making it fun, while drilling them over and over and over and over again until they…you know? And then I train them. So it’s not me saying you got it right, they are… I’m like, is it where we want it to be? And then they’re like, no, we need to do this, that, and the other thing.

So it is a mindset of, again, going back to the sun, of you know, having children love their teachers, and care about the direction they’re going in, and being responsible for their own learning. In a world where everyone wants an A on everything, you know, that’s why our school doesn’t have grades in the youngest years, that we have, you know, these indicators of skill, but we want the families…you know, we read…and I’m reading them right now, you know? Every child is getting 10 different narrative reports that are each, you know, 500 to 1,000 words about their learning. And I think it’s how great people create great things.

You know, no one… When my father was creating the field of pediatric neurology, there was no test to do that, right? There was a need, there was an idea, there were people that supported him. You know, he wanted to be a doctor because he wanted to cure cancer, you know, we’ve gotten so far away from that. And again, I love that you said this, you know, people think that when you are…when you’re teaching is seated in care, they view that as not rigorous. Which is the same thing with the Gold Foundation, you know? It’s you can’t be a good doctor if you just love people, right?

Dr. Fox: Right.

Amelia Gold: You can’t be a good student if you’re just kind. There are two pillars, right, in education. There’s the social-emotional, and the academic, the skill, right? There is no great profession where you don’t need those two. There’s just none. And we’re seeing now playing out when one of those pillars is broken. And you need both of those. And how do they inform each other? That’s my lifelong journey, right?

It’s like raising kids at home.

Dr. Fox: Yeah.

Amelia Gold: When I was a young parent, I said I’m going to write a book, and someone actually did, and took the title I was thinking, like, How Do You Raise Your Kid Not To Be A Jerk, right?

Dr. Fox: Right.

Amelia Gold: That’s in the end what we want to do, right? Someone wrote that book. But I was like, in the end, like, I want my kid to be a good person. I want my kid to be connected to another person, have a community, not be alone, to have friends. When we’re thinking about what we want for our children, it isn’t like I want my child to be a high achiever, right? If they have all those things, then that creates the right environment for them to discover how they’re going to make an impact on the world. And if that is the guiding question for education, we will glean the great minds.

Because we have to remember that, you know, during the Sputnik years, you know, we were dealing in America with a creative crisis. And they had in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, they brought together all of these artists and creators to try to figure out why we were falling behind the Soviet Union, and it’s because of the loss of the social-emotional, and the arts education.

I’ve been in the game long enough to see what… When we were kids, Natie, I went to the old JCC nursery school, no one was talking about literacy. No one was talking about anything academic. It was like, how to be a homo sapien in this community, period.

Dr. Fox: Right, sandbox.

Amelia Gold: Right? Like, and I would say the dedication of those years in the old JCC, where like, everyone knew each other, it was very diverse within a Jewish community, and those structures had, like, an enormous impact on me as a human being, filled with love and care, right? You didn’t have enough money for the candy machine? Ronit Bialar would give it to you, right? It just… That kind of community has changed. Everyone’s focused on the end game, which for so many families, they think the end game is college, which we know the end game is actually life, that that is… You know, our parents were focused on the end game of life.

Dr. Fox: Right. Yeah, college is…yeah.

Amelia Gold: Most families now are not. And they don’t know they’re not, but they’re not.

Dr. Fox: Right. Yeah. I mean, college is just the Hunger Games before the end game. It’s…

Amelia Gold: Yes.

Dr. Fox: Yeah, I love that you brought up the parallels between education and parenting, because I think that there’s so much that sort of overlaps in terms of philosophies, and in terms of impact, and in terms of strategies, and let’s just get to the meat of it.

So in arts education, and for you it’s predominantly music, how does that benefit a child? If you were to sell it, someone comes to you and says, like, why isn’t my kid learning the cello…?

Amelia Gold: Yeah. Oh, believe me, I still have to sell it every single day. You have to remember…

Dr. Fox: So hit me. Give us the pitch.

Amelia Gold: So the pitch is that arts education is the medium where children learn how to learn anything. And because of the intrinsic motivation and joy that is linked with arts education, that there’s nothing like, cold, or you know, rote initially about it, that the children already have the buy-in because, I say this all the time, children learn to draw before they can write, they sing before they can speak, and they dance before they can walk. Children are artists. We are all artists. And if you take that framework of understanding, that then becomes the launch pad for all learning.

And while in early childhood, people take that to heart, Dr. Suzuki, who’s the founder of the Suzuki Method would say if you don’t maintain the heart of the child, eventually it will die. And that constant looking inward to create something outward will eventually stop. And that that then becomes the multivitamin for intrinsic motivation, sustained effort over time, and learning how to make goals and reach them with a growth mindset. The growth mindset and the musical world are one. Like, I’ve been working on the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto since I’m 14 years old, and it’s still not how I want it to be. What makes me wake up and want to do it again, right? Pablo Casals, the great cellist, at age 90 was asked why he still practiced. And he said, “Well, I think I’m getting better,” right?

So you know, the fixed mindset of children and of adults is the barrier towards lifelong learning.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. It is a metaphor also just for life. I mean, as people, the ones who are doing it right are always trying to improve on themselves, one way or another.

Amelia Gold: Yeah. Agree. And in terms of relationships. If you have that mindset, you’re looking to your partner and saying, like, how can I help you, baby? What can I do to support you? You go to your children and say, how are things going? How are you feeling? And then they’re free to say, you know, mommy, when you say this, it hurts me. And if you have a growth mindset, you stop doing it.

And my students all the time, I ask them all the time, I’m like, how do you think we’re doing? You know, how do you think class is going? What is the mood that you’re feeling that I have right now, you know? Checking in on clues. It’s all connected. And our emotions, and our ability to create is what makes us human beings. We’re the only species that knows how to do that. So you know, it’s only recently that that has become extra.

And you know, this goes into my work in terms of access, right, Natie? Like, there’s a reason that the aristocracy had arts education, and other people didn’t. They knew, they knew the impact on the brain. The science says it, not Amelia. They knew. And I believe in many communities, it is still kept from people because they don’t have time, because they’re trying to close the learning gap, the achievement gap. It can’t… To me, if I had to choose between recess and math for that day, I would make sure the children have recess. Not because math isn’t important, because if the children don’t have recess, they’re not going to arrive in math ready to learn. So I would come up with some compromise to set up the children for success.

And I feel the same with arts education, that it must be embedded into every curriculum, because that’s who children and human beings are. To not have it is to be missing something. And it doesn’t always look like playing an instrument, you know? It’s visual art, it’s theater, it’s public speaking, it can be debate. It can be so many other things that lean into that creative spark, and that’s what we need. And if we don’t have it, we just don’t turn out right. I mean, that’s just a fact.

Dr. Fox: Does it have to start at a young age? Like, what if someone, you know, like, oops, you know, we missed that boat, and now they’ve got a kid who’s 10, 11, 12, 15, 28, whatever it is, do you see… You obviously have kids who come into your school, who didn’t have this, and they come in in whatever grade. Do you find that the impact is as great, or maybe greater if they start at a later age? I don’t mean greater than if they started younger, but maybe greater than you would expect?

Amelia Gold: So it’s so interesting that you ask that, because we have an orchestral program in the school, so they’re all playing orchestral instruments. During COVID, I was worried that we wouldn’t…that we’d have to go remote, and that I had new students joining the school, and to try to teach them the violin remotely, which I did, would just seem…it would prove too difficult. Or if it’s a student who didn’t grow up in the Elisabeth Morrow School world, they don’t want to play the violin in the sixth grade. Like, they came from a school where music wasn’t cool, they didn’t know about the magic of it.

So I offered guitar as…I call it the entry drug, for…

Dr. Fox: Because it’s cool. Yeah.

Amelia Gold: Yeah, it’s a gateway drug. Because you can pick it up, you can learn it remotely, and there’s like the rock and roll vibe to it that students who may not have that same lived experience as the other kids, you know, like when they were in second grade, our students go through a petting zoo where they choose an instrument, and they get to try, it’s a whole thing. You join in the fifth grade, and you’re like, yeah, I don’t want to do that. And that has proven so magical, that some of them have gone… You know, they entered kind of like eyebrows up, being like, yeah, I don’t want to do that, and you know, when they say that to me, I’m like, don’t worry, many of my best students were forced. Then I have seen them become even more connected because they’re given a choice.

What prevents any adult, older student from being connected to arts is feeling like they don’t have a choice, or feeling judged by their choice. So you know, if I’m espousing the growth mindset, which is the reason I wake up every day, wherever you are in your journey, you’re part of your journey. So maybe your journey was meant to start right now, right? So you know, maybe you’ve always loved music, and you’ve always said, I’ve wanted to sing, I’ve always wanted to learn this instrument, you know, this is the time to do it. Today is the time to do it.

And I think it’s even in some ways more powerful, when I see adults take on hard things. You know, I’m always learning something new, Natie, because I don’t…I always say with one great ability comes many other disabilities, right? Like, I’m good at some things, and I’m, like, really, actively not good at other things. And so, like, I just started pickleball, right, and like, I’m actively not good. And every day in Florida I’d go out with my kids, and I’d play, and you know, I’m really good at serving, not good at making contact with the ball. Like, I still go back every day, right? Because I want to remember for my students what it feels like to go from zero to one…which is the best part of teaching for me. It’s like I can’t do it at all, and that first step. You know, this is the time.

And you know, I don’t believe it’s ever too late, but it’s really harder as you get older. You need more of a mindset of like, I can do hard things as an adult than a child does. Because we have to remember, it is extremely significant that the children never learn, they have no memories of learning how to walk. Because I believe had they had those memories, no child would ever walk again, you know? How many times they get up and fall, get up and fall, or crawl a little bit, fall on their face, how that is erased from our memory because we would never learn to do it.

Dr. Fox: That’s interesting.

Amelia Gold: Right?

Dr. Fox: Yeah.

Amelia Gold: And if ABC’s didn’t come along with a song, no one would ever learn it, either. So we know that in every language, Happy Birthday, ABCs are connected with music because we’re wired to learn that way.

Dr. Fox: Right.

Amelia Gold: Music is the first language we know, you know? The heartbeat of a mother, that’s our first orchestra. That’s what we know, that is the starting point.

Dr. Fox: So at EMS, Elisabeth Morrow School, everyone plays an instrument from when they come in. And you said they get to choose, they have the little headings where they get to choose, and they get to switch. And I’m sure one of the questions that probably comes to you is can everybody play an instrument? Like, what if you just don’t have talent, like, and you’re not good at it? How do you respond… I know what you’re going to answer, but just, how would you answer that to someone, like, listen, my kid tried this, they’re just not good?

Amelia Gold: Yes. So that’s, I would say… You know, in the old days I used to say, if a kid comes to me and says, you know, they’re not good at math, I’m just like, I’m going to get you good at math, right? I now would say, like, let’s avoid fixed mindset terms when speaking about children, and say they’re not good yet, or they… You know, do I believe in talent is a big discussion. That could be its own podcast.

Dr. Fox: Hmm…

Amelia Gold: Dr. Suzuki believes everyone is born with ability, and that it must be embraced and cultivated, that is talent education age zero. He doesn’t believe that there’s… And therefore saying there’s no such thing as talent. I have taught enough human being people, that there are people that have learned things that I haven’t taught them… I always say, like, when did Sarah Chang learn “Lightly Row,” in utero? Like, how did she get to this level at age five, right? So there are people who are born with certain ease and dispositions towards things. And what I believe, as an educator, is that every child is an artist. So whether they’re “good at it” is irrelevant.

Dr. Fox: Yeah.

Amelia Gold: Through exposure, care, and love, and years of practice, they will be good. They will be better than they are now. But putting those fixed mindset terms on art do not coexist. Because the beautiful thing about playing in an orchestra, especially in our school, where everyone is in it, is that the sum is greater than the parts. So when you play in an orchestra with fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, if I just have the fifth grade by themselves, they’re not going to sound the same way as an eighth grader, right? But together, their sounds go farther than if the eighth graders just played together. Because they’re listening, they’re connecting, and making something beautiful and great together. And that they’re all playing at the level where they’re at, and I’m propelling them forward to be the best that they can be.

And at some point, you know, why did Einstein spend so much time practicing the violin? Probably because it was the hardest thing he was doing, right? It’s so hard. And that’s why I say to children all the time, that’s a fact, not an excuse.

Dr. Fox: Right.

Amelia Gold: You know, that’s a fact.

Dr. Fox: Do you feel that… You mentioned before how sort of the struggle, and the learning, and the improvement, and sort of all these things is how we learn, and it’s through the academic process, but I want to focus a little bit on the social-emotional. Because we touched on this last week, but you know, you’re talking about this idea of community, and about playing with others in a certain way, but what else does sort of this quest or this activity, I guess, of going through musical education, arts education, how does it impact the social and emotional health? Or not just how does it do it, but why does it do that?

Amelia Gold: Yeah. I was one of the first students in America to learn the Suzuki Method. And the Suzuki Method is founded by Shinichi Suzuki, who was an engineer, not a professional musician. That was STEAM before STEAM was a thing in education. And after the horrors of World War II, and the devastations in Japan, he had the idea that if you start children on an instrument when they’re too young to know differently, that they would want to create beautiful things together, and that they wouldn’t create bombs that destroy humanity. They would have one common language, which is music.

So I actually had the opportunity to play for Dr. Suzuki on TV when I was four years old, so this is a part of who I am, and what I know to be true. So what is the hardest thing for children is to deal with the forever conflict of feeling like they’re the most important person on the Earth, and the least important, and most insignificant person on the Earth. What heals that divide is feeling connected to something, and feeling connected to others.

From my perspective, you know, both as a parent and as an educator, this is the most important work of childhood, of understanding your part in a bigger whole, and how the art of, like, working hard…You know, there is drudgery to arts education, right? Like I always say, as I counsel families, if you have a child that doesn’t behave, every child needs to be doing chores. Every child needs to be part of meaningful work in the house, you know? What is your child’s work in the house? What is their housework? And they look at me with a blank expression, I’m like, that’s why they don’t listen to you. They don’t feel like they’re a part of the community. The skill and thrill and drill are intrinsic to that experience.

And what I am seeing not so much in our school, where a third of the middle school is in the music hall, and everyone’s on a team, and we don’t have cuts, you know, like, there’s a million things that we can do to structure that for success for kids, not because there aren’t kids who are significantly better than others, but it’s not putting kids into boxes before they develop some skill, and time to develop them so that they don’t create narratives for themselves that say they can’t.

Going back to what you said earlier about, like, I don’t have talent, it’s like, you’re 11. How do you know? How do you know you don’t like this? You know, it takes years sometimes to know if you like something. It’s like, why do children not read? They pick up a book, and they’re like, I don’t like it. I’m like, no, you have to invest an hour-and-a-half in the book before you decide you don’t like it. You know, like, what are those metrics? How do we set up the structures for children that allow them to unravel who they are, and allow them to create those connections, and feel like they have an important voice, and that they can do important things, right?

Like, we just had Martin Luther King Day, you know? I was thrilled to hear…I was talking to Carey White, my dear friend and colleague instructor, that they’re doing a day of service. They’re praying with their hands on that day, as my rabbi would say. What can they do actively, together, that will create more beauty and harmony in the world? And there’s many ways to do that. And it doesn’t only have to be arts education, but the big differentiator is that arts education has a soul attached to it.

Dr. Fox: That’s so interesting. That was literally my next question, I was going to say you’re obviously talking about the arts, but couldn’t the same principles be applied to kids who are doing team sports, gardening…I mean, it could be anything, right?

Amelia Gold: Yeah.

Dr. Fox: That kids are… If they’re focused on, and spending a lot of time on, and working on to improve, that provides also a sense of community and belonging and passion, even if let’s say someone’s not in a situation where music is an option for them, or theater, this concept of improving the social and emotional health of children through something else could be applied to those as well, I would think.

Amelia Gold: Yes, I would say definitely. And when there’s a creative and open-ended part to it, that is really the recipe, right?

Dr. Fox: Right.

Amelia Gold: We have to remember, we want our children… They’re not dancing around in the woods all day, right? We have provided structures of what we think is important. I always say to parents, you can only choose three things, what are they? Like, what are the non-negotiables for your family? But you can only have three. If you have more than three, you’ll have children that really dislike you, and will not…then they won’t do any of them, right? So you know, I think in terms of what they need versus what we think they need, versus what our egos are demanding of us, telling us what they need, right?

So my kids went to my school not because of the outcome of high school and college, just because I knew this environment is what they need, right? If you put those children in those environments, as parents of what they need, and then we’re looking for those opportunities for them to be who they’re supposed to be, children come through us, not from us, from my perspective. And they come into this world with their ingredients, and we want to help them be who they’re going to be within the structure of what we think are important as families.

So there is a cognitive dissonance in terms of raising children, and teaching school, right? Like, I was in a conversation with a parent where we did not agree, and I was like, we’re going to have to agree to disagree. And that’s part of our core values, right? Courtesy, cooperation, consideration, and compassion. We don’t have to agree on everything. This is how the school is going to do it, this is how you’re going to do it at home. I don’t see that they’re in disharmony with one another. But having meaningful things for children to go deep and wide in without any endgame is like the bravest thing a parent could do in today’s world, maybe, and when our parents were little, that was called Tuesday.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. And it’s also not always… You know, we’re talking about it in this sort of majestic sense, but it’s also…it’s not always easy for parents. I mean, listen, our girls skated together, and I think ice skating was an amazing experience for them, and all these things sort of applied and it was wonderful, but it was cold as hell, standing outside as parents, trying to watch, you know, these stupid ice skating recitals, and it’s like, 30 degrees below, and we’re just, you know, trying to like, pour down hot chocolate into ourselves so we don’t freeze to death. So you know, there’s some unpleasantness to it, but you know, you’re investing. I mean, you’re investing in their future. Like with music, it’s not easy for you to go to your kids lessons, and it’s not easy to drive them around, and do all these things, and buy their instruments, and fix their instruments, and deal with them freaking out when they’re having a bad day with them.

Amelia Gold: A hundred percent.

Dr. Fox: But listen, that’s parenting. That’s education. You’re investing in something that’s important.

Amelia Gold: [crosstalk 00:33:13.531]

Dr. Fox: Yeah, I just wanted to complain a little about the ice skating thing, so that’s all. That’s why I brought that up.

Amelia Gold: You know, it’s interesting that you named that, because when both my…you know, my kids did hockey, they did skating. If you were to ask the children, most of them would say music is also their work. Like, it’s their work and their joy, but it was more work. Skating and the sports, that was just for the joy of childhood. And I think if there are parents that are listening, you know, you need all of those different… It can’t all be joy, and it can’t all be work. Sometimes that intersects, but they need both.

Dr. Fox: Yeah.

Amelia Gold: Like, there are some things you’ve got to do just because you’re a kid. It’s like how traditional camps are now out of style because everyone wants, like, a pre-professional camp, and how that flies in the face…

Dr. Fox: A mechanical engineering camp.

Amelia Gold: That’s what I’m saying, people want to go to specialized camps. And listen, I run one, but mine is only five days.

Dr. Fox: Right.

Amelia Gold: And everyone says, Amelia, make your camp longer, everyone wants to go two weeks, I was like, no. Because during the summer, children have to play. They have to focus deeper on the social-emotional state of being because that’s where they’re experimenting, trying things, being brave, getting out of their comfort zone, separating from their families, camping out in the woods, you know, whatever that is. And now they want to go to school… You have to remember, many families send their kids to school, and then school after school. And I don’t know if it’s also like that in the Jewish community, but in the independent school world, this is something I’m fighting night and day, you know? They want to go to school, and then go to all of these academies that push them ahead far, far above grade level in the attempt to try to, like, one-up the next step. It has in almost all cases, the opposite result for children.

Dr. Fox: Right, misery.

Amelia Gold: So what we’re seeing, you know, there’s a book, and I don’t know if you’ve read it, called “How to Raise an Adult.” As a parent and an educator, I’m always learning. So basically, like, I teach children, but I also teach parenting, because, you know, we partner so closely with parents. So that means I’m always having to learn, and sometimes I’m just like, yeah, I don’t know what to do. Let me really think about it, right?

Like, I remember when I had my oldest child, Josh, and they gave me Josh to take home, and I remember looking at the nurse, being like, you’re giving me this baby? You don’t even know me. Like, how can you give me this kid? I don’t know what I’m doing, right? So anyway, so Brian and I, Brian’s my husband, went to go hear a talk at Horace Mann, where our kids went to high school, and the author spoke about, you know, how to raise an adult. And as she’s talking, Brian and I are kind of like, patting ourselves on our back, like yeah, we rocked it. Yeah, we’re doing great. And then she started talking about other things, and we’re like, uh, yeah, we’re not doing that…oh, oh yeah, we’re…yeah, okay, we messed up, you know? Like, yeah, I never make them make their bed, you know, or whatever it was, right?

And so, like, as a parent and as an educator, you know, you do have to have the commitment, going back to what you said, like what do you do if it’s later on in life, or they’re not good at it, you also have to have the commitment to say to your kids, you know, I was on this path with you, and I don’t think it’s a good path. Let’s pause this path, and try something different. Like, that’s the growth mindset. That’s an artistic way of being. If you find your… I always say, I never yell at children, or my own children, I really don’t. Like if you were to ask any of my students, does Ms. Gold yell? Never. It’s the ultimate failure, right?

Dr. Fox: Right. Just give them that big smile, and they know.

Amelia Gold: That’s what I’m saying. That’s what they say, you give them the smile, and they’re like, oh, no, are we in trouble, right? But like, you know, being able to admit… There’s a new after school math program that came out when my kids were in elementary school, and all my friends and I, who are really committed to social-emotional learning, and protecting childhood, we’re like, oh, this seems like a really cool thing for them to do. So I signed them up for this afterschool math program that required a lot of extra skill and drill and practice, and some teachers that weren’t aligned with the practice, and my kids were, like, crying, going to this math program. And I found myself being like, come on, guys, you know, get it together, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And then all of us have our little kids crying, going to this math program after school, and we’re like, why are we doing this? Why is this good? Well, we don’t want our kids to be soft, right? We don’t want them to, you know, not be strong…

Dr. Fox: Fall behind to the Chinese, to the Russians.

Amelia Gold: Yeah. Like, come on, get on the program.

Dr. Fox: It’s like “1984.”

Amelia Gold: And then all of us together… Exactly. All of us together, we’re like, this is not supporting their learning. So you know, that was a parenting fail, you know? And that’s something we talk about, you know? So I had to then undo that, you know, with the kids, saying we thought this was going to be good, and it’s not working. We’re going to try something different.

Dr. Fox: Growth mindset.

Amelia Gold: That, the growth mindset is everything. And you know, when I became the principal this year, that was the required reading I gave to my families. Because while I live in the world of the growth mindset, not everyone is joining me in that world, so I oftentimes think we’re speaking different languages. And we’re actually going to read in assembly… So every every week I run an assembly, and it’s something different that, you know, the faculty participates in, and they present things, and we’re going to read the book “The Power of Yet,” which is a growth mindset book for children. And I would really encourage anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about right now to read the book “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck, who is a doctor in Sanford who studied the impact of mindset on learning.

And going back to what I said a little bit earlier, the growth mindset is the artistic mindset. They inform one another. And I was looking… Noah is auditioning for Interlochen, and he’s gone there every summer, but you have to re-audition, and now he, in addition to film, he wants to do theater. And I explained to him, it’s really difficult to get in for theater, and most likely he’ll get in for film, because he’s gotten in before, but you never know. But go for it. And I watched Michaela work with him, Michaela’s my second child, on his monologue for hours, and him taking all that feedback from his sister… You know, I’m just saying, like, that’s not easy. And she is also, you know, she’s a skilled director and actor, etc., but still… And how he just went back, went back, practiced and practiced and practiced, knowing that he might not get this.

And I turned to Brian, and I’m like, okay, we’re on the right track with Noah. Noah’s going to be okay. Noah is going to be great. Because he has the skill, he has the heart, and he has the intrinsic motivation. Because we know that in a world where everyone has perfect scores, and all A’s, that is now becoming irrelevant. It’s all going to blow up. I’m just… You’re hearing it from me, and I’m sure you’re hearing it from everyone else. Like, I said to a parent of a first-grader, Katie, I’m like, I don’t know what the role of college will be for your child.

Dr. Fox: Right. Wow.

Amelia Gold: You know what I’m saying? I don’t know.

Dr. Fox: Yeah. Amelia, you’re the best. I love talking to you. You’re awesome.

Amelia Gold: You rock.

Dr. Fox: Thank you for taking so much time. Although, as you did astutely point out to me before, since you run a school, you can declare a snow day whenever the hell you want. So you get to sit at home in your pajamas.

Amelia Gold: I am currently… So I’ve been working on report cards all day in my pajamas, with a fleece blanket wrapped around me. Thank goodness this is only my voice.

Dr. Fox: Amelia, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, and for, I mean, really, just an amazing topic. I love what you do, I love talking to you, I love your philosophy, and I will see you on the block.

Amelia Gold: Peace out. Thank you so much for having me, and I really appreciate the time as well.

Dr. Fox: Thank you for listening to the “Healthful Woman” podcast. To learn more about our podcast, please visit our website at www.healthfulwoman.com. That’s healthfulwoman.com. If you have any questions about this podcast, or any other topic you would like us to address, please feel free to email us at HW@healthfulwoman.com. Have a great day.

The information discussed in “Healthful Woman” is intended for educational uses only, and does not replace medical care from your physician. “Healthful Woman” is meant to expand your knowledge of women’s health, and does not replace ongoing care from your regular physician or gynecologist. We encourage you to speak with your doctor about specific diagnoses and treatment options for an effective treatment plan.


♪ [music] ♪