Summer is for Learning

Welcome!

This past week I have been teaching in the summer school program at my local school. Every year in early June, the school district has a week called “Summer Fun at School.” It’s a week where the elementary students can select hour-long classes that are experiential and of interest to them.

 

This week I am teaching three classes, Daring Dudes for boys, Adventure Girls for girls, and Game 6 Feet Apart; all are for 4-6 graders. Today as one of the girls left the classroom, she said over her shoulder, “This is the best class so far!” Score one for the old lady!

 

I like to work with older students; I prefer ages ten and up. I marvel at educators and providers that can take care of the little ones. The way they can interact with and hold their attention is impressive. Learning is so essential at any age. Keeping current and developing new skills is necessary for you, just like it’s vital for the children in your care.

 

This summer, I have teamed up with Becky Schuler of Rebecca Schuler Training and Consulting to offer a four-session series, Self-Management for the Workplace. This series is specifically for early childhood educators and direct care providers. Becky and I have carefully selected topics that address social and emotional learning, communication skills, self-care, and emotional intelligence, all with a focus on you and the children in your care.

 

The summer series will be held virtually on Friday mornings from 10 am-noon, starting on June 25. The following three sessions are on July 9, July 16, and July 23. We will be recording each session, and you will have access to the recording for 30-days following the session. A total of 8 continuing education hours are available for the series.

 

The format of the webinars will be engaging and interactive. No sitting back, taking notes, and drinking coffee, we want to help you integrate your learning in a meaningful way that will impact your life. 

 

We invite you to join us in this new collaboration of two seasoned trainers for this series of interactive webinars. You can click here to see the full details of the “Self-Management” series and register.

 

Be well!

 

Kathy

P.S. Registration is closing on June 22! Click here to register.

Grace

What happens when your expectations are high, but the reality is much lower?

Change!

 

The idea of having a family did not cross my mind until I was in my mid-thirties. My husband and I were not sure we wanted to have children. However, as we both grew older, the idea of having a family became more and more prevalent in our life. We were not able to have biological children and looked at other options for creating a family. We chose adoption through the foster care system. We wanted to adopt two children; we were blessed with four. 

 

In our minds, we had expectations about what our family life would be like: Days filled with joy and happiness, rainbows, and tripping through snowdrifts (it was January in Minnesota when they came to our home). Oh, we knew there would be times where we would struggle. I had read many parenting books about adopting children from hard places. I was prepared! Yeh right! 

 

I am glad my husband and I didn’t realize how little we knew at that time. Our expectations of parenting did not match our reality. Not even close! There have been times of tremendous joy and happiness, countered with times of overwhelm, worry, and struggle. It’s not easy going from 2 to 6 people in a house, literally overnight.

 

I had to let go of the expectations of a perfect family. However, in letting go of those expectations, I gained so much more!

 

Showing myself and others grace

 

Grace can mean courteous goodwill and can be challenging at the best of times. One of the changes I gained was to practice grace. I needed grace for myself before I can have it for others.

 

There have many times I have practiced grace for myself. One such instance was when my son had a minibike accident.

 

“What did you do that for?” is what I blurted out to our 10-year-old son after his mini-bike accident. He was riding his mini-bike in the yard, Racing faster and faster around the lilac bushes. I could see the deep path in the dirt around the bush. He cut a curve to close, and slip went the bike out from under him, slamming into the sharp, newly pruned branches.

 

After I asked my blunt question, he lifted his pant leg and displayed a deep puncture wound in his leg. Tears started to roll down his dirty cheeks. You can imagine the disappointment in myself for not showing empathy when my husband brought him to the hospital for nine stitches. 

 

In this instance, I had to allow a little grace for myself. The words slipped out of my mouth before I even thought through the impact of those words. I have done this more than once, not considering the effect of my words. 

 

Grace to Children

 

Our children came from a hard place. Their early childhood was less than idyllic. In listening to the podcast interview of Oprah and Dr. Bruce Perry by Brene` Brown, the question to ask about a child’s behavior is not “what is wrong with them” but “what has happened to them.” Early childhood trauma can have a lasting effect on a person’s health, behavior, and learning. 

 

When looking at a child’s behavior, ask yourself, what has happened to this child? What is the child’s story, and how can I give them some grace in this past stressful, overwhelming year? The act of grace comes in all forms, saying sorry, smiling at a child that has just made a rude comment, or taking a deep breath (or two) before you consider what to say. 

 

Take the time to give yourself, your family, and others a bit of grace in your life. Interestedly the word grace has increased in use over the 20 years – maybe because we need to show more of it. We all need it.

 

Photo Credit: Image by kalhh from Pixabay

Strength-Based Parenting Book Club

Today is my birthday!! 

I will not tell you how old I am; however, I will say that the ’80s was the best decade of music!

My daughter and mom are planning a surprise mystery afternoon and evening of fun for me. I can hardly wait to see what they have cooked up. Whatever we do, it will be great because I am spending time with people I love.

I like spending time with people and having great conversations around a particular topic. One way I get that need met is through book discussions. Right now, I am in three different book clubs and reading a fiction novel. My friends gave me a gift certificate from a bookstore because, in my opinion, you can’t have too many books! 

My Learner and Input strengths love the process of learning and digging deep into a topic. How about you? Would you like to learn more about your strengths? Would you like to find out how you can bring out the strengths in children? Knowing your strengths can help you to see the strengths within your child or learner. 

My friend  Monica Cochran of Learning Without Borders and I are offering the Strength-Based Parenting Book Club for parents and educators looking to help children find their unique brilliance. We made a short video for you explaining the book club:

 

If you would like more information about how you can join the book club, click here.

I look forward to seeing you at the Strengths-Based Parenting book club starting on April 28 at 7:00 pm CST.

Here is another cool thing about the Strength-Based Parenting book club; the group will be on the Workspace Sky platform. The registration fee includes a free month in Workspace Sky. Find out more about Workspace Sky at https://www.workspaceeducation.org/

 

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa

This past year during the pandemic, I was looking for ways to connect with other people. One of my past instructors was offering an online business class. I decided to join the class to brush up on a few skills and meet other coaches and consultants.  At the first session, there were several other people on the Zoom call. The instructor introduced himself and jumped right into the “how-to” of the topic. 

 

Whoa, whoa, whoa, my brain was saying. I was not concentrating on what the instructor was saying at all. Instead, I looked at the faces (or black box with a name), wondering, Who are these other people? What do they do? Am I safe to share about myself? 

 

In the past few weeks, teachers have welcomed students back to the classrooms. As soon as the students step into the room, many teachers choose to jump right into the subject matter.

Why?

Maybe the instructor feels the pressure of covering X amount of material, and we only have X weeks to go in the school year. Perhaps there is an expectation set by the administration to keep students moving forward. Or it could be all the discussion around learning loss as a pervasive message that learning is just for a short period of life. 

 

Many of the students might be going, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” 

 

The transition back into the classroom and face-to-face instruction doesn’t need to be abrupt when remembering that relationships are currency.

What do I mean?

Our relationships are the currency that we build with the learners. I can remember back to when I had an instructor that I loved. Engaging, funny, and told stories to illustrate a point. I didn’t like the subject; however, I learned to like it more than I did before I took the class because of the teacher’s enthusiasm and connection with the students.

 

Here are several points to think about as students and staff come back to the classroom:

 

  • A safe brain is a learning brain. We (yes, you too) have been under a lot of stress over the past twelve months. Stress can do crazy things to your brain. If the brain is feeling consistent stress, it can’t concentrate on the algebra problem because it’s too busy figuring out if this place or person is safe or not.

 

  • Students coming back to school may look distracted, frustrated, and overwhelmed. According to researcher Marc Brackett, these behaviors may look like learning disabilities or behavioral problems. However, these disabilities and behaviors can be manifesting due to prolonged and unmanaged periods of stress over the past year.

 

  • We are all suffering from loss and grief. We are experiencing loss and grief from losing a loved one, losing time with friends, losing family time, losing jobs, homes, and so much more.

 

  • Loss, grief, and stress take emotional and physical energy. When our energy is being placed in other areas to stay safe, it feels like we are in a holding pattern. Just holding it all together and with one slight pull of a pin, we come all undone.

 

Stress, loss, and grief is taking a toll on teachers, learners, and parents. Pretty much everyone.

 

What can you do? 

 

  • Start slow—Check-in with students by using a morning question or start the class with a question. Either share out loud or put answers on sticky notes—some way to check in with each other.

 

  • Breathe. Take some deep breaths and have others do it with you. If you are in a classroom, don’t try to ask students to do things you can’t or are unwilling to do. So take a deep breath, or maybe 3 or 4 together.

 

  • Take the view from the balcony. This is one year in your life, maybe two. This is one year in this child’s life. What does the long view look like? How do you want your students to remember this past year? 

 

  • Weave in some ways during your day to complete and manage the stress cycle for yourself. Plan into your day either exercise, quiet time, laughter, connection with others, a phone call, singing, or creative playtime. Whatever that will help you to slow down, breathe, and feel safe.

 

Consider taking some time to pull back on the reins as we go back to the classrooms. Be intensional as you welcome students, staff, and families back to the school.

As my friend Stacy reminded me, we are all navigating the storm of this past year; however, we are all experiencing the storm differently. Life can be difficult, yet when we slow down, breathe, take the long view and do some self-care, we can build relationships that will feel safe for other staff, parents, and students.

 

Photo by Eva Tomankova on Unsplash

Do You Know Your Strengths?

Happy Valentine’s Day 2021!! 

Now that my children are older, Valentine’s Day is not as celebrated in years past. No heart pancakes tinged in pink, no candy hearts, and small boxes of chocolates. Instead, I share a quiet “I love you” and a text with the same sentiments are with them.

I try to tell or show the people in my life that I love them daily. Isn’t that more important than showering love on just one day a year?

One way that I use my strengths is to create a positive connection with each person I encounter in my day. Creating a positive connection is so important when most of my relationships are virtual. 

I have the strength of Connectedness; being connected to something larger than myself is essential. I treat each encounter with the idea that we are meeting for a reason. There is a larger reason as to why this person is in my life.

Today’s video is about why strengths are vital for us to know and that a deep dive conversation is a great way to get to know your strengths at a deeper level. Studies show that the more connected you are with your strengths, there is an increase in positive well-being, improved work engagement, and better relationships.

 

Simple Acts of Compassion Create Connection

Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Many of the wisdom traditions use a version of the Golden Rule. This rule or guideline stresses compassion. 

 

I think back to when I was a child growing up in the ’70s and ’80s and the problems I felt were in my life. The issues of friendships, where to go to eat on a Saturday night (Pizza Hut, of course), and what to do when I felt there was nothing to do. I usually didn’t know about a party until after the fact. If my friends decided to go to the movies and I wasn’t home to pick up the phone, my friends left me to find my own entertainment. 

 

It’s different today for the younger generation. Teens today have instant notifications, instant invitations, or instant connections, all through the little device in their hands. Yet is it really what they want or need? There are reports of young people feeling disconnected and lonely among the ability to connect instantly. 

 

Even though my teen years are so much different from my children’s, I can still have compassion for this generation’s young people because of an essential shared human experience. The needs of belonging, connection, and to matter are a few of the needs I can relate to, even though I am an “old” person. 

 

I have worked in the area of social and emotional learning for over 16 years. Over those years, I have learned that building a connection with a caring, capable, and compassionate adult is essential in a young person’s life – an adult who will listen and make a serious attempt to understand. 

 

Compassion is created from three components – awareness of suffering, action to relieve suffering, and recognizing a shared human experience. I see a young person sitting on the sideline watching while others play a game. I go over the talk to the young person, strike up a conversation and find out she doesn’t know the game’s rules. Then I take the time to explain the rules and then ask her to play. That is an act of compassion.

 

The Search Institute, a research organization in Minneapolis, has a list of 40 positive supports and strengths a young person needs to succeed. One area is support: care from family, other adults, community members, and school staff. When a young person feels supported by the adults around him/her, there is a decrease in high-risk behaviors. Simple ways to connect with youth can happen in your community. YOU can play a part in the solution!

 

Here are ten ways you can increase your compassion and connect with a child or teen.

  • Take an interest in an activity a teen you know is involved in by attending the activity or asking questions of the teen. Then listen.
  • Ask a child what they are interested in doing. What are her passions? What sparks his interests? Then listen.
  • Play a game of pick-up basketball with a group of kids for fun.
  • Invite kids on the sidelines to participate in a game.
  • Give an authentic and specific compliment to a child. An example could be, “Wow, I admire how you organized the books on the shelf.”
  • Do a random act of kindness for a teen.
  • Ask, “What are your dreams?” Then listen.
  • Accept a child for who he or she is, a unique individual in this world.
  • Make sure making mistakes is “okay” for both kids and adults. 
  • Breathe deeply before saying something that could harm a child.

 

If you take action on even some of these ten simple activities, you will build compassion in yourself and the other person over time. These actions will not solve the complex problem of loneliness, violence, or inequities in our world; however, it is a start.

5 Strategies to Access the Learning Brain

This time of year can come with a variety of emotions. I am sure many emotions have popped up over the last few weeks for you in some way. As a former science teacher, the study of the brain and the connection to resilience is fascinating. When we are dealing with our emotions it’s important to know why and how our brains are reacting to that emotion.

 

In the video, The Learning Brain v.s. The Survival Brain, Dr. Jacob Ham explains how stress can affect learning for our students. We need to create safe environments in the classroom that assists children in learning. One of the ways we can do that is through using tools that you can teach to your students that will calm the brain down.

 

In my recent video, I demonstrate five tools you can use with your student to help them feel safe and access their learning brain.

Moving Through Fear and Anxiety

Happy Halloween!

I thought today would be the appropriate day to talk about fear and anxiety.

Sometimes fun and fear can go together like today! Halloween is the annual time of the year when spooky costumes and scary movies can be fun!

However, when you are truly dealing with fears and anxieties, there is nothing fun about it.

We all have fears and anxiety. It’s part of all human experience.

Big Fears and little fears. Realistic and imagined fears.

I invite you to practice the skills presented in today’s video to move through fear and anxiety.

Then pass these skills on to the children in your life.