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

Looking for the Bright Spots in 2020

Welcome to 2021!! A new year and a new set of possibilities before us. However, before you jump into the new year’s setting goals, resolutions, or intentions, I invite you to take some time to look back to the past year.

 

The past year has been a roller coaster ride of a year. I look back and see many downs and few ups throughout the year. How about you? Do you see any bright spots? Glimmers of positivity and hope?

 

In this month’s video, I talk about why it’s so easy for humans to see the negative and how you have to train your brain to see the positives. It’s all about practicing to look for the bright spots.

 

I would like to hear about the bright spots in your past year. Please leave a comment under the video and tell me about your bright spots for 2020.

 

I wish you much happiness and health in 2021!

 

 

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.

 

Using Your Strengths To Overcome Challenges: Part 3

I love it when I receive questions from followers. Last week I had a really big question from a follower,

 

How do you help adults overcome

childhood trauma and toxic stress?

 

Wow! Big question! This is too big of a question to cover in a ten-minute video or even in a blog post. However, I can give you a few tools to start on a path that will decrease your toxic stress response and increase your self- regulation. Once your nervous system is regulated, tapping into your strengths to build up your resilience is key.

 

You can build your self-awareness toolbox as an adult and tap into those tools when stress enters your life.

 

This is a journey where each new tool you use and practice can help you along your path of resilience.

 

Watch Using Your Strengths to Overcome Challenges Part 1 and Part 2 to add more tools to your toolbox.

 

 

Strength-Based Resilience is a four-part course for educators, parents, and caregivers. A new session starts on September 9, 2020.

More information about the course can be found here.

 

 

Using Your Strengths to Overcome Challenges: Part 2

Stress, overwhelm, and anxiety are the words I use to describe my emotions during a time of crisis. What are the words that come to your mind when we talk about the current world situation?

 

Luckily for me, I can reach into my toolbox of resilience tools and pull out one of my favorite tools, strengths! My resilience tools are tools I can use to help myself and others bounce back in times of crisis.

 

In the last video, I shared about the four areas of strengths (Relating, Thinking, Executing and Influencing) and how you might see one or more of those areas in yourself. If I can see my strengths then I can also be intentional about calling upon one or more of those strengths to see my situation differently.

 

Today I share a short exercise for you to call upon your personal strengths and focus on using them throughout your day. 

 

The Power of Nature

Much has happened over the last few weeks that my head is spinning. Maybe you can relate:

My daughter came home from college for spring break. One week has turned into staying at home for the rest of the semester. Classes are now online for her.

My high school-age sons were off school starting March 17. Now the eight days off of school have turned into distance learning until May 4.

My son, who is a senior, reacted poorly to the news that the last months of his senior year would be without the daily interaction of friends. The loss and grief of potentially not having a prom or graduation ceremony are real. 

I work from home. Most of my weekdays are spent with my dog and alone in the house. I have the occasional Zoom meeting or phone call, but mostly just quiet. However, that has not been the case for the last two weeks and it seems like it will not be the case for the next two months or more.

I want you to know that I understand. I hear you. I feel the anxiety and pain with you. The struggle is real. 

Yet, I say to myself daily, “This to shall pass.” I breathe and I go outside into nature. 

The video I am sharing with you is one that I made ten days ago. I felt it was important to share with you during this challenging time.

Nature has the power to heal and here are a few reasons why the power of nature can help you and your student or children through the challenges in life.