Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Unexpected, Yet Perfect

Several years ago I was teaching a lesson to a class.  It was a disaster.  At least that was my initial assessment. The class was off-task in every way.  If I remember correctly it was snowing outside and we were preparing for an early dismissal.

I was exasperated and my patience box was empty.  I recall giving my “I’m disappointed in you” speech and instructing the class to be silent for the remaining five minutes.  To coin a phrase, it was one of those days.

The following week when I had that class again several hands were immediately raised.  When called upon, a student requested if they could do what they did last week.  I was perplexed.  What could this student possibly be referring to?  Last week was something I wanted to move on from.  However, in an effort to learn from the previous lesson, I asked what was it that we did which was so enjoyable.  The response was unexpected, yet perfect.  The student told me he wanted to sit absolutely still.  When probed further, other students echoed this sentiment.  “Yeah, it was relaxing” and “It gave me a chance to think about my day” and “I like listening to my own breath.”  How cool is that!?

Essentially, they were asking to be in the moment; fully present and engaged.  Not distracted.  Not impulsive.  Not off task.  From then on I have incorporated that type of activity into many lessons.  It teaches them to be more aware of themselves and how they are connecting to the process of learning.

After that I found something called, The Kid's Yoga Deck.  It includes easy to use strategies which promote concentration and focus.  I have also found that these exercises help kids to pay attention to how their body responds to stressful situations.  It is empowering for young people to be attuned to their mind and body.
What unexpected, yet perfect outcomes have you experienced in your own life?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Set Your Intentions #5

This is the beginning of a new day.  You have been given this day to use as you will.  You can waste it or use it for good.  What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.  When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind...let it be something good.
-Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Have Anger Issues With Anger Issues - Part 2: Emotionally Speaking

In the last post I voiced my concern over 'anger issues'.  I believe that it is an over-used catch phrase.  I have found that we expect kids to be able to act a certain way just because someone tells them they should know better.  Or, that a school has rules and students should know right from wrong-- or face the consequences.  Like it just magically happens.

Here is what I think:  Behavior concerns are a lot like Academic concerns.  There is either a skill deficit or something going on with skill fluency.  With academics, we usually provide the supports necessary to remediate and help the student along.  When dealing with behavior which stems from emotions the whole tangled ball is quite a challenge. 

Here is what I try to do to help kids as well as collaborate with Teachers and Parents:

Be Aware
Learn to recognize the signs of your anger.  Anger is an emotional signal that warns something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

Positive Emotional Expression
It is okay to have angry emotions.  Some kids are taught that anger is bad.  That is not true.  It all pivots on the manner in which it is conveyed. Take responsibility for your actions and emotions.  Blaming will not help.  In fact, it will probably escalate the situation.  Use "I" statements to help claim ownership of the situation.  (Here is an example from The Responsive Classroom).

Healthy Strategies
Our students need help with this.  This includes practiced repitition, encouraging feedback, and nuanced refinement. There are some things that sound easy to do- like counting to 10 and taking deep breaths- but are really, really difficult to actually do during the heat of the moment.  These things seem to help some folks, so give it a whirl and see how it works for you.  If those don't seem to help try removing yourself from the situation.  Give yourself a Mantra.  Go do something you enjoy.  Talk to someone you trust.  Draw. Go run in the gym.  Shoot hoops. (I am not a big fan of hitting a pillow, or anything like that.  Instead, squish clay or kneed dough).

There are lots of resources out there which can be of great help to you as you help the young  people in your life.  Explore.  Try new things.  Find what works for you.  Here are a few ideas:  Angry Animals 2 board game, free Feeleez feelings coloring sheets, Managing Your Anger: What's Behind It? poster, Howard B. Wigglebottom animated book, and book reviews by Roxanne at Books That Heal Kids on Anger. What books, games, activities do you like to put to use?  Please share.

One last thing. This is important.  All these strategies and interventions are good. What I think is most essential, though, is to carve out your own thought process/belief system/philosophy that works personally for you in regards to how the process of change occurs.  It is all about taking a situation from where it currently is and helping it evolve to where you aspire to be.  This is a slow, gradual process.  Here is an old post which lays out The Process Of Change for me.  What do you hang your hat on when it comes to Shifting Yourself?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I Have Anger Issues with Anger Issues - Part 1

    Student:   I have anger issues.
     Parent:    My Daughter is always mad at me.  I think she has anger issues.
     Teacher:  I know what his problem is....he does not know how to control his anger.

To that I say this-- enough already.

The times are few and far between that someone became angry because of anger.  More than likely the triggering emotion was jealousy, frustration, worry, or embarrassment.  Maybe it was a feeling of exclusion.  Or somebody touched some one's stuff without permission.  Maybe a friend borrowed a prized possession and did not return it.  In any case, the outcome was not as anticipated.  Perhaps, that is what led to the anger.

Do me a favor.  Please do not call it anger issues.  Instead, call it a problem with sharing.  Or fearful of not fitting in with peers.  Maybe sad about moving to a new school.  All these things could cause an outward, visible expression of anger.  But, underneath the surface is something else.  Look for it.  Sit with it.  Acknowledge it.  Address it.  Be Healthy about it. It is not going to go away on its own. Covering it with the blanket statement of 'anger issues' does little to address the behavior of real concern.   

I believe an important skill to learn is to cope; to make a difficult and stressful situation less so. What do you do when something does not turn out the way in which you hoped and thought it would?  How do you deal with these trying, sudden emotions?  How can we help young people as they experience something like this?

In my next post- I Have Anger Issues with Anger Issues, Part 2: Emotionally Speaking-  I will deliniate the manner in which I set out to help young people navigate their emotions.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

I Will Strive

Someone once told me that Persistence and Perseverance are omnipotent.  With that in mind, I have decided what to Strive for in 2012.

I will strive to help Educators get actively engaged with Twitter.  In the short time I have been with TwitterNation it has altered my perception in a Good and Profound way.  And, it is the best source of Professional Growth and Development there is to offer. 

I will charge forward with a full head of Motivation to pursue my return to running.  I've been away from it for many years and am finding that I genuinely enjoy this form of exercise.  Besides, it is excellent for maintaining positive well-being.

I  vow to BE THERE in each moment with mindful awareness for my family.  When I caught myself spacing-out over stuff at work as I was saying prayers and tucking my kids into bed I knew the jig was up. 

That is my list.  I am not going to ponder it.  Nor am I going to talk about it.  I am just going to Strive to Do it.  Any Encouragement you can offer will be appreciated!  Please check in with me from time to time.

Here is to a Healthy, Abundant New Year.