Glasses of Perception and Intent

glasses image        Recently I posted about the difference between perception and intent with an image about glasses. When we look at the world around us, we see the world through our lens – what we believe to be the reasons behind one’s actions or how events are filtered through our thoughts. Is it true that there is a difference between the two, and it is in our innate nature as human beings to recognize these. However, that is easier said than done, right?

Think back to your years in elementary school, when you first began to recognize that in life there was a you and a them. If we are being honest, aren’t there still? But I digress. In elementary school, you began to remember the differences in people, whether it was recognizing the cool table where the cool kids sat, or what to and not to wear to school. In your classroom, you might have begun to take notice of students that were pulled out individually to work with someone, and often returned back to the classroom with a sticker or reward of some sort.

The reason I bring this up, is that aren’t we still involved in the power struggle of what we intend to do and how we are perceived or what we perceive to happen? As the school year comes to a close for most of us, isn’t there an act of  perception that we find ourselves doing for our students, and  others? We see students who are acting out or not paying attention, and label them according to what we see or perceive to be the case, but often that is through how we see things. In honesty, we have not an inkling of what is going on in there shoes or minds for them to act or react a certain way. Again, it is a slippery slope to distinguish between what a child’s actions are intended to be and what they are perceived.

For  example, a student may come to school with an amazing project, llava oozing down the sides of a volcano and all. This can be seen two ways: the child slaved over the project, working tireless hours over the weekend, or they threw in the towel, and their parent took over their project, ensuring their child would be successful. Are we so focused on how our children will be perceived that we are willing to do things for them?

Case in point, in a recent book called The Confidence Code  by BBC World News America lead anchor Katty Kay, the argument was made  parents were so focused to ensure that their kids’ succeeded, that they we’re so desperate for kids to succeed and feel being successful that parents were doing everything for them. In other words, they intended for their children to  feel what it was like to be successful, but failed to think about how their actions would be perceived by both parents and students alike. As we struggle for our children and students to feel success and academic greatness, don’t we fail to see the negative consequences that also brings about?

True, we as the adults in the lives of students want our children to be successful, but at what cost? And even though it’s tricky and often a slippery slope, we want our children to struggle with acceptance of both what is perceived in their own life and what is intended. If we walk before them, how can children be leaders in their own life. However, if we guide them and teach them, then the lessons they learn will help them create their own destiny.

Silence Speaks

IMG_0401Lately, I’ve been intrigued by what children and adolescents, really learner of any age, says by their inactions. You know, all those little idiosyncrasies that make them them: the twirling of their hair while they are speaking, the chewing of the pen as they learn, or the constant tap tap tapping of their feet. Those things. 

When I was a little girl, I was captivated by reading people, learning their behaviors and mannerisms that would help me understand how or what they were saying. Now, it seems I am captivated by how all of these little things can add up into understanding them better as learners: how they learn best, and more importantly, what we, as the adults in their lives, can to do to form a bond that helps them become super heroes in their own right.

We can’t begin to convince ourselves that learning, understanding the learning process , is not connected to our feelings. When you think of how learning and feelings are connected, imagine one of those three metal rings that the magician at the classic birthday parties used to have. Somehow they are separate, each in their own right holding meaning and value. And try as you might you cannot unconnect them,  until they are all brought into one entity, a solid silver metal ring, that when given the right emotional attention, will release into their separate selves.    

Now take the same magician, except now  visualize each ring as one that is held by a learner: one representing their thoughts of what they are learning, the second how they feel about how or what they are learning, and the third, what they are doing while they are learning. The trick  seem a bit more complicated now, doesn’t it?

Just as no magician divulges his or her secrets to their greatest tricks, nor should children need to explain or validate the value they hold in, or how or what they feel and learn.

Life is a circus of not just many performers, but acts as well. For some we may see the life of our learner as their one act, wanting them to not experience the feelings of fault, failure, or defeat. But aren’t their more than one acts in our circuses? Don’t we all want our learners to be nothing but successful? Then let them be able to juggle not just their three rings, but maybe look at these three rings of what is said and not said in their mind, how they feel about their thoughts, and what actions they are making. 

Now the next time a magician performs this trick, and roar of the crowd begins to swell, think of all the juggling that children and adolescents do while learning, sometimes without immediate feedback, applause, or without any noise at all.

 

 

Mindset Matters

IMG_0400Mindset… it’s  the buzz word of all professionals who deal with children and adolescents. If you break the term down literally, you can think of it as what framework your mind is or can be in to prepare for what you are currently thinking or doing. The term gained popularity by contrasting different beliefs about where our abilities come from.

In the world of children and adolescents, this is often seen as  struggling with their inner critic, comparing our abilities to those of others. Everyone is guilty of this, both young and old. It has been phrased many ways over the years: stealing someone’s thunder, why didn’t I get that?, jealousy, etc. In other words, the power of our competitive side begins to manifest and drive what we do and more importantly, how our thoughts can affect how we do or act. 

One of the greatest quotes I took away from author Carol S. Dweck’s book Mindset is “no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment “. The key to any great mindset is connecting the feelings and actions, the shoulds into shall, and the wishes into wills.

The question then becomes what will I do to change my hopes into happenings? Mindset is a matter of setting your minds thoughts from negativity into positivity.

Emotional Rescuers

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I came across this article in The New York Times  which mentioned the term neontocracy, the downward spiral of parents putting their kids needs above your own, even above your parent-to-parent relationship. In other words, you do everything for your son or daughter that you fail, perhaps forget, to think about your own. This same rationale can be said about emotions, or what I like to call emotional rescuing.

We’ve all been there, feeling the immense guilt as you glance or even walk away from the sandbox on the playground. Will your child suffer harm if you leave them for a few seconds, probably not? Will they make a new friend or perhaps get their feelings hurt on their own? Perhaps, but by allowing them the chance to feel these emotions, to experience how to work through different feelings is a process that will not only help them recognize how their body is related to how they are feeling, but how to work through them as well.

In my class of fights, we often work through feelings that we get stuck on by playing in a sensory box full of letter tiles, beans, and sand (I know, I know the irony ). Often it times it helps to create a heart journal, where students can write senselessly, free of grammar or sentences, about how they are feeling about anything.

I guess my point is sometimes the rescuing we, as parents or adults who work with children, need to be doing is our own, just like the flight attendants tell us, put your oxygen mask on first. In the end, truly what good are we as parents or teachers to our children if we don’t have any wind or sails left?

Kindness Is a Muscle

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Not just any muscle, but the most important one of all. Like any muscle it needs conditioning, active practice to make it healthy, strong, even grow.

There was a recent spurge in the media around 50 days of kindness, continous acts of kindness that are done by the simple act of wanting to do better, kinder acts for others. Pushing a chair in, buying someone else’s coffee in line, even telling someone hello in the hall who may be having a bad day. Although these are acts that are kind in merit, shouldn’t they be done on a continuum and not continously for a shortened period of 40 days?

In Dr Peter Feruci’s book The Power of Kindness, he argues that those who practice kindness, truly acts of good toward others, will thrive in this world, later empowering others through these acts away from a world of self-centeredness and narcissism.So how does this affect how you feel, how your child may feel about how they learn? That’s simple, how the world sees them is often a reflection of their feeling, their thoughts about not only who they are and who the world sees, but who the world projects they may become.

Kindness is a beautiful thing ; a simple act has the power, potential to spiral into altruistic, loving acts towards others. Now think of it as a muscle and use the muscle towards how you or your child feel about learning, not just academically and emotionally. Simply put, this is an area that we need to condition and strengthen.

If we all invested this much energy we gear towards acts of kindness in 40 days, think of the impact we could do towards not just ourselves but how we feel about how we learn and potentially become?

Emotional Detectives

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Adults who work with children are generally perceived to be warm, nurturing, and tend to usually be great with children. They spend countless hours outside the classroom working, and their summers taking professional development classes that are required of their school districts. So, I find it not that surprising when their response when a teacher is told that they have to incorporate social emotional learning into their already deeply henvy shoulders.

Teachers feel like they are taxed with so many requirements and pressured requests by admin, all hoping to generate scores and growth down the line. The beauty of social emotional learning is that if you are already teaching well, to be fit your children in a way that encompasses their emotions and their mind, you are already doing it. In fact, if you alter your perception in that it something that you as a classroom or family can engage in and not you as the adult is responsible for, it can be life altering.

Think of all the times students come up to you as a teacher or parent with faces of defeat or frustration, it all begins with a single emotion. They may not be able to recognize or identify what it is that they are feeling, but their body is wearing how they are feeling. Their shoulders are shrugged, their body antsy as they learn something new, or their face is ridden with defeat. these are not the faces we as parents or teachers want to see time and time again.we want them to feel empowered, strong, and happy to take on the world. So what do we do? How to do we help our children without doing it solely on our shoulders?

There are several things you can do to help your child figure out what they are struggling with, but my go-to suggestion is for them to be an emotional detective. If it is, then there is an issue or issues that  they are struggling with, and encouraging them to sleuth it out, gives them the chance to not only decipher what it is that they are feeling, but to connect with  the reasons behind it. Emotional detectives are easily to implement both at home, and I’m the classroom, and it allows children to strengthen being able to pinpoint how their emotions are connected to their learning both in and outside the classroom, which is something we all want for ourselves as well, right?

A Child’s Magic: a learner’s self-empowerment

I am not a doctor. It sounds like an infomercial that you hear around 2 am when you can’t sleep blasting from the t.v., right? What I do have is eleven years of teaching under my belt in some of the lowest neighborhoods where most of the parents barely graduated high school, residencies for my counseling degree at a residential treatment center where girls had been in the foster system for most of their life, and working as a school counselor in a variety of settings.

Think of the fairy tales you read as a child, none of them spoke of a magic formula where everything you ever wanted came true just because you did something you were told to. Fairy tales happened because of what the character, usually an adorable girl with pig tales or a handsome young chap with an earnest desire to explore, did something about. They made it happen, mistakes and all. Shouldn’t children have that same opportunity?

Sometimes it’s all about working with what the child or learner brings to the classroom. Sometimes you have the unwillingness learners, the ones that  are sleepy, almost zombie like, like this kiddo I observed last week.

He was sluggish, and unmotivated, but given the appropriate content, I knew I could capture his attention. With those types of learners, I work with what he  is interested in learning  on his own.  Using the wiggle seat gave him a constant ripple of motions that sparked his body to engage physically, and working on something he liked the first thing in the morning, made his brain engage mentally. Connecting the brain and body made his learning relevant, which in turn, helped him take an active role in his learning.

Like I said, I’m not a doctor, but aren’t these simple adjustments with working with our children something we can all do? I am all about magic and children, I just feel that they should be in charge of their own destiny .

It’s A Matter of Perspective

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This week has been a whirlwind, with the death of two screen icons and the start of school back in the new year. My heart was heavy with loss as I grew up watching Debbie Reynolds in Singing In The Rain on the couch with my grandmother as well as the loss of her talented daughter, Carrie Fisher. I will admit I am not the most epic fan of Star Wars, but the awareness that she has brought to both the image and identity of addiction and mental heath is astounding.

So, back the my classroom of first grade fidgets…

As with the new year, just when all the ebbs and flows are settling in, I get a new student     (which I will admit comes in perfect timing as  it merits a review of rules and procedures for us all). One day as my fidgets were working, he came up to my table and said “Ms. Kohl, I have the hookups”. I tried to contain the giggles growing within myself, and responded “You mean the hiccups, don’t you?”. His response is one I will never forget, “Nope, they are heavier than the hiccups and they hook me up in my thinking”.

The newest member of the fidgets had renamed his hiccups based on how they made him feel, scrambling and interrupting his learning process. As the day progressed, I reflected on the role that perspective can play on a child’s own role in their learning. How much of their learning is fully comprehending and applying and how much is it a response or reaction to what they perceive to be happening?

There are many things we cannot control in life of a child especially how they perceive the events in their life, but we can adjust the quality of what we present to them. Think back to my new fidgeter, he fully believed he had renamed a mundane annoyance because of the role that it played in his learning. What else do children rename simply because they get pulled down by what they perceive? Self worth, love, success.

I know that the road blocks are heavy and hard to adjust or maneuver in the lives of our children (both taught or raised), but with a little prior preparation aren’t we able to replace their perception with a reality that is full of hopes and dreams, rainbows and butterflies?

 

 

Worries and Reactions

It is that time where we are at the end of one year, and the beginning of another. For children and adults, our minds fill with worry and anticipation of what lies ahead beyond… all that the new year will bring us, both known and unknown.

What is known for a child is often what is familiar, their daily routines and things that are familiar for them: how and where they study and relax. Often a change in these routines, like the start of a new year and talk of new goals, brings anxiety. Picture a wave rushing over you that instantly beckons the tells of worry: sweaty palms, the hair on the back of your neck standing up and your stomach twisting and turning. We cannot change what we do not know, but we can adjust on how we react. 

But we think about R-E-A-C-T differently in my first grade classroom.

R= recognizing why your upset

E = identifying your emotional response to the issue

 A= actively check out on thinking about it ( we use yoga in my room)

C= what or how will you change

T= take charge of how you can make it better

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Because at the end of every day, how we REACT to change makes all the difference, both good and bad.

Bore-dom

teenroofpicBoredom. By definition it is the state of being restless due to a lack of interest. From a child’s perspective, they to be overcome by a sense of impending doom with absolutely nothing to do at all. Often adults, we seem to misunderstand that boredom means something entirely different to them. As a parent, you think “pick from one thing that you have surrounding you and do it,” and yet it’s often not that simple.

Psychologically, boredom as a phrase has taken the place of words like frustrating or depressing. In a child’s case, their sense of doom could be a mirror of what they are feeling both within themselves and in interacting with others. External boredom is a simple cause and effect to solve by adjusting the external stimuli. If  they are bored with academics, give them a brain break and let them rest for a bit. I have seen yoga or using mint chap stick as an aromatherapy to lower the toxic run of emotions that often coincides with boredom. Internal boredom can be a more serious indicator that something’s going on.

Children live in such a world of inner thoughts and silence and yet listening to their stream of thoughts can be both empowering and toxic. If a child’s self-efficacy is high, then they they are the superheroes of their own world. They will try and attempt almost anything they set their minds too. However, if a child’s inner thoughts are toxic, they may prevent or hinder them from being the best version of themselves. Whatever a child’s age, even if they are in embarking on their teen-hood, teach them how to listen to themselves, and let their silence be your words.