Words By Any Name

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First of all, I am sorry for the absences of posts. As someone who works very hard in honoring commitments and passions, sometimes life gets in the way,  which got me thinking that life, by name alone, can come in many forms. Life can refer to the life we choose to live publicly versus privately, with our friends who have known us before our teen years, the life we desire, and finally, the life we have within ourselves, listening to what we feel and hope for, not just for own selves, but maybe for those we love the most.

And just like life, things that are the most important, that truly matter, can hold different meanings for everyone. Maybe we look at things differently because of how and where we grew up geographically, our social status, or how we perceive the world because of what we hold of value. These virtues, what we hold close to our souls and hearts, should not be why we are distanced from others, if anything it is why we are beautiful, why the world opens doors for us to introduce us to kindred spirits like friends or colleagues, teaches us about passionate projects like this one, or invites us along journeys like The Pollination Project

What I am trying to say, and I may not be doing a very eloquent job at it, is that the virtues that make us who we are, shouldn’t be the things that are used to break us down, single us out as different, or a means of distancing us from others. Regardless if  you are ten years old and feeling for the first time what sitting at a different table feels like, or wise beyond your years and feeling the prickle on your neck or flip in your stomach when someone says something that cuts you to  your very soul without knowing an iota about who you are, your self-esteem should be an extension of who you are, plain and simple.

There is so much energy being spent at the expense people’s emotional well-being of breaking down others, and for what? For the sheer satisfaction of a win, but at what cost? Wouldn’t it be easier if we all, as individuals, took the energy that we use at singling out the differences in one another, and used them to learn more about the world and relating to other people? A single choice of words can alter how a person feels about their own self or possible choices that have led them to get to this point.

Words can be cruel. They can also be powerful as well. And I am sure not a lot of people out there want to admit it, but no one wants to feel distanced because of what makes them who they are. I guess my point is this, words can be thorns of cruel pain that can foster feelings of doubt, but they can also be words that remind you of what a wonderful person you have become and all the choices that you have made to get you to this point.

No matter what you call it, virtues, values, all that makes you who you are, take the time out of our busy lives, and try to connect instead of disconnecting with others based on their own sense of self.

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.

 

 

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?

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?

 

 

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.

New Year, New Resolution

 

 

With the end of a year coming to a close, the new year begins with potential and promise. And so, as adults, the common tradition of creating a resolution begins: what can I accomplish this year and what steps must I take to see it happen? And as a parent, this often becomes the million dollar question of how do I explain setting a goal for new years to my child?

Children often see parents creating their new year’s resolutions and although it’s incredibly productive and progressive to allow your child to do so, let them be a child. Studies have shown that the increased role of play with children not only increases their sense of self, but has a neurological benefit as well. Although the function of the amygdala’s responsibility for emotion in the brain is well-documented, during childhood it begins to associate cues and responses with both positive and negative events. In other words, by letting your child explore their own world and more importantly, at their own pace , as a parent you are not only cultivating a better relationship with your child, but you are providing them with the greatest goal of all that is already accomplished: learning.

Mirroring Our Stresses

Over the Thanksgiving break, a fellow mom and I were talking about the politics of mommy hood. She had a birthday party for her seven year old, and only invited a few of the girls from school. My friend pulled this off swimmingly like a true professional. However, when another mom heard she wasn’t inviting her daughter, she snubbed her by saying that she would no longer to business with her via text message.

The thought of mirrors and mirroring comes to mind when I heard this story. As parents, we have the responsibility of showing our children how they should act. If we are behaving and treating each other like we should, then this should and never is a challenge. However, when we let the stress stay within then that is what becomes mirrored and in turn, what our children mimic as normal.

The question then remains, what we can do to change our mirrors?

When is behavior THAT kind of behavior

I had the pleasure of presenting at The Texas Girls Conference put on by GENAustin two weekends ago on finding your personal crown. While working with the girls and talking with their parents, the most common question I was asked was why this behavior? So many times, we as parents get fixated on that one behavior that seems out of place or that is affecting our children’s lives academically. What we have to remember is this behavior may seem out of the ordinary for you, but it is their normal. Your child may simply be at an impasse of finding the words to mirror their emotions. The next time you find yourself looking at that behavior, try asking questions that help your child communicate with words and not actions in getting what they want.