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?

Understanding SEL in the Spotlight

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Social emotional learning is certainly become quite a buzz word lately. Efforts have been made at the local level in several organizations to make social and emotional learning more of a well-known concept that is not only grasped, but a movement that teachers are thirsty for more of. Organizations like the Collaboration for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL)  have made it their mission to define and dissect the competencies of social emotional learning and how they should be integral component of not just within the classroom walls, but outside as well.

Often times the concept of  social emotional learning is intertwined in the world of educational and education services. For example, the Every Student Succeeds Act was  introduced to establish a set of academic competencies for students, including social and emotional competencies. For this author, this thrills me to end because it connects both the heart and the mind in the learning process. Children should be able to emotionally brilliant and feel good about themselves and others while soaring academically. 

Other various government bills such as S. 897, named after the six-year-old student Jesse Lewis who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School,  have made an addendum to pre-existing educational reforms or acts to include provisions that involve school-wide professional development to ensure that all adults involved in children’s lives at school have the well-needed tools and training to not only understand but implement the principles and concepts of social emotional learning.

All of these efforts  imply that there has been work made beyond the classroom walls, that teachers have more than a fundamental grasp of what it means when the term social emotional learning is used at school. I do think that there is a thirst for teachers and professionals to want to integrate these concepts in the learning process, but that comes with a waning feeling felt by teachers of already feeling taxed and burdened by what is already being asked of them. What I wish I could shout out across the buildings for everyone to hear is that if you are teaching your child well, either in our outside the classroom, you are already doing this. Teach your child to love not just others, but themselves for not just who they are, but what and how they learn.

Nonprofits like Un-included Project empower children to increase their self-esteem and self-worth through engagement both academically and emotionally in various arenas. Efforts made nationally reflect the desire to include social emotional learning and concepts into the academic and professional development framework for both teachers and students.  I am more thrilled that it has reached national attention, but if this is all about the children, let’s start with them. 

For more information on Social Emotional Learning please visit:

Collaboration for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL)

Emotional Intelligence As Standard Intelligence

Neuroscience Behind Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning