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?

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

 

 

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?