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?