Tuesday, 15 May 2018

What is calm?

 I used to go to yoga classes at the gym fairly regularly and I found the shivasana part at the end of the class challenging.  Shivasana is corpse pose - you lay flat on your mat on your back, arms just out from your sides, palms up and you breathe slowly while the teacher talks you through a relaxation exercise.  You scan your body, part by part, and release any tension.  The lights are usually dim and the music, if any, is quiet.  I struggled with shivasana.  I would lay there and think about all the things I needed to do when I left the gym, and go over an argument I had with one of my kids, or think about a challenge I was dealing with at work.  Then I'd force myself back to my body and a few seconds later I was busy 'monkey mind' again. I forced myself to stay on the mat, even though some people left before shivasana.
After a long time, maybe a couple of months of yoga class, I was lying there on my mat at the end of class one day and the instructor said, 'when you're ready, move your wrists. When you're ready, move your ankles...' This is the beginning of the end of shivasana - then you slowly return to sitting position and do some breathing but the class is ending.  And as i was laying there, I thought "I'm not ready! I don't want to move yet."  I was so relaxed.  I think that's when I realized, 'This is what calm feels like."

In self-reg, our goal is to help students (and teachers and parents) to get to a place where they are calm, alert and ready to learn. Students can't learn if their limbic alarm is kindled. No one can learn if they are in a state of fight, flight or freeze. But how can we support people in being calm, alert and ready to learn if they don't know what calm feels like? If they can't recognize what it is to feel calm?

In today's hyperkinetic, multitasking, always connected society, where many of us reach for our phones the moment we feel the slightest twinge of boredom, how do learn what calm feels like? How do we help students recognize what it feels like to be calm?

Monday, 7 May 2018

Resources for Outdoor Classroom Day

When is Outdoor Classroom Day?
May 17, 2018

What is Outdoor Classroom Day?
Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. On the day, thousands of schools around the world take lessons outdoors. In 2017, over 2 million children in over 100 countries took part. (from https://outdoorclassroomday.com)

Why Outdoor Classroom Day?

Children in some school districts have less time outside as time for recess has been cut back in order to spend more time on academics even though we know that recess and outdoor time is important for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. Outdoor learning increases engagement, reduces inappropriate behaviour and allows students to engage in meaningful, relevant, purposeful active learning.

Outdoor learning boosts student and teacher well-being

Outdoor learning boosts children's development - a BBC article

Importance of outdoor education in adolescence

Children Using Nature for Self-Regulation in Urban Environments

A Research-Based Case for Recess

The Death of Recess in America

Almost Half of Preschool Children do not Play Outside Each Day

Last Child In The Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder


Resources from the Outdoor Classroom Day website which can be sorted by age group and subject area

Natural Curiosity: Building Children's Understanding of the World Through Environmental Inquiry - a free downloadable book for Kindergarten to Grade 6

Ready Set Wonder: Nature Prompts for the Early Learning and Child Care Educators - a free downloadable book from the Back to Nature Network
(also available in French at http://www.back2nature.ca/readysetwonder-version-francais-de-attention-prets-a-lemerveillement/)

Into Nature: A guide to teaching in nearby nature - a free downloadable book with lesson ideas for students in kindergarten to grade 6 from Back to Nature Network
(also available in French at http://www.back2nature.ca/teachers-guide-into-nature-french/)

101 Nature Study Ideas

25 Mighty Girl Books about outdoor discovery

9 books that will inspire your little animal to get out of the house and into nature

7 books to inspire nature play

What are your favourite resources or activities for outdoor learning? What will you and your students be doing on Outdoor Classroom Day?

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Self-Reg and Aging

While I began my self-reg journey from the perspective of an educator, thinking about how self-reg could help students to achieve their fullest potential, I quickly realized that self-reg begins with the self - with me and my own self-regulation. Yesterday, I used self-reg from the perspective of a daughter during a visit to my dad.

Last week, my husband took a week off from work and we spent the entire week in London getting his condo ready to sell.  He lived in it for a few years when he was working in the city, then he had tenants in it for a few years and, for the past three years our girls have lived in it while they attended post-secondary school.  Like most renovations, it is taking longer than we anticipated and we are doing most of the work ourselves - ripping out carpeting, installing laminate floors, removing panelling in the basement and putting up dry wall. Needless to say, there were lots of stressors as we worked together on this project each day and then collapsed into bed each night.

At our own home, we are still returning to normal after a flood while I was away on vacation two weeks ago. The interior of our home is fine, but the garage is filled with all of the seasonal decorations that were salvaged and scrubbed clean after the crawlspace beneath the house filled with lake water. Unfortunately, there was also the emotional stress of losing many holiday decorations - my grandmother's ornaments that hung on her tree and now ours, decorations the girls had made when they were younger, ornaments that we had picked up on our travels - all were ruined and discarded.

I usually go to visit my dad twice a week to help with his banking, run personal errands and just chat about what's happening with folks we know. My dad is dealing with his own stressors that come with aging. He decided to move to a retirement home last fall, and while he chose a lovely place, it's not the same as being at home. The challenges of having to be dependent on others for so many things, especially since he decided to stop driving last fall. He still reels from the loss of my mom (12 years younger and always so much healthier than him), and the physical challenges of aging.

Yesterday as I was preparing to leave, I knew that I had to stop for a moment and restore some of my own calmness.  If I was to bring all the stress and tension I was carrying with me to my visit with him, it would only add to the stress and tension he is already feeling.  By making a conscious effort to approach this visit with compassion and empathy, as well as taking the time to return to a place on the Thayer Matrix of less tension and more energy, I was able to arrive at his retirement home relaxed and calm - even after encountering 3 different construction projects on the road during my short drive!

As an educator and a consultant, I used this same tool. Whether heading into a classroom of kindergarten children or an auditorium of educators gathered for a professional learning session, I needed to take time to reflect on my own energy and tension before beginning my work with others.

Just as I was about to post this blog on Twitter, I saw that Stuart Shanker has shared this quote:

And I responded:

And in another instance of serendipity, I found Nancy Niessen's blog post: Reframing is Ageless yesterday when I was reflecting on this link with self-regulation and my dad.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter Memories

Happy Easter everyone.  Reading Doug Peterson's blog post about Easter this morning brought back so many memories. When we were kids, mom would poke a hole in ends of the raw eggs with a darning needle and then we had to blow all the egg 'guts' out into a bowl before dying the eggs. She would use the eggs for cooking scrambled eggs for breakfast for all of us.  I can remember how hard it was to empty all the eggs and my brother and I would complain that we were going to 'blow our brains out.'

I have two brothers - one is 2 years younger than me and one 7 years younger.  To make the egg hunt fair, mom would hide the chocolate eggs in bunches of three and when you found one, you had to put one in each person's basket.

Growing up, my girls coloured eggs every year but we only hid the chocolate eggs. I put the little foil chocolate eggs in those plastic eggs so if one did get missed, it didn't melt on the carpet and the cat didn't find it and try to eat it. We also hid coins in some of the eggs and I think the girls liked those ones better than the chocolates. The got lots of chocolate from their grandparents and other family, but cash was in short supply when you're a kid unless the tooth fairy had paid a recent visit.

Then it was off to church and a family dinner with all the cousins.

When they were little, they would use the plastic eggs and the baskets and play 'egg hunt' for days after Easter. One of them would hide the eggs, then the other would have to run around the house to find them. Great memories!

Each year I host Easter dinner for my extended family.  Not everyone can make it this year - three of my nieces and my brother have to work. Some years Easter is right around the same time as university and college exams, which adds an extra level of stress.

This will be our first time hosting in our smaller home, so it's going to be cozy. I wonder sometimes what will happen as the girls get older, and begin families of their own. Will there come a time when our big extended family no longer gets together for Easter, Christmas and New Years? As a kid, my dad's extended family got together all the time - Christmas, New Years Day, my grandparents' anniversary, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Thanksgiving. I hope our generation can keep this family tradition alive for years to come.

What are your Easter Memories? Did you dye eggs with those little packs from the store with the dye and the little metal holder? Easter egg hunts with chocolate eggs or did you hide the dyed eggs? What are your family traditions?

From http://en.davno.ru/easter/easter-6.html

Monday, 19 March 2018

Two Women

@NoelineL tweeted:

The March edition of Canadian Living, p. 13, issues a challenge, to guys too: to share a story about two women, one personal and one historical, who have motivated you.  Would you consider sharing?

Doug Peterson posted his response on his blog: Chris Stephenson, a salesperson who had challenged his thinking and Joan of Arc.

So I went to Canadian Living to read the whole challenge:

Did you know that, according to MerriamWebster, "feminism" was among 2017's most looked-up words? In honour of International Women's Day (March 8), here are some ways that men, women and children can celebrate MerriamWebster's word of the year. Get inspired. Notable Canadians in cities from coast to coast will have talks and conferences. Explore history. Host your nearest and dearest (men, too!), asking each to have in mind a story about two women (one personal, one historical) who've motivated them. Be empowered. Do what we do best: rise to the occasion and take on a completely new task that even you thought you'd never do!

There are so many women who have motivated me personally - my mother and grandmothers, many teachers in high school, and principals and superintendents that I worked for throughout my career. But, the two who motivate me the most are my daughters, Shelby and Madison.  I often joke that I am 'the world's okayest mom.'  I'm never going to win 'mother of the year.' I make lots of mistakes.  But, because of my girls, I am motivated to do the best I can do, and to seek forgiveness when I screw up. Shelby had an interview recently, and the interviewer noted how hard working she was and commended her for her initiative.  Shelby said she told the interviewer, "My mom is retired and she's almost done her doctorate plus she's writing a book.  That's just the kind of people we are." Madison called me a few weeks ago and said, "I want to go to Tokyo in April. Want to come with me?"  I'm so glad my girls aren't afraid to chase their dreams and invite me along for the ride!

Historically, I would choose Indira Ghandi, who was prime minister of India from 1966-1977 and again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984.  When I went to school, history was mostly about old, white guys. I don't remember learning about any notable women. But when I was a kid growing up, Indira Ghandi was prime minister of India.  At that time, the idea of a woman prime minister in Canada was unheard of, and let's face it, Americans were making a HUGE deal about the possibility of a woman president in the last election. The glass ceiling is still unbroken for Hillary. I was too young to understand Indira Ghandi's policies and politics, but the idea that a woman could be prime minister of a country was very inspiring to me.

(Source: Art by Tanya Leigh)

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Resources for World Down Syndrome Day

On March 21st people across the world will be wearing their mismatched colourful socks to celebrate Rock Your Socks for World Down Syndrome Day.  Rock Your Socks is held on the 21st day of the 3rd month because the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome leads to Down Syndrome.  

So wear your brightest, craziest, mismatched socks and post your pictures on social media!!!! When someone asks "Why are you wearing those socks?" you'll have the perfect opening to tell them that March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day and that you are celebrating all the great things that people with Down Syndrome can do, as well as helping to advocate for inclusion and respect.

#worlddownsyndromeday #wdsd2018 #rockyoursocks

Children's Picture Books about Down Syndrome

World Down Syndrome Day

Happy Soul Project - Facebook

Chasing Hazel blog

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Why Do People Come To Work When They Are Sick?

"Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us."
~ Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

I can only speak from my own experience. Perhaps this is prevalent in other professions too.  Why do teachers push themselves to go to work when they are sick, tired, and in need of rest and recuperation?  Some would say it's because it's more work to prepare for a supply teacher than it is to come in when you are sick.  Yet when I worked in the central office, and there was no supply teacher to prepare for, people still came to work when they should have stayed home.  In this age of technology, when you can still deal with much of the work at home via email, why not stay home when you are sick?

Part of my desire for people to stay home when they are ill is selfish.  You are sick.  You are sharing your germs with everyone else here at work.  We are trying to stay healthy. Teachers complain when parents send a sick child to school but then they themselves come to school when they are ill. 

Is Maya Angelou right? Is it ego?  Do we think that things will just not get done right if we aren't there to do them. The school/classroom/students can't manage without me, even for just one day?

Is it the 'cult of busyness' where we equate our value with how busy we are?  

Is it the 'teacher as martyr' stance?

I asked a co-worker, "if your child was this sick, would you send him to school?" 

"No, but....."

I interrupted her.  "Why not? Why would you make him stay home?"

She thought.  "He's not going to be able to learn so what's the point of being in school. It's not fair to the other kids."  After a moment, she added, "And it's not fair to the teacher."

I wish I could say that she then reframed her own behaviour using this same lens of compassion for herself and her co-workers.  That she realized that she wouldn't be able to work to her full potential, and that coming to work sick is not fair to herself or her co-workers. That she went home for the afternoon.  But I'd be lying.  She went back into her desk, coughing and hacking and probably full of aches and pains and fever, and went back to work.

Try to remember the survival advice they give you on an airplane - first you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself, then you can help others.