Self-Regulation: Give Me 5!

The best part of retirement, which in reality has become semi-retirement, is having time to invest in things that/people who, matter to me. Flexibility to hang out with friends, family, and grandchildren in the MIDDLE of the day just doesn’t get old!

There has been surprising bonus. One I didn’t fully anticipate. The opportunity to delve into self-regulation. SR snuck up on me over the past 6 years. It peaked my curiosity as my experience within a traditional, behaviouralist lens complete with laborious plans, sometimes written in matrix form, including the prerequisite consequence and reward chart did not work for many kids. More salient in my case, was  that it wasn’t working to improve the overall tone and workability in a classroom setting. Coupled with the expectation by some that children be punished for ‘bad’ behaviour I found a disconnect from my basic belief about children. A belief that was certainly influenced by the work of Ross Greene “Kids do well if they can.”

As an educator Greene’s work made complete sense. Rather than the premise that kids wanted to be disruptive, which could include yelling, fighting, work refusal, hiding, etc. they were doing so because they had lagging skills or lacked the ability to solve presenting problems. While their disruptive behaviours are clearly not helpful or even acceptable, punitive actions or reactions were also not making a significant difference.Years before I’d heard of self-regulation I had been trained as a Parent Connect facilitator (now  CONNECT© parent program). Principle #1 in this 10 week attachment based program was, “All Behaviour Has Meaning”. We took on the role of detective discovering which attachment need was not being met.

On this point I was very clear – there is more to maladaptive behaviours than pathology and/or getting attention, or getting out of work! We’d based our schools on those principles for decades and other than pockets of improvement the status quo prevailed. Kids acted up, or shut down, resulting in disrupted learning for many along with worn out, frustrated teaching staff.

During my time as an administrator I relied heavily on my counselling training. Unconditional positive regard, building relationships, making connections, and the critical piece of instilling hope have been foundational in my counselling practice and transferred well into my role of school administrator. These foundational tenets would have had little synergy within a rule-based, consequence/reward system of managing conduct in a school setting. Fortunately our school was moving towards a self-regulation model and away from the rigidity of the solely behaviouralist theory base. Phew! Even before learning what I know now about self-regulation, I knew that each child was different and a One Size Fits All discipline plan, which may work for a moment, does NOT translate into the transformational change we were seeking for our students.

I can’t express enough how much I am enjoying speaking about self-regulation at various schools. My experience so far is that staff are yearning for and thus seeking out ways that will provide long lasting change rather than a compliant quick fix. But make no mistake, change is not easy, nor is it quick.

Our bodies have a furnace. The job of that furnace is to set and maintain a healthy temperature. We don’t want pipes freezing or exploding. Nor do we want things so hot, we are in danger of growing mould or mildew. It would be so easy if we just set the temperature and it stayed the same all the time. But life isn’t like that. Our needs fluctuate.

Along with the furnace we also have an alarm system located in our amygdala. It’s the rare person who’s alarm is set to perfection. There are times that this alarm alerts us of dangers that may not be a danger at all. To add to the layers, there are things like smells, sounds, the feel of fabric that can trigger this alarm in many of us. Once that alarm is triggered it can be ever so difficult to shut it down. That would be the role of our pre frontal cortex, but once that alarm is sounding, the PFC can have an almost impossible time turning off that darn alarm. Self-Reg teaches us that sometimes we need to be that prefrontal cortex for someone else, because you see, we are not alone in this.

Dr. Bruce Perry, in his trauma work summarizes the response to a triggered alarm (heightened stress response) as:

Regulate, Relate, Reason

The key is that we, and by we I mean all of us, need to bring ourselves into a calm state (restore) before we can regain the ability to reason. This is true for the adults in a school building, parents at home, and children/youth alike. This is not new, but what is newish is that we know that this is working in classrooms and homes all across our land.

Loving that in this next phase of life, Better is still Possible,

The Story of the Log Jam

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Close Your Eyes; What Do You See?

It’s curious that as I’ve aged I’ve become more of who I was as a child. Before my friends and family chime in with a resounding, ‘grow up’, let me explain.

One of my deep abiding memories, more explicit than implicit, includes a lingering feeling of angst. The existential question of why are we here? Why are we born? What is the purpose of life? I have a vivid picture of sobbing inconsolably; worried about what would happen when my Omie died. I was 9. She lived until I was 32. There were many years to cry and wonder.

We’re born. We live. We die. Is that it? Those were the unspoken wonders of my young self.

Now take that sensitive youngster and put her into school. I have no idea what class sizes were in the 60’s, but here’s what I do remember about my primary years:

  • an indoor teeter-totter in Kindergarten
  • Nap time in Kindergarten
  • An indoor play area in the basement of the school where we played during rainy days (it was Vancouver, it rained a lot)
  •  Writing – probably printing. A wonderful grade 2 teacher who let me write books. I think my longest was 32 pages. The pride of composing. I have no idea what I wrote about, but she gave me time to write all I needed to write.
  • School plays. We did The Gingerbread Man and I was a tree. I think I realized then that I wanted to direct school plays. For sure I never wanted to be a tree again!
  • I was a quiet student, which was a vast contrast to the loud little girl I was at home. One of my teachers actually said that when I spoke in class I could yell – that’s how quiet my voice was.
  • Getting almost all A’s because in the 60’s we had letter grades in primary.

My primary years were good. I had good friends, caring teachers. I had a solid academic beginning.

Then we moved and everything changed.

My grade four teacher was a well known graphologist. Her sister was an MP. I tell you this because even now, I recall how often she referenced who she was. She made us do this activity where we had to close our eyes and imagine. I hated closing my eyes to imagine. I could imagine just fine with my eyes open. But being the compliant student I was I’d close my eyes, more like clench them as tight as I could, and try my hardest to see something. Her question after this exercise was always, “what did you see?” I saw black. BLACK. Once she called on me and was angry that I saw black. As hard as I tried, I simply couldn’t see the clever pictures the other students were describing. I was so puzzled. I didn’t fit.

Grade 4 was when I started refusing to go to school. My poor mom had a tough time forcing me out the door every morning. My brothers, delightful men that they are, still mock me about those mornings!  My mom had several meetings with this teacher, and it was quite clear that this teacher didn’t see value in me. I was the quiet new german girl in her class and I wasn’t as smart as the other kids. Never-mind that at 9 I was taking my Grade 4 Royal Conservatory exam in piano and often performed at church. Never-mind that I could do a pretty decent basketball layup, never-mind that I did needlepoint with my Omie and was learning how to sew…a dress! To this teacher (at least from my perspective) I only saw black and BLACK was nothing.

Looking back, I realize that this woman caused me a lot of harm. What I learned in Grade 4 was that I didn’t belong. I realize now that that year impacted my teaching career profoundly. My own students needed to know they belonged. I never insisted students close their eyes, even playing ‘Seven Up’, it was important that they felt/knew they were safe. I know I got better at my craft of teaching as I gained experience. Relationship and community came first. That was the difference maker.

A lot of life has happened since the 60’s. A whole lot of good and to be fair, a good bit of tragedy. In the end I’m not sure the good and bad balances out as much as integrates in.

With more discretionary time available to me in this ‘next’ phase of life, I have reverted back to pondering those big questions.

Why are we here? What is life about? Is it as basic as the birth to death cycle? What about our time in between birth and death?

I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Gerald May (who happens to be the 1/2 brother of Rollo May) called The Dark Night of the Soul. It’s not as much about the dark as it is about meditation and contemplation, two practices that involve curiosity and mystery. Ultimately life is mysterious. We just don’t know. What struck me was how these ideas, their meaning and depth transfer to teaching. What if one of our roles is the learning-gardener? We needn’t have our students worry about preparing to learn because we have done this for them. We prepare our classroom with areas for all needs. We set up our classrooms as an optimal learning environment both physically and emotionally. That is our work. Then it is the work of the student to learn, to play, to explore, to wonder, to grow.  As I reflect on my own transformation over the years, what strikes me is how even minute changes now compel me to nurture those same possibilities for my own students/clients and of course, grandchildren.

I am still in awe when transformational change occurs. When a student who has never played an instrument learns to play a tune on his/her instrument of choice in just a few short weeks – that, in my mind, is transformational change. They don’t unlearn that.  That moment from not knowing to knowing. The mystery! My role is to offer guidance, give instruction, set the stage, but the doing, the learning, that is the part of the student. Experiences of empathy, kindness, compassion, creativity, play, alongside academics are building blocks we educators can intentionally prepare and adapt throughout our time with students. It is both privilege and responsibility. And make no mistake – it is not easy!

In case you’re wondering, I still see black when I close my eyes. I have come to understand that it wasn’t the literal picture my old Grade 4 teacher was after. I was so fixated on actually seeing something that I was blinded to the beautiful images, wonders, and stories that were there all along. With my eyes and heart wide open, I see then now.

Proof again, that better is possible,

The Story of the Log Jam

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#OneWord2016-Next

Almost exactly a year ago I was struggling to come up with a spiffy, original, meaningful, dazzling, totally unique OneWord2015. It had to be the best OneWord ever! After way too much introspection (self-absorption) acceptance became my 2015 word.

January 2016: The Struggle Returns. What will my OneWord 2016 be? Words flit through my head but none settle. This heart rejects them one by one. Perhaps rejection should be the word. I agree, too harsh.

In hindsight 2015 was indeed a year of change making acceptance exactly the right word. We welcomed two new grandsons into our family, a Perry family of four moved to far away Texas, my reverend and I both quit our day jobs (aka retirement2015), and we moved back to Coldstream. Change? Nope, that’s not quite it yet.

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Solitude

Solitude? Nope. Fresh? Nope. Hope? No. Newness? No, no, no. Not one word is choosing me for 2016. What does keep circling is the two word phrase:

“What’s Next?”

What’s Next? Each new day is a blank slate. Fresh. No plans. Clean page.

Our morning conversations go something like:

Me: What are you going to do today?

Him: Whatever I want.

Me: That’s nice, but what are you going to do today? I need plans, dear husband. At least let me plan your day.

See what I mean? What’s Next?

First snowfall 2015 on driveway

Each morning is like the first footsteps on fresh snow. Where to? What’s next?

Being the rule bound person I am, two words simply won’t work for a OneWord task. Therefore…are you ready for it?

Carol’s OneWord2016 is…

NEXT

 

Happily done for another year!

The Story of the Log Jam

If you’re interested here are links to my previous OneWord posts. OneWord2015Acceptance  OneWord2013/14Enough   OneWord2012 Joy  OneWord2011Joy  OneWord2011JoySummary

To find your tribe go to OneWord365.

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Beyond Strength

When strength is all but gone, when its existence is a mere flicker, then what? Where to now? To quote two year olds everywhere, “Why?”

We sleep, we wake, we eat, we work, if we’re lucky or smart, we play. That’s it. That’s the balance. As long as we stay in that routine, we are strong! In balance I find my strength.

Until the balance shifts.

Less work. Little sleep. Too much eat. Less play.

Strength attempts to hold on. It reaches with all that is within. Sometimes it can grasp that one thing, that needed touchstone. Sometimes, there is no strength for grasping. Where to now? Where DO we go when our strength is out of reach?

We move beyond strength 

When we lose a loved one…we move beyond strength

When we are hit by crisis…we move beyond strength

When we experience deep disappointment…we move beyond strength

When our strength is but a raspy breath, we still breathe. In, hold, out.  We rest. We rely. We let another hold our hope…we move beyond strength 

Too often these words from Ecclesiastes 4 ~ The Message ~ reflect my thoughts:

“1-3 Next I turned my attention to all the outrageous violence that takes place on this planet—the tears of the victims, no one to comfort them; the iron grip of oppressors, no one to rescue the victims from them… “

Where is Strength? As the cord is fraying, as the hold is weakening, as I cry out for help, there comes a reminder. We lean in. We let go, rest, gain strength from others. We wait there. There we restore.

The hope: (Ecclesiastes 4:12)  

  “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” 

This morning I woke up with the song “Worn” by 10th Avenue North playing through my ear buds. (yes, I sleep with ear buds – don’t ask).  Words of strength. Pleas rising from weariness. Just enough strength to cry for help. Help for all.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My own life is well. I’m fine. Other than navigating my new work routine, which has been interesting, life has great moments. Yet, that great has been touched by tragedy. Not my own, but that of friends. This is cliche, but I suppose that as we age we notice death more often. And then I’m back to wondering, ‘Where does strength come from?’ How do I reach beyond strength?

Psalm 121 ~ The Message

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep. God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you – Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moon stroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.

I know this to be true for me. When I have moved beyond strength I am reminded that it is He who guards me. Sometimes strength is found in the stillness that is Him. Sometimes it’s weaved within the cords of friendship.

For those I know who have recently suffered tragic loss you are not alone. At your core He is there. Beyond that, we, your friends, are there. We hold your hope. We rejoice as you move back into the land of the living. We are part of your three-stranded rope!

For the many I don’t know but have read of your devastating loss, I am committed to holding you in my prayers. Your loss is not unnoticed. I guess the message for me is that Redemption does win. I need to remind myself of that.

Songs rising out of ashes…powerful melodies of healing. This is truth. This is hope.

This is beyond strength! 

We were made for relationship. May we be willing to share our strength with those who have for the moment moved beyond their own?

Much love,

The Story of the Log Jam 

 

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Recreating Christmas

Christmas 2015. At our house. Finally.

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We made it. THIS is the year. The year of retirement. After 9 seasons away we’ve returned to Christmas in Coldstream; a dream come true.

With rose coloured glasses firmly (more likely hanging by a thread) in place I’m transported to a cosy place of planning to host a rather grand family Christmas. We will fill our house to the brim with cousins, siblings, sons and daughters. The cousins will don their new colour coordinated jammies continuing the tradition passed down from my own Omie.

Full stop!

I’m not my Omie. I don’t have her patience, her baking and cooking skills, her ability to sit quietly in the corner. I do however; fret, have hot flashes, snap at my oldest when he butts into my kitchen (even if he is a better cook than me).

I don’t follow a straight line. Plans that are clear to me may need interpreting for others. “Connect the dots” is a favourite phrase of my dear spouse. What do you mean I’m random? Sheesh!

Apparently I have a tendency to pounce on people with my opinions before they even come in the front door. Pounce/Welcome…semantics! And lately, well lately, I’ve become obsessed with shutting cupboard doors and turning off lights.

Oh. My. Word.

It’s time for memories to collide with new experiences. Does that sound a bit violent to anyone else? Change is messy, eh?

Carol’s Christmas… what is it exactly?

While I don’t make most of Omie’s recipes (I buy, not bake fruitcake) I do make my mom’s Christmas Cookie Logs.  This crispy  cookie with the nutmeg sprinkled frosting is a regular part of my Christmas baking tradition. And the stuffing. Ours is a meat stuffing. The more pork sausage the better. My mom makes it best. I’m getting close, although my kids still like Grandma’s better.

Our grandkids have a Papa. Papa Jim to be exact! (Truth be told they all have at least 3 grandpas, such is the experience of the blended family.) I never had a papa. Not one. Both died before I was born. Papas make a difference.

What if our new memories include:

  • squishing too many people around the table;
  • two different table clothes to cover the sheet of plywood Papa put over the regular dining table so we could all fit. No kids table at this house (yet);
  • doors and windows open even though it’s below zero and there’s snow outside. Grandma and those hot flashes;
  • Papa’s mashed yams with roasted marshmallows on top;
  • Auntie Jen and her fake chicken;
  • a Christmas tree that is two sizes too small;
  • a dash of grumpy grandma along with good cheer?

What if?

The thing is I can’t manipulate new memories. Try as I might to re-create the experiences of my own childhood Christmases it never works out that way. There is a sadness in that. I’m learning that it’s ok to acknowledge the ‘sads’. I can’t deny Christmases past, nor can I successfully predict the Christmas that is set to happen in two short days.

What I can do is prepare. Preparation combined with hope.

Hope that our grandchildren will come away with memories that bring them peace, love, and warmth.

Hope that when they are my age, they will look back fondly at Christmases spent at Grandma Carry-all and Papa’s along with their cousins,  uncles, aunts,  friends and, and, and…

Hope that they will come to believe the words of Linus…

For Unto Us is Born This Day

Hope that with each passing year, they will know that with Him, Christ the Lord, Better is always possible.

Merry Christmas to all!
The Story of the Log Jam

 

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Christmas Through the #Selfreg Lens

There is a fear that when viewing Christmas through a lens of self-regulation, pictures of sugarplums resting, rather than dancing, will come to our heads.

Point #1 

Self-regulated doesn’t mean Zen Zombie. Having tools to self-regulate allows for freedom previously not experienced. For all ages. 

Christmas to-do’s rival Santa’s ‘checking-it-twice’ list.

  • Trees
  • Decorations
  • Food
  • Presents
  • Music
  • Family

Oft times Christmas can shift from joyous to just plain annoying. The season of good-will towards all,  can push even the most evolved adult to a state of stress overload. And what about the kids? With all the excitement it can be easy to forget their angst. Fear or worry, with or without anxiety, can be highly stressful.

Dr. Stuart Shanker, Founder The MEHRIT Centre on self-regulation:
“Self-regulation is the ability to manage stress. It refers to the neural processes that control the energy expended to deal with a stressor and then recover. When an individual’s stress levels are too high various systems for thinking and metabolic recovery are compromised. The signs of dysregulation can show up in the behaviour, mood, attention, and/or physical well-being of a child, teen or adult.”

Think of a student, that one who is unable to complete a Christmas craft without crushing it in frustration; 0r the little one who really wants to help decorate for Christmas, but rather, ends up in time out.  Now picture those same children recovering from stress overload. Can it happen? Yes it can. BUT, it ain’t easy! 

Point #2

Self-regulation is a process not a program. It lives in the realm of the experiential. “We experience self-regulation in our bodies”.

The last thing we want is to do is “cause more harm”. For those students who already  unconsciously dread Christmas, we must do our best to create new memories that can slide safely through their hard shell of previous disappointment. Memories we hope will be life-long. We do so with love and care. We offer opportunities that speak to the wonder of December to everyone in our building <think ALL>.  This balance is a delicate one. It is achieved by knowing our students. It comes on the back of relationship.

With all the busyness it can be easy to overlook the heightened stress created by angst. Here are some suggestions to consider as you journey towards a #selfreg Christmas:

  • Play. Good old unstructured play. Outside is best.
  • Laugh. Alot.
  • Set aside the tough stuff. It’s not the best time of year to be tackling new or difficult concepts.
  • Let go of being ‘right’.
  • Read to your class. Read often. Let them scatter around the room, finding their own safe place for listening.
  • Safety. Keep in mind emotional safety. This is the toughest season of all for some.
  • Set up different spaces for different needs. Squishy bean bag type chairs for some, desks for others. High tables/kneeling tables/mats to lie on.
  • If your school doesn’t have a place for students to go when they need a break, get together with a few staff and come up with a place. It’s worth the proactive effort. (Note: This is not a punishment place!)
  • Listen well.
  • One size does not fit all. Different kids have different needs. Add to that the obvious; what worked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow.
  • Be a detective. I’ve been saying this for years. Find out what works for your little or not so little ones by paying attention, snooping around…so to speak.
  • Know your kids. What’s their story?
  • Relationships matter. Lean into yours.
  • Take care of you. Know when YOU need a break.
  • Celebrate successes. Celebrations! not rewards.
My toolkit shall be named copy

 

Thank you to Cathern Lethbridge for creating a Carol Perry meme!

 

My ultimate #selfreg goal is to equip children and/or adults with the process of connecting to their congruent self. The self that holds curiosity wonder, trust love, and JOY alongside fear, hurt, and disappointment. When we begin to feel stress rising, how wonderful it would be to be able to notice the signs enough to override the limbic system’s reactivity response to fight, flight, or freeze. This shift will not happen overnight, it is indeed a lifelong process. There is no better time to start than now.

With the knowing that; Better is Possible.

The Story of the Log Jam

 

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Fresh Starts

Today’s forecast: Snow.
The first real snowfall of the season: freshness, newness, unending possibilities.
Then a question:
Hello  !  This week we are giving  #thanks in a slow chat
Q1) What are you most thankful for in your life?  
Perfect timing: I am thankful for Fresh Starts. They are new every morning!

Solitude by Carol Perry (January 29, 2012)

Early morning is my hands down favorite time of the day.

The solitude of early awakenings is the perfect venue
to process the echoes of the day before, to lay them to rest;
to listen for the whispers of an emerging day.
More-so it’s that place of in between.
No more yesterday, not yet today…
The here and now! An emptiness that is not lonely.
I am alone but not alone.
My time to reflect on the possibility of a new day.

I am thankful for the Soul Settling Peace of early mornings.  

With all that is perplexing, concerning, worrisome, impossible…
it is my time to wonder about positive outcomes,
it is my time to dream of reconciliations, to savour thoughts of seemingly impossible goodness,
it is my time for an internal smile that begins in my soul and ambles outward reaching my lips.
I smile in my solitude.

Perhaps it’s a sign of my age, but I’m left with praise and gratitude summed up in these simple words…To God Be the Glory!

The if only’s will come soon enough, for now I relish my solitude.

Blessings,                                                                                                                              

The Story of the Log Jam

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What I Really Think – Part 2

My mind is in a muddle. There is much to process.  One of the things I miss most about not going to work every day is the opportunity to verbally exchange ideas with colleagues, students, and parents. As I’ve often said, ours was a chatty school full of verbal processors. My poor dear reverend can only listen so much, and truth be told, he’s not very chatty!

At only 59, it feels a bit strange to have so many options of ‘what to do’ with my life. Surely that is a question for the late adolescent, and then the 20, 30 or even 40 year olds. Most of the time, I am really liking the open-endedness of choosing what I want to do when I want to do it, if that is actually possible? After all, you can only wait so long before bringing in the hoses, picking the walnuts, covering the patio furniture. Eventually the weather will demand you get out there and take care of business. It’s amazing how each of these tasks can consume an entire day. Pacing is so important.

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Jim & I celebrating our  10th anniversary. Still newlyweds!

More seriously, I would say that I am slowly fitting into a new life schedule. Getting up before 6am doesn’t feel like a chore now that I don’t have to rise early. The unrushed solitude of the early morning is by far my favorite part of the day. It’s here I plan, scheme, and rearrange my thoughts. Of course my thoughts bubble up with enthusiasm so much that when the dear Mr. rolls out of bed (I never would have guessed he’s a sleep-in kind of guy) he is greeted by an onslaught of several hours of my thinking. After all I have to talk to someone!

To bring some order to my muddle I decided to do a ‘What I Really Think’ – Part 2      It has a slightly different focus from the original post. (Here’s the original)

At a glance here’s what I think today:

  • I’m not done. I have more to offer the field of education
  • The Self-Regulation Foundational course I’m taking for the next 28 weeks is requiring more than 4 – 6 hours a week (The Mehrit Center)
  • I’m loving the Self-Regulation Foundation course I’m taking
  • A course is to me what travel is to others
  • The cool, crisp November weather in Vernon is more pleasant than I’d remembered
  • I need to find office space for Carol L Perry Counselling Services. Working out of the home isn’t as practical as previously thought
  • 2 year olds are as, if not more, exhausting than a class of thirty 10-year olds
  • I love 2 year olds!
  • Consult, consult, consult
  • Relationship, relationship, relationship
  • A slower pace is not a bad thing
  • Love what you do

Life is good, but different. I am energized by the hope that comes with knowing that, Better is Possible.

The Story of the Log Jam

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The Birth of an Idea

A number of years ago I was interviewed for a Principal position. In response to a question I described in detail the progress of our school’s Eagle’s Nest. If you’ve heard me speak about the EN you’ll know how much pride I take in the collaborative work we’d done to get it up and running. After my rather lengthy discourse which included a brief rant on the importance of self-regulation – the driving force behind the EN, one of the interviewers asked me if the Eagle’s Nest had been my idea? Wow, I didn’t see that question coming. I froze, stumbling for a response. I was taking the lead in self-reg and behaviour so the idea had to have been mine! <insert big pause followed by some ah, um, em>. When I hesitated with my answer I was prompted with, ‘if it was yours, you can tell us’.

Oh the temptation to take full credit…

BUT, was it really my idea? How DID we come up with the Eagles’ Nest concept? I wish you could see my smile as I recall how the EN was birthed.

At Shortreed we practised collaborative teamwork; it was messy, it always included a lot of verbal processing and more often than not was impromptu. Our boardroom was most often the hallway, but could be the resource room, my VP office, the library, the staff room. Team members shifted depending on the time of day, or who was passing by whilst collaboration was happening. Everyone was welcome to add their thoughts, and YES, most everyone had a lot of thoughts. We were in fact a chatty bunch.

Back to the Eagle’s Nest…I imagine the discussion went something like this:

Staff A: We need to do something about finding a place for our kids to regulate.

Staff B: Yeah. We’re using MindUp, but we need more.

Staff C: Wildly with enthusiasm…we need to buy a spin bike!!! HAVE YOU SEEN THEM!!!

Staff A: How much do they cost?

Staff C: Who cares. We need one! Now.

Staff B: Where will we put it?

Staff C: I know, I know, let’s put in the Youth Care Worker’s new room. Oh, oh, oh, we can set up a circuit.

All together, speaking over each other: A circuit. We need weights. The rebounder. I’ll bring weights….

Thus the birth of the Eagle’s Nest (you’re welcome to read more here)

Whose idea was the Eagle’s Nest? It was all of ours.

Fast forward to the spring of 2015. Picture many, messy, collaborative, impromptu meetings with a new cast of characters. As a school we had been dabbling with passion projects, genius hours and makerspaces. We were also continuing our commitment to self-regulation. Plus, there was the lure of pushing the boundaries of innovation.

Visualize the huddles. The messy, loud, verbal, circular, animated interactions needed to tease out what we really wanted to do. As ‘they’ say, the devil is in the details.

The outcome: a new birth, cleverly named, 

Club Wednesday!

Club Wednesday met for the first time in October 2015. It continues to run weekly on Wednesdays for just over an hour. CW is the blending of Genius Hour, Makerspace, Passion Projects, Play, the Arts, and more. It is a school wide, multi-grade, student choice program.

Club Wednesday runs in 7 week rotations three times a year.  Round #1  is 6 weeks of club plus a 7th week which is a Showcase for community members and parents.

Thanks to an enthusiastic staff, rotation #1 has the following clubs:

  • Happy Scrappers,
  • Lego League,
  • Paper Arts & Crafts,
  • Hammer Time!,
  • Guitar Alliance,
  • Games,
  • Group Green,
  • Glee,
  • Animal Kingdom,
  • Super Skippers,
  • Art,
  • Cooking,
  • Sports.

Much thanks goes to the staff who came up with some awesome, kid-friendly opportunities and developed those into a Club format. This was a first for most of the staff. I’d say this was modelling risk-taking at its finest! (What’s a comfort zone, eh?)

Kudo’s to Shortreed’s Principal, Tanya Rogers for fanning the idea right from the first spark, freeing up the schedule, and leading by example (she’s taking on the cooking group). She has worked tirelessly at finding the dollars to get groups going. And speaking of dollars, a big thanks to the Shortreed PAC for supporting Club Wednesday with funds and encouragement!

By all reports Club Wednesday is off to a great start. I’ll post pictures in an update, because they tell the story so much better than my words.

Carol

Oh, if you’re wondering about my interview. I didn’t get the job. Maybe if I’d have just taken the credit.
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Body Breaks – They Work!

Nothing like purpose to put a smile on this face. I’ve been invited to present on self-regulation at a school in my former school district. A perk of this life stage known as retirement is having the freedom to plan without interruption. I am not missing the tyranny of the urgent. Not even a little bit!  Well, maybe a little. Being a procrastinator by nature, the space between my ‘doings’ means I’m now looking for things to interrupt my planning. Cleaning, reading, visiting, shopping, BLOGGING, and when all else has been exhausted, a call to my mother is in order. Surprising to all but me, this system works much to the rolling eyes of my beloved who is NOT a procrastinator.

It is rewarding to reflect on what has been accomplished at the school I’ll be visiting. I know first hand because it’s the school I retired from. Change takes time and often occurs in small increments. About five years ago it became evident that an internal shift needed to happen if we were going to meet the needs of all of our students. Under the leadership of a gutsy, wise Principal, who has since retired, we slowly moved away from a punishment/reward system. During this time my role shifted from school counsellor to Vice Principal. The work was meaningful. The goal was to equip our school community (parent workshops were also offered) with the tools to self-regulate. We resisted the calls for punitive consequences to ‘deal with’ challenging behaviours and followed the mantra that “one size does NOT fit all”.

In August of 2012 the entire teaching staff was trained in the MindUp program. In addition to the training we were fortunate to have had the support of a district facilitator who worked with us for 2+ years, ensuring that the MindUp program was integrated well into our classrooms. This process brought mixed results. Throughout the following three years we had several staff changes. There is never a guarantee that new staff will have experience within the area of a school goal. Specific training, in this case with the MindUp program is not a given. In addition some existing staff found it difficult to regularly implement the MindUp program. It is natural to default to what we know. Sometimes the old tried and true, (even when it’s more tried than true) becomes our go-to when faced with consistently, challenging circumstances. Stuck in my mind is an observation from one of our more experienced teachers, “I know I should be teaching MindUP, I know it works, but I just can’t get to it”. As admin we continued to encourage and support teachers in finding ways to practice self-regulation as well as using common language surrounding the ‘how-to’ of our brains. Most students became familiar with the role of the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and the hippocampus. Some would articulate when their guard dog was up and they needed their wise old owl to calm them. There was a slow but meaningful shift.

In September 2013, with the encouragement of our new Principal, I was thrilled to work along-side a now full-time Youth Care Worker in setting up a room we called the “Eagle’s Nest”. To better support the goal of self-regulation we developed a routine we named “Body Break” and housed it in the Eagle’s Nest.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Shortreed Body Break 

Each classroom received two laminated Body Break cards. We strongly encouraged teachers to allow students to self-assess when they needed a break. This was more difficult for some staff than others. My strong belief is that if we are teaching students to be aware of their body, both physically and emotionally, we need to allow them to choose when their body needs a break. We also need to be deliberate in teaching them how to pay attention – be mindful – of their body. The Incredible 5 Point Scale and Zones of Regulation are two helpful tools.

Our Youth Care Worker invited each classroom to visit the Eagle’s Nest. Once there, she demonstrated how each of the Body Break stations worked.

The routine:

1. Students put their Body Break cards into the drop-in container.

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Body Break cards are placed into the drop-in container when students enter the room.

2. Students then worked through the stations in order spending about 1 – 2 minutes per station.

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#1 – The Rebounder

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#2 Lift the free weights

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#3 Balance Board. Stand on the board and move the green ball around the maze. (Easier said than done)

Catch and Throw

#4 Throw and Catch

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#5 Spin BIke

When students were finished all five stations (about 6 – 10 minutes) they took their card out of the drop-in container and went back to class. We were fortunate to have our YCW in the room much of the time allowing for Body Breaks to be available for most of the day.

Two years later two more spin bikes were added to the school’s self-regulation inventory. Shortreed is moving into its third year of using the Body Break station approach.

I am excited to hear about how the two self-regulation demonstration classes (new this year) are progressing as well as other ways staff are integrating self-regulation practices in their classroom. Up next: moving from self-regulation to self-regulated learning. I know they’re ready!

Even in retirement I’m leaning into better as possible.

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