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Posts from the ‘Teacher Development’ Category

Gratitude for Self

Did you know that people who experience gratitude cope better with stress, recover more quickly from illness, and enjoy more robust physical health, including lower blood pressure and better immune function? Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and return kindness to others. In the US, Thanksgiving is the holiday that celebrates gratitude and encourages us to be appreciative. Students and teachers may spend time together creating gratitude quilts, writing gratitude letters or sharing a gratitude meal (check out Stone Soup: a lesson in sharing). However, there is a lesser known form of gratitude that we often miss: gratitude for self.

For many adults, and sometimes youth too, it is difficult to acknowledge their positive traits or list their strengths without feeling self-conscious. They may fear being perceived as vain or feel uncomfortable when somebody offers an authentic compliment. As we have discussed in the past, being able to identify our strengths is an important expression of self-awareness and a fundamental skill for our students to develop. Dr. Kristin Jeff, self-compassion researcher and author, argues that appreciating other people’s goodness while ignoring our own creates a false division between us and them. She explains how showing appreciation for our good qualities is an expression of gratitude for all the people who have shaped us as individuals—a nurturing family, supportive teachers, loving friends.

Great teaching requires educators to fully engage their mind, heart and soul to support students’ growth. There is no way around it. This means experiencing difficult emotions: failure, disappointment, even burn out. When we practice gratitude for ourselves, we take the time to appreciate and recognize the work we do every day and who we are as humans. It is not a selfish exercise; it is a practice that can fill your bucket, so you are ready to support others in doing the same for themselves. Try these simple practices:

1. Identify 3 things that you value about yourself. They can be related to your role as a teacher or other roles in your life (parent, spouse, sister/brother, neighbor). What is the impact of these things in your life? And the life of your students? Give yourself some credit!

2. Acknowledge 3 things that went well each day. Be specific about the choices you made that contributed to a positive outcome. Did you stay calm during a difficult conversation? Were you motivated and finished that lesson plan in time?

3. Take a moment to appreciate these things. Notice how you feel when you reflect on your strengths and the things that went well in your classroom or in your life. Now, decide on one thing that you will do to show yourself some kindness.

4. Repeat!

In an earlier post, I discussed how gratitude starts inside and flourishes through our expressions of kindness towards others. Whenever you are expressing gratitude in your life or teaching your students how to be grateful, remember to spend some time discussing and practicing self-gratitude. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving holiday.

Whole School Approach to SEL

SEL cannot be solely focused on teaching social and emotional skills once a week. Why not?

While explicit instruction of SEL competencies is a key component, and in many cases the first step taken by schools starting to implement SEL, students (and adults too!) need plenty of opportunities to practice these skills beyond the “SEL instructional time”. SEL programs and practices are more effective when students can experience how these competencies support their personal and academic goals, and when adults (teachers, parents and administrators) are invested in modeling and practicing the skills alongside their students. Read more

Where did trust go? Strategies to earn your students’ trust

After several months into the school year, you might find that you have established positive relationships with most of your students… but maybe not all of them. Although, as educators, we care deeply about our students, there are certain relationships that may be more challenging and require a bit more work. In my experience, there is one ingredient that allows for honest communication, a sense of respect towards each other, maybe even a shared purpose. Do you know what it is? It’s trust. Trust is at the heart of any successful relationship. Read more

Preparing for Difficult Conversations

There is no education without ethics. This is the way my former Philosophy professor, Joan-Carles Mèlich, started each class. As I was getting trained to become a teacher, this was a powerful reminder of the responsibility I had as an educator with my students. I had to carefully consider how my relationship with children and youth could serve as a tool for positive change or, on the contrary, as a way to maintain the status quo. As educators, we have choices in the ways we discuss expressions of racial and religious hatred, like the recent events in Charlottesville (US), or analyze the response to NFL players kneeling during the US anthem. There is no education without ethics. Read more

Ready For Summer?

I’m heading to Spain this summer to visit my family (short trip to Portugal to attend the 6th International Congress on Emotional Intelligence and present my latest research with school principals). I look forward to seeing my kids playing on the beach where I grew up and nurturing their love for swimming, sand and ice cream! I also look forward to spending time away from my computer, reconnecting with family and friends, and getting (re)energized. Summer is such a special time of the year. It brings the necessary pause from the daily routines, the opportunity to rest and recharge, and the mental space to look into the future with optimism and hope. Read more

3 Key Lessons on Empathy

I did the last internship for my teaching credential in a rural town in Nicaragua, volunteering at a local NGO – Los Pipitos – that supported children with disabilities. During my time there, I worked alongside a promotora de salud (community health professional), Martha; the most patient human being I have ever met, I learned everything I know about empathy from her. Read more

Are You Listening?

When I was a kid, I became fascinated with the story of Momo by Michael Ende. Have you read it? Momo is a little girl of mysterious origin with an extraordinary ability to listen – really listen. I remember reading the book and wondering, how does she do it? Can I really listen that way too?

She listened in a way that made slow-witted people have flashes of inspiration. It wasn’t that she actually said anything or asked questions that put such ideas into their heads. She simply sat there and listened with the upmost attention and sympathy, fixing them with her big, dark eyes, and they suddenly became aware of ideas whose existence they had never suspected. Momo could listen in such a way that worried and indecisive people knew their own minds from one moment to the next, or shy people felt suddenly confident and at ease, or down-hearted people felt happy and hopeful. Read more

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