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Posts from the ‘Teacher Development’ Category

3 Things to Grow a Resilient Heart

Last week I spoke with HITN Learning about how moms can nurture their resilience to deal with these challenging times (if you missed the conversation, check out the video.) During the event, I asked these moms “how are you feeling?” and was not surprised to read their answers—overwhelmed, anxious, scared… and the most popular: stressed.  

High levels of stress for an extended period of time can have damaging consequences for our physical and psychological health. Constant stress can cause headaches, stomach problems or tense muscles. Stress can also impact our ability to focus, work with others and even accomplish simple daily tasks. Stress is a physical and emotional signal–it means that you are faced with very challenging and demanding circumstances. Researchers have found that the way we interpret that signal can completely transform the effect that stress has on us. If we perceive that we have the resources to cope with these difficult circumstances, we experience stress as a challenge. On the other hand, if we think that the situation exceeds our existing resources, we experience stress as a threat. This is an important distinction, because it shows that the way we interpret stress can impact our physical and emotional health.

During the online event, moms asked for tools and strategies to help them cope with this difficult reality. Although many of us cannot eliminate the current challenges, we can develop resources to deal with them more effectively by developing our resilience. 

3 Things to Grow a Resilient Heart

Resilience means being able to adapt well in the face of adversity, threats, or significant sources of stress. Resilient adults and children do experience difficulty, but they have resources to face them and may experience personal growth because of these challenges. Resilience is a learnable mindset that everybody can develop starting today by nurturing 3 key things–awareness, gratitude and connection. 

Awareness means that we notice and understand when something is happening. In our current situation, we might go from one activity to the next, without paying attention to our body sensations or the state of our minds. The thing is that mind and body are connected, and influence each other—when we experience physical discomfort, we may become depressed or anxious. At the same time, if we feel depressed or hopeless, we may be less inclined to take care of our bodies. Developing awareness means that we notice our thoughts, emotions, and the decisions we make to take care of our bodies and our minds. 

  • Move and fuel your body. Eat a healthy diet as much as possible and make sure you move your body every day—dancing to a favorite song counts too! 
  • Name your feelings. Put this on your fridge (Spanish) as a reminder to check-in and notice your emotions. If you have children or other adults at home with you, encourage them to use it as well. 
  • Recognize how hard this moment is. I have had frustrating days when I was trying to be super productive, while supporting the kids and taking care of the house. I had to remind myself—we are living through a pandemic. It is okay to lower expectations or take more time to accomplish tasks that were easily done before COVID-19. We are not living under normal circumstances.  
  • Find an activity to quiet your mind. I have been able to continue running outdoors. Moving my body helps me to burn stress and gets me ready to face the day. Think about an activity that is relaxing and rejuvenating for you—walking, reading, listening to music, talking to a friend, or mindful breathing—and try to do it consistently, even if it is just for a few minutes. 

Gratitude means seeing the light in our daily lives. It can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook while reading the news and seeing all the negative consequences of this pandemic.  Although it is important to be informed, we have choices about where we focus our attention. Choose to see the positive things happening in your family and community to nurture a sense of gratitude and increase your energy level.

  • Notice the positive things and moments around you. This can be small moments, such as cuddling with your child, a moment of laughter, a funny mistake. When these moments occur, enjoy them.
  • Be kind to yourself. As you are dealing with painful emotions, comfort and soothe yourself as you would with a good friend. Treat yourself with kindness by paying attention to your needs and appreciate who you are
  • Start a gratitude practice. Take time to notice and reflect on the things for which you are grateful. You can create a list when you wake up, journal before you go to bed or share with your family during a meal together. Practicing gratitude can help you nurture more positivity in your life. Printable handout for your fridge here (Spanish).

Connection means creating moments to nurture our relationships. Sheltering in place requires that we are physically apart from others, but it doesn’t mean that we stay emotionally disconnected. During this pandemic, it is important to keep in touch with our loved ones. 

  • Call friends and family. Stay in touch with your loved ones through video calls, text messages or zoom reunions. Practice social distancing in your neighborhood while still talking with your neighbors. Reach out to those who live by themselves. 
  • Give and receive emotional support. Reach out to those who may need your support, and be open to receive help as well. Many times it is easier to offer this help than accepting it from others. G
  • Ask for help. When you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to move forward, ask for help. We all need support to weather this storm. 

Resilient adults and children have resources to cope with stress, setbacks and challenging situations. By nurturing awareness, gratitude and connection you can develop a resilient heart and help others do the same. 

Stay safe and healthy. Stay home. 

Purpose Builds Resilience

A few years back, I agreed to help organize an “SEL Day” at a local school. The organizing team did not seem to have a clear objective for the event, but I agreed anyway thinking that I could be of help. As the team started making decisions about the event, I became increasingly frustrated—I thought there were better ways to present information, engage the participants or select speakers. Since I did not want to question the group’s decisions, I became disengaged and lost interest. Then, as we were getting closer to the day of the event, I realized that I had forgotten the very reason why I had agreed to support this initiative: I wanted to support this group in pursuing something that was important to them, and that aligned with my own values. Read more

Making Space for Every Story

There are many stories that find no light in mainstream media; many books, movies, and pieces of art that will never be seen or appreciated, even less paid for. As a society, we choose the stories that are worth sharing and celebrating, and ignore the rest. In many cases, these unheard stories come from people who have been discriminated against because of their race, gender, social class, home language, ability, or sexual orientation amongst others. This prompts us to question—who is telling the story and who is in charge of the narrative. Read more

SEL Starts with the Adults

The importance of supporting young children’s social and emotional growth in early learning settings, such as child care centers and preschools, is well established. It is part of their “core business”, something they do day in and day out. There is, however, an important aspect of SEL that is not considered part of this work—the need to support early childhood educators’ social and emotional capacity. Read more

Doing the Work that Matters

Working with educators is probably the favorite part of my job. They are committed, passionate and courageous. They want to get better at teaching, because they care about their students’ wellbeing and success. They are a force for good. Read more

Preparing Teachers to Support SEL

Implementing SEL programs and practices requires teachers to be open, self-reflective and sometimes vulnerable with their students. This may be easy for some teachers, while quite difficult for others. I remember a teacher saying during a training: “Students should learn these skills at home or in elementary school. I already have a hard time covering all my content, I cannot waste any time with check-ins and community circles.” You may have said something similar yourself, or heard colleagues have these conversations. It is part of the process. Read more

Creating an SEL Mindset

Two weeks ago, I visited a high school in Los Angeles (California) to gather data for a case study that I am conducting with the Learning Policy Institute. Serving around 500 mostly low-income students, the school has raised its graduation rates from 83 percent in its first year to 99 percent last year. A school that is built on teacher leadership, the educational program prioritizes a whole child approach with a relentless focus on providing students with the social, emotional and academic supports they need to ensure they are ready to lead successful and productive lives in college and beyond. Read more

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