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Posts tagged ‘self-management’

Behavior is Communication

“What happened, Mom? What is going on?” My daughter asked the other night, while she climbed on a chair to look at my computer. I was staring at my laptop, looking at pictures of the destruction caused by hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas. I felt speechless. Miles and miles of destroyed homes, entire towns swapped away by the hurricane. According to CNN, 70,000 people lost almost everything, and thousands of survivors are still trying to escape the destroyed areas.

I closed my computer and tried to explain what had happened. She got concerned and asked how the children could to school if the buildings were destroyed. “I don’t know” I said, unable to elaborate a better response. That night, she woke up several times asking about earthquakes. She knows that we live close to the San Andreas fault, and she practices earthquake drills at school. At a certain point, children realize that bad things do actually happen.

When children live through stressful events—such as a natural disaster, losing their homes or the death of a loved one—they may become hypervigilant about these events happening again in the future. Even students who have only seen pictures or heard stories about these disasters may become worried about their safety or what they would do if something happened. If students bring up these topics in your classroom, support them by discussing their feelings and answering questions. These conversations may reduce some of their fear and anxiety, and open the door to build trust with your students.

In some cases, students may be experiencing stressful events and educators don’t know about it. As we have discussed in the past, we see the behaviors, but we don’t always know the reasons underneath them. Students might act out, show strong emotions or have big reactions to small incidents. If that’s the case in your classroom, approach them with curiosity. Behavior is communication, so investigate: What are they trying to communicate with this behavior? What do they need that they are not getting?

As an educator, you cannot control what students experience outside of the classroom. However, you can help them develop the tools they need to navigate their emotions and cope with the setbacks they will surely encounter throughout their lives. One important competency to help them with this is self-management, which I discuss in detail in my forthcoming book, Teaching with the Heart in Mind. Here’s a snippet. Let me know what you think.

Sometimes teachers have misconceptions about how social and emotional skills are developed. Educators may think that students, especially in middle or high school, should be able to “get over” their emotions. While this may be true for certain students, it is not accurate for all. Some of the students in our classrooms need additional support to (re)gain their emotional balance. The same way that students may need additional academic support at some point in their schooling, students may also need additional social and emotional supports. Many elementary schools do not incorporate an intentional focus on SEL yet, which leaves students with fewer tools to regulate their emotions in the middle and high school years. No matter which grade span you teach, do not underestimate how much you can do to support students’ social and emotional growth.

When we ignore students’ emotions or expect them to go away, we are denying students’ experiences and ignoring their value. Remember, you can help students experiencing strong emotions by connecting with their feelings: acknowledge and validate-”Your face is tense, you seem upset. What happened? I may also feel upset if that happened to me.”

Another misconception teachers may have is related to students’ ability to learn self-management skills-it is never too late to learn tools to process our emotions, especially for students whose feelings are getting on the way of learning. When students feel out of control due to their emotions, they cannot and will not learn. No matter how well designed your lesson is. Our job as educators is, as Dan Siegel says, to “co-regulate”, that is to help students regain emotional balance and to increase their capacity to navigate their feelings, so they can see things more clearly and respond to daily situations instead of reacting.

The next competency in the HEART model, Electing your Responses, teaches students and adults the tools to create the necessary space that allow us to make constructive, informed and safe decisions. The action verb in this competency, Elect, means to choose, to take the reins of our behavior and select how we are going to move forward. The word Responses means that we move away from reactions and functioning on autopilot, to step into a place of balance.

Until next time,  keep me posted on your SEL progress, and get in touch if you need any additional support.

Sign up for updates about the book. I’ll be sharing another excerpt soon. Stay tuned!

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

Ready for School?

A few weeks back, I registered my daughter for kindergarten in the local school district. It was a moment filled with different emotions: excitement for the new experiences she will have, worry for the challenges, and also a bit of sadness because she is no longer my little “baby”. A moment of true self-awareness! Read more

3 Strategies to Navigate Emotions

I recently met with a fantastic group of principals. Two weeks into the new school year and they were already discussing serious issues taking place at their schools. You could almost touch the tension in the room. We started the meeting with a simple breathing exercise, so we could all (including myself!) get our minds ready to engage and participate in meaningful ways. Learning ways to navigate emotions and deal with the stress of daily life is a major goal in Social Emotional Learning that applies to both students and adults. Read more

I Do, We Do, You Do

“Mama! Remember… You cannot say stupid”. My 4-year old daughter does not let me forget that she is watching and learning from the way I behave, what I say and how I relate to others. As a parent, I need to be able to model the behaviors and skills that I expect her to develop and practice on a regular basis. As you have probably experienced at some point, children and youth are watching adult behavior all the time, and they often feel puzzled when we ask them to do things they don’t see adults doing. Intentionally or not, adults model social and emotional skills for children and youth. Read more

2y + 3x = SEL

It has been almost 6 years since the Common Core State Standards were released. The adoption of common standards in the US has brought exciting changes for students and teachers, and a fair amount of frustration, anger and fear of failure. Although the standards have received many criticisms, Montoy-Wilson, a 2nd grade teacher in East Palo Alto (California), describes them as a tool to address the achievement gap and equip all students with proper tools for the 21st century: Read more

Got Anger?

A few years back, my principal and I had an argument about some testing that needed to get done. From my classroom, a remodeled closet above the gym, I could hear her heels coming towards my class… I started sweating and my heart was pounding; she was not even there yet, and I was already getting angry again! My mind was quickly building a catalog of all the situations where there had been tension between us, which made me even angrier. The conversation did NOT start with “I hear what you are saying…” and there were some passive aggressive remarks made… by me. Fortunately, we were able to work through the issue and made a plan to solve the problem. When she left, I felt so relieved. Read more

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