We just started working on the Trauma Sensitive Schools modules from the DPI website. Looked at the ACEs information. Discussed viewing behaviors differently. Evaluated data from the b.e.s.t. screener. All professional, academic stuff. Then I see this poem and it brings it all together.
Usually good things don't happen instantly... instant coffee, not so good... quick weight loss, not likely.
So when I heard about 30 second mindfulness I was skeptical. But this is one has promise!
It's called the "3 x 3 Method" and here's how it works:
1. Focus on one physical object-- like a lamp -- and say to yourself "that is a lamp."
2. While focusing on the lamp, take a deep breath, inhaling slowly.
3. Then slowly exhale.
Repeat the three steps with two other objects, so a total of three times. That's it! It can be done anywhere, people don't even have to know you're doing it.
It was developed by a psychologist, Phil Boissiere, and it's a "simple effective framework to put stress, anxiety, and distraction in check."
And it's an easy, effective method for kids. Anxiety is the number one mental health issue for school age children, with the average onset of age 7. Kids are concrete little beings-- they like having concrete solutions and this method gives them a specific plan to put in place. I hand out business-sized cards with the 3 x 3 steps to kids of all ages-- even teachers-- to provide a reminder that they can help put their anxiety or those stress distractions in check.
Try it for yourself. And if you like the benefits, start sharing the cards. It's a simple gesture that says
"I care and you can work through this."
Click here for more information and copy of card for print.
Finding great, free resources is like Christmas. If you feel the same, check out the North Star Paths website-- there are free visuals and videos focusing on inclusion, self-regulation, visuals, and mindfulness. The visual below is just an example. Here's the link: http://northstarpaths.com/visuals/
And Merry Christmas... enjoy the gifts!
Dr. Jean Davidson talks about "Artful Inquiry, when words are insufficient." Our brain doesn't always help us process events and feelings into words. The left hemisphere breaks info into little pieces, works in words, doesn't seeing the whole picture. The right hemisphere works in pictures, can see the whole, but may not be able to express it. With photos, we can facilitate the process for coming to the big picture.
Using this information, we can start with photos and use them to help students put feelings and events into words. Dr. Davidson uses decks of pictures-- random images that have meaning to the person selecting one-- that help facilitate a conversation, help put those feelings into words.
You can buy picture decks, make your own, or use mine. Click link below to download and print over 60 images. Laminate them, cut them up, then offer all or some of the photos to a student or a group. Then start asking questions, keeping in mind that the best questions are simple.
"How do you see yourself today."
"What picture best represents your family."
"What does happy look like."
"What do you need from me, from other adults."
And if you're using this process with your staff:
"What would you like for our staff"
"What's getting in the way of a healthy school."
You get the idea, pictures being used to put the big picture into words.
Have fun with the process and let me know how it's going for you.
Link to photos (on Guidance page)
Love this article from the National Institute of Health-- It's a Kid's Job, Play Helps Kids Learn and Grow. Here are some of the key points:
As school counselors, what can we do? Defend and support play, especially unstructured play. It may look like it has no purpose but the benefits are big and research supports it. Then if you're daring, add a few unstructured, play experiences to classroom guidance or group sessions. I can see a box with random play items ready to grab off my shelf and take to a second grade classroom... or maybe a stack of board games if we need to gradually move into unstructured play. Why is this seen as "daring"-- education has become so focused on research based programs that we overlook using the practical things that have always worked.
Be bold, step outside of structured programs and take your students with you!
Link to article: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/special-issues/parenting/its-kids-job
It seems every day I feel more stress. I often wish for the job I had 10 years ago-- same position, same location, just a saner level of expectations. There are times when the demands crowd and pressure my brain making it difficult to process, to problem solve, to respond appropriately. There's this urge to close the door, turn off the light, and hide in my office. My fight or flight response.
Connecting emotional and mental stress to "fight or flight" isn't an exaggeration. Here's what we know about this response which is triggered in the amygdala of your brain. "The stress response starts with the amygdala, which acts as a sensor at the base of the brain by vetting every input for possible threats. When it senses danger, it shuts down the entire brain operation (now is not the time for, say, creative thinking) and prepares the body to pool all of its resources for survival." (link to source) Maybe it's good that I want to hide and turn off the lights!
Fortunately the research doesn't end here. Practicing mindfulness helps. This from a study published in Scientific American: "MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala, appears to shrink. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker. The “functional connectivity” between these regions – i.e. how often they are activated together – also changes. The connection between the amygdala and the rest of the brain gets weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration get stronger."
Simply stated: "mindfulness practice increases one’s ability to recruit higher order, pre-frontal cortex regions in order to down-regulate lower-order brain activity-- our more primal responses to stress seem to be superseded by more thoughtful ones."
Changing the demands of my job isn't likely, but I may be able to alter my brain's response to this "attack" of new initiatives, never ending data collection, changes in direction, 24 hour a day connection. Just 10 minutes of mindfulness added to a regular daily routine... like brushing your teeth, taking a vitamin, eating leafy vegetables... I gotta try it.
For administrators and leaders there is comfort in data. Numbers provide evidence. They are not subjective, they are concrete. So we gather data... we gather lots of data... we spend days gathering data. We have numbers, we even have color coded bar graphs. And in the end we become data rich and information poor.
From the article "Data is more than just a four letter word," we have this statement:
“For me, data is a four-letter word. Some things we do aren’t easy to measure or prove, but I know they work, and I’m not going to stop doing them just because I can’t measure them!"
The author goes on to suggest we need a “data-light and learning-heavy” approach to data and evaluation.
Data doesn't always tell us a definitive answer of what that particular kid needs to motivate him or her. To know that we need to watch, listen, and understand that student. Data may give us the direction but it does not always provide the answers. For answers you need time to listen, to understand-- back to those fairly subjective approaches. And you need a caring professional to do that. Fortunately, our schools are full of caring adults... my faith is in them.
We know the value of sending students on a job shadow. They get to know that career beyond what they could learn from reading about it. And we remember the kids who come back charged up, certain of their career choice. A job shadow is a powerful tool.
Each day our students go on a job shadow-- every day they get to see first hand the job of teacher. What do they see? They see a career that isn't valued by their community or society... a high stressed, demanding job with low compensation... at least four years of college debt. And can you blame them, they say "no," teaching isn't for me.
If we want more young people to go into education we need to first change the climate and level of respect for teachers in our buildings. Until that happens school counselors will not be able to sell teaching as a great career choice-- students just aren't going to buy it.
"Does 'Smartphone Addiction' Show Up in Teens' Brains?"
The first line of this article from the National Institute of Health should give us pause: "Teens fixated on their smartphones experience changes to their brain chemistry that mirror those prompted by addiction, a new study suggests."
Although the study was limited in participation, it doesn't suggest anything that should surprise us. Anyone who works with teens knows how difficult it is for them to put their smartphones down. Is this addiction a problem? Business would say yes. When employers have been asked their biggest issue in working with young employees they cite cellphone use at work.
Advice for parents who want their children to succeed in school and in the workplace-- help them manage this addiction.
Health Day, from the National Institute of Health, just ran an article on how to spot an eating disorder. Even if you're familiar with what to look for and what to do, this is a good refresher. Here are the key components from the article.
Other info from Dr. Asim Shah, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston: