This week we celebrate School Social Workers and recognize Social Emotional Learning Day on March 11th! The theme for National School Social Workers week March 6-12 is “Time to Shine!” Our School Social Workers do amazing things to support our children, families, and staff! They genuinely shine all of the time!
Join the SEL Day for 2022 and share how to support social-emotional learning. We need to build relationships and share positive ways to appreciate everyone. We are blessed when we recognize the strengths of others and share our talents. Together so much can be learned, communicated, achieved, and created.
Solutions are always my focus; however, trauma and social-emotional needs became more of the center of my practice after 2010. I always focused on the needs of others, but my personal experience provided me with a more in-depth and enhanced view.
I have always had two rules in my philosophy to school, but also two foundational learning practices are added as well. The two learning practices are social-emotional-learning and trauma-informed. Currently, we are dealing with the trauma of a global pandemic, and the effects are not touching only our students but our staff, families, and communities.
Always remember everyone has a story to tell. Build relationships so all feel safe, heard, understood and building skills to understand all of the “how-to” in relationships.
If you have ideas, thoughts, questions or need support with an issue you are facing please send me a message. My purpose is to provide support, solutions and strategies. One of the things I want people to know about me if you do not already know me is, my generosity. I give away more and more. I have always done this and I always will. Giving to others is important to me. I am working hard to create more free resources for you.
“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”-unknown.
When dealing with trauma, difficult stress, and many unknowns, we need to find ways to reduce these levels from harming our health. Many are providing ideas for self-help, but one of the universal ways to help all ages is through art.
Art is an expression of our emotions or a way to release the tensions we have. Everyone is an artist! It is connecting with something you love to do! Like baking, sewing, painting, drawing, construction, being a good friend, solving puzzles, playing an instrument, and my list could go on!
Experiencing art produced by someone else is an opportunity to experience life through their lens, explore their time, learn about their culture and history. Art provides unlimited access to learning if we open our hearts, minds, and imagination.
One of the first things eliminated during educational budget cuts is the art programs. It is encouraging to see more creativity, engagement, and opportunities for expression be included in the offerings for children. Children need hands-on learning with ways to be able to express themselves.
Take away thoughts
- No matter what organization you are in, try this activity to create an “Art-full-heart” to support you, me, us!
Give each staff member or student a piece of paper. (Before you give out the papers decide where this big heart will be displayed. You will have an outline of the heart. Inside the heart will be what the individuals design. You will then place them inside the heart.) at the top of the display will be your title or message. You can use my suggestion above or one you prefer.
Shape your paper to fit inside your heart to equal the number of people making one. The instructions for making the design can be this:
As we begin to work together, we still have Covid-19 and the variant causing health issues. The paper you have provides you with an opportunity to send a message to others on how to__________during this time. Use any prompt you want to help share a message you want and to help others in need.
This becomes more than an art lesson. It is so much more. It is about the history of the pandemic, social and climate changes, power struggles, and dealing with mental health needs.
We have used art (painting, drawing, poems, and other forms) as ways students can open up about mental health suicide, drugs, alcohol, and more. It is therapeutic for all involved.
There are many ways to support others through the use of art! I hope you try out this and other ways to boost support, understanding, and encouragement. Helping to make mental health needs a priority and not something to hide helps everyone.
I keep myself sheltered as much as possible from daily negativity. It is never good for anyone’s health to keep negative influences in your life daily. However, it would help if you kept yourself informed of current events to support others and yourself.
Statistics of the number of violent incidents, shootings, and crimes are on the rise. It is a regular news item that people become used to, I think; why?
“Deadliest weekend of the year in Chicago: 12 killed, 42 wounded in shootings”-Sun-Times, Chicago. May 24, 2021
“6-Year-Old Costa Mesa Boy Dies In Road Rage Shooting On 55 Freeway In City Of Orange” -CBSLN May 21,2021
“4-Year-Old Boy Found Dead on Dallas Street Was Sleeping When He Was Stolen Out of His Crib, Affidavit Says”-Inside Edition May 19,2021
I took just a few headlines from the news that stopped me. I froze when reported. No words could come to add anything to these incidents.
My solution for these continued acts of violence on our communities across our nation is this:
- Start with the question, why? It is not because we have guns. Discuss why someone would want to cause harm or kill another person.
- Why are people angry? In your discussions, ask this question. Think about how we got to the point of so much anger. It is not because of races, places, spaces or faces. It is about human relations! When we teach division, we get division. We have worked hard on bringing people together, and now we are pushing them apart.
- Where do people belong in your community? Do you know the people in your neighborhood? What do they need to lift themselves up? We do not need to be enablers but teachers. “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed himfor a lifetime.”
- In the home is where we can help. Families today have a great deal on their plates. Find ways not to judge, not to be enabling but supportive. Discover what is needed a help them establish these needs.
- Mental health services available in the community: make these part of your organization’s space, promote a partnership, place positive messages that it is okay!
- Stop dividing people! No more talk about race, gender, or who you are as an individual to divide us. We will not keep making individuals feel like there is something wrong with them based on their skin color, gender, or who they are. It is the content of their character that defines them. The story written on their heart they portray to the world is “who they are.” I will not spend my life being a color but an individual focused on solutions for all human races.
- “Won’t you be my neighbor” comes from a time when TV provided children with a daily dose of how to deal with society changes? Currently, there are not many opportunities for children to receive this messaging. As a community, establish a community group. Work as a group to determine needs. What can you do together to support each other?
- As an organization, establish a community group. Invite businesses, community organizations, police departments, schools, and neighborhood groups together.
- Generate a list of community needs.
- Establish committees
- Action plans/timelines
- Necessary to keep this statement fresh in front of all members: Families love their children and are doing a great job with all they have to care for them. It is up to us to help lift them up to continue to serve with more. We are not enablers but providers of additional tools.
I am happy to help anyone with tackling this with your organization or school. We all have to make this a priority in order to move forward together in healing a nation from a pandemic with aftershocks. Be the solution daily for a brighter tomorrow.
Walking down all of the hills to get to our destination was fabulous! Beautiful views of the river! Now going back up will be more of a challenge. Note to self…find smaller hills!
Do you leave yourself notes? Do you keep a journal? How about a daily calendar you put notes on? I have done all three. Do you ever have a thought pop into your head, and you write it down? I do it all the time! The problem is I collect small piles of these notes and try to understand them. It takes a little time, but I get them connected.
I did journal writing as a child, and I loved it. It helped me through many days. Writing is a great way to express and work through issues you may face. As I became a teacher and then an Administrator, I continued to share writing tools with students. I have many stories to share about utilizing writing in many areas. However, I have one that means so much to me.
As a new administrator, I felt very nervous. Everyone was looking, watching, and just waiting for me to make mistakes. I was the Assistant Principal at a 6-8 building, and discipline was all mine.
As an elementary teacher, I knew the majority of the children at the school. I was the teacher who did character education and a lot of positive behavior rewards. I still wanted this to be part of what I did. I enjoyed working with kids!
Things seemed to start on the right foot, and we were making improvements. But I had a young lady who looked sad, missed a great deal of school, and I did not see where she was making any connections with others.
I worked with our county truancy officer to address issues of students missing school. We had several students missing many days; Amanda was one of them. We called her to my office to talk with her, but she was so quiet. Her mother spoke with us and would describe Amanda in ways I did not see or could believe.
Amanda was seeing a doctor and taking medication. My heart was telling me something was just not right. I made a note to self…check on Amanda to see if she would like to Journal with me.
My days were always so full, and I knew I could not dedicate consistent, uninterrupted time with Amanda, but I could journal with her. She had built up a wall, and I understood how she wanted to have a safe place. Journal writing would allow her to write what she wanted to me. Ask questions, talk about things she was thinking and feel safe.
I bought some journals and pens so she could select what she wanted. We worked out a system with my secretary. She would come to pick up in the morning and drop of at the end of the day. We did this every day!
Amanda looked happier, would smile at me in the hallway, and was coming to school. There are many things revealed in journaling, so you have to have a conversation before you start. “If anything written makes me think you are not safe or someone else is not safe, we have to talk to someone who can help.”
Amanda and I both moved to different places. But when I last saw her, she was happier than when I first met her. She learned a skill to help her and hopefully learned others are there to help.
A few years ago, a handwritten letter arrived on my desk from our mail delivery. It was a letter from Amanda. She was finishing nursing school and wanted to let me know she had kept all of the journals we had written together. As the letter continued, she explained that when she was having difficulties, she would pull out one of the journals and read a passage.
“Mrs. Yoho, I want you to know, these journals saved my life. I have felt very low, but these kept me hopeful. Your words gave me the motivation to know I could because you believed in me.”
I have told teachers and administrators Amanda’s story. No, not every student is going to write you a four-page handwritten letter, but all of them are worth the power of believing they can do whatever they want to do!
Amanda is doing great! I just received a message response from her. I am very proud of her as she is now continuing to receive a Masters’s in Mental Health Counseling.
You do not know the level of impact you have on another life until they tell you. When this happens, it makes you pause and take a deep breath; I wish I could have done more. How many Amanda’s are in classrooms today? Try a journal to start to break down the walls they have built up. Most importantly, tell them you believe in them!
Amanda, in your life, has big hills to climb and needs support. They do not have a choice on which hills or mountains are in front of them. But we have a choice in helping them change their mindset, find resources, and believe. Thank you for being part of the solution daily!
When we begin to discuss problems, solutions are not the first-word selection used to describe the next steps. Often a few sentences full of explanations, excuses, and finger-pointing or blame are used. When you try to make sense of issues you face, utilizing some of your senses is needed!
Our senses can help with many aspects of our problem-solving and solving issues before they develop into bigger ones. Can you think of a time you utilized your senses to find solutions?
One of my former bosses and mentors told me I was a good listener. As we discussed listening to stories of upset parents or others, we identified how vital listening was to these situations. Individuals needed to “see”; we were “hearing” them.
When you find yourself in a situation where an individual is upset and wants to explain their position, let them. Please provide them with your full attention and listen to them. As they finish, I have a statement I feel is the best way to begin your response. I have shared this with my staff and other leaders; the best way to start is: “I am sorry you feel that way.”
I am sorry you feel that way is a great way to begin. This does not admit blame or acceptance but validates the individual in front of you. You have demonstrated your willingness to listen; you validate them by making the statement, and you have calmed the environment with these steps. The tones are softened; you have touched the individual’s heart by providing full attention and time. Now the solutions can begin.
During the listening, you have taken notes of the content revealed. You can begin to help connect the dots as together you retell the story without high emotions, but with facts to help design a solution to the issue. Always reassuring, understanding and providing a solution helpful to all parties. Pay attention to unspoken language. Your senses help you recognize the needs others are not able to communicate. There is always, as I say, a “trigger” for all of us that flips on our anger.
Our senses provide us with the guidance we need. However, not everyone has all of the senses available to them. When this happens your senses naturally accelerate to compensate for the missing sense. Nature knows the significance of having these to support us in our journey. Our brain is our central control center, activating them.
I have shared before that I survived a near-death accident leaving me with lifelong injuries. I have a traumatic brain injury which leaves me without my sense of smell or taste and also a lack of emotion. There are more damages, but these are hard to accept. However, I have learned to accomodate. The brain is amazing so I do have periods where I may be able to smell an odor if it is strong, taste a very seasoned dish or feel a burst of joy. Never consistently.
My message is to be a leader with a heart. I am thankful each day for all the blessings before, during, and after my car crash. Use all of your resources available to you as you lead and serve. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.
Steps with Senses to Solutions
- See- Identify the body language of the individual, have personal pictures, collections, or special items identifying yourself
- Hear- Listen to the individual with full attention.
- Smell- Utilizing our ability to help reduce stress, provide an environment of comfort, or to keep the area your meeting odor-free for safety. (Fresh flowers as an example)
- Taste- Candy bowls, other treats, water. Consider having something to offer.
- Touch- Stress balls, gadgets to hold and move, any items to help with various textures. (clay, sponge, etc.)
In addition to the items above, my office stocked pens, journals, snacks, and anything I found to add! Your office or meeting area should bring out the senses in everyone!
I hope I helped in making sense to solutions using senses.
Do you have something you are afraid to try? Is there a job you would like to do? Maybe a new approach or strategy? What is holding you back?
I understand! I am afraid of making mistakes or failing. Why? I don’t want others to think poorly of me. Is that it?
Push yourself to continue to reach for your goals. Others have failed several times before reaching their destination. Each failure provided a lesson! Learn from the lessons and apply them to your continued journey to the destination of success. I believe you can do it!
Thank you for being the solution daily! Each individual working daily to support each other and making a positive impact can make a big difference. Share one positive today, see where it goes.
As we all faced the pandemic, the ripple effect across the country continues with mixed messages on what to expect. Will we go back to “normal?” What is that anyway? Everyone has a different opinion. It is not clear moving forward what will happen in education, the business world, or travel.
The vaccine is being received by many, but still, others are not sure and are not taking it. We see states lifting their restrictions, while others are remaining with regulations. There seems not to be a clear understanding if you are entirely vaccinated if you continue to wear a mask. Do you wear one mask, two, three, or none?
When you have so many uncertainties facing you, the development of a lack of hope begins. How can we help our children have hope if we may not have it? Checking our mental health and self-care is essential before we can help others. The best way to begin is always talking about it. In Schools Finding Hope at a Hopeless Time by Nora Fleming, “Research shows that hope is a measurable, learnable skill-and to feel hopeful, students and teachers have to work at it.”
Can you remember where you were when 9/11 happened? I can! I was standing in front of a classroom full of 5th-grade students. An individual came to my classroom and told me the news, I took a deep breath and knew my responsibility was to make sure I could convey the truth of what just happened, and we were safe. I spent time addressing the topic by studying other countries and cultures and building the twin towers by scale.
Helping children understand as much as we can during stressful times is critical for their reactions. It has to be unbiased, based on facts about the situation. Then they can begin to process responses—a shift in their mindset, establishing goals and capturing these days as moments. Reading the article in Edutopia called Schools Finding Hope in Hopeless Times will provide more information to support building hope. “Hope is cognition and leading motivation that pushes people to act towards their goals. It’s a skill we have to work on and one that we can grow.”-Crystal Bryce, the associate director of research at the Center for Advanced Study and Practice of Hope at Arizona State University.
I always find creative ways to engage staff and students in a solution-focused approach to any topic we discuss. I applaud this school’s efforts from a few years ago with a unique way of asking staff and students what they hope. What can you do in building hope? Please read this post and leave a comment on what you hope. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.
One of my former Superintendent’s arrived early to work, and I did too. I would send out a “Monday Morning Message” of inspiration. He would usually be one of the first to receive it. Sometimes he would call my office, email me or call me down to talk about items for the week and my “Hallmark message.” This was my unique contribution to our team.
Always remember a little inspiration, encouragement, and genuine gratitude does the spirit good. It is hard work both physically, emotionally, and mentally. Lifting others is an integral part of the day.
One last message as you reflect, review and renew. Are your climate, environment, and team ready to trust, honor and support each other in difficult times or any time?
Thank you for being part of the solution daily! Together with focused solutions, respect, and support, all things are possible.