Tag: #teachers #trauma #traumasensitiveschools

Measuring Meaningfulness

I constantly measure the meaningfulness of the messages I send, the information I share, and how I impact those who choose to read my posts. I intend to always help with driving solution-focused thinking and increasing the positives we share in day-to-day interactions.

One thing missing is an opportunity for others to share what they would like me to focus on to help them in what they are doing. I want to pause and organize this blog to work for those who need it to work for them. My idea is to dedicate each day to a particular topic. Examples could be: Monday: Motivation, Inspiration, Meetings Tuesday: Teaching, Thoughts, Talking Points, Communication Wednesday: Wisdom, Wit, Things to Ponder Thursday: Takeaways, Things to Share, Activities for team building Friday: Facts, Factors, Leadership Saturday: Solutions, Strategies, Plans. Sunday: Spiritual, Social-Emotional, Mental Health

Maybe you don’t want to read something daily. What if you wanted something in one post? If this is your desire, what day would you choose to receive it, and what do you need the content to include?

Be the solution daily is for you. I want to thank all of my followers and those who have invested their time. Starting today, I will take a two-week break while I gather information on the direction of this blog.

Keep being the solution daily for all as we serve others in making the world better one day at a time.

“Art-full-heart”

“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.

F is for family

The school year has ended in many schools, but my daughter has a few more days left with her students. Each year she has a theme and spends a great deal of time investing in designing meaningful lessons that reach beyond her classroom.

Today was one of her letter days. Each letter represents a particular word and lesson. The children always look forward to these days. One of my favorites is P is for pancakes. They enjoy reading, measuring, mixing, and cooking up their pancakes.

She is a special needs teacher who sees the strengths in every child. Her school is located in a low economic setting. Many children she has had over the years have experienced some form of trauma. One of the most critical aspects of the job she believes is to provide positive supports, establish trusting relationships, and help children grow.

As I have watched her teach for years now, heard people describe her as an excellent teacher, and read notes from students and parents, the most crucial thing I see her do is to include everyone like family. There has never been a time in her life when anyone has ever been left out, felt different, or thought they were not welcome. Our family has always been this way, and she is teaching this to others.

Today was picture perfect with matching clothing for the entire classroom as they celebrated family day. The girls even got a little extra attention with painted nails (toes) at lunchtime. They gathered around to take family photos of their excellent school year.

This is the teaching children need in the classrooms across our country. Enjoy, respect, include and celebrate each other as a family. We are all in this world together to make it the best we can and these kids are on their way to brighter days. R is not about race but for respect. Respect for individuals and to appreciate each individual. C is not for critical but for courage. Courage to stand up for what you believe and to help another in need.

I know there is one classroom where children are happy each day. They know the adults at the school love them. The children work together to learn it is okay to be different, look different, and be unique. Every individual has great things to offer us.

I am beyond proud of her and what she does each day for children. She does the same as the mother of three exceptional children. I pray daily she can continue and other excellent teachers continue to provide for the children they serve. Lifting people is the solution and helping them to continue to grow.

Do you have a Scary Words Box?

As a teacher, I had a word wall. It was always fun to add words to our wall. We enjoyed adding the words and randomly selecting a word to use for the day.

Entering into the administrative world, I did not want to leave the teaching fun behind. I added a word of the week in our main hallway. Kids could add sentences to include the word of the week, provide a definition of the word or use it in a joke. I would give prizes to those who participated.

While sitting in the doctor’s office, I heard for the second day in a row one of my scary words. That is when I thought everyone needs a scary words box.

Let’s think about all of the things we have all been through and how things can pop up by surprise, and boom, fear sets in. If we can allow individuals to pick a scary word or words and place it in a box, we can begin to help them deal with issues together. My first thoughts are of children. It is difficult to talk about scary stuff, but if we have a platform making it safe to do so, then the sharing can begin, along with solutions.

My name is Brenda, and my scary word is cancer. I can write this on a piece of paper. The teacher can give me a chance to share, place it in the box to share later, or put it in the box to be read out loud with no name. Then we can all talk about it together.

You can do this with adults as well. It provides a way to help others safely address issues. Sometimes the scary words need professionals to help, and we need to build up relationships to help everyone understand if the words shared could harm you or someone else, we need to ask for help.

Help your children and staff address issues they are facing. It begins with opportunities to share, trust, listen and find solutions together. Some of the issues we face will need professional help, but it is the comfort we find in being heard and supported.

Words have power. We should always be careful in how we use them. It is also a great reminder to remember; power is given. Give power to your belief in healing, positive thoughts, and in the support you have. As an educator, I worked to help children overcome and prevent bullying. If we pause to look honestly at things clearly, our children are facing bullying on a larger scale today.

Be the solution daily; we need you!

Checking in and Checking Out

“Good morning; it is great to see you, Trevor! Love your outfit today, Tiffany! Jozie, I saw you and your aunt this morning.”

Greeting individuals in the morning will help to start the day off right. You can easily see if they are doing okay by taking a quick check by welcoming them. Weekends can be great fun, relaxing but they can also have sadness, struggles in them as well. I use to use this phrase when trying to explain to staff about this topic, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” We’ll; we don’t.

This is a true story, and I apologize in advance for my content. Please do not finish reading if you have a weak stomach and a love for animals.

Teaching in my 5th-grade classroom, I had worked to build relationships with all of my students. They felt safe talking with me. A small group came to me and told me they did not know what to do, but a classmate smelled terrible. It was making them feel sick.

I pulled the student during student flex work time and yep, it was awful. I began to talk to him about how things were going with him. He said, “I am having a hard time. Our dog has been missing. It makes me sad.” I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Do you have water at your house? “No.” How do you get your clothes clean? “We have a pile we get them from every day.” Well, you go over to the computer to work and I will see what I can do to help with the water.

I reported to our social worker. She contacted some other individuals and did a home visit. After the kids had left, she came to my classroom to talk to me with the principal. “Did you help them with the water?” We have to tell you about the odor you said the kids smelled. The trailer they were living in was a disaster. The pile he was getting his clothes from found a dog underneath all of it, dead. It had been dead for a while.

I could not speak. I was trying to process what was just said to me. “Mrs. Yoho, DCFS removed the children, and he will not be returning to your classroom. We wanted to talk to you about it first.” Thank you; he told me his dog was missing. I am trying to understand what you have just said, but I am not processing it. My heart breaks for all of the children in the family.

As a new teacher, I learned a lesson from this experience. I needed to check in daily with each student. No, I would not have figured out the details unraveled in the home visit, but I may have discovered sooner about the water issue. My connections with my students needed to be more informed.

Also, I needed to check out with them before they went home. Students throughout the day can have experiences we may not be aware of and addressing them before allowing them to grow bigger.

As an administrator, I used check-in and check-out. I found it to be very effective. At the middle school level, the majority of our students came by bus. I had our administrative team greet the buses and welcome the students each day. We could identify if any of our students were having signs of an off day. We would take a proactive approach to help them.

There are many stories in your journey of life that help provide you with guidance to help others. I will never forget about the missing dog. It is one of those that people would look at you and think, you have made that up. How could you? Who would even think of a story like that?

Check on those around you. Are there people at work you don’t know? Why? Be the person to spread sunshine to everyone, but learn how they are doing. If we all help each other, what a better place it will be! Thank you for being part of the solution daily!

Note to self….

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!

Through the window

“The good things in life are better with you in it.” These are the words on the heart sitting on the ledge of the window next to my chair. I love to sit in my chair and watch the clouds, blue skies, birds flying, rain as it waters the grass, or snowflakes as they dance in the wind. No matter the season, the view from the window provides me with the heartfelt warmth I need! I reflect on the things that are important in life as the birds sing. Sometimes I will see deer, rabbits, and other animals, but it is interrupted by the traffic or tractors during farming times!

We planted two trees just outside my window. One I can see now as its branches reach up towards the heavens. It reminds me of the tree we planted for my mom for her birthday before I was married. I can remember looking out of the window at that tree right before I went out to hug everyone goodbye. My new husband Zeke and I would be heading to the state of New York as he reported to the Navy to finish his training. Did I mention I was 19 years old and had never been away from home? It was kind of a big scary moment for everyone, I think! The tree seemed to understand as it stood up tall and did not make a move. Branches are reaching up as a reminder to stand tall, keep your head up and always look to the heaves for your guidance. I have followed those rules for 36 years and counting!

This is the window my grandkids look through at my house. It is a reading space with crates of books, pillows a set of binoculars to watch the birds and a place just for them.

When you look through your window, what do you see? If you do not see things clearly or something to encourage, lift or provide guidance, move; look through a different window. Maybe you need to get in the car and look through those windows. Go to a favorite place and look out of their windows. Find the windows that provide what you need.

Do you ever wonder what kind of windows your staff looks through? It isn’t easy to see all points of view when you have always looked through the same window. What do we see when we look through your classroom windows? Office windows?

When your students walk into your classroom or school, have you ever thought about their windows, and perhaps they do not have any? Can they look through a window? Is the bus window the only one they can look through, or the one in the classroom? What do they get to see?

Curiosity, imagination, hope, dreams, and so much can be lost if we do not take the time to learn to turn off the noise and turn on the mind to learn to see through all of the windows we are provided in life.

We have many opportunities to help those we serve each day to expand their well-being and provide resources to encourage them to always believe in more. A door never closes until we shut it. We can always look through the window to see things differently, and sometimes we may need to open it to new possibilities! Together in working, achieving, and believing, we can do all things.

Front door may close but through the window you can always see opportunities are possibilities when we seek to see! #Bethesolutiondaily

Thank you for being part of the solution daily! Help each other daily. Please do not rush to place judgment; gather all of the facts before you react, and the way I look should never define who I am. Mental health needs are what is needed today. If you know someone is in need please call for help.

Message received

Every day, we receive messages from others in many different ways. We also send messages in various ways as well. Managing all of these communications can be overwhelming, but we can also mishandle messages.

What we say, the body language we use, and the tones used to send messages to others. I know for myself, my facial expressions can tell you precisely what I am thinking. At least, that is what I have been told.

All of us enjoyed the treats brought in for our “Feast Friday” in the staff lounge as we were placing more plates and food out, in walks, Lauren.

“I can’t believe we still have her as our Principal. She is the worse we have ever had. She left a note on my desk saying she had been in to check out lesson plans and could not find mine. I am hoping to stop back later today to see them. Really? Doesn’t she have better things to do?”

“I am with you, Lauren; I got one of those little notes too! I am tired of being checked on.”

“I don’t like it either.” “Anyone else has anything to say?”

I left the staff room without saying a word but felt awful. I loved our Principal, and this little negative group was saying horrible things. They should not be doing this. I hate to see them coming. I was a new person on staff, and I just wanted to fit in, but I was having a hard time. I did not know what to do about the “TNT club” (Teachers in Tenure club).

I found the courage to go to speak with the principal about the situation. I explained how everyone contributed to a negative conversation about her, and I did not say anything. I finally left the room.

“I see, ” she says. “You are telling me you stayed and did not say anything to anyone, then left the room.”

“Yes, I did not say anything and left.”

“Oh, but you did say plenty.”

“What, I did not say anything.”

“By not saying anything, you spoke volumes to them. They believe you agree with them.”

Wow, this is a lesson I shared with others every chance I could. I included it with the students. If someone is making fun of someone and you do not say anything to get it to stop, then you are part of the problem as well. Standing by and allowing “bad” things to happen without saying something is a problem.

There is so much to learn about messages. What messages are we sending to others? A great book to read is Kids Deserve It! by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome. In their book, they have this question: “What if we looked for solutions instead of complaining about what’s wrong?” It speaks to me, how about you?

Talk to others to understand how they feel about the messages being sent? A friend of our family often says, “I was transmitting when I should have been receiving.” Listen to hear what is needed. Then take action.

Thank you for being part of the solution daily! After all, Kids Deserve It!

What now? Covid-19 positive takeaways?

In an issue of SmartBrief, March 2, 2021 https://www2.smartbrief.com. I found an interesting question and poll.

“What is your biggest positive takeaway from the impact of COVID-19 on education?”

Caregiver connection: Building stronger relationships with parents or caregivers 11.77%

Learning flexibility: Using new learning modalities to provide students more options for engaging and demonstrating mastery 47.06%

Recognition: Society’s recognition of educators’ crucial role in shaping our nation’s students 11.76%

Rethinking education: An opportunity to create a more equitable, resilient approach to teaching and learning 29.41%

“Nearly half of those responding to last month’s BetterLesson poll say the most positive thing to emerge for them from the pandemic was the flexibility they were given in using various options for students to show mastery of subject matter. Nearly 30% felt that opportunities to create more equity in learning environments was a positive development during challenging times.”

As leaders, educators, parents, students and community members what can you add to the takeaways? Many conversations are being held about what the next school year will look like right now. Many different voices, looking through a different lens can say and see different things.

I have added additional articles to help you with the conversation of the takeaways from the Covid-19. What plans do you have? Let me provide a few thoughts to ponder.

Thoughts to Ponder:

*Survey your staff, students, families and others you feel need to be added to the data to provide guidance in decision making.

*Research, ask questions, find others matching your district to see the ideas they have discussed. What has worked, not worked, going to try and going to keep?

*Think outside the box like you had to when Covid-19 came out of nowhere, and you quickly had to change everything! You have balanced many things, so now you know you can do so much!

*What plans are you developing to support staff and students for social-emotional needs and dealing with trauma.

*The expectations are some students have experienced learning loss as a result of Covid-19. How will you address the needs of all students? Enrichment?

There are more points to ponder, but I never want to give more than five. If we tackle more than five right now, we will not accomplish the depth of the review we need. Prioritize what you feel is critical to review.

Please share your thoughts, ideas, success, and plans as we all support the solutions you find. Thank you for being the solution daily!

RESOURCES

https://chicago.chalkbeat.org/2021/3/17/22334887/five-illinois-educators-golden-apple-on-a-year-of-disrupted-learning-covid-19-and-what-students-need

The pandemic’s remote learning legacy: A lot worth keeping

https://blog.betterlesson.com/what-have-we-learned-in-the-past-year-reflections-from-educators

https://rdcu.be/cg1tb

You are invited

“Who are you?”

I am Mrs. Yoho, the new Principal. I hope we have a chance to get to know each other, Elijah.

As we began the year, I got to know Elijah well. He was in Foster Care, and his sister was in a different home. Elijah was angry, trauma was a big part of this little boy’s life, and we were planning to do all we could to help.

Elijah came to seek me out daily (multiple times). We had a behavior chart in place, a check-in and connect system. Sometimes he would walk into my office and, with no words, just come over to get a hug. I had a box full of treats always for kids to get snacks from when needed.

Elijah would run from the school and be out of control. I understood him. His world was so frustrating for him. It was hard to determine what would trigger outbursts, but they would come. “I want to be with my sister.” I know you do, Elijah.

Elijah and I would be separated for a short time, but I always checked on him. I even had opportunities to check on his sister in another school in our district. Elijah changed Foster homes for the final time and was making gains. He found his way to middle school with me.

I truly enjoyed each day as he continued to gain. His personality was charming. My little Elijah was winning the battle and succeeding. I was so proud of him. We were able to have many conversations over the years, and his new family had decided to adopt him. He was so excited. We talked about how wonderful things were for him.

Building relationships is essential to helping students in dealing with trauma. Talking with them to find out what they need is critical in finding solutions. Implementation of a plan with key people involved secures success. Our team did an excellent job!

“Mrs. Yoho, my mom wants me to give this to you. We want to know if you could come to the courthouse to be part of my adoption. It would mean a great deal if you could.”

I know my mouth had to be wide open. I could hear my words in my head but could not speak; I was in shock. Finally, I heard myself say; I will come to be part of this day. What an honor!

We all gathered in the courtroom as the judge made it official. Elijah was officially the son and brother. The new family was all smiles, tears, and hugs.

As I watched, I thought, this is why we do all of the “extra” things, stay late, design plans, review data, and the list goes on. All of those details are essential, but it is the relationships that are critical—a treasured memory for me.

Thank you for being part of the solution daily. We have so many educators, families and organizations helping! Many blessings to each of you in your continued efforts.