Spring vacation is just around the corner, and the dreaded state tests are inching ever closer. It is a time of year when you may be running out of ideas, patience and energy, and so is everyone around you (or so it seems). You have gone through three different behavior plans, but Madison is still acting out, and Sam continues to come late despite an untold number of phone calls home, detentions, planning sessions and positive reinforcement programs. The faculty room is rife with a combination of boring tasteless food, stale conversation and annoying complaints about you-name-it. You try to remind yourself that "no news is good news" because, although you are working your butt off, rarely if ever does anyone seem to notice.
In this nine-part series, we will look at important factors that influence the happiness and social and emotional learning of elementary school age children. These are very useful in helping students learn, manage emotions better and increase empathy. Each blog features one letter of the acronym HAPPINESS:
H = Happiness
A = Appreciation
P = Passions and Strengths
P = Perspective
I = Inner Meanie/Inner Friend
N = Ninja Mastery
E = Empathy
S = So Similar
S = Share Your Gifts
In this post, we will explore Ninja Mastery, a.k.a. learning emotional management.
"I didn’t get invited to Craig's party . . . I'm such a loser."
"I missed the bus . . . nothing ever goes my way."
"My math teacher wants to see me . . . I must be in trouble."
These are the thoughts of a high school student named Jeremy. You wouldn't know it from his thoughts, but Jeremy is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades. Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, Jeremy makes a common error; he falls into "thought holes." Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For Jeremy, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.
I was born with a cleft palate and lip. Due to the scars and constant surgeries, school was very difficult. Children seemed to really enjoy hurting me. Whether it was verbal, physical or emotional didn't seem to matter as long as they each got a turn at picking on the "flat nose."
We've all heard of the fight or flight response. We go into survival mode when threatened by something or someone. We either put up our dukes (literally or metaphorically) or take off running (literally or metaphorically). Students often go into survival mode when they feel threatened by an overwhelming cognitive task or confusing text, or when they are called on and don't know the answer, or are confronted or teased by another student (or a teacher!) Can one even learn in such a setting?
Do you have students who rarely raise their hand when you ask a question? When I think back about kids in my classroom who didn't participate at first, I remember Jared and Maya (whose names I changed). Jared was polite, listened to his classmates, and did his homework. But when I asked questions or set up class discussions, Jared remained silent. Maya was really creative and an avid reader. She also didn't participate, frequently had her head down in class, and was reluctant to start work. Some of our students might sit quietly through each lesson or be visibly disengaged. Maybe they don't understand the lesson, are embarrassed, or hesitantly wait for another peer to share. Jared and Maya certainly aren't unique.
I grew up loving basketball, and Alan Seiden was the best high school basketball player I've ever seen. He was also my neighbor and a classmate at Jamaica High School in New York City. One of the most indelible memories from my youth is watching Alan hit one beautiful jump shot after another at Madison Square Garden as he helped lead our team to the city championship. The New York Times compared him favorably to the basketball legend Bob Cousy. He went on to St. John's, became one of the greatest stars in the history of that university's basketball team, and was a two time All-American. He also played briefly in the pros.
It's February and love is all around us. You might be thinking, "Really? Where?" That's because it's so easy to get down in the dumps during the winter months and only focus on all of the problems you face in the classroom. Just remember that Valentine's Day is when we're supposed to show our love to family and friends.
It's been a long time since I was in elementary school. But I can remember it like it was yesterday.
I wasn't the cutest, skinniest or best-dressed girl. I wasn't even a popular girl, but I had an advantage; I could sing like "nobody's business," and my teachers loved that about me. As a result, I think I was spared the bullying that could've come from classmates due to my lack of the aforementioned qualities.