New Offering for August: Girls’ Empowerment Camp

In high school, my  list of activities included the gymnastics team, yearbook,  running the charity dance marathon, playing the flute in a swing band and various menial jobs.  At the time, I was keeping busy and even way back then, heeding advice to collect sought-after resume-builders for college applications.  My memory tells me it was fun to juggle, but I am certain my parents would describe me as a whirling dervish.

My penchant for juggling and keeping occupied continued for decades, until I hit my mid-forties and decided there was a better way than constant mayhem. Or at least it would be better to slow down periodically.  Often in our lives, we pursue seemingly disconnected activities that tap into our various interests.   I love having various interests, which now include cooking, yoga, paddle boarding, writing, knitting, walking, training teachers, learning, reading.  It still does make me feel like a whirling dervish at times, but I love all the things I do.  I’ve learned it (“busy-ness” and “have-tos”)   can create stress. Unhealthy stress.

I am  deeply intrigued by how our kids grow up and am committed to better understanding their journey, busy or not.  It’s become a desire of mine to learn ways to support them and celebrate with them, so they learn to manage the stress in healthy ways.   You or I will never know their true experience –  what it feels like physically, mentally, emotionally. We know far more now about the toll stress takes on them than we did in the ’70s and ’80s.  Unless you’ve been under a rock for years, you are well aware that the stress our kids face and how they manage it is not our kind of teen stress.  We know more about how their brain works (the folks over at Grown and Flown wrote about this, highlighting Dr. Jenson’s book,  The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults ) and we need to help them learn to make good choices, explore what they love, manage stress,  and enjoy this period of life.

When my various interests overlap like a Venn Diagram, I tend to geek out and get wildly tickled.  It’s thrilling and exciting and makes me work harder to understand how all the pieces fit together.  And that’s where I am now with my various pieces.

My passion for teaching, children and emerging adults, yoga, mindfulness, and health in general, are coming together in a new way.  As school ends for the year, hopefully, that brings down time for all. But then August will roll around and for many tween/teen girls, that transition will resurrect old stress.  Stress doesn’t have to consume us, especially our young girls.   It can be managed with things like exercise, yoga, good eating, trusted friends,  honest conversation and a whole host of skills I will be exploring and sharing with local middle school and high school girls in Girls Rock! Mind Body Empowerment Camp.

If your girl is in the Annapolis, Maryland area in August, why not sign her up to come work with our group?  This course will be offered over five afternoons and includes exercise, mindfulness, lively and honest conversation, skills practice and of course, some healthy eats.  Have questions? Want to bring it to your site? Shoot me an email and we’ll make it happen.

Take care,

lisa

 

 

 

LWells

August is the January – Beginning Anew

No, that’s not true. August is not the “new” January.  Rather,  August has been “January” for decades to me and countless others as the start of school gets underway.

There’s a difference this year, I’m not starting school nor starting something new in September. Yet the patterns of heart, mind, and body drive me to think and act as if I am starting something new.  For some, the calendar year-end signals a new beginning. For others, it’s the new dawn of spring. But for me, it’s as if the browning grass and abundant gardens simultaneously signal the ripening of the past year’s activity and time to prune away what no longer serves us.  So we can begin anew.

For over forty years, September meant the start of school for me as a student or teacher or both.  I remember the summer before Kindergarten when my mother left me at my grandmother’s and during the one phone call we had that week (remember, it was something like $0.89/minute for a long distance call and those were rare) she told me she made me new dresses and bought me a red mushroom umbrella.  After we hung up, I strode down the hall, imagining those new dresses, twirling that umbrella. It felt even better the following week when I pranced off to school wearing my “numbers dress” in the sunshine, umbrella serving as a walking stick to punctuate my enthusiasm for Kindergarten.

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Continue reading “August is the January – Beginning Anew”

6 Hard Truths

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I’d like to think those words don’t strike a vulnerable spot in my gut, but the hard truth is, they do.

And when they do, I tend to take it hard. When I dig out of that hard spot, I realize all I needed was to be a bit softer. A bit more accepting, yet still honest. And that’s an essential lesson to share explicitly and implicitly with kids.

I’m big on honesty, authenticity and I know we’re all far more vulnerable than we’d like to admit to anyone, especially ourselves.  Without honesty, how can there be trust? Without authenticity, how can there be satisfaction or joy?  And without vulnerability, how can we grow? How will kids see these are all opportunities for growth if we don’t model that to them?

But when we’re honest, authentic and vulnerable, it if often an uncomfortable spot. You know what I mean – when you face that Hard Truth squarely in the mirror.   No sugar-coating, no denials, no excuses, no fixing. Looking into the  magnifying mirror can be hard.

When we look authentically about what our role is in the situation, what the role of others is and what the actual reality is (not perception, not what-ifs, not the attachments to history or outcomes), that can be hard, too.

And when we’re vulnerable, we’re at the mercy of the universe and those around us. And often, that’s the hardest  of them all because it seems utterly inexplicable and unfair.

On the surface, it doesn’t look like a fabulous destination, does it?

But the truth is, it’s a necessary destination, especially when working with kids and kids and adults. It’s where we grow and learn.

Here are six hard truths I’ve witnessed recently and been called to be honest, authentic and sometimes quite vulnerable recently. We all have our own hard truths, right?

Disclosure:  “People” can and does below, apply to people of a variety of ages, stages and places. People of all types can face these hard truths, or their own special blend of Hard Truths.

 

1. People lose their temper. Hormones and adrenaline rush, hunger and exhaustion and stress take their toll. Actions are taken that are later regrettable.

Hard truth:  Apologies are necessary. Calmness must prevail. Resolving anger or frustration physically is not acceptable (unless you are a runner or release those messy emotions in some other physical activity.) Use your words. Always use spoken or written words.

2. Logical and natural consequences are often uncomfortable.

Hard truth: When the cortisol subsides, the picture is often not so bleak, and there are life lessons to be learned. Sometimes it’s in those natural consequences that we grow – as in when you forget your lunch box and nobody delivers it to you at 11 a.m., you might take steps to remember to grab it the next morning.

3. People and things change. Often, that change is uncomfortable or denied. Individual change affects others, and when others are affected, the ecosystem is disrupted.

Hard truth: Life is about change. We have to view that change for what it is and adapt. It’s okay to mourn loss or change, but eventually, we’ve all got to “keep on swimming.”  Remember how Lucy moved the football as Linus went to kick? Expect Lucy (or someone else) to move things and be prepared to shift gears so you don’t tumble over.

4. People are imperfect. They mess up. They say things they didn’t mean to say. They forget. They act out of emotions or desire, rather than logic or purpose.

Hard truth: We all do mess up.  Everyone walks their own path, with their own obstacles and triumphs. You never know what other challenges someone else is facing.  Accept mistakes, be honest if it affects you, and try not to take things too personally. Celebrate each other’s accomplishments without taking those personally, either.

5. Technology, machines and equipment fail.  Yes, we’re living the big life with technology everywhere. Your flash drive will break. Your laptop will be hit by a virus. Your phone will get wet. Your child will break that piece of crystal from Great Aunt Mavis. Someone will back into your new car.

Hard Truth: Things “should work,” but they fail. That causes problems, but most of them are fixable. with so many tiny, moving pieces, something will fail at some point or be met with an untimely and unexpected demise. No use in blaming someone, just go ahead and  be a part of the fixing.

6. The world is unpredictable.  Weather happens. Sickness happens. Friendships and jobs change.

Hard truth: Know yourself, have a support system, and ride the surf.  Swami  Satchidananda, founder of Integral Yoga, said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”

We’ve all got our own hard truths.  Rather than lamenting how rotten they might be or putting your head in the sand, stand up to them. Be honest. Be your authentic. Be vulnerable and speak up when you need help and acknowledge what the hard truth feels like. That becomes your jumping off spot for facing those hard truths and moving forward with what comes next. It’s gonna get better after you face those hard truths (see #3).

Polar Vortex + Detour = Good Stuff

After the long holiday break, we all settled back into our school routine during the first week in January.  My middle schoolers did remarkable well picking up with our grammar, spelling and reading routines. We reflected on our hopes from the start of school and outlined our hopes for non-school goals.  Academic hopes, forthcoming.

We dove into a new genre of writing (memoir) which they eagerly attacked with the passion that ten- and eleven-year olds adeptly apply to dramatizing their endeavors. We began wrapping up our research on the Vikings and started working on  oral story-telling of Viking Sagas. We also began the arduous process of writing an essay on what we learned and documented in our primary- and secondary-source research. Things were humming along. Even-steven. Phew!

Along comes a three-day weekend, capped off by snow and cold. You know what I mean, because most of us were impacted by the Polar Vortex or at least heard about it on every news and social media outlet. As my friends in the northeast like to chuckle about, the mere prediction of a couple inches of snow shuts this part of the world down.  By Tuesday morning, 300 schools in metro-Washington were closed for the day.  Ditto for Wednesday, followed by two-hour delays the rest of the week.

So much for having our bearings this January. Continue reading “Polar Vortex + Detour = Good Stuff”

School Year Launched – Rocks and Hopes Build Community

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Woo-hoo! Day One begins tomorrow at my school! It’s a time filled with anticipation and enjoy, as well as a bit of untethered energy.  Capture and channel that energy by building community but also with a careful eye on your long and short-term goals – your rock and hopes.
Short term, the primary goals are to build a sense of belonging and significance, while learning routines and having some fun.  Long term, that’s a more complicated story, but you have the whole year to dive into content. Start off slow, getting to know each other and what aspirations each person, as well as the community, hold.  And don’t forget to play outside. Invest in some time playing games, learning names,  having fun.  Remember, it’s often a physically exhausting transition back to school and some exercise and fresh air might be what your group needs to make it through the long school day.

With an understanding of child development and the mission of your school, you should be able to articulate your own philosophy, ideas and hopes for the school year. If you haven’t  already sat down to ponder these long-range plans, they step away from your device, go for a walk or sit in silence for a bit and do so. (I’ll wait while you ponder.)

  • What kind of environment to you see?
  • What time of relationships do you hope these students develop? what skills will they need to do the work?
  • How will this work evolve?
  • How will your tribe communicate?
  • How will they be supported and nourished?
  • How will YOU be supported and nourished?
  • How will you and your students know you are making progress along this path?

Once you have this vision, write yourself some specific, actionable goals.  Remember the old rocks/sand story (don’t know it? Click here if you don’t.) Consider writing down a  few “rocks” or big picture goals you want to achieve each week. Be sure these are realistic and manageable.   All the other “stuff” in life can then fit in around these priorities.  As teachers, that jar often gets shaken up a bit, but keep those big rock in place. I was skeptical of this process at first, being one of those type-A, over-planning, overly zealous kind of folks. But I learned it’s far more satisfying to prioritize and celebrate what gets done – and somehow along the way, the other “stuff” that really matters slips in and is an added bonus.

In the first week or so of school, perhaps some of your “big rocks” might be:

  • I will know each students’ name and two significant facts or interest about them by day 10.
  • I will contact each family to introduce myself by day 7.
  • I will plan an activity I enjoy for the sake of enjoyment during the first weekend to celebrate my efforts.

Then consider your hopes for the class.  Be realistic, but raise the bar.  If you use the Responsive Classroom approach, you know that building a positive community, providing engaging academics and effective management  mean deep and authentic learning are  possible.  Articulate your hopes and then engage your class in doing the same individually.  I’ve written before on in Easing Back into the Next Chapter and Babs Freeman-Loftis writes eloquently about similar themes in Teachers’ Hopes and Goals.This process can really cement your class community and will provide a frame-work for your guidelines and community. To read more, check out “Our Hopes and Dreams School.”

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All the best for a fantastic start to the school year!

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Lisa Dewey Wells