Funny story about Strawberry ice cream:
Waaay back when we were newly married and living in NC, we met my in-laws in Asheville, NC for a weekend of touring the Biltmore Mansion, shopping, visiting, and (of course) stopping for ice cream. Now, it’s customary in my wife’s family that you share food (which I’ve gotten used to), and as a rule, they are not fans of desserts with fruit in them. We were in a little ice cream shop, and everyone gave their orders: butter pecan, vanilla, rocky road… and then I order strawberry (because YUM!). As one, they all turn to look at me and exclaim, “Strawberry?!” Anyone who has experienced a new relationship with their partner’s parents knows EXACTLY what I was feeling at that moment.
I still stand behind my decision, and they’ve moved on. It’s actually in the family lore now. :)
Big Idea: Lisa Feldman Barrett wrote a great book (and one that I return to often). That unquestionably puts emotions within the physiological purview of the body. How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain is a thick read but worth your time. (She attributes today’s quote to Buddhism, but in my research, it’s more complicated than that.)
I summarize the 291 pages like this:
Therefore, when you feel stressed, your brain has predicted that there will be a big metabolic outlay necessary in the next moment. Your body only has so much energy, and so if the body’s energy budget is already low due to lack of sleep, poor diet and exercise, your brain becomes decreasingly able to regulate the body. You will experience that as fatigue, negative mood, or distress.
Basically, whenever we feel a negative emotion, it’s not anyone’s fault, it most likely has a root in how our body is using its energy (our metabolism) based on how it made a prediction based on our past experiences. #mindblown
Check out Dr. Barrett’s interviews on The Hidden Brain and The Psychology Podcast
This week, try this: The next time you feel ‘some kind of way’ about what someone says or does, turn to curiosity. If you question why someone feels the way they do, it’s just about impossible to feel both anger and curiosity at the same time.
Quote: "Anger is a form of ignorance."
Educator Resource: Mindfulness-Based SEL Micro-Credential - from the Coalition of Schools Educating Mindfully (COSEM). Have you ever wanted to learn more about HOW to bring mindfulness into your classroom? This is for you!
COSEM, located in Chicago, created this micro-credential as a learning opportunity that is accessible for teachers and leaders. It offers quality learning but is not as commitment-intensive as a full yoga or mindfulness teacher certification. This program allows you to embody practices at your own pace. By the end, you feel confident developing and leading mindfulness-based SEL experiences, and have a credential to validate your learning, no matter your role in schools.
I personally know most of the instructors, and they are top-notch. Highly recommend!
Dad Joke: What do you call a lazy kangaroo? A pouch potato.
Do you have anything argyle? I think I have some socks somewhere… National Argyle Day is celebrated annually on January 8 to encourage us to express our love for the pattern derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell, of Argyll in western Scotland. Scottish Highlanders have worn the pattern design in kilts, plaids, and patterned socks since the 17th century. One of the reasons they became so popular was when Prince Edward, who would later become the Duke of Windsor, started wearing it to go golfing. He wore argyle jerseys, long socks, and trousers.
Big Idea: The more I learn about what it means to be a human, the more I arrive at the conclusion that our identity is at the center of everything.
Psychologists define identity as, “the memories, experiences, relationships, and values that create one’s sense of self.”
Understanding yourself (your identity) is where self-awareness comes in - the center of SEL and also self-care.
It’s my opinion that anything that is anchored to WHAT we are (career, hobby, role, etc.) is setting one up for failure. For example, if you are defined by your job as an educator, what happens when you retire or can’t teach anymore? People experience great loss because part of their identity is gone.
However, if we ground ourselves in WHO we are - perhaps someone who likes to help others or make connections with other people - then even if we can’t teach anymore, we can still find ways to help or connect.
This also goes for New Year’s Resolutions. In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear points out that one of the most effective ways of changing behavior is to connect the desired behavior to your identity. Rather than, “I want to lose 50 pounds” try “I want to be a healthy person.”
This week, try this: A simple way to figure out what you prioritize in your identity is to listen to how you introduce yourself. You could also write a 150-word biography, and see what you keep in there and what you decide isn’t worth mentioning is the limited space.
Quote: "What you are can go up in flames, but who you are has been forged in fire." (Matt Weld, aka me!)
Educator Resource: Angst - Angst is a film-based program designed to raise awareness around anxiety. The film includes interviews with kids, teens, educators, experts, parents and a very special interview with Michael Phelps. Our goal specifically is to help people identify and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help. Angst screens in schools, corporations, communities and theaters around the world. The film and corresponding materials provide tools, resources and above all, hope. Watch the TRAILER or access the FULL VIDEO (plus accompanying materials). The full video is 43 minutes, designed for a class period.
Dad Joke: I just burned 2,000 calories. That's the last time I leave brownies in the oven while I nap!
Let’s have some fun! Formula: “<your name> the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”
We (OK, *I*) have a tendency to take life too seriously. For us stick-in-the-muds, we have to remember that humor is one of the most important factors in choosing a partner, and has been shown to provide relief in all sorts of stressful situation. Check out this article for more.
Big Idea: Thursday is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.
Winter, cold, darkness, and silence.
But there is power in silence even though it can make us nervous. I always told my students after I asked a question and let the silence sit that I was taught in Teacher School to wait 3 seconds. These days, when I’m out and about giving presentations and Administrator Academies, and I ask a question and then be quiet, someone invariably shares something great *just* as I’m getting to uncomfortable and feel the need to move on.
Here are three areas where silence can be power:
This week, try this: Build your silence stamina. Find a quiet place where you can be comfortable. Eliminate all external noise that you can control. Close your eyes or turn your gaze inward. Breathe. Follow your breathing. Concentrate on your breathing. When your attention turns to something else, notice it, name what it turned to, and then bring your attention back to your breath without judgement. At first, it seems like all you are doing is redirecting your attention. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Start with a minute, and then slowly increase the time you spend with this exercise.
Quote: "A seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with a huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation is quite. This is the power of silence. Grow silently." (Confucius)
Educator Resource: PEP Con 2024 - Positivity, Energy, & Purpose Conference
We are back for the second annual event! Wednesday, February 21, 2024, Gateway Center, Collinsville, IL. 8:30 - 3:00. Limited to first 300.
We have three excellent speakers lined up who will make you laugh, think, and walk away feeling energized. Register now to hear Michael Bonner, Joe ‘Mr. D.’ Dombrowski, and Monica Genta. Presenter bios, Info, and Registration. Sponsored by the Area 5 SEL Hub.
Dad Joke: Someone asked me what the 9th letter of the alphabet is. It was a total guess, but I was right!
What’s a Noodle Ring? I had to turn to Mr. Google for the answer. I thought it was all about Spaghettios today, but no (sadly. #teammeatball). A Noodle rings is basically mac n’ cheese put into a bundt pan, baked, and then dumped out into a new, delicious shape. Various religions feature such dishes for holidays, including the Jewish holidays of Yom Tov and Shabbat, and the Catholics serve noodle rings with veggies or creamed fish in the center during lent.
Clearly fish fries are so yesterday.
Have you ever had a noodle ring? Do you have a recipe? Please share!
Big Idea: ‘Tis the season for all the feels.
Hollywood would have you believe that December is all about snow, fires, and mistletoe. For may people, however, this month brings cold, memories of loved ones, and the uncertainty of an imminent new year.
This week, I was listening to an episode of the 10% Happier podcast, and the guest was talking about uncertainty and change. She recounted a study where people who were told they had a low probability of getting an electric shock were more stressed than the people who were told they had a high probability. We like our predictable life.
Likewise, think about all the people in the world who give up their freedoms for a more predictability. Making decisions takes work and involves messiness. Ask the history teacher in your building about the civilizations that moved from democratic to autocratic.
The irony is that every second of our future is uncertain; we live with uncertainty ALL the time. Yet humans REALLY dislike change and unpredictability.
To help out, I curated some strategies and developed a resource for this week’s Mindful Monday (see Educator Resource to register) that includes 7 ways to help cope with uncertainty.
This week, try this: So much of our aversion to uncertainty comes about when the unpredictable future butts up against our identity. When you are assigned a new teaching position, it comes into conflict with your identity as a science teacher (for example). Maybe instead of having ‘science teacher’ as our identity marker, try having ‘helper’ or ‘enjoys kids’ as part of how you see yourself. Instead of titles, add characteristics to your identity. Then, when uncertainty comes along, the new teaching position won’t come into conflict with who you are, and moving into the new role will be a whole lot easier.
Quote: "Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security." (John Allen Paulos)
Educator Resource: Mindful Mondays for Winter/Spring 2024. This is the 3rd year of Mindful Mondays, and we’ve had 7 so far this semester. Twice each month, we get together to practice intention, breathwork, mindfulness, yoga, and guided meditation. Each week is a different theme, but the structure is the same. 3:30 - 4:30 pm. Free. 1 PD Hour per event for Illinois educators.
“Matt is a very calming voice after a whirlwind of a day. It works well to “be forced” (due to me signing up) to take time to work on self-care. Then I wonder why I don’t do it more often.” ~Kim B.
It’s also National Cookie Day. Curl up under a weighted blanket in cozy socks and warm cookies? Yes, please! What’s your favorite cookie recipe? Here’s a Weld family recipe. It was one of my dad’s faves, mine, and now our son’s (is it a male thing?). We’ve already made one batch this season, and will probably do more. If you need to go GF, you can sub the flour but flatten the dough before you bake. (Oh, and no one knows where the name came from.)
Big Idea: Earlier this week, I was in the men’s room at Menards, and taped above the urinal was the weekly ad, showing me of all the things I didn’t know I needed. At the bottom, in very fine print, was Pema Chodron’s quote. Oh, the irony!
Earlier in November, my wife attended a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, nestled in the mountains outside of San Jose. Costa Rica is a place where poverty is mean yet people are happy.
So why is there a mental health crisis in the US where the majority of us have everything we need?
During a commute this week, I listened to an episode of the Hidden Brain podcast where they were talking about the Hedonic Treadmill. This is the idea that a person’s level of happiness may rise and fall with events, but will then make its way back to where it was before the event. There have been studies where people who experienced paralysis of their lower body were compared to lottery winners. Within a year, they both reported the same level of happiness.
This week, try this: In this season of spending, consider giving experiences rather than things. Experiences have been shown to provide happiness for longer because 1) you generally experience them with other people so they make deeper impressions (and we are social creatures), and 2) you make memories from experiences that you can’t get from things, and memories can change the way we respond to future events in ways that objects cannot.
Quote: We already have everything we need." (Pema Chodron)
Educator Resource: DitchSummit on TeachIllinois: Year 7
That’s 76 PD hours you could earn between December 11 and January 5 because in addition to the 8 new sessions Matt Miller has created for this year, he and I (Matt Power!) have been collaborating for 7 years to enable Illinois teachers to earn PD hours for attending DitchSummit. Each year, he also opens up all his past recordings, too, so you can really find some good stuff by some of the best educators and authors around, including James Clear, Dave Burgess, and Alice Keeler.
Register on the DitchSummit site to join the notification list. Watch the sessions there, and then go to TeachIllinois with your certificate of completion to get your IL PD hours.
Dad Joke: How do you console an English teacher? There, they're, their.
It’s also Bavarian Cream Pie Day If I’m going to choose between pie and turtles, I’m going with pie. Every time.
Big Idea: The more I listen to people as I’m out and about presenting on SEL and well-being, the more I come to understand that we can’t do this well-being thing, this SEL thing, or this LIFE thing alone.
Even as an introvert who can spend days at home alone without feeling lonely, I still need to feel like I belong.
Belonging is one of the greatest human needs.
And there’s a difference between belonging and fitting in. Most of our students are struggling to fit in, but in reality, school needs to be a place where they can feel like they belong. Adults, too.
In my opinion, if we come together in community and individually take responsibility for the greater good of the group, then everyone benefits, everyone belongs, and everyone thrives.
This week, try this: Think about the community you have built in your classroom. Do you have a ‘schtick’ that makes your room unique and a place where your students feel special? Maybe it’s a ritual at the beginning or end of class, maybe it’s a tradition for birthdays, maybe it’s a certain way you do or say things… This week, try being intentional about making sure everyone belongs.
Quote: "Community is much more than belonging to something; it's about doing something together that makes belonging matter." (Brian Solis)
Educator Resource: ParentABLE and ParenTeach:There is so much here:
Odd Sock Day Started in 2017… …as a way to deter bullying in school. With the rise of technology and the added pressure children face social media and at school, the Anti-Bullying Alliance created the day to remind people that it’s good to stand out. By expressing oneself without fear of judgment reaffirms the idea that being who you are is more than enough. If we can appreciate someone else’s odd socks, we can also appreciate each individual’s differences.
The Big Idea: Combine this with the common saying in the trauma world, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” and you get something really powerful.
I recommend making the expression of gratitude a daily practice.
Start your day on a positive note by expecting good things for the day ahead or finish your day acknowledging all the good things that happened during the day.
Several studies like this one have shown how a positive, grateful outlook on life can change your biology. As in fewer trips to the doctor, more activity,
This week, try this: Try being thankful for the little things that usually go unnoticed, like clean water, your abilities, or your bed on a cold morning.
Quote: "If you cannot find gratitude, you'll never find peace." (Letitia Rae)
Educator Resource: Women in Leadership Conference: Join ROE #3 and ROE #13 for our fifth annual Women in Leadership Conference! We will gather to learn, engage, and grow through networking opportunities, viable breakouts, an engaging panel discussion, and our inspirational keynote, Sara Boucek. This conference will be held on March 5, 2024 at the DoubleTree in Mt. Vernon, IL from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. The cost to attend this conference is $125/person and lunch and a light breakfast will be provided. Registration and breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. Payment needs to be remitted to: ROE #3, 1500 W. Jefferson St., Vandalia, IL 62471.
Dad Joke: We all know where the Big Apple is, but does anyone know where the Minneapolis?
It’s also World Kindness Day so while you’re giving explicit instruction to your students about kindness (especially random acts!), put on some Symphonic Metal. Think Meatloaf or TSO (it is coming up on TSO season, and if you’ve never seen a concert, put it on your list!) if you think you’ve never heard of this genre before.
Big Idea: To be fair, Kristin didn’t come up with this quote, but it is in her book that we covered in October on TeachIllinois, and was the most referenced quote in the reflection papers submitted at the end.
Some schools are big enough that they employ a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). And if you turn to Google, there are several answers as to how many functions of behavior there are. In a nutshell, let’s go with four. This is the SEAT model:
SENSORY: provides stimulation to the pleasure centers of the brain.
ESCAPE: your basic avoidance strategies
ATTENTION: we are social creatures and sometimes we need interaction
TANGIBLE: we do certain things to get certain things.
These aren’t just for kids, either - this explains all human behavior.
This week, try this: Try looking at your students’ behaviors through the SEAT lens. How does your understanding of what needs to be done in response change? Is it better to respond to the behavior or dig down to the underlying needs? (This is not a trick question, and the answer will probably vary depending on the situation.)
Quote: "Every behavior is an expression of need." (Kristin Souers)
Educator Resource: Managing Child Meltdowns & Tantrums [5:23 VIDEO]. So this is on the Autism Helper channel and is designed for younger students. HOWEVER, after watching it, I think that several of her points, like getting yourself in check, remaining calm, and not pointing out what they did wrong (in the moment) are applicable to all ages. My biggest takeaway? We need to be regulated and calm (which can be challenging!).
Dad Joke: How do you get a country girl to go out with you? Attract her.
Don’t nachos just make you happy?In reality, I’ve had some really bad nachos. But when I think of nachos, I think of bar food, friends, good times, and lots of laughter. You know it’s nacho lucky day when you show up to salsa class with nachos.
“I’m not good at ___.”
“I really need to be a better ___.”
“I’ll bet if I did more ____ I would fit in better at ___.”
These thoughts aren’t just limited to the kids in our schools. They are going on in our heads too. Guaranteed.
But why? If we are inherently so wrapped up in ourselves, why are we so critical of ourselves?
If we are constantly assuming things and writing our own endings to stories, why are they dramas instead of comedies?
This week, try this: When you hear yourself being hard on yourself, do a little roleplay. Pretend that you are your best friend and they are in the same exact situation. What would you tell them? I’ll bet it would be a lot more positive!
Educator Resource: Free Book Study starts today! Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriet Lerner (7 PD hours). 100% Asynchronous on TeachIllinois.org. Once you register, you’ll have access to the forum section where you will introduce yourself and then participate in the ‘slow conversation’ that takes place each week over a quarter of the book. Sometime during the week, you will post your biggest a-ha moment from the reading and respond to at least two other readers’ posts. At the end of the month, you’ll write a reflection paper of at least 250 words on your biggest takeaway, complete with text citations.
If you have questions, lmk, cuz I’m the moderator!
Dad Joke: I stayed up all night wondering where the sun had gone. Then it dawned on me.
Happy Halloween Eve!And let’s be real. Candy is everything this Halloween (and every Halloween). Forget about Lewis. Sales of candy this year is up 16% to a record $3.6B. You can also check out this site’s other candy-related data, including an interactive map that shows most popular candy by state (might be a cool last-minute class discussion tool!).
Big Idea: As I travel around talking to educators, I still come across people who don’t believe in trauma.
Remember from last week that trauma is not the event itself. It’s not productive to be defined by what happened in the past. Trauma is the changes that have happened in the body due to the traumatic event - changes that the body has held onto as its way of being.
One of the most common and pervasive sources of trauma is when we give up our authenticity in exchange for acceptance.
This is, in my opinion, the most harmful aspect of social media. No matter what the account is espousing - it could be mindfulness or yoga or a healthy lifestyle - it’s done through images that become our goal for whatever is being communicated. And a (not so?) small part of us believes that what we see is the way we should be.
When we shift our actions toward acceptance by others, we are giving up the pathway that reflects our true self. When we shift off the trajectory of our true selves, we put our mind/body/self continuum out of whack, and that’s traumatic.
So, we end up with dysfunctional, dysregulated people leading and teaching other humans who are dysfunctional and dysregulated.
Awareness is the solution. Now that you’re aware that this is a thing, you’re already better than you were before. Keep mindful in the present moment, listen to your body, practice gratitude, and continue to do random acts of kindness. Scientific studies will support your decisions!
This week, try this: Do at least one body scan each day. Start at your head and work your way down, noticing how each body part feels. Instead of being annoyed if something’s ‘not right’ ask yourself why.
Quote: "Trauma is when we are not seen and known." (Bessel van der Kolk)
Educator Resource: “Just Breathe” - An original film by a filmmaking couple who overheard their son talking about mindfulness activities they were learning in school. They leaned into their own curiosity, learned more about SEL themselves, and found their own lives transformed. This is a great video to share with your students, especially the younger ones, since it’s narrated by kids.
Dad Joke: What kind of key opens the door to a haunted house? A spoo-key.
SEL Coach Matt Weld creates and delivers in-person and online SEL-related content.