They have to deal with all this (and more) with an under-developed brain.
Their brains are STILL a work in progress…
I look at that list (even with my developed adult brain) and know I’d be struggling balancing all of that too…
So What Can We Do?
How can we help them navigate through this tricky spot in life?
I asked myself these very same questions at the beginning of this school year…
Because this School Year, I Found Myself Neck-Deep in the Middle of Grade 9 Classroom Waters…
This classroom was filled with some complex kids with complex needs…
I wanted to help them…
The way I wish someone helped me back then…
They desperately needed certain skills…
Skills that would help them THRIVE, instead of just SURVIVE…
This is why, after much thought and a lot of field research (testing the waters of my Grade 9 classroom), I came up with a way to help my students build an essential skillset!
A skillset that would help them, not only, navigate the rough waters of Junior High, but also prepare them for life (and develop their brains along the way)!
Introducing… The Kids Yoga Stories Gratitude Journal for Teens!!
Okay, but what makes this Gratitude Journal so special?
How is a gratitude journal supposed to help our struggling Teens…?
Well, THIS journal is MORE than just any old Gratitude Journal…
In fact, it helps Teens develop qualities and skills like:
Emotional Regulation and Stress Management
Confidence and Self-Esteem
Empathy and Compassion for Themselves and Others
Positive Self-Talk and and Self-Acceptance
Forgiveness and Perspective Shifting
And of course, Expressing Gratitude and Feelings of Appreciation
How Does One Journal Do All of This?
It provides regulation strategies, like Breath of the Month and Mindful Colouring, to manage stress and anxiety – tools that Teens can use for life!
(I don’t care who you are, you can’t tell me Teens are “too cool for school” to colour… My field research says otherwise! :P)
The WeeklyPositive Affirmations promote positive self-talk, self-acceptance, boosts confidence and reminds Teens to show themselves compassion. We are all just human, after all.
The Gratitude Questions and Challenges are thought provoking and help shift perspective in Teens. They begin to understand their place in the world and have appreciation for whats going on around them.
This Interactive Journal provides a creative outlet for Teens to get thoughts and worries out of their heads. Getting things out on paper gives Teens the chance to reflect on experiences and even learn from them.
Plus, we already know that when our Mental Health improves, so does our overall health! This translates to other parts of our lives.
And Teens will benefit for years to come!
Why Did I Decide To Create A Journal For Teens Unlike Any Other?
Well, I’d like to ask you this…
Do YOU remember what it was like being a Teenager?
I sure do…
And when I met my Grade 9 students on that very first day, I saw myself in all of them.
All of my insecurities…
All of my worries…
All of my struggles trying to fit into the world…
I Barely Got By My Teen Years
I wasn’t about to let that happen to these kids.
I asked myself,
“How would I have helped MYSELF back in my Teen years?”
“What supports did I desperately need?”
DIY: Gratitude Notebooks
A few students and I put together personal notebooks filled with gratitude, breathing and calming strategies, affirmations, and other random thoughts!
The note books were amazing, but they just weren’t quite enough…
They weren’t as organized as I would have liked.
They weren’t as appealing to the Teenager who is concerned about appearance.
I took all of these lessons I learned from my Gratitude Notebooks,
All of the lessons from my Teenage students,
And all of the lessons from reflecting on my Teen years,
“How am I supposed to squeeze anything else into my day…?”
Things I hear in Education..
And I get it, Teachers have a lot on their overflowing plates.
They are more than just Teachers – they feed kids when they’re hungry and console them when they’re hurt.
Days become overwhelmed with to-do’s and then suddenly… its JUNE! And we’re cutting it close on deadlines.
But if we invest a little extra time, into the RIGHT things, it is possible to get some teaching time back!
Let’s take a quick peek into our classrooms…
Teacher’s at the front, attempting to get through her math lesson.
Attempting… because we know her lesson is not going according to plan.
We have Johnny in the front, raising his hand every 2 minutes to interject with a concern. Bianca is noisily tapping on her desk, frustrated because she just doesn’t get math. Will snapped his pencil and is this close to flipping his desk if he has to painstakingly sit through another minute of this class…
Classrooms are overrun with interruptions.
Sometimes, as Educators, we feel so short on time, that we push through our lessons and don’t necessarily deal with the underlying issue…
The stress, the frustrations and the anger…
And the truth is… Kids aren’t learning if they are not REGULATED.
To understand that, we need to know how our brains work.
When information enters our brain, either from something external (like a lesson) or from our internal emotions (fear, anger), this information travels from the bottom up.
The Brain Stem, into
Our Limbic System (Emotional brain), and then
The NeoCortex (Thinking brain)
But… when students are disregulated, then information cant travel past our brain stem, our primitive brain…
Think of it as electricity flowing in a circuit. If our regulation “switch” is turned off… no electricity is getting to the “light bulb” part of the brain.
The upper parts of their brains aren’t on.
They can’t use their emotional brain to relate to your lesson… And they most definitely can’t use their thinking brain!
So, what’s the point in stressfully pushing through a lesson if our students wont remember or relate to it…?
We Need Regulation!
And how do we do that?
By taking a little bit of time to mindfully teach regulation strategies!
When our kids become disregulated, but are PREPARED in handing it. We can redirect back to our lesson quicker.
The interruptions become minimal…
And we have a more effective lesson…
All because we invested a little bit of time turning our students brains on.
Here Are Some Easy-Peasy Strategies To Get You Started:
#1: Deep Belly Breathing (and more breathing exercises)
#2: Journalling or Creating Art
#3: Gong for a Walk (even better if it’s outdoors!)
Wishing you the best of luck! (I just know you can do it!)
The most powerful TED talk I’ve watched, was given by a 7 year old…
Molly Wright makes her way across the TED stage and begins…
Molly is not your typical 7 year old.
She is a prime example of what happens when a child’s brain development is nurtured through the early years.
Not only is she a prime example, she’s also an advocate for healthy childhood development.
I learned more from this 7 year old in 7 minutes, than I did reading over 100 books (written by adults) about children and their brains.
When kids are exposed to things like…
A Healthy Home
A Sense of Community
… it contributes positively to their development.
Connecting with our family and community builds and strengthens relationships, encourages trust, promotes positive mental health, and teaches life skills.
I’m sure we can wait until kids are older to start teaching them these skills though, right?
So… When should we be connecting, playing and talking to our kids?
#1. First 5 Years!
Molly reminds us that these years of a child’s life are the most CRUCIAL years in their development.
Brains grow faster in the first 5 years than they do the rest of our lives. By the time kids are 7 years old, their brains have grown to 90% the size of an adults’ brain.
Do not underestimate those first 5 years…
So… What should we be doing those first 5 years?
#2. Serve and Return!
This is Molly’s scientific way of saying… CONNECT! TALK! PLAY!
Children’s mirror neurons are on alert! They learn through connecting and interacting with the adults they trust. Making eye contact and playing games with your child (yes, like peekaboo), are important for their development and for their learning!
So… How often should we be playing games like peekaboo?
#3. Early and Often!
Molly reinforces that we need to be playing these games and connecting with our child as often as we can, and as early as we can!!
Even a 1 year old is aware of the broken connection when our attention is diverted.
Diverted to technology… To our devices…
What would happen if we were distracted by our devices all the time?
When children are not receiving the positive interactions they need for healthy brain development, childhood becomes stressful – even traumatic.
It is harder for children to feel safe, to trust, and to regulate without connection…
Kids NEED positive relationships.
They need connection, to be spoken to, and played with.
They need a healthy and safe home.
To feel a part of a community.
And YOU have the opportunity to give them that.
So, thanks, Molly Wright (the smartest 7 year old I know), for reminding us that a game of peekaboo has the capacity to change the world…
Go do yourselves a favour and watch Molly speak right here!
All day long, you give away pieces of your self to others.
To the tiny humans who need your support. Your full-attention. And your love…
But do you ever take a fraction of a second to give back to yourself?
Like a Car.. You Just Can’t Run on Empty..
Listen, I’ve been there.
My students mean the world to me.. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for them. As long as it means their protection. As long as they are loved.
But along the way, I forgot to stop and love myself…
Even though, I was aware of it, I thought burnout just couldn’t happen to me if everything I did was out of love.
But that wasn’t the case.
I’m human. You’re human too.
And as humans, we need to be filling up our fuel tanks constantly so we can keep on giving to others.
Sometimes, that means we need to give ourselves morethan others.
For humble educators: it’s a hard pill to swallow…
But it’s true.
I’ve spent the last few years learning this lesson the hard way.
And if I could go back in time now and have a conversation with the younger version of Miss T, I would tell her this:
#1. Don’t Bottle Things Up:
It’s easy to stuff our feelings, our exhaustion… And carry on for the sake of our students. But don’t.
Talk to people. To other teachers. Find a community. There is power in knowing you are not alone.
#2. Practice Self-Care:
There are no rules for self-care – it looks different for everyone.
Do things that nourish your soul, recharge your battery and foster sanity. This could mean writing in a gratitude journal, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk… Whatever it is, schedule time for YOU… Everyday!
Begin your morning with something for you, instead of immediately rushing off to take on the world.
#3. Take A Break:
There is strength in knowing when to step back. When to ask for help.
We pride ourselves in never having to call in sick or book a sub. But that’s not sustainable… Take the time you need to recharge.
Book a mental health day each month. Or apply for a short leave if you are in need of some ‘you-time’. Make it a reoccurring thing – like you’d make time to see your mechanic regularity.
There is a Good Chance you Already Know These Things, I Did Too…
But please, don’t let yourself hit burnout, like I did, before actually making some changes in your life.
It’s time to put yourself first.
You are human, after all.
Even the tiny humans in your life need you to love yourself.