Welcome back all! The first few weeks back in person have been full of excitement and changes. We're all figuring out how to make this school thing work in a pandemic, and our entire school community has risen to the occasion. Parents, students, teachers, staff and community members surrounding us have been tremendously flexible and adaptive, and I am so full of awe of us all!
While a return to school means I likely won't be as active on this blog this year, I will be posting the odd link or community resource that might be of interest to parents. If you'd prefer to receive such info by email, please send me a quick note to let me know.
First community resource update: Barbara Forster & Laura Wellman are offering a support group for parents of teenagers. See PDF below for more details!
Warmer weather. Loosening COVID-19 restrictions. There's a new energy and optimism in the air. Can you feel it?
I'm not from here. I grew up in Calgary, before spending some time in Edmonton, the Netherlands, and Kamloops before moving to the Bow Valley. One of the things I appreciate most about living here is how normal it is for people to spend a lot of time outside.
Someone whose work has influenced me greatly is Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle. He's got a great vision for the future:
I think that this world he imagines is happening in the Bow Valley. And for today's resources, I wanted to provide you with a couple lists of summer activities for keeping the connection with nature going.
From Richard Louv himself, Coronavirus specific Nature Activities.
From the Child Mind Institute, Ideas for Getting Your Kids into Nature.
And two of my personal favourites - start a family birding challenge or collect and press flowers.
2 weeks and one day. That's all that's left of this school year! It's wild! And I'm going to use the last two weeks to post strategies, activities, and resources that students can use all summer long.
Here's an app to check out, if you haven't already. It's called Super Better, and it's a game designed to build resilience and mental wellness in the real world.
How could you not love a game whose slogan is "everyone has heroic potential"? It's backed by a ton of science, and designed in a way that provides you with a little extra boost for doing things to take care of and challenge yourself. Give it a try - it's FREE! Downloadable for Android or Apple devices, or can be played online.
I am not a parent. I have not lived that experience. I have also not lived the experience of a person of colour in North America. I cannot speak to either, or give guidance about how to have conversations about race with kids without referencing those who know far better than I do. Instead, I point you towards a helpful resource created by Andrew Grant-Thomas, Melissa Giraud, and Margaret Camarena, parents who do have that experience, and their advice for parents of all backgrounds:
My students are always my best teachers. A couple of them have been giving me a crash course recently in perspective. We've been playing a bit at anthropomorphizing COVID-19. That is, pretending that the virus, like a human, has thoughts, feelings, dreams, and strategies to get what it wants. At first I did this tentatively, like it was somehow not wise to "play pretend" during a global pandemic. But my students have been the ones to show me that a little imagination goes a long way to create some powerful realisations in their lives. One told me he's become aware that the virus is setting a personal test for him, to see how much he's grown up. Another student says that the virus is best buds with technology, and the more time he spends on his phone, the further the virus gets in its grand designs to destroy his future. Another still says the virus is trying to bully her into staying inside, but she takes delight in refusing to give it this power.
It's been humbling, hearing their stories and the way they are making sense of this all. And though each person's meaning is very personal, I can't help hoping that there's something deeply felt by all of us when we emerge from our houses and can gather again.
So, courtesy of phys ed/Gr 5 teacher extraordinaire, Mr. Krohe, today's nugget: a bedtime story for you, from a future where all of this meant something.
What lessons do you hope to hang onto one year from now? Five years? What piece of your life do you actually hope this all might change for the better?
If you know me well, you know that I love stories and storytellers. I think there is so much wisdom and power contained in a single story. They can inspire, comfort, and make us feel less alone. And I encountered one such story last week that I'd love to share.
Andrea Dorfman tells a beautifully illustrated story from her own life that I know resonated with me. In a time where our major form of communication is video chat, and we see our own image right next to the images of the people we're speaking to, it's easy to fall into that familiar trap of comparing ourselves to others. And it's easy to feel like we're not as _________ (good looking, put together, witty, fill in your favourite adjective here) as other people. Andrea experienced that too, and shares what finally snapped her out of it (hint: it was real connection with someone who accepted her for the amazing person she is). See what you think.
One of my favourite things is snail mail. There is nothing quite like receiving a letter or package in the mail to make you feel really special. And yet, in a time when we can get a hold of someone instantly with the magic of technology, mail can feel so SLOW, and time consuming.
But here's the thing: we have the time. And I know people have been feeling like Zoom/House Party/FaceTime and text don't really feel the same as hanging out in-person. We're missing a certain type of connection. And while letters aren't a replacement for being there in person either, they take a bit more time and thought. And the person on the receiving end can feel the care and love that was poured into it.
Here's a girl who gets it. Hannah Brencher started The World Needs More Love Letters when she had first moved to New York and was feeling (get this) really lonely and sad herself. She saw someone else who seemed to be in a similar boat, and started out by writing to her.
So, my challenge to you: Take 5 minutes. That's it! Five. And write a little note to someone you've been thinking about. You can include a drawing, or something cool you collected on a walk, or just send it as is!
If you can hand-deliver it, do! Or send it in the mail. And see what grows from the little seed of kindness that you planted.
Apologies students and families! My blog took an extra week for spring break. I'm sure you can empathize. Anyway, we're back at it today and this week, bringing you love and support. Take what you need and leave the rest!
Right about now, I'm feeling very lucky to be on such an amazing Mental Health support team at CRPS. If you haven't already met our friends at Right From the Start, please check out their web-page. It has heaps of resources, edited and curated to ensure that you are only getting the best of the best. It also has a link to their Facebook Page where you often find local resources, mental health challenges, and funny videos. They also have resources focused on PARENTS, like the one below.
And Exshaw School has started a YouTube Channel called Exshaw Wellness Circle. There will be four videos uploaded every week, each focusing on a different aspect of health represented in the medicine wheel. They are amazing. Subscribe so you don't miss a single one!
Please remember that you are a part of this school community, and so missed and loved.
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Both my parents initially thought they would be come Middle School teachers. They tried a year of it after their education degrees and decided it wasn't for them, and moved on to other careers they considered "less stressful" and "more rewarding". It was much to their surprise when, years later, their daughter said she wanted to get into youth work. For them, working with students aged 12-14 had been a living nightmare. For me, it was a dream.
Put simply, I am fascinated by what happens in our lives at this age. There is so much physical and emotional growth. There is the complete change in sense of self and our position in the world. There is the asking of HUGE questions, like "who am I?" and "does life have any meaning?". There are actually limitless possibilities for the direction our life might lead.
I recently read a book called Wildhood, which largely inspired this post. I had long heard the myth that other animals didn't "do" adolescence, but somehow skipped entirely over the awkward phase directly from cute child to grown-up. The book suggests that adolescence is actually a pivotal phase in life for a lot of creatures on this earth, and one in which core learnings about survival take place.
So I wanted to offer a couple videos and articles that speak to how important and amazing the teen years are. If you're a teenager, hopefully they provide some insight into what's actually going on in that body and brain of yours (hint: it's not all raging hormones and a lack of impulse control). If you're a parent of a teenager, hopefully it provides some perspective and empathy for the gifts and challenges of adolescence.
First, Dan Siegel's ode to the Amazing, Tumultuous, Wild, Wonderful Teenage Brain
Then, UCLA's Video on Why the teenage brain has an evolutionary advantage
And, finally, The School of Life's oddly inspiring video on The Importance of an Unhappy Adolescence
With you in the weird and wonderful time of life that this is,
I'm trying to stay connected to family while living far away from them, so I'm talking to my mom on the phone more than I have in my entire adult life. The other day she says, "These are historical times we're living in. I really should be keeping a journal".
And she's not alone in thinking that! Here's a few reasons you might think about keeping a journal yourself these days:
1. They help you sort out and express your thoughts and feelings.
Having to put something on paper means you have to translate it from a feeling or a thought to words or pictures.
â2. They help you look back and track how you feel and think over time, building more self-understanding
Keeping a record shows you how your opinions and emotions change over time, which is pretty neat, actually.
3. They help you build your own unique voice
You have the freedom to say anything, because it's just for you. This is also good practice for using your voice to communicate with others.
Some ways you could journal right now:
Every day, write down three things you are thankful for. It's cool to see how the attitude of gratitude can expand!
Draw instead of write. It could be something you saw that day, or just the way you are feeling!
Long Creation's Time Capsule (for Gr 4-6)
If you need a bit of help, this amazing time capsule journal by Long Creations is perfect for capturing what is happening RIGHT NOW.
Suleika Jaouad's Isolation Journals (for Gr 7-8)
For teens and adults, the Isolation Journals is a cool way to experiment with writing prompts and see the ways that other people are being creative in this historic time. Framed as a 30 day challenge, you are given a different writing prompt every day. It's really neat to see the different directions people have gone with it! See the above video prompt from musician Jon Batiste for an awkward prompt.