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October 2018 - Posts
According to Psychology Today Canada, “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.” I have always been a person who valued resilience. As a parent and as a teacher, I strive to share my view that resilience is a critical life skill. I feel it is my job - my mission - to encourage children to take mitigated risks - to be generally safe, but to step outside of their comfort zones and risk a lack of success. Failure is a wonderful teacher, and it turns out that you cannot actually achieve the quality of resilience without it. Nelson Mandela “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Elizabeth Edwards “She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” Eleanor Roosevelt “A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot  water.” I attended a leadership conference last year in Toronto. One of the keynote speakers was Dr. Alex Russell, who spoke on “Leadership in the Age of Bubble-wrapped Kids and Helicopter Parents.” For me, this talk was the one I anticipated most eagerly. My daily life as a Vice Principal at the time was filled with incidents in which children were not allowed to experience the natural consequences of their actions. Since they were not permitted to fall, they could not learn how to rise up again. It was all messing with my quest to teach the children resilience. I later found segments of Dr. Russell’s talk on Youtube, as a Ted talk: Ask any good parents what they want for their children, and, chances are, they will say, “I want my kids to be happy.” Let me ask you - does this mean that they need to be happy every single moment of the day? If that’s the case, then from where do the skills needed for conflict resolution, stress management and resilience come? Where do our children learn about hard work, perseverance and that feeling of accomplishment that only comes with overcoming tough challenges? I find myself relating to the words of Kathy Shalhoub:…/my-child-i-want-so-much-more-than-h… I have had many conversations with parents this week - every single one of them important to me. Positive or negative, I want them. I want those connections and that insight and that raw communication. At times, I must have looked somewhat shell-shocked - it was a gruelling, draining week. In the heat of the moment, it would probably not have been well received if I had suggested that parents, as Dr. Alex Russell describes, “stay seated on the park bench”. As I have reflected upon those conversations, though, I am reminded of a lesson I learned a few weeks ago. It was a busy day at the office. For once, I had not been outside at recess - the yard was well supervised, but it is different when you have someone consistently there at every break, aware of certain social situations, and watching for early triggers and escalations. There was a lineup to see me after a multitude of behaviours on the yard. I finally said to one group of boys, “I don’t have time to see you just yet, so I’m going to offer you a deal - go into the conference room here. If, between you, in five minutes, you can work this out so that this never happens again, I will not get involved. Parents will not be called. You will not be serving a consequence.” I checked on the group through the glass window a few minutes later - they were talking together, eac
Posted by seccleshall  On Oct 24, 2018 at 1:25 PM
There are times, for me, when time sleeps to slow - even cease altogether. Whether I’m in a crowd or alone, it’s as if all motion and all sound just stops, and I am outside of it. My mind then takes a picture - snap - and then it all goes back to normal. Several such moments occurred this week. On Thursday evening, we had our family Thanksgiving. Family and family-by-choice and friends of family all gathered around an enormous table, and there was food and laughter and noisy conversation. Then... it all just stopped. I was standing off to one side, and happened to glance back at the rest of the group. For just a second, they all seemed to freeze, and all of the sound turned to silence, and a little voice in my head said, “This moment will never come again.” I looked at the group and really listened to that voice. Over there were Mom and Dad, laughing with my sister and her husband. Dad is coming up to his 91st birthday, and Mom will be 90 in December. My sister and her husband head back to Tasmania this week, a parting which is ever more heartbreaking for them and us. Here were my brother and his wife and one of their two sons - recently here from B.C. - talking to my sons, home from school, on reading week. There were my long-missed cousins, my family-by-choice and my Dad’s new friend (who sometimes seemed lost in the noise of it). I had a moment of clarity - there is the very real possibility that this particular group will never be gathered here in this way again. My mind took the picture - snap - and then the silence disappeared and movement resumed and I rejoined the pandemonium. We had our family Thanksgiving on Thursday because my eldest son and I were in New York on Thanksgiving weekend. Every year, for Mother’s Day, he takes me to a Buddy Guy concert. (Buddy Guy is a wonderful old Blues guitarist and singer out of Chicago. Jack happened upon him one year because I love the Blues, and he was learning to play guitar.) At this year’s concert, in Toronto, we realized that eventually, we will probably have to find another person for our annual tradition - Buddy is in his 80s. The conversation turned to people we need to see before it’s too late. Eric Clapton’s name topped the list. Well, it turns out that the legendary guitarist is suffering from peripheral neuropathy, a disease that can cause numbness, shooting pain and loss of coordination. His concert playing days may soon be over. On a whim, I checked out upcoming dates - there were only two, both in New York. I texted Jack, asking if he would like to go, even if the only tickets we could afford would make Clapton a mere speck in the distance. My son, who often takes days to respond, replied with a “Yes!” within 30 seconds. So...we went. It was incredible. There was a point - most poignantly during the song “Tears in Heaven”, which Clapton sat and sang alone  - where time stopped. Again, my brain took a photo - snap - and recognized the moment as fleeting. Not just the artist, but my son and the entire experience with him, needed to be filed away to be pulled out and enjoyed again and again at a later date. This phenomenon happens quite often at school. Dark clouds roll overhead, and the last child has entered the building after recess, and I stop and look back in a rare moment of calm at the yard. Everything feels just as it should. Snap. Then a sweet voice, “I waited for you, Ms. Eccleshall,” brings me back, and I enter back into my world through a door thoughtfully held. Later, while moving through the hall during a rather tense meeting, a child runs out of class to read our little group a short book. This seems so small a deed, but the fact that the child has always proclaimed that he hates reading, and the obvious pride he has for his accomplishment, makes the moment stretch out - I carry in my mind the picture of the child’s uplifted face, the happiness in his teacher’s eyes, the feeling I had of the enormity of it, and the stunned and then delighted l
Posted by seccleshall  On Oct 14, 2018 at 8:34 AM