Category Archives: Social-Emotional Learning

What’s the Secret to a Long Life? #BCSLearns

What does it take to live 100 and beyond?  How would you answer this question?  Many of the first things that come to mind revolve around taking care of your mental and physical health.  Exercise often. Eat healthy. Keep a positive attitude (easier said then done).  But, what if I shared with you research that suggests that the top 2 secrets to a long life have nothing to do with these seemingly obvious beneficial activities.  Researcher Susan Pinker shares that “The Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America.” It is also the only place on earth she can find where men live as long as women.  But, Why? According to Pinker, “it’s not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders alive so long .  It is their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions” that make the difference.   If fact, you can even be “grumpy” or a “sourpuss” – a positive attitude is not on the list of top 10 from Pinker’s reasearch.

  • 10 – Clean Air
  • 9   – Hytertension Rx
  • 8   – Lean vs. Overweight
  • 7   – Exercise
  • 6   – Cardiac Rehab
  • 5   – Flu Vaccine
  • 4   – Quit Boozing
  • 3   – Quit Smoking
  • 2   – Close Relationships
  • 1   – Social Integration

From her research, Pinker has determined that “social isolation is the public health risk of our time.”  On Sardinia, “They are never left to live solitary lives.”  As people age, members of their community are always dropping by to interact with each other making social isolation impossible and improving their close relationships and social integration.

Pinker explains what it takes to live to 100 and beyond in 2 videos I share below – both well worth the time.  The first video is a 2-minute snippet of the TED Talk and summary of her research.  The second video is the full 16 minute version.  View them both to help you understand what she means by “close relationships” and “social interaction.”  Give them a watch!

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Truly Altruistic #BCSLearns

9 habits of empathy

With June, the final month of the school year, upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World.  June’ s focus is that empathetic people Want to Make a Difference.  Indeed, this focus can carry the students and you through the summer months, not just the month of June.  In her book and in the brief video I included below, Borba encourages us to cultivate altruistic leadership abilities in order to motivate children to make a difference for others, no matter how small it may be, and boost their chances of becoming “Social Changemakers.”  But, from this robust challenge to adults who nurture the development of children, how do we do this?  Borba suggests the following:  understand the obstacles, cultivate a changemaking mindset, help students become a changemaker, and things to know about raising a changemaker.

So, what are the obstacles for kids to becoming altruistic leaders?

  • Fame-Driven Heroes
  • A Materialistic World
  • An “Overhelping” Parenting Style
  • Anything else?

How can we truly cultivate a changemaking mindset?

  1. Teach the Growth Mindset Model (see a previous post Growth Mindset – Fixin’ to See Its Implication for Adults & Kids Alike)
  2. Emphasize Effort
  3. Encourage Practice
  4. Recap the Impact

So, where should we start?  Borba suggests the acronym F.A.C.E.

  • F = feelings -to read the person’s feelings
  • A = analyze the situation
  • C = care
  • E = empathize – let the person know you are concerned

What steps can I help students through to become a changemaker?

  1. Find a cause that concerns your child
  2. Think of Possibilities
  3. Plan it
  4. Start Locally
  5. Encourage “Direct Contact”
  6. Keep Going!

Borba closes this chapter of her book with “5 Things to Know about Raising Changemakers”: 

  1. Stretching your kid’s helping muscles must be ongoing so make helping others a routine part of their childhood.
  2. A child who sees herself as altruistic is more likely to help others because children act in ways that match their self image. Help your child to see herself as a helper.
  3. Kids who are given regular opportunities to help and comfort others tend to become more helpful and compassionate.
  4. People who believe that empathy has the potential to grow are more likely to exert effort to empathize when it is needed most. Help your child to recognize that empathy can be improved with practice and help him develop an empathetic growth mindset so that he knows that traits like empathy, caring, kindness and courage can be developed.
  5. Kids tend to empathize with people they are close to, so expand your child’s circle of familiarity to include those of different backgrounds and experiences.

In an article from Psychology Today called Empathy and Altruism: Are They Selfish?,  Neel Burton sets out to answer that question and how one leads to the other.  He states that “Empathy leads to compassion, which is one of the main motivators of altruism.”   But, Burton wonders, are altruistic acts selfish?  He concluded by arguing that “there can be no such thing as an ‘altruistic’ act that does not involve some element of self-interest…that does not lead to some degree, no matter how small, of pride or satisfaction. Therefore, an act should not be written off as selfish or self-motivated simply because it includes some unavoidable element of self-interest. The act can still be counted as altruistic if the ‘selfish’ element is accidental; or, if not accidental, then secondary; or, if neither accidental nor secondary, then undetermining.  Only one question remains: how many so-called altruistic acts meet these criteria for true altruism?

So, I feel compelled to note that, even altruism seems to have a scale from “selfish altruism” “to selfless altruism”; though can altruism ever be truly selfless when you’re empathetically involved?  Take a peak at this brief advertisement with the power that “when the best of us steps up, our nation stands a little taller.”  While watching the video, keep Borba’s notes above in the forefront of your mind.  Let’s grow altruistic leaders who step up AND let’s use this summer as a great launching pad!

Below is a brief video with Michelle Borba with strategies on how parents can “raise an altruistic kid”.

BCS Named 2018 National School of Character #BCSLearns

school_of_character_logo_rectangle

Character.org Designates 73 schools as 2018 National Schools of Character and 5 districts as 2018 National Districts of Character.  Program developed in 1998 has positively impacted the lives of close to 2 million students

Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2018)— Character.org, the nonprofit organization that validates character initiatives in schools and communities around the world, today designated 73 schools and 5 districts from 17 states as 2018 National Schools and Districts of Character.

Birmingham Covington School (MI) is one of the designated schools.  BCS offers a choice in educational structure and philosophy for BPS residents seeking a rigorous academic challenge. Its science and technology emphasis is based in Science for All Americans: Project 2061. In multi age classrooms (grades 3/4, 5/6 and 7/8) and in two-year academic cycles, students learn in an interactive atmosphere where they are challenged to apply and integrate their knowledge. Through interdisciplinary projects, students incorporate and demonstrate their understanding of skills and concepts where character is authentically integrated throughout lessons and activities.  Mark Morawski, principal, states: “This is a wonderful recognition indeed, and earning this honor through Character.org’s rigorous identification process including a site visit is something of which we are enormously proud.  We all celebrate indeed, students, parents, alumni and staff!  Though, we know that this is not the finish line; rather, it is another starting point as we work toward continuous improvement.  BCS is a great place to be!”

Since the inception of Character.org’s Schools of Character program in 1998, 547 schools and 35 districts have been designated as National Schools or Districts of Character, impacting more than 3 million people’s lives (A complete list of the 2018 National Schools and Districts of Character is included on the Character.org website).

Each year, Character.org and its state affiliates certify schools and districts that demonstrate a dedicated focus on character development with a positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior, school climate and their communities. Character.org evaluates schools and districts selected in January as State Schools of Character (along with those schools who reapplied within their 3-year designation) Character.org for consideration for national certification as National Schools of Character.

Through an in-depth and rigorous evaluation process, these schools were found to be exemplary models in character development. Of the schools named today, 17 schools are former National Schools of Character that have re-applied for the national designation. Criteria for selection are based on Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education, a framework to assist schools in providing students with opportunities for moral action, fostering shared leadership and engaging families and communities as partners in the character-building effort.

“At Character.org, we are extremely proud of this year’s National Schools of Character as well as our district recipients. Their dedication to character development is reducing the skills gap by equipping the future workforce with transferable relationship skills needed to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” said Doug Karr, Character.org’s President & CEO. “Validating character initiatives is at the core of what we do, because they create fertile conditions for multi-generational character growth in communities of character. This year as we celebrate our Silver Anniversary, we are excited to also recognize 20 years of incredible National Schools of Character.”

Character.org will honor the designated schools and districts at its 25th National Forum on Character  to be held October 4-7, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Visit www.character.org to learn more about the National Forum, the Schools of Character Certification (State & National) and the 2018 national honorees.

Stand Up and Upstand #BCSLearns

With May upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World.  This month’s focus is that empathetic people Stick their Necks Out.  In her book, Borba says that empathetic people have the “moral courage” to stick their necks out and become “active bystanders, better known as “upstanders”.  Bystanders stand by and passively observe or witness any acts of unkindness to others.  We need to teach our students, even ourselves, strategies to stand up actively.  In her book, Borba shares some strategies to positively S.T.A.N.D. U.P.:

  • S – seek support
  • T – tell a trusted adult
  • A – assist the victim
  • N – negate with positivity
  • D – detour
  • U – use a distraction
  • P – pause and rethink

In helping students nurture this habit of sticking their necks out, we need to explicitly teach what each of these strategies look like and sound like.  For many middle school and high school students telling an adult is taboo.  We have to help students realized they have a moral obligation to help create a safe environment for each of us who have the privilege to be part of the community in which we find ourselves.  Telling a trusted adult is not “ratting out” a classmate; rather, it is getting help to further support the safety and well-being of those in our community.  If a student just won’t report, there are still other strategies to demonstrate this moral courage.  A student can be an upstander with another strategy such as assisting the victim, detouring or simply using a distraction.  These do not require reporting; the taboo for many older students.

So what happens when we become upstanders?  Here are the research-based outcomes.  Upstanding…

  • reduces the audience that a bully craves
  • mobilizes the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying
  • supports the victim and reduces the trauma
  • is a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode
  • encourages other students to support a school climate of caring
  • encourages reporting a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs an adult is not present. Students are usually the witnesses.

In short, “When bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds (Pepler and Craig, 2005).

If that is not enough to demonstrate the benefits. “Sticking your neck out and nurturing this habit, as Borba contends, helps our students find their “inner hero.”  What can we do to help nurture the inner hero of our children?

  • Expect social responsibility
  • Set the example: model it.
  • Offer Heros: Harrry Potter, Huck Finn, Nelson Mandella, Little Engine that could.
  • Stop Rescuing : We do not build confidence when we rescue.
  • Try small scale courage.

Above all, always encourage, and help children live the mantra of Muhatma Ghandi, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Be the Change – It is done everyday, let’s just make it larger scale!  Show this below video to your students and children to help them find their inner hero.  “Kindness begins with you!”

Walk the Path of Empathy by Thinking Us, not Them #BCSLearns

With April upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy, Think Us, Not Them, from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World.  In a Your Teen magazine interview, Borba shares, “The bottom line is empathy is lying dormant. Empathy can be cultivated, but we aren’t doing that intentionally enough as parents. Our definition of success has become IQ, grades, and SATs, with less focus on kindness. What we are doing is raising our kids to stay in the ‘me’ stage, and we need to start helping them think ‘we’ not ‘me.’” To do this, she suggests, we have to redirect kids away from all the negative media and Start showing them the good part of the world. They need to hear elevating experiences, like kids on the back page of a newspaper who are making a difference.”  We need to expose the world of kindness more broadly, intentially and intensely to our kids.

In an article from Medium entitled Think Us, not Them: A Useful Belief for First Time Managers, Narayan Kamath, this us vs. them mentality often times in naturally-formed in organizations.  Human beings naturally categorize, group, compare and separate.    Kamath writes, “Group identity is an innate part of being human and is indeed at the very foundation of people coming together as families, communities, societies and even nations. This shared sense of belonging is what makes organisations feasible and successful. However, group identity operates at several levels, and in organisations this can lead to several dysfunctional behaviours.”  These dysfunctions that move us away from thinking us, not them and my take on them include:

  • Blaming management – Other groups naturally will blame the management for the problems.  In a teacher’s case, students will blame the teacher for their problem be it a poor grade or missing work.  As leaders and teachers, we must ask for feedback and suggestions to those we serve so that we create an “us” mentality, we are in this together.  
  • Blaming other groups – like blaming management, naturally one group will blame another for the problems they are facing be it on an adult team or with a classroom. As leaders and teachers, we need to help students see their value as part of the community and empower them to be part of the solution influencing positive change.
  • Withholding information and resources – this creates a competitive culture rather than a collaborative one.  At BCS we ought to be enormously proud of the collaborative culture we have created where adults and students share information and resources for self improvement, team improvement and school improvement.

For Kamath, Think Us, Not Them is about “genuine collaboration across the organisation.” As one of our BCS belief statements reads, “people learn best in an atmosphere of curiosity, high expectations, collaboration and diversity.”  BCS is a great Place to Be!  

Finally, if you need more evidence on the importance of collaboration and thinking us , not them, check out the below video and remember these fiveLessons from Geese.” Check out how geese think us, not them / we, not me!

  • Lesson 1 – The Importance of Achieving Goals
    • As each goose flaps its wings it creates an UPLIFT for the birds that follow. By flying in a ‘V’ formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range. 
    • Outcome:  When we have a sense of community and focus, we create trust and can help each other to achieve our goals. 
  • Lesson 2 – The Importance of Team Work 
    • When a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front.
    • Outcome:  If we had as much sense as geese we would stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others. 
  • Lesson 3 – The Importance of Sharing
    • When a goose tires of flying up front it drops back into formation and another goose flies to the point position. 
    • Outcome:  It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks. We should respect and protect each other’s unique arrangement of skills, capabilities, talents and resources. 
  • Lesson 4 – The Importance of Empathy and Understanding 
    • When a goose gets sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to the ground to help and protect it. 
    • Outcome:  If we have as much sense as geese we will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong. 
  • Lesson 5 – The Importance of Encouragement
    • Geese flying in formation ‘HONK’ to encourage those up front to keep up with their speed.
    • Outcome:  We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups and teams where there is encouragement, production is much greater. ‘Individual empowerment results from quality honking’

These Trends Look Familiar? #BCSLearns

Following are the Most Popular Trends in Education from TeachThought. In reviewing these, I marveled at how many of these trends speak to and are deeply aligned with our BCS Vision, Mission, Values and Beliefs and how we approach learning at BCS.  In fact, noted after each, is a previous post referenced from my blog.  Which trends most resonate with you at a member of the BCS community?

  1. Growth Mindset (Growth Mindset – Fixin’ to See Its Implication for Adults & Kids Alike)
  2. Maker Learning (Can Our Students Change the World from Our Classrooms?)
  3. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Questioning: Powerful for Inquiry, Discovery & Curiosity-for learning!)
  4. Digital Citizenship/Literacy (Are You Future Proof?)
  5. Personalized Learning (Individualization, Differentiation & Personalized Learning – A comparison)
  6. Project-Based Learning (see links for #2)
  7. Team-Building for Learning (Give These Collaborative Team Roles a Try!)
  8. Blended Learning (Personalized Learning vs. Personal Learning)
  9. Genius Hour (see links for #5 and #8)
  10. Teaching Empathy (Now More than Ever! At BCS We Value Each Other through Empathy)
  11. Pushing Back on Education Technology (Is Your Technology Integration Rigorous and Relevant Enough?)
  12. Social/Emotional Learning (How You Feeling?)
  13. Alternatives to Traditional ‘School’ (see links for #2, #5, #6, #8 and #9)
  14. Robotics/Coding (The Hour of Code is coming)
  15. Alternatives to Letter Grades (Grading – How to Make it Less of a Herculean Effort)
  16. Brain-Based Learning (Empathy Equals?)
  17. Gamification (Can Gamers Make the World a Better Place?)
  18. Adaptive Learning Algorithms (see link for #5)
  19. Game-Based Learning (“Can Schools Have a Spirit of Entertainment & Play as Part of Their Learning?”)
  20. Mobile Learning (see link for #11)

I also came across this video of the “Top 20 Trends in 2017” where futurist and keynote speaker Jeremy Gutsche shares future trends for the year ahead in this 6-minutes.  Have a look at these business-related trends.  In thinking about them, maybe we ought to integrate more cuisine, travel, and wellness into our curriculum. 🙂

The Top 20 Trends are noted below the video for your review as well.
Which ones could be implemented in a school?

  1. Retail Kinship
  2. Big Data Concierge
  3. Quantified Self-Care
  4. Culinary Laboratory
  5. Extreme Wellness
  6. Prosumer Tourism
  7. Boomer Peer-to-Peer
  8. Detoxifying Libation
  9. Preferential Pop-up
  10. Condensed Broadcast
  11. Designer Customization
  12. Suspended Adulthood
  13. Shoppable Media
  14. Instagrammable Fitness
  15. Branded Education
  16. Sponsorship Gaming
  17. Communal Living
  18. Artisanal Education
  19. Analog Divergence
  20. Embedded Virtual Reality

Practice Kindness Relentlessly #BCSLearns

This year at BCS we have focused on our theme were lean in and lead with EMPATHY always embracing our BCS Moral Compass.  Each month we have embraced a different habit of empathy, and with March roaring in like a lion, we embrace another habit of empathy – the notion that empathetic people practice kindness.  In her book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, author Michelle Borba proves from her research that “developing and exercising kindness and prosocial behaviors increases children’s concern about the welfare and feelings of others and enhances the likelihood that they will step in to help, support or comfort others.”  Borba purposefully names the habit as “practicing” kindness due to the fact that we, adults and children need to constantly work on this habit and “practice” our kindness.  Kindness is a habit and therefore can be strengthened like a muscle.  In fact, let’s view kindness, not as a noun, but as a verb.  It is an action, something we do and something upon which we act.  Additionally, let’s be sure we not only specifically praise our children and our students about their academics, but also for their acts of kindness as human beings.  Kindness is the way to Be!  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently states, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

At the end of this post, I include a video called “27 Easy Ways To Practice Kindness” from Mind Movies.  As the video states,  “If we all choose to see the abundance that surrounds us and we all put a little bit of effort into making the world a better place, we could actually live much happier lives and be surrounded by much friendlier people. The good news is that kindness is an attribute that can be learned, and by practicing it [relentlessly] you’ll not only be improving your own life, but you’ll also be making a contribution to your community and to the world around you.”  Convincing enough! Let’s take care of each other and relentlessly practice kindness.  Take look at these 27 ways to practice kindness and give them a try.  Above all else, keep that POSITIVE ATTITUDE and spread it near and far!