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A natural antidote to stress

These days stress can feel like a constant companion.  It’s present in our daily lives, at work, and even in the minds of our students.  Stress stinks.  We have discussed how stress can evolve to toxic levels which can threaten proper development and learning.

Even here the laws of physics apply: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In this case, our bodies create a natural antidote to stress: oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a hormone (just like cortisol) with the power to counteract stress.  Oxytocin is also responsible for family bonding, generosity, trusting new people and compassion for others.

What’s more, we can control our levels of oxytocin.  When we are treated kindly, our levels of oxytocin increase.  When we share experiences with loved ones, oxytocin spikes.

Interestingly, dog owners have a slight advantage when it comes to increasing their levels of oxytocin.  This study compared increases in oxytocin after playing with dogs and cats and found that the only subset which experienced increased oxytocin were dog owners who were playing with a dog.

The study piqued my interest.  It’s ripe for classroom discussion and is a perfect segue into analyzing experimental design and results data.  Of course, it’s also a wonderful tool to give to students.  Imagine how empowered those who deal with chronic stress would be to know that a K9 companion could soothe their stress.

Are you a pet owner?

Hugs,

-AK

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A sense of urgency and acceptance

If I were asked to define what success looks like for The Eight Hugs Curriculum, my answer would be to inspire a sense of urgency and acceptance.

My goal is to light the fire of urgency in the hearts of the adults who influence children’s development everyday.  This work takes a village.  Educators already know how important this work is.  I’m here to elevate their concerns and give them the tools they need to reach kids and to reach them quickly.

My second goal is to teach children about acceptance.  Truly, acceptance of ourselves and others will unlock the door to happiness.  This curriculum is about teaching children self-awareness and self-acceptance.  Brene Brown, PhD has claimed time and again that we can only extend love and appreciation to others if we are experts in offering love and acceptance to ourselves.  Acceptance is integral to happiness.

May is Mental Health awareness month.  A site for social workers is offering these pressing reminders which speak to the importance of both urgency and acceptance:

Youth-Mental-IllnessBrought to you by Social Work License Map

Mental-Illness-StigmaBrought to you by Social Work License Map

We have much important work to do my friends.  I’m honored you’re here alongside me.

Hugs,

-AK

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Providing a framework

This article, which was published yesterday, provided another sober reminder of the global demand for social and emotional learning in the classroom.  The author opens with her experience working with students on a Native American reservation, which resonated with my experience working as a teacher on a reservation.  Then, she provides similar experience from a colleague teaching in China.  Violence and emotional trauma abounds worldwide.

As teachers, the more we learn about our students the more appreciation we have for their reliance on us, the adults, to provide a framework for dealing with everything that’s going on in their lives.  Sometimes they merely need a sounding board.  Other times they need to be referred to a professional.

The Eight Hugs Curriculum can in no way substitute for sound, professional mental health help.  Nevertheless, we cannot enter our classrooms without acknowledging the life happening outside their walls.  Emotional intelligence cannot be divorced from academic intelligence.  By starting the conversation, we, as teachers, are saying:

Your feelings are valid and navigating them is difficult but integral to life success.

Don’t be surprised if that is the first time they’ve heard that message.

Surely, we are not trained to provide counseling support.  Instead, I hope that through the lessons on neuroscience we can provide a context for the busyness of their hearts and their brains which will encourage self-exploration instead of self-loathing.

Hugs,

-AK

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Is meditation what’s missing?

Who doesn’t want a more zen classroom?  Even students yearn for peace of mind.  Have you heard about educators who are embracing meditation as an avenue to promote calm and focus in their classrooms?  Some schools are doing this alongside a yoga practice, while others are simply instilling “quiet time.”  The data on this mirrors data from other types of social and emotional learning (SEL) = school success rates go up!  This infographic graphic from Edutopia says it all.

Meanwhile, this group is bringing mindfulness to classrooms in the UK.  They have lead massive group meditation sessions with thousands of students.  Pretty impressive!  I especially like their resources, which include a story narrative to explain to younger kiddos how peace and happiness come together in meditation.

Later this week, I’ll have another lesson download.  It’s an inquiry based exploration of classroom meditation!

Hugs,

-AK

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