Climbing the Hierarchy of Needs During COVID-19

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The goal of the Catholic school is to form the whole child to their full potential in Christ.  Forming the whole child includes the physical, social/emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of development.  This is a lofty goal even in the best of times.  These are not the best of times.

If we take a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we see that the first need is physiological: food, water, warmth and rest.  Although these needs have never been under serious threat for our children during the pandemic, there were times at the beginning of the pandemic in March when questions were raised about such things.  It was the first time in my life that I myself questioned the possibility of being able to meet these needs for my family in the future.  The ridiculous run on toilet paper made me think: if we could run out of toilet paper, what else could we run out of?  Is this the beginning of something far worse?

The fear caused by initial shortages may have waned, but the constant fear and uncertainty around the ways in which the virus spreads has impacted our daily lives.  Already, only in the second tier of Maslow’s hierarchy, we can see challenges to moving upward.  Many of us, including our kids, do not feel entirely safe right now.  The constant and lingering fear caused by COVID-19 has many of us stuck at this level.

If our goal as a Catholic School is to form the whole child to their fullest potential in Christ, we need to start slowly and work our way up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Our goal at school at this time should be to help the children feel safe and secure.  Then, we need to rebuild relationships and trust that suffered during the past 6 months.   It is only once we have built upon the foundations of safety and relationship that we can begin to help them develop to their full potential. 

The good news is that as a Catholic School we do not have to do this alone.  First, we have our community of parents to work side-by-side with.  The healthy relationships, shared values, and communication between school and parents is vital to helping our children feel safe and loved.  Secondly, we have the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit to help us through.  We will continue to build up our students to their full potential in Christ, but we must be patient and understanding of the foundations necessary to achieve this goal.

Leave a comment

Filed under School

Common Questions About Back to School

Since beginning my tenure as Principal at Star of the Sea School three days ago, I have answered many emails from parents regarding the return to school.  I thought I’d share some of my responses here as I think they answer many common questions and give insight into my perspective on the return to school.  Names have been changed to protect privacy of the senders…

The first parent asked about whether it was safe to return to school and about homeschooling options.

Jane and John,

Thanks for your email.  I totally understand your concerns.  My family has also been very cautious during the last 5 months.  We have limited our contact with other families to outdoor, distanced visits.  We wear a mask anytime we are in an indoor public place.  Now it seems we are being told that it is okay to loosen up on some of those precautions, even though the number of cases in BC has increased lately.  It seems there is an inconsistency in the messaging from the government.
The one consistently trustworthy source of information and wisdom during this pandemic seems to have been our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.  In her I see someone who is not politically motivated.  I really do believe that if she thought it was unsafe for kids to return to school, she would say so.  She seems confident that the current plan is the right thing to do, so even though it feels counter-intuitive, I am going to trust her as I have throughout this entire ordeal.  Every family has to make their own decision in this regard.  Just know that my approach is very cautious and safety-oriented, and I will do everything I can within the parameters I am forced to work within, to keep the kids safe.
Regarding homeschooling…  I have experience with ASCEND Online.  It is a good organization with good people.  I have heard there may be room, but you will have to contact them to find out for sure.  Right now we are being instructed by our Superintendent’s Office not to hold spots for those who register at a different school.  Things keep changing so it is possible that may not remain the case but for now it is.  One word of caution regarding homeschooling, it is a lot of work for the parents.  It is a great fit for some families and their kids, but in other circumstances it is not sustainable.  Do lots of research before jumping in head first.
It is my hope and expectations that those who choose to go to a homeschooling option for now will be able to return later with no problem.  We appear to have space available in most, but not all grades.
Stay tuned for more news in the next two weeks as things could still change.
Sincerely,
Jason

A second email asked about online learning options and the Minister of Education’s comment on August 26th that it was still possible, even though he has stated repeatedly that it was not.

Diana,

I watched that press conference yesterday with great interest and some frustration.  It has been my preference all along to offer an online option to families.  It just makes so much sense!  By allowing those who want to stay home to do so, you are creating a safer space for those who have to come to school.  While it would be a challenge for teachers and administrators to set up, it would be doable and worth the work.

We have been consistently and firmly told for the last 6 weeks that there would be no online option.  This has been stated repeatedly from the Ministry of Education, and even directly from The Minister of Education’s mouth.  The planning template and guidelines we have received has stated explicitly that there is to be no online learning option.  Then yesterday, seemingly out of the blue, he says “but of course schools should provide options for those who choose to stay home.”  I was pulling my hair out!
Immediately after that press conference our CISVA Superintendent contacted all Principals via email to assure us that he was seeking clarification.  Perhaps things might still change, I just don’t know.  I like your idea of a survey, but I am reluctant to give people the idea that there is a choice if there actually is not.  We will just have to wait and see.  If online remote learning does become an option, I will definitely send something home.  Hopefully I have some hair left when this is over.
Jason
A third email stated that, with all of the restrictions on movement and activities, why should parents send their kids to school, even if it is safe.  Is it worth sending the kids to school?
Joseph,
Thanks for your email.  I like it because it asks questions I haven’t heard yet.  You are right in saying that I have concentrated primarily on safety in my communications so far.  You are also right in saying that safety alone is not a good enough reason to send the kids to school.
As far as the social aspect of schooling, I think this will take care of itself.  Kids are innately social, and will find ways to connect regardless of their circumstances.  One benefit of everyone being brought back at the same time is that, with a few physical alterations, life in the classroom will be much as it has always been.  Students will be able to talk to one another, work on assignments together, and interact with their teacher face to face.  Learning from home made these everyday social connections nearly impossible.  Students will also have recess outdoors with their peers from other classes, just having to maintain distance and avoid contact.  Kids will adapt to the changes and socialization, I expect, will go on mostly as usual.
In terms of the “value add” for Catholic Education, this is a good question to talk about whether we are in a pandemic or not.  What do you feel are the “value adds” you normally experience?  You mention Athletics so I will talk about that first.  We will have some form of Athletics in the Fall.  I expect it will be possible to have Girls Volleyball and Boys Soccer with changes to how these programs are delivered.  Right now sports are definitely limited to “in-school” as inter school sports are temporarily suspended.  There is often a benefit to intramural sports, however, as the focus can be on skill development and participation.  Too often inter-school sports focus on competing for the win, leaving development in the back seat.  I love playing and coaching, and I think you will be happy with the direction of our Athletic program in the years to come.
But I think there are more important “value adds” in Catholic School than Athletics.  First and foremost is faith.  Praying and learning about Jesus in community with others is just better done in person.  Kids learn better from the in person example of their teacher and peers who come from families with similar values.  Being together builds a sense of faith community that is impossible to develop online.  Another added value of Catholic Schools is that sense of community.  Kids need to feel that they belong.  Of course they belong to their family first, but their school and Church community should be a close second.  We can offer that here and in person better than online.  Finally, though there are fine teachers in all schools, I see a commitment, determination, and personal love in Catholic school teachers that you will not find anywhere else.
Physically, spiritually, socially, and academically, students are well served by Catholic Schools.  I know it is not free, but at our rates, it is simply the best money you will ever spend (and get half back on income tax).
Sincerely,
Jason

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Building Faith and Evangelizing in a Catholic School #cisva

Being called on to be a spiritual leader and evangelizer isn’t only a part of my job; it is the part that gives me hope, energy, and purpose.  It is the part of my job I feel most unworthy of but most called to.  It is the part of my job that I notice God most frequently intervenes to make sure His work gets done.

I thought I’d share some of the things we do at Cloverdale Catholic School to evangelize and form our students and their families in the faith.  I am grateful to have inherited many of these practices and to have been a part of a team that has helped bring others to life.

Staff Morning Prayer

Our staff gathers every day for morning prayer.  While it has taken a variety of forms over the years, it has always been a time for personal reflection, silence, and sharing.  We share our intentions and pray for each other and our students.  While this wasn’t the practise at other schools I have been to, I can’t imagine starting a school day without it anymore.  Praying together gets us all on the same page and gives the Holy Spirit a chance to enter into our day.

Sacramental Life

Regular participation in the Sacraments is essential for any Catholic to grow in faith and stay close to God.  I am grateful to the priests who have supported our school with weekly Mass each Friday morning and Adoration and Confession every Friday afternoon.  I know our kids have a long way to go in fully appreciating the Real Presence in the Eucharist (don’t we all), but having the opportunity to be in silence in His presence is invaluable.

Smiling

As a leader, particularly in a Catholic School, a smile goes a long way to spread God’s love.  As Pope Francis said, “We need smiling Christians, not because they take things lightly, but because they are filled with the joy of God because they believe in love and live to serve.”  A smile can show so many things; I love my job, everything is going to be OK, you are welcome here, etc…  By sharing my joy I demonstrate for everyone that God is good.  He brings me joy, even when my circumstances are less than perfect.

Prayer as a School

Each day our school prays the Angelus at noon.  I don’t think it matters much what prayer you say, as long as you are praying together, but I like the Angelus because we can imagine all the Catholics around the world joining us at that moment.  Demonstrating that prayer is central to our day once again shows the kids that our faith is more than just words in a book, but a real part of our lives.

Sharing Personal Stories

When I get a chance to spend time with students in a classroom, I often stray from the prescribed day plans.  I know this happens much to the chagrin of teachers I am covering for, but I think it is really important for kids to see the Principal as a real person who has been in their shoes.  My personal witness to Jesus’ role in my life is of much greater evangelical value than just the lessons I may teach.  As Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii Nuntiandi,  “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

Discipline with an End in Mind

Every time a student enters my office is an opportunity to share with them the love of Jesus.  As in parenting, discipline is done with love and with an end in mind.  That “end” is helping the student understand his or her inherent dignity and value as a child of God.  Rather than feeling shame, I want the children who are sent to the office for discipline issues to leave feeling loved, forgiven, and hopeful, despite the wrong they may have done.

Faith Development as a Staff

Each year our staff selects a program of study that we work on throughout the year or during special liturgical seasons.  Programs like Chosen, The Wild Goose, Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism, and Real Life Catholic’s I Am are easy to use and become engaged in.  I have always been pleased with the level of vulnerability and openness in the discussions that have been a part of these programs.  They keep us connected to our higher calling and to each other.

Building Relationships

Evangelization is difficult without trust.  To build trust, it helps to have a positive relationship.  At our school, I try to emphasize the importance of having an open-door policy.  Being open, listening, and having a comfortable, trusting relationship is the fertile ground in which evangelization can occur.  The opposite of this; a distant, cold, and closed approach, would obviously not be helpful.

Hiring

There are a lot of very faithful, dynamic, and energetic young Catholic teachers out there!  It is absolutely vital to the life of an evangelizing school to seek out and hire these people.  Corpus Christi College at UBC and Catholic Pacific College at TWU are a great source of vibrant young Catholics.  I’m moved by people who have been a part of CCO, Youth Ministry, or Young Adult groups in their parishes.  We need to encourage these young people and nurture their ambition for evangelizing our students.  Hiring well is essential to forming an evangelizing school community.

The list goes on and on.  What other suggestions do you have for forming an evangelizing school community?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith, School

Time for Change

Recently I announced that I would be leaving Cloverdale Catholic School to become the new Principal at Star of the Sea School.  The decision to finally leave CCS after 11 years was a very difficult one for me.  I have grown to know and love so much about our school community.  I have made close friends and lasting bonds that I hope and expect to last a lifetime. Many have asked, however, if I love it so much, why would I leave?

In the public school system, Principals move schools with regularity.  5 years is often considered enough time at one school.  In the Catholic School system, Principals will often stay in one school longer, sometimes 10 years or longer.  There are good reasons for this.  It takes a year to get to know everyone and begin to share and shape a vision for the school.  It also takes time to apply that vision to school programs and hire staff that fulfills that vision.  In only 5 years it is unlikely that a Principal can complete his or her work.

Another reason to stay for a long time at one school is to build relationships with families.  I have become close with the staff and many families in our school.  In some ways, the school is like an extension of the family for us all.  Maintaining bonds by having stability in leadership can be a very good thing.

There comes a point, however, when the mission has been shaped and shared, the staff has been hired to accomplish the vision, and the school plateaus.  When I heard that Star of the Sea was looking for a new Principal, I began to reflect on my years at our school.  I am proud of the work that has been done here over the last 11 years.  Our school has a faith-filled and dynamic staff, an academic program that is the best in the area, and a robust extra-curricular program.  I feel like I have fulfilled what I came here to do (short of seeing a new school built) and the time was right for something new.

Another challenge for Catholic school Principals in just plain geography.  With just 40 schools spread out from White Rock, to Powell River, to Chilliwack, it is very hard to find a school close to home.  Opportunities for movement within our geographical area are few and far between.  Star of the Sea School is close to home and teeming with opportunities for growth.  My personal and professional “stars aligned” to show me that this is indeed the time for a move.

When I first announced the news of my departure, I kept apologizing.  I truly did feel sorry for leaving.  In some ways, it feels like leaving family.  As time has passed, however, people have shown so much grace and encouragement regarding the decision.  I am at peace now and looking forward to the challenge of something new.  I will move on with a heart full of gratitude for my time at Cloverdale Catholic School.

As the Black Knight in Monty Python said, “I’m not dead yet!” Get ready for the best of me over the next 4 months.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Need Inspiration? Check Out Our Grade Seven Testimonials #cisva #netcanada

With our Grade Sevens enjoying a retreat with NET Ministries today I thought I’d re-share this post from two years ago.  Thank you to NET Ministries for their incredible work!

Need to feel inspired and know that God is at work at CCS?  Read these testimonials from our Grade Seven students after their NET Ministries retreat this week…

“Something that impacted me most was when we started praying.  When my leader put his hand on my shoulder I didn’t feel uncomfortable or scared, I felt peace and comfort and praying went smoothly.”

“It felt like God was right beside me.  When my group leader was praying with me I felt so special.  I feel I grew closer to God.”

“The prayer felt really comforting inside and I felt a great deal of pressure come out of me.”

“When we prayed in the Church… I have never felt so graseful and so inspired in my life.”

“It’s so amazing how they travel around the world together to evangelize children and they love it.  I was inspired by them to join NET when I am older.”

“It impacted me because I think I grew closer to God in just the 30 minutes of praying time than in the entire rest of my life.”

“What struck me most is when we went into the Church because when I’ve gone to Church before it has always felt like walking in a building, but this time it felt like I was welcomed with open arms and it felt comforting.”

“Everytime I go to Mass it feels like a normal Mass, but this time I let God into my heart and it was really deep for me.”

“I think it impacted me because they were so willing to hear what I had to say.”

“Their stories impacted me because I could see that I had the same struggles as them.  Knowing that I wasn’t the odd one out or that I wasn’t the only one with this problem made me feel good about myself.”

“It gave me a sense of belonging and I felt that all the weight I was carrying went away.”

“I felt that God was really there and he spoke to me!  I have never had that kind of connection with the Father like that.  When I prayed with my group leader she explained who I am.  She touched my heart with the words she said while she prayed with me.”

Learn more about NET Ministries by visiting http://www.netcanada.ca

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith

Keeping Our Kids Faithful Catholics #cisva

The following is taken from a presentation I gave at a Parent/Sponsor Confirmation meeting…

I am here today to speak to you about keeping our kids faithful, committed Catholics for life.  This is the most important thing we can do for our children.  There’s a lot we want for our kids; a good education, friends, a spouse and a family, a good job etc…  But ultimately those things will last for a maximum of 100 years or so.  After that, all is vanity.  As they say, you can’t take it with you.

Beyond the happiness we hope they find in their first 100 years, what do we want for our children?  We want them to share in the joy of Heaven forever.  This is our ultimate goal as parents.  Our children are not actually ours to keep.  They are on loan from our Heavenly Father.  It’s our job to help them get back to him.

I’d like to talk about how we can do that.

First, the challenges….

This world is set with a million traps and lures to draw our children away from God.  If you look carefully, what more could the devil do to make it difficult for our children to seek God?  I have kids in high school and college, and I see how inundated they are with messages that run contrary to the teaching of Jesus and the Church.  Not only that, the Church itself is broken and scandalized.  It is mocked openly and rejected by most of our society.  Most of our kids’ friends, even in a Catholic high school, will scoff at the idea of weekly Sunday Mass, let alone Catholic principles regarding prayer and morality.

In light of these challenges, the question becomes, how do we help our kids stay true to the faith?  In part two I will explore some possible answers.

It’s about Jesus, not just the Church

First of all, I think we need to make a distinction between primary and secondary matters of faith.  Primary matters of faith are summarized in the Kerygma.  The kerygma is the primary gospel message: God loves us and he sent his son to save us from our sins.  This is the good news.  This is what matters.

Morality and other teachings are super important, but if we don’t believe the first thing, the rest is without any foundation.  We have been guilty of stressing morality, even above faith at times.

So of course morality and God’s law are vitally important to being a fully formed Catholic, first comes the love of Christ.

Unconditional love

Our young people today may not be immediately drawn to the Church’s teachings on morality, but all humans are inspired by role models of love.  Our kids need to know how unconditionally loved they are.  This starts with us as parents.  I love you no matter what.   I love you just as much when I pick you up drunk from a party as I do on the day you get your confirmation.  I love you 100% on the day you got arrested and I love you 100% on the day you got a scholarship.  My love for you doesn’t waver depending on your actions.

The reasons to express our unconditional love are both practical and spiritual.  It’s practical because we want our kids to know that we will be for them in their darkest hour without reservation.  That will hopefully keep them safe.  It’s spiritual because we want them to know how God loves them.  Despite their sin and failures, they are loved.  They are never “too far gone” to come back to us, and ultimately, to Him who made them.

No spiritual journey is a straight line

The thing is, very few people’s spiritual journeys are a straight line.  Few people go straight from Baptism, to First Communion, to Confirmation, to Marriage, to Anointing of the Sick, to Heaven.  Many people go through ups and downs spiritually.  Many of our children will abandon their faith at some point in their lives.  When they are gone, have we raised them in such a way that they will know we have left a spiritual light on for them?  It is easy, particularly for young people, to be distracted.  Eventually, they will reach a point where they will wonder?  Why am I here?  What’s the meaning of life?  If we have done our job, and by the grace of God, they will hearken back to the Kerygma and the unconditional love that awaits them in Christ.

So as parents we need to keep the Spiritual light on.  We can do this by being role models of faith and continuing to love them unconditionally through their struggles.

Virtue and habits

While our kids are still in our home and largely under our influence, it is important to build virtue in them.  Aristotle speaks a lot about virtue.  Virtue is a disposition to behave in the right manner.  Basically it is a tendency to want to do good.  This is counter to concupiscence, which is the tendency for humans to be inclined to sin.  Our natural tendency is to be lazy and find the easy way out, which leads to sin.

We need to build virtue in our children in the same way we would build a muscle.  By constantly exercising a muscle, we make it stronger and more resilient.  If we fail to exercise a muscle, it will weaken and lose its vigor.  Virtues are built up by building good habits.  So, if you want to be a prayerful person, practice praying.  Set a regular schedule and stick it, whether you feel like it our not.  If you want to live chastity, fill your mind with beautiful images, songs, and books.  You can’t expect to build virtue without good habits.

So make a habit, as a family, of doing things to build virtue.  Go to Mass as a family every Sunday, eat dinner together, pray the Rosary together, go for walks together.  Do things to build up the virtues you want your child to have.  Making these behaviours a part of everyday life, rather than just on special occaisions like Christmas and Easter.

Encourage Questions and Thinking

As a Principal for the past 11 year and a teacher for ten years before that, one of my biggest concerns for our children is the decline in thinking skills.  Children should be curious, creative, and critical.  They should always ask questions and feel this persistent, almost annoying, urge to find out about things.  This includes sciency things, current events things, but it should also include spiritual things.  Why did God make me?  Why is it wrong to steal?  How do we know about Mary?  These are all good questions that a curious young Catholic should ask.

Unfortunately, too often they aren’t asking.  Why not?  What has caused our kids to stop asking questions?  I can’t help but think that the corporations that have grown to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars developing algorithms to keep our kids hooked online might know.  When the internet became a thing, educators and parents saw opportunity; they can look up and learn about anything!  Now, some 30 or so years later, kids aren’t looking stuff up; they are having stuff shown to them that a computer thinks they might be interested in.  These algorithms are too good at their job, and they are killing curiosity.  Kids stay plugged in for hours watching Tik Tok videos, scanning Instagram photos, and waiting for likes on their latest post.

My best advice is for everyone to unplug.  Make sure your kids read good books, engage in conversations, and spend time outdoors.  Exploring, creating, reading and questioning are at the heart of curiosity.  Spiritual curiosity is necessary to develop a healthy and mature spirituality.

Pray without ceasing and put your trust in God

Finally, we need to remember that our children are not our own.  Ultimately faith is a gift from God.  Like St. Monica, we must pray for our children without ceasing.  St. Monica prayed for years for her son’s conversation while he lived a life of sensuality and excess.  Eventually, her persistent prayer and unwavering love bore fruit.  When our children waver, we must persist in prayer, trusting that God will answer our prayers for the child he has entrusted to us.

Conclusion

In conclusion, let me summarize today’s tips for keeping our kids alive in their faith:

1)     Keep first things first; love of Jesus comes before the rules

2)     Unconditional love not only shows our love, it reflects God’s love

3)     Stick with them even when their faith falters

4)     Build virtue through practice

5)     Encourage questions and conversation

6)     Pray without ceasing and trust in God

Thanks for listening!

2 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family

High Expectations and Caring Relationships: In the End, It’s All About Love #cisva

High expectations are not enough to form the whole person.  Expectations can be enough to get what we want, but it doesn’t guarantee that getting what we want is achieved in a free, loving, and ethical way.  Expectations must be coupled with a proper relationship in order to achieve meaningful and lasting success.

The best environment in which children will learn is a loving one.  Children should feel comfortable and trusting of the person who is their role model and mentor; be that a parent, a teacher, or a friend.  Demands alone do not make a relationship, it must be built upon mutual concern and care.  It cannot be fear-based.

Anytime behaviour starts to go off the rails, be it in a home or in a school, our first instinct is often to ramp up the consequences, accountability, and “discipline”.  This is a natural and not altogether bad response.  Certainly, everyone needs to be held accountable for their behaviour.  A system of discipline and teaching based solely on consequence and fear, however, fails to form the kind of person we are all called to be.

Children need to feel loved unconditionally.  The love we have for them is not contingent upon their compliance with our demands.  We make demands on them because of the love we have for them.  Consequences in this context are given out of love, but they only paint half of the picture.

The other side of the picture is being a positive, affirming figure in the lives of our children and students.  They need to know we genuinely care for them as individuals.  Each of them is a precious gift of God that we care deeply for.  They need to know that “I may need to correct your behaviour but I have never changed how I feel about you.  There is nothing you can do to not be loved by me.”

This is where it all comes together.  Our beliefs, our expectations, our hopes and ultimately our lives rest in the need for affirmation and unconditional love.  As parents and teachers, we are God’s representatives here on Earth.  Ultimately it is God’s love, not ours, that will affirm the children.  It is our job at home and at school to be a reflection of His love.  We are called to love them and believe in them so that they can be the best possible version of themselves, fully formed in love and faith.

Leave a comment

Filed under School, Uncategorized

High Expectations and Caring Relationships: Positive and Negative People in Our Lives #cisva

Remember the story of The Wizard of Oz?  Dorothy and her friends are told to go to a powerful wizard to get the help they need.  When they get there, the Wizard gives them gits that endow powers; a diploma to make you smart, a medal to make you brave, or a clock to help you feel love.  In the end, of course, we learn that the wizard is a phoney and that the power to improve themselves already resided in each of the characters.  The wizard just gave them permission to believe in themselves.

We all have “wizards” in our lives.  These are people who have impacted us in a big way.  Hopefully, you can think of positive wizards.  These people build us up and help us believe in ourselves.  When I was a kid, I thought I was a mediocre baseball player until about the age of 12.  When I was 12, I was on Mr. Bunnett’s team.  Mr. Bunnett believed in me.  He gave me opportunities to play new positions and left me to stay there even when I made an error.  He treated me like a star because he believed I was.  Guess what?  I believed him and I lived up to his expectations.  He really didn’t do anything to make me a better player except give me opportunities and believe in me.  He helped me believe in myself and that’s all I needed to excel.

Unfortunately, we can all think of negative wizards in our lives as well.  These are the people who don’t believe in us and let us know it.  They have low expectations of us and find a way to make us feel small.  I had a few teachers like this who gave me a lifetime of challenges when it comes to certain subject areas.  It wasn’t until I learned that I had the power to change my beliefs about myself that I realized these people don’t have to have control over our lives.

We need to be aware of the positive and negative wizards in our lives and we need to train ourselves to be the gatekeepers to what beliefs we allow to shape what we think of ourselves.  A powerful tool I learned in this regard is how to take or reject compliments and insults.  In order to not allow a negative wizard to influence my beliefs, I take what they say and push it away.  For example, if someone says, “You are not good at Math” I would push that insult away in my mind and say to myself “No.  They don’t know me.  That’s not like me.”  If someone were to offer me a compliment that I wanted to use to affirm my beliefs, like “You’re a great teacher” I would say to myself self “Wow, thanks.  That is like me!”

I know this sounds cheesy.  I wouldn’t blame someone for saying that it sounds like new age fluff.  All I can say is that it works.  We need to teach our kids to reject the thoughts of those who would give us a negative self-concept and be affirmed by those who build us up.  This is true in the home, the classroom, and on the playground.

Leave a comment

Filed under School, Uncategorized

High Expectations and Caring Relationships: The Power of Affirmation #cisva

I have said repeatedly that beliefs are the premise on which we act.  If we believe something, we will subconsciously and consciously work to make that belief match our perceived reality.  What can we do, however, when our beliefs are bad?  What can I do to change my beliefs about myself or my students before the reality itself has changed?

Beliefs are formed by repeated experiences.  These experiences can be actual or remembered.  When it comes to forming our beliefs, it doesn’t make a difference.  For example, if when we were a child our parents told us we were stupid, each time we remember that event and replay it in our minds, it is as though it actually happened again.  Memories are so powerful.  That is why it is important to praise positive behaviours and achievements, reliving positive experiences is the antidote to negative ones.

Once beliefs are formed, they are hard to change.  So how can you have a belief about something you haven’t had any experience of?  The lesson I learned was in positive affirmation.  Affirmations are statements that solidify our beliefs, for good or bad.  A positive affirmation may sound like “Hey Johnny, thanks for always doing your homework”  Positive affirmations help us believe the good about ourselves, even in a negative situation.  A positive affirmation in a negative situation may sound like, “Hey Johnny, it’s not like you to miss your homework.  I know you’ll do better next time.”

Leave a comment

Filed under School, Uncategorized

High Expectations and Caring Relationships: “You don’t get what you want, you get what you expect” #cisva

“You don’t get what you want, you get what you expect.”

These words have stuck with me for the 20 years since I took a course on achieving success.  They changed my life.  These words transformed how I viewed myself and my goals.

Most people go through life wanting things.  While there are circumstances beyond our control that can cause hardship and suffering, our lives are more under our control than we may think.  Our conscious actions are determined by our subconscious beliefs about how things are supposed to be.

For example:  If I believe that I own a 2012 Yukon XL and I walk into the parking lot to get in my car to get home only to find that my car is gone, I will get upset.  I believe that I left my car right there.  My car is gone!  The fact that I believe my car should be there, but the reality that it is gone, has created “cognitive dissonance”.  My perceived reality doesn’t align with my beliefs.  I have two choices:  either change my belief or take action to make my perceived reality align with my beliefs.  I cannot live in a state of cognitive dissonance.

In this case, I would choose to continue to believe my car is missing.  I would phone the police.  I would search the area.  I would call my wife.  I would keep working at it until I found out where my car was! I would not give up trying to bring alignment between my perceived reality and my beliefs.  Eventually, I would find my car.  It was stolen, it was parked somewhere else, or my wife came and took it without telling me.  Some reason exists that makes my perception and my beliefs align.

Stick with me through another example.  I believe my students are responsible and get their homework done.  My perceived reality agrees with my belief that every day my students hand in their homework on time.  One day, however, a student fails to hand in their homework.  I am in a state of “cognitive dissonance.”  My perceived reality does not match my beliefs.  Does this change my beliefs?  No, it makes me take action.  I will search their backpack, phone their parents, give them another opportunity, give them extra reminders etc…  I will do the things it takes to align my perceived reality with my beliefs.

Here is an opposite example.  I believe my students are lazy.  One day, unexpectedly, a student actually hands in their homework.  I am in a state of “cognitive dissonance.”  Does this change my beliefs about my students?  No!  I take action to make sure my perceived reality aligns with my belief.  I call it a fluke, I brush it off, I ignore the inconsistency etc…  I do nothing to reinforce that student’s behaviour because I don’t believe it to be a reflection of what I really expect them to do.  Eventually, having heard my excuses and interpreted my behaviour, my students will not do their homework.  Equilibrium achieved.

So, back to the original quote I started with “You don’t get what you want, you get what you expect.”  If we believe that our students are responsible, respectful, and successful, we will do the things it takes to make sure that happens.  If we believe that our students are lazy, irresponsible, and careless, we will do things it takes to make sure that happens too.

Leave a comment

Filed under School