Twelve Days Of Kindness

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12 Days of Kindness Calendar

We’re taking the next two weeks off from blogging and will return here to meet up with you again in January. To tide you over until then, we thought we’d share a really cool and kind idea: the Twelve Days of Kindness.

In December, each day after school, students at Woods Lake began focusing on acts of kindness. As part of Kids in Tune (a partnership of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo Public Schools) one student has been reading out loud the day’s theme to the rest of the students and then everyone practices that theme. Students carry forward the themes of each day, adding to their musical and kindness repertoire. Deb Faling, CIS Director of Social Emotional Health Initiatives says the students have responded overwhelmingly to the activity. “Each day, a number of teachers, staff, Kids in Tune volunteers have had opportunities to pass out ‘kindness coupons.’ There were a variety of incentives associated with the Twelve Days of Kindness, including rounds of applause from their fellow Kids in Tuners. It’s been fun for kids and grown-ups, alike!” The themes, which Deb and Eric Barth came up with and incorporated into December programming were:
A1_EveryDayPlease and Thank You Day

Be Kind to Your Instrument Day

Kind Smiles Day

Kind Words and Compliments Day

Kind Listening Day

Be Kind to Your School Day

Post-it Notes of Kindness Day

Kindness Crafts Day

Kindness Chain Day

Write Kind Letters Day

Be a Kind Helper Day

Culmination of Kindness Day

When was the last time you did something kind? What acts of kindness have you benefitted from? Ralph Waldo Emerson noted that “you cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” So, during these next few weeks, let’s all do some kindness while we still have time. See you back here in January.

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One of the many kindness letters written

How ‘Bout them Grits?

rising-upWe’ve heard from a number of you about how much you enjoyed reading the latest CIS Connections (“It’s All About the Grit” issue) on social emotional learning. That’s why we thought you might enjoy a gritty post. So, here goes…

We’ve all experience challenges and setbacks. It’s a part of life. Yet, some kids in their young lives have had more than their share of unwanted and un-asked-for difficulties.

Resilience is the ability to respond in a healthy and productive way in the face of adversity or stress. It’s part of the social emotional learning continuum.

Researchers have discovered that adults who overcome adversity have at least one thing in common: someone in their childhood who believed in them and stood by them. Resilience researcher and psychologist Julius Segal referred to this “charismatic” adult as someone “from whom a child gathers strength.”

A critical element to success within school is a student developing a close and nurturing relationship with at least one caring adult. Students need to feel that there is someone at school who they know, to whom they can turn, and who will advocate for them.

Dr. Robert Brooks, who studies resiliency outlines six ways grown ups can be charismatic adults for children.

  1. Identify and appreciate a child’s “island of confidence.” While charismatic adults don’t deny a child’s problems or difficulties, they acknowledge a child’s strengths—their islands of confidence. Always begin with the strengths.
  2. Accept children for who they are. Accept the child for who they are and not who you want them to be. One way to do this is to listen to children. Give them focused, undivided attention builds their sense of confidence. You are sending the message: You are important.
  3. Involve children in problem solving. Problems are meant to be solved. Give kids opportunities to solve them. It’s hard to be resilient when  you don’t know how to proceed when confronted by a problem.
  4. Offer opportunities to contribute to the well-being of others. This is one of the CIS basics!
  5. Help children recognize mistakes as an opportunity for learning.
  6. Provide positive feedback and encouragement. Catch kids being good. When they do something right, let them know it.

Speaking of grit, if you haven’t seen this interesting and gritty Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth an
d her research on grit being a key predictor of success, you might want to check it out. It is definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

Now get out there and pass our kids some grits!

Don’t Quote Me

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Four of the twelve new CIS interns. The BSW Social Work students (from left to right) are: Lexy Maciarz, Katie Palazzolo, Gretchen Schultz, and Victoria Kiel

As I sit down to write this post, I’ve just returned from being part of the orientation for our new interns. All twelve of them! It’s a CIS bi-annual ritual that I always look forward to; welcoming all those fresh, new faces, excited to be linked to aCIS Site Coordinator and begin their work within a Kalamazoo Public School. Deb Faling, Director of Social Emotional Learning, supervises the social work interns. “Welcoming our interns each year is like going back to school for me. My social work internships played an important role in my life. The joy of direct practice and mentorship by an experienced practitioner is the heart of what makes social work education so unique. An internship is the core process to becoming part of the profession and going on to make an impact on your chosen community. From the standpoint of our children, they benefit from one on one service by students who have specifically chosen this type of work as their life focus. These interns want to be there for our kids and they create opportunities and learning moments that stay with the children long after the internship is over.”

We’ll introduce you to this year’s nine social work and three health interns—all affiliated through our partnership with Western Michigan University—in a future blog post. Yes, we had them take our pop quiz and, being the good college and graduate students they are, they were up for the challenge! But, for now, thought you might be interested in a “behind the scenes” look at the exercise we did as a way to get to know each other better and begin the conversation about what it takes to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

We placed a quote in each of the four corners of the room. The interns were instructed to read each one and then stand by the quote that spoke to them the most. Then we discussed what they picked and why it resonated with them. Here are the quotes they read:

I might just be my mother’s child, but in all reality I’m everybody’s child.

Nobody raised me; I was raised in this society.

Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.

Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.

Which one speaks to you? Perhaps several or all do, but which one resonates with you the most right now? Why?

Each quote, I think, speaks to a dimension of what CIS and its school and community partners are trying to do, not just here in Kalamazoo, but throughout the country: recognize that every child is our child. And, if we hold this to be true, we must expect the best and set high standards for all of our children. Every moment with every child is a moment we must seize. As CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Lauren Longwell said at the training, “Our kids need us to be consistent. They need us to be present to them. We need to show up and be there for them.” Our children learn to believe in themselves because we believe in them. And they will, as one of the interns pointed out, “live up to as low or high as we set the bar.” So we might as well set the bar high and see where it takes our kids—and us. Hey, that sounds pretty good. Okay, go ahead and quote me.

Wondering who the four quotes are attributed to? In order of how they appear above: Tupac Shakur, Wes Stafford, John Whitehead, and Lady Bird Johnson.

 

Knock, Knock

knockknockThis has been a tough winter. And it’s not over. With all this snow falling, ice damming, roof leaking, pipe bursting weather, my humor has taken a hit. What about yours? When was the last time you had a chance to thaw out and have a really good laugh? Not just a chuckle or snort but a full blown, eye-watering laugh that just doesn’t rumble above the surface but goes deep beyond the frost line?
Kids who can appreciate and share humor are happier and more optimistic, have higher self-esteem, and can handle differences (their own and others’) well. They are able to connect better with peers and handle adversities that come their way.
A sense of humor doesn’t just help kids emotionally and socially. There are physical benefits as well. Laughter relaxes the body (muscles stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes) and boosts the immune system. It lowers stress hormones, lowers heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure, aids digestion, and can decrease pain.
Laughter is a free resource and we need to mine it. We are wired for laughter, after all. I recall silently commending myself on having a child with an advanced sense of humor until the nurse told me my two month old’s grins were gas related. A baby’s first laugh typically occurs around the 4th or 5th month. In fact, scientists have teased out four distinct stages of humor development. I read (somewhere) that, on average, children laugh 200 times a day, adults, just 15-18 times a day.
knockknock2Humor can facilitate mastery and learning. Nobody knows this more than educators. Every day principals, teachers, site coordinators, and others wield humor with finesse to impart an important lesson, diffuse a situation, connect wth a student or parent. “Humor, like other forms of play, are intimately tied to social, emotional, and cognitive stages of development,” says Deb Faling, CIS Director of Social Emotional Learning. ”It’s a great tool children can use to help them throughout their life. The power of play, with humor being one aspect, can stoke the flames of creativity and innovation, necessary ingredients for strong kids and ultimately a strong work force. Humor can heal, connect us to others, and help us deal with challenges in life.”
Years ago, I worked at a homeless shelter/single room occupancy residence in Pittsburgh. The individuals living there didn’t have much to laugh about as they had lost much—families, jobs, homes, physical and/or mental health, their sense of dignity. “What this place needs is a good laugh,” one of the residents said one day as she scanned the somber faces lined up for dinner. Turns out, she was right. We ended up incorporating a humor class as part of the rehabilitation programming. It was led by a local comedian—I forget his name but on an interesting side note, he had a tiny part in the movie, Silence of the Lambs, which was filmed in Pittsburgh. He appears towards the end of the movie—holding a box of flowers I think—and knocks on a door. (Who’s there?) Anyways, his comedy classes and his sense of humor helped change the tone of the building. Residents began smiling and laughing more. They hadn’t lost their sense of humor after all. And if laughter wasn’t lost, maybe another job, another beginning at life was possible.
We owe it to our children to help nurture their sense of humor. And we don’t have to be a comedian to do it. Just pay attention. We all have the ability to tap into the humor that is all around us. Just make it a goal to find one or two things every day that you find genuinely funny. Share your insights. Ask a child to share with you the funniest thing that’s happened to them recently. This builds a child’s habit of noticing humor.
And the next time a great comedian comes to town, like Costaki Economopoulos, go see him! (Don’t take the kids, though.) I promise you’ll laugh way more than 18 times.

Failure is Never Fatal

Jenee McDaniel, CIS Site Coordinator and O’Neal Ollie, CIS Success Coach at Loy Norrix High School
Jenee McDaniel, CIS Site Coordinator and O’Neal Ollie, CIS Success Coach at Loy Norrix High School

Every 26 seconds, a child drops out of school.

This alarming statistic disturbs me more than any other national statistic out there. Why? I think it’s because it is entirely preventable. There is no such thing as a dropout gene. It’s not that a kid wakes up one morning and says, “Oh, well. I think today is the day I will drop out of school.”

Dropping out, as we say in CIS,  isn’t an event. It’s a process. Too often, it is the result of not having a need met. Day after day. What’s standing in the way of a child’s success is hunger, a pair of glasses, shoes, a warm coat, dealing with emotions in a healthy way, coming to school late or not at all. A sense of hyper-hopelessness sets in.

“Dropping out is cumulative,” says Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS).”It’s the piling on of stuff to where it feels so overwhelming that a child feels the only option is to drop out. The community resources that flow through CIS allow our Site Coordinators to keep things from piling on.”

Perhaps a student is struggling in math and reading, failing a core class, their attendance isn’t what it should be, or their grade point average is suffering. Sometimes, the difference between being college ready and not college ready isn’t so huge but, to a child, it feels insurmountable. Having that extra caring adult in their life can help them find the courage to address obstacles and continue on with their educational journey.

Now, more students who are in need of that little extra push are getting it thanks to a grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Hired this fall, three Success Coaches are working within four KPS schools. Lisa Brown is at Kalamazoo Central High School, O’Neal Ollie is at Loy Norrix High School, and Missy Best is at Maple Street Magnet School and Hillside Middle School.

“We need a larger footprint at larger schools,” Pam Kingery says. “CIS Success Coaches are an extension—a more expansive one—of the case management model. It allows us to delve more deeply into a school, to meet student needs. For students who need a moderate degree of support, having that one-on-one coaching support can be the tipping point that gets them over the hump and on the road to graduation.”

“Success,” John Wooden once noted, “is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” The CIS Success Coaches are supporting Kalamazoo Public School students in the courageous journey of becoming the best they can be. O’Neal, Missy and Lisa are working closely with the schools and CIS staff to determine what students will best benefit from this individualized support.

The students already involved in the program are working with their Success Coaches to build on their unique strengths, creating a success plan, which includes goals that support school success, graduation and readiness for college or other post-secondary training.

Sometimes, success is just around the corner. It just takes determination and often the support of others to get there.

If you are interesting in finding out more about Success Coaching, contact CIS Director of Social Emotional Learning, Deb Faling, LMSW @ 269.337-1601 x 203.