Guiding our children to shine their inner LIGHT by being our absolute best!

Posts tagged ‘teaching’

I Approve of Me!

I had an interesting experience today at school. My kids had just come back to the room from a humanity special. The kids were transitioning into the classroom and chatting by their cubbies as they put their library books away. It was a typical transition period until I heard a brief conversation…

One of my young girls turned to another young girl and said, “Are you still mad at me?” Generally, I wouldn’t pay attention to this because we all get annoyed with friends once in awhile and we talk about it and work it out. However, it was the look in her eyes when she asked that told a deeper story.

I know the history of these two girls. One has a tendency to get upset when her friends don’t do what she’d like them to do. The other is a ‘pleaser‘ and just wants to make everyone happy. The pleaser had the puppy dog eyes when she timidly asked the question and you could tell that deep inside of her she was frightened that the answer would be yes.

The girls noticed that I was paying attention to their conversation and quickly scurried off. As they brushed by me, I caught the eye of my ‘pleaser’ and said, “Hey there, do you remember what we talked about at the last Girls Rule meeting?” She earnestly replied, “Yes. You taught us that we needed to believe in ourselves and remember that we need to approve of ourselves, not others.” I smiled and said, “Yes, and what else?” She began to smile and she replied, “I don’t ever have to give my power away. I need to like myself.” My eyes and her eyes gave a high five and she bounced back to her seat.

All too often our kids are searching for approval from not only their teachers, coaches and parents but also their peers. They look to others to validate their accomplishments, their thoughts, their feelings and their outer being as well. We teach them to strive for acceptance from a very young age without even realizing it. Unfortunately, we have set them up for failure without intending it.

How did we do this?

Well, think about it for a minute… From the moment you held that baby in your arms you smiled when they did things you liked. When they lifted their heads for the first time, when they lifted themselves for the first time, when they reached for a toy or food or you! You encouraged them with your smile (and clapping and cooing) and they learned very early on that they liked the way it felt when they made you smile. They also learned that you smiled when they did something that ‘pleased’ you, so what are they doing today with their friends?

You guessed it, looking for that smile in everything they do and say. (looking for approval)

Now, wait a minute Mrs. Savini, you mean to tell me I wasn’t suppose to encourage my child? No, that’s not what I am saying at all. In fact, I LOVE that you encouraged your child, you smiled at your child, you gave them approval, but now it’s time to teach them to approve of themselves so that no-one ever takes their power away.

It’s so critically important for us to teach our children to love and approve of themselves at a young age because if we don’t, then they will always search for approval from others. And, we all know that this becomes a long, lonely and sometimes heartbreaking road.

So how do we do this?

We give them a mirror.

1) Teach them how to do mirror work. It’s easy peezy, lemon squeezy! All you have to do, is look in the mirror and say something POSITIVE to yourself. ‘I like you’, ‘You’re a good writer’, ‘You’re a good friend’, You’re Important!’ My kids do this every Wednesday morning in school and I can see the positive impact it has on them weekly.

2) When they ask your opinion of them or their work or their behavior, hold up the mirror instead of immediately giving them your opinion. Get down on their level (physically), look at them directly in their eyes and ask, “What do you think?” Give them the opportunity to reflect on their own work, behavior and being before you offer your thoughts.

3) When they do something that pleases you, tell them but remember to encourage them to look at themselves as well. You may say, “How do you feel about this?” or “I’m so proud of you! You should be proud of yourself. Are you proud of yourself?”

By constantly reminding our children to look in the mirror (physically, mentally and emotionally) we are giving them their power back and teaching them to love themselves. A child who seeks approval from within is a child who will always find the light in the darkness and who will never, no never give their power away to another individual.

Teach them to approve of themselves and you’ll give them the gift of a lifetime!

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

VickiI-Approve-of-Me-seal

Raising the AHA Generation: Is that a good thing?

ProblemSolving

When you hear Aha, you may think it is a good thing because ‘Aha’ usually means that you are becoming aware of something, but when you hear what AHA stands in this article, I’m not so sure you’ll feel the same way…

As a school teacher of 15 years I have seen many changes through my career. I have seen staggering changes in education, expectations, learning styles and overall behavior of our children. In the past few weeks I have become critically aware of three important elements that I see clear across the board with our current generation that need to be addressed; (I could write another book on this but I will keep it short and sweet for now)

  • Today’s children are generally anxious. Kids always want to know what is coming next and why they are doing what they are doing in that moment. They worry about the simple things in life yet do not pay attention to the details that can help them to feel secure. They have more fears today then we had in our childhood and they look for others to solve their problems because they are afraid that they don’t have the tools to do so on their own.
  • Kids of today are learning to be helpless. Their minds are in three different places at once and they therefore struggle to focus on one thing at a time. Perhaps this is because they are so anxious that they are not in the moment. Maybe they are too focused on the past and too fearful of the future to stay in the present moment, or perhaps they have just learned that they don’t have to do things for themselves because the adults will do it to get it done on their timeline
  • Today’s children are angry. There are many times in a day when I am putting fires out because someone has been ‘rubbed the wrong way’ or is upset because they didn’t get their way. They easily bark at one another instead of talking things out and listening to the ideas of others. Our children of today go from joy to anger in a matter of minutes and then back to joy when they get their way once again. It’s truly remarkable how they’ve learned to use anger as a bargaining chip.

So there you have it, the AHA generation in a nutshell. Maybe that wasn’t the Aha you were expecting but it’s something we certainly need to look at.

Now, where did this come from?

In my opinion, our kids are learning from us! Think about your average day and the amount of stress you are under. We run from one activity to another. We speak so quickly that we often wonder if we are making sense and we never make time to just BE. We have become Human Doings instead of Human Beings because we are trying to do way too much in our lives. Doesn’t that make you feel anxious?

And think about it… if you are anxious…if your child’s teachers are anxious…if the world spins this quickly daily and everybody is running in different directions…aren’t we all creating an anxious environment for our children to grow in?

How could they not develop deep anxiety in life with these circumstances?

We put pressure on our children from the moment they enter school with academic testing (if not sooner based upon our own expectations). We constantly rush them from one activity to another because, well, hey that’s just what we do today. We never take time to sit and quiet our minds or teach our children to quiet their minds yet we expect them to relax and just be kids when they do have ‘down time’. Hmmmm, how are they to do that when even they are under so much pressure?

Let’s talk about learned helplessness– I don’t believe that we have done this on purpose, but it seems that we are always making excuses for our children’s behaviors or seeking a label to explain those behaviors instead of addressing the issues and teaching them how to problem solve. Our kids are over stimulated with electronics and under stimulated with human connection! We often ask our children to do something and then when we realize it hasn’t been done, we do it ourselves because we are in a hurry and it’s just quicker that way. But, what are we creating with this behavior?

How about those angry kids? We are so hell bent on making sure that our children don’t experience what we experienced and we are so concerned with ‘fairness’ that we have forgotten that sometimes life isn’t fair and we all need to learn how to roll with the punches and go with the flow because sometimes things just don’t work out the way you intend.

Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I don’t like to complain about something without having a solution. So, what can we do?

We need to teach our kids how to be Problem Solvers.

We need to stop taking their power away by answering for them or doing it for them and start empowering them to believe in themselves and speak their truth. The world isn’t always fair but our present circumstances do not have to determine our future and learning to overcome obstacles in life can only build strong character. Give your kids their power back and stop solving their problems for them. Instead, give them the tools that they need to be successful in life.

  • When they come to you to ask you if their picture/work is good don’t give them an answer. Instead, get down on their level and say, “What do YOU think about your picture?” Allow them to talk about their work and share their pride. This will teach them that their opinion matters and they don’t have to seek approval outside of themselves.
  • When they feel disappointed or upset about something, don’t offer them the solution or try to make it better (and believe me I know this is hard). Instead, sit with them and allow them to feel their feelings without judgment, then ask them what they think they can do about the problem. Guide them to problem solve without giving them a direct solution. This will help them to feel empowered because they had a part in the solution. And as difficult as it is-because we all just want to make it better- it’s worth it in the long run because you are giving them tools for a lifetime. What is that old saying… “Give them a fish and they eat today but teach them to fish and they eat for an eternity!” (or something like that)

I don’t want our kids to be anxious, helpless and angry. Instead, I would like to create a strong foundation for them so that they can grow up to have a healthy, productive, joyful life. Now that is a much better Aha, agree?

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

PS Please leave me your comments. I read them all and love hearing your thoughts!

www.vickisavini.com

Why Can’t These Kids Listen?

I have always prided myself on my ability to see the world through the eyes of a child and create a peaceful, warm, loving environment within my classroom. A few years ago I earned the title of ‘The Mindful Teacher’ because I work so hard to stay in the present moment and I actually teach a mindfulness practice in my classroom for at least 20 minutes a day every day after lunch and recess-

Yet, Friday was truly a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day because my 1st graders just wouldn’t listen to a word I said.

This behavior had been building from about the middle of the week but on Friday I literally stood there at the front of my classroom wondering if I was stuck in a Charlie Brown cartoon because as I gazed at my students it appeared that they were simply hearing ‘wha wha wha wha wha’ (just like the cartoon) instead of the actual words I was saying. At one point I actually raised my voice (which never happens in my room) in order to get their attention. I was then quickly heart broken as I noticed that this was the only way that the kids respond to adults-when their voice is loud and they know they’ve crossed the line. That was the worst feeling ever and certainly not how Mrs. Savini’s classroom runs on a daily basis!

I decided to take a step back, ask some questions to my audience and go within. And here’s what I found-

Step 1: I asked this question on my facebook page, ‘Why do you think children are not good listeners in today’s society?’

And here are some responses:

‘Technology and chemicals in food have negatively changed the physiology and essentially rewired our brains.’ -Nicole

‘Too much technology not enough out doors and simply playing learning and exploring.’ -Cheryl

‘Because the world is so rushed and no one teaches them to stop and listen, to quiet their mind and hear what is being said before responding. Many children and adults are so busy forming their response in their head that the don’t listen well.’ -Teri

Probably because adults are poor examples – at least its one reason.’ -Elizabeth

Step 2: I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths and asked for answers from my higher self.

Dear Higher Self, 

What the hell is going on? Have I lost my magical touch? Is it a full moon?’

The answers came…

No it’s not a full moon and no you haven’t lost your magic touch. The truth is our kids are growing up in a hectic, busy society where everyone is a bit disconnected. Yes, the chemicals in the foods and environment are a factor and yes too much technology adds to their brains going astray, but the most important factor is YOU.

Hmmmmm. Well that’s certainly something to think about isn’t it?!

Have you ever gone out to dinner with your family and noticed the tables where parents are scrolling through their smartphones and kids are on electronics while waiting for their meals to come? I’m sure you’ve stood and watched people texting back and forth while they are sitting in the same room as well.

I remember a time when I was waiting to board a plane in a major airport. I noticed that many people were on electronics, busying their minds until their time was up. Then I turned and noticed a family of four sitting at a table; Mom was on her laptop, dad was on a kindle, the teen boy was also on a laptop and the youngest child (likely 8-9 years old) was on his iPod. They were not looking at each other, nor were they talking to one another. They were sitting in the same space, at the same table as a family, yet they were totally disconnected. Their flight was called and everyone packed up and walked away together, still not interacting. I had tears in my eyes as I watched this because it reminded me just how precious childhood is and that we are wasting it away by not connecting with the kids.

Where’s the connection nowadays (omg…did I just say that? I’ve turned into my mother…lol)? When do we look into each others eyes and share a moment of tenderness? When do we stop and truly listen to what the other person is saying? We need to get this back-we need to CONNECT and if we want our children to be better  listeners, then we need to listen better and model better.

After all of this pondering about the problem, the solution finally hit me-

My students need more mindfulness training than 20 minutes a day and I need to be more mindful to model this behavior for them!

The truth is, our kids have difficulty listening and are seemingly careless about life because they are growing up in a disconnected society where everyone is on the run and our minds are never in one place. We are running to a meeting, running to a practice, running to the grocery store, running-away.

We all need to STOP, BREATHE and just BE.

Here’s my new plan for Monday;

Instead of just practicing Mindfulness for 20 minutes or so after lunch and recess, I will practice throughout the day. I, myself will stay in the moment and serve as a strong model for my students. Each and every day moving forward, I will remind myself that the gift of life is the present moment. I will do this by posting this simple sign in my home, my car and of course, my classroom.

breathe.

 

Why breathe? Because when we take a deep breath, we are brought back to the present moment.

My students aren’t deliberating ignoring me and we aren’t deliberately ignoring the children, but we are all disconnecting in some way, shape or form. It’s time to connect again. It’s time to breathe!

 

Mindfulness in Action: If you like what I have to say and want to stay in touch go on over to my webpage and sign up for the FREE newsletter. You’ll get all of my blog posts, newsletters and upcoming events/classes.

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

We Bonded Like Nobody’s Business Today

Today was the third full day of school for my first graders and it certainly was a memorable one…

The beginning of a school year can be very tiring–not only for the teachers–but more important, for the kids. There are lots of rules and practices to learn and it’s difficult to get back into a routine after a few months off from school.

I could definitely tell by mid-afternoon that my kids needed a break, so right around 2 pm I told them it was snack time.

I normally play soft therapeutic music in the background throughout the day to set a peaceful climate in the classroom for learning, but during snack time it looked like they needed a little Disco, so I popped in a CD of classic Disco music to lighten up the day.

disco

The kids came alive and one little boy excitedly asked, “Mrs. Savini, are we going to play freeze dance?”

I turned to him, smiled and then replied, “What a terrific idea!”

I laid the ground rules about ‘safe dancing’ and let my fingers walk on the CD player for the music to begin.  The first song was Gloria Gaynor’s classic song, “I Will Survive.” 

The kids were hysterical to watch and their laughter was infectious.

A few songs later and we were all dancing around the room to ‘Le Freak.’ We were all bonding in a beautiful way that you simply don’t get from just the regular grind in the classroom. 

Just as I reached to pause the music for the freeze in our ‘Freeze Dance’ I notice a flicker of a light and the fire alarm went off!

The kids quickly followed procedure that we practiced the day before and headed to the door with our music still rocking on in the background.

We went outside smiling from ear to ear and waited to be called back into the building as patiently as we could.

As we walked into our building we could hear our music blaring from our classroom because the fire alarm was no longer sounding off. The kids looked at one another and then at me and we all chuckled.

My heart smiled because there was a hint of pride beaming from all of my lil’ 1st graders as they turned the corner and danced into our classroom.

They were proud that our room was rockin’ out and I was proud because they were one!

The truth is that our education system has a great deal of pressure right now, but we must always remember that we all learn best when we feel safe, accepted and loved for exactly who we are.

Today, my kids were Disco dancers, tomorrow, who knows…

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

Honoring the Light Within with Mindfulness

Wow, I just had an amazing conversation with my 8 year and I’m truly honored to be his mom.

This evening he came home from baseball practice and seemed a bit emotional. He said he got hit by a ball, but I knew in my heart it was more than that.

When we laid down to talk before bed I went with my gut (as I always tell parents to do because we know what’s going on with our kids more than we’d like to admit).

This is my sons first year in little league and it can be somewhat intimidating to try something new when others have been at it for a while. I turned to him and began to say those very words. As I talked he began to cry.

I stopped talking and opened my ears to listen to him intently. Sure, he may have been feeling a bit unnerved by this ‘new’ sport but it was more than that. What was bothering him most was that other kids were being mean to the ‘little kid’ on the team…

He started off by telling me that some kids were telling him what he was doing wrong and it hurt his feelings. It was then that I reminded him that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. He asked, “How am I part of the problem mom. They were putting me down?” I answered, “Yes, hunnie, that’s true, but you allowed it to affect you. You are part of the solution when you stand up for yourself and help others to stop and think about their own actions. You might have done that by saying, ‘thanks for the tip but I’m going to listen to the coach,’ ‘last I checked you weren’t a coach,’ or ‘wow, when did the Yankees draft you?” He liked that last one.

I thought we were through the woods but then he got really upset and began to sob uncontrollably. I reached out to him and asked what was wrong. He sadly replied, “Mommy, I was mean too. Some of the kids were making fun of the ‘little kid’ on the team and I agreed with them that he was small. I didn’t like the way it felt inside but I wanted them to like me. Mom, I was part of the problem!

I smiled a bit and wiped his cheeks and said, “Yes hunnie you were part of the problem, but right now you are turning it around to become part of the solution.”

Many children (and adults-who are we kidding) never take the time to be mindful–present in the moment–and think about their thoughts, actions and feelings and my 8 year old was doing that on his own!

We then read my children’s book for the upteen-millionth time, The Light Inside of Me and hugged tightly at the end.

be the light - person

We all have a light deep within us that shines brightly when we come from a place of love and are living our truth and dims when we allow fear to take the helm. In short, when we feel good, we shine and when we feel bad, we are dim or we dim the lights of others.

The next time you see a dim light, be present in the moment. Be totally mindful of what you are thinking and feeling and then instead of reacting, respond with love.

I am so proud of my son this evening (and every other minute of his existence). Tonight and every night I feel honored to be his mom.

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

Teach Them to See Their Own Light

It breaks my heart when I see a child getting a bad wrap because of rambunctious behavior. When a child has this kind of energy there is generally something going on deep inside of them that stems from a belief that they are not good enough.

Tomorrow we begin our camp for boys, “Boy’s Rock.” We have already done our girl camps this year (Girls Rule) and this is our last camp of the season. The boys camp is always different from the girls camp. We teach the same 7 Essentials (TM) in all of our groups but in different ways.

The girls generally need to remember their inner goddess. They need to talk, journal, craft, dance and express their feelings. The boys-on the other hand- don’t like to talk much about their feelings, generally prefer someone else writing for them and want to build and construct with their hands.

Let’s face it boys and girls are different, but one thing is the same-

They all need to know that they are perfect just the way they are!

best

Lately, my son has had some of that rambunctious energy. He has been sarcastic (he gets that from me unfortunately), inappropriate at times and over emotional. Summer generally brings this out in kids because they are away from their regular routine and even though they think they want total freedom, they actually crave and desperately need structure.

For the past few days I have been watching him and trying my best to guide him to make choices based on how it feels in his heart but he appears to be oblivious. Tonight, while putting him to bed we had a talk and what came out of that talk was truth.

His main concern is that when he says things with the intent of being funny, others don’t find him to be funny. He was teary eyed and visibly upset by this because he’s feeling invisible. We talked about it a bit and then I told him that when he is just being himself and he says something that he thinks is funny, it generally is funny. But when he tries to say something funny to get attention that’s when everyone looks at him like he has two heads and you can hear the crickets. I further explained that it was my greatest hope that he would feel comfortable in his own skin-so that when he thinks something is funny he will laugh whether others find it funny or not.

He looked at me and said, “I just have to be myself then, right?” Of course I replied with a resounding YES. Yet in my heart I’m not quite sure he totally gets it yet.

Our children are constantly comparing themselves to others and looking for approval outside of themselves. We have taught them this in our society without even thinking about it. We ask them to ‘measure up’ in school, we push them in athletics to be only the best and we make too many choices for them instead of with them.

I know for certain that the first thing we will focus on tomorrow in camp is loving yourself because if you can’t love yourself, who can you love…really?

My goal this week for this boys camp is to empower them to look in the mirror (figurative and real) and see the best qualities of themselves. Not qualities in others that they wish they had but instead their very best. My intent is for each of those campers to love themselves and-

See the Light Within!

I will certainly keep you ‘posted!’

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

The Oreo Cookie Theory

oreo

The end of the school year is quickly approaching and many believe that the kids are ‘acting up’ because they are done with school and ready for summer vacation. I have a different perspective on this…

As soon as June 1st hits (sometimes earlier) the kids suddenly appear to have forgotten the rules and have no motivation to work. They also seem to be fighting with one another more than ever and disputing the tiniest issues that didn’t seem to matter just a few weeks ago.

Ten years ago I saw this happening in my classroom to my sweet, loving, well trained 2nd graders and I was baffled because this group of kids was truly like a family. They were loving to one another and worked well cooperatively so when this ‘change’ occurred–literally overnight–I had no idea what was happening.

I reinstated the rules, tried to make learning as fun as I possibly could and focused on projects that would hold their attention, yet they were still constantly arguing with one another. Then The Oreo Cookie Theory came to be…

The kids just came in from recess and there were several requests for a ‘Community Meeting‘.

*A Community Meeting is something that we hold in my classroom when we have a problem or concern that we need to solve as a group.

We went to the ‘Meeting Place Rug’ and sat in a circle. They were all familiar with the rules; if you didn’t see it with your own eyes or hear it with your own ears you were not to judge, but instead listen mindfully. One child raised their hand to use an I Statement regarding their frustration. Then another and yet another. I sat back and wondered what was going on with these kids. They were literally like a family. We were all so close and we always worked out our differences together but lately it was a nightmare after every recess.

As I listened to the kids venting their feelings I myself was feeling helpless because I wanted them to enjoy our last few weeks together instead of nitpicking at one another. I interrupted the conversation and explained that perhaps we were all just ready for a break because it was a long year and we were excited for the summer. The kids kind of shook their heads and then there was an uncomfortable silence in the room.

Oh I got it then. The kids heard me say the words, “Let’s enjoy our last few weeks together instead of fighting” and the flood gates opened.

Several of the kids had tears in their eyes, as did I, as we all realized we were bracing ourselves for our end. Yes, we were excited about Summer, but we were also sad to leave one another.

At the time I worked in a school that was a primary center. We hosted grades K-2 and then the kids went to two separate schools across town from one another for grades 3-5 depending on where they lived.

The kids began to speak about their sadness of leaving and how scary it was that things were going to change. I did my best to reassure them that they would love 3rd grade and would all see each other again in 6th grade, but then one child raised her hand and the ‘Oreo Cookie Theory’ was born.

She looked right at me with tears in her eyes and spoke with a soft and broken voice. She said, “Well, Ms. Scalzo (that was my name back then) it’s sad that we are leaving and going to 3rd grade but you don’t really know why.” Of course I inquired and she responded, “It’s kind of like we are an Oreo Cookie. We are each the chocolate cookie ends. One cookie goes one way and the other cookie goes the other way.” I literally began to hold my breath to hold back the tears and then she said, “The worst part is that you are the fluffy stuff in the middle and we’re never gonna see you again.”

At that point we were all crying and then, of course, hugging.

I am proud to say that those 2nd graders are graduating from High School this year and I can’t wait to attend their graduation. I have thought of them often as the years have past and I especially think of them every June when my kids show the same signs of separation anxiety.

If you are a teacher or a parent and you’ve noticed a change in your child in the past few weeks that may be a bit frustrating please consider this ‘Oreo Theory’ and give them a break.

Instead of getting angry or annoyed with their behavior, give them lots of extra love because now you know that although they are excited about a new beginning and sunshine, they are also sad about an ending.

Be gentle. Be understanding. Be loving.

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki