January 14

Chapter 16-The Self-Care Challenge

Self-care- that is a foreign concept for some of us, including me. As educators, we tend to endlessly give of ourselves, delivering our regular program, organizing extracurricular activities such as sports and drama clubs, volunteering for union positions, volunteering within our communities and the list goes on, usually leaving very little time for ourselves. This leaves us all very tired, physically, emotionally and even spiritually drained at times. So tired in fact that we cannot even fathom getting in that workout or even that bubble bath we have been longing for.

In order to be there for our students and families, we need to be a bit selfish. If all we do is burn ourselves out with all of the little extras we are doing, we are not giving the people in our lives our best selves. Being our best selves means taking the time to care for ourselves. Making time for that work out or that bubble bath or the trip to the spa. If we are too tired to do this, then we need to cut back on something. Let go of an extra curricular activity. Give up that volunteer position. I know it is not easy, but we need time for ourselves too. I we are burnt out, we cannot help anyone!

Kristin Souers gives us four main areas in her version of the self-care challenge to take care of: health, love, competence and gratitude. On page 199, she has a chart that can help you organize your self-care. There are many different self-care challenges that can be found online too. Here are a couple that I found that might be of interest to you if the one from the book does not float your boat 🙂


30 day self care challenge schedule routines ideas products activities tips for moms worksheets journal self care for women self care


One that can be shared with students:




How do you find yourself with self-care? Could you be better in this area? What do you do to care for yourself in these areas?

Challenge yourself to a 30 day self-care challenge. What are your plans/goals?


January 7

Chapter 15- The Cookie Jar: The Art of Giving Praise (and Self-Praise)

Feedback and praise are huge parts of our lives. We all rely on it to help boost our feelings of self-worth. From a quick “I love your outfit today!” to “The goals in your IEP are very clear and follow the SMART goals standards for goal setting! Keep up the hard work!” we rely on these comments to tell us how we are doing. Students who have had trauma in their lives are not as able to acknowledge their self-worth. The struggle to see that their actions of effort are valued unless they are expressly told. They rely more on these external cues to give them a sense of self.


Praise is huge in a student’s life. It has an impact on their self-worth and their self-identity. Some praise, however, is not as helpful as others, as has been noted by Carol Dweck, Growth Mindset extraodinaire! According to her, praising the process rather than the individual is important in allowing their self-worth to always remain intact, especially when giving critiques. In praising or critiquing the process, it separates the individual from the work that is being done. It allows them to move away from thinking “I’m so smart!” of “I’m so stupid” in the event of feedback or critique to thinking of the effort they put in”I put a lot of effort into this project and it has really paid off!” or “I should have worked harder on this project. I will remember that for next time.”


Everyone loves to receive compliments or praise for things we have done. These kinds words or gestures fill up our buckets. Kristin Souers describe them as being “cookies.” These “cookies” help us, and especially children, to form relationships with each other. Some of these cookies come in the form of a thank you note, or a letter. Other times they might come in the form of a kind word. If is always a wonderful idea to keep these “cookies” to help us when we are felling blue. A great resource by a friend of mine, Kristin Wiens, really sums this up in her book “My Gratitude Jar.” I have uploaded a copy of this book for you, read by Kristin, from her blog http://northstarpaths.com/long-story-shortz/

It is so important that we do not rely on others to give us our “cookies”. We need to be able to give them to ourselves as well. Acknowledging out own strengths and accomplishments is very important. There will be times in our lives where someone is not there to give us a cookie, like today for example, when I took the sky train by myself for the very first time. No one was there to pat me on the back for my bravery and overcoming my anxiety. I had to do that myself. We need to give ourselves permission to be proud of our own accomplishments, toot our own horns and give ourselves that positive feedback. We need to boost our own self-worth because we are special and important and there are many reasons to celebrate us and our accomplishments, just as we do for our students and the many other people in our lives.


Do you know any students who rely on others for their self-worth? How can you help them to self-acknowledge?

Think of a time when you gave a student “cookies”. How did they receive this kindness? Did their relationship with you change because of it?

How can you use the notion of the “Gratitude Jar” in your life? Do you have a way of looking back on the gratitudes given to you when you need them? How can we give this to our students so that they, too, have something to look back on when they are in need of some building up?


January 1

Part 5-Live, Laugh, Love-Chapter 14- Grace

Grace-according to Dictionary.com, grace can be defined as: favour or goodwill; favour shown in granting adelay or temporary immunity; a manifestation of favour, especially given by a superior

undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favour. Grace is being delivered from the righteous judgment of God. The Bible makes it clear that you can only be saved by God’s grace by putting your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus not in your own righteous deeds. Grace is God’s approval, God’s acceptance, God’s favor towards us sinners because of Jesus Christ. #grace


Grace is something in which we all need at different times in our lives. If we have fallen behind in writing our IEPs due to circumstances beyond our control, we might ask grace of our administrators. If we make a mistake in our actions, we might ask for some grace of the person/people impacted by those actions. Sometimes, we need to ask grace of ourselves as well, for those days when we just can’t go to the gym, or plan for the big project we want our students to get started on.

Grace is not easy for us to give, especially to ourselves.We need to be able to show empathy, understanding and kindness in those times when grace could be given. It is very important for us to model grace to our students, so that they can give grace to others when it is needed.

The quote from this chapter that hits me the most, something I need to remember both in school, but more so at home is that “they are little people…who are still developing into bright and amazing human beings.” I need to practice more grace with my children.


Has anyone showed your grace? How did it make you feel? Do you feel you deserved this grace?

Think of a time when you could have shown grace but did not. What was the outcome of the situation? How do you think the outcome would have changed if grace was shown?


December 17

Chapter 13- Don’t Let Fear Drive the Bus

Or the Pigeon! Just kidding!

For real though, fear can be a debilitating emotion. It causes many people to miss out on many amazing experiences. It also causes people to shelter others from potentially disastrous experiences as well. But there is always the question, what if nothing bad happens? Everything has a risk involved with it to a degree. If children, or adults for that matter, never take a risk, they never learn to deal with stress or develop the tools to help manage the adventure we call life. How can a child learn creativity or gain self-confidence if they are not left to take risks? Will they become critical thinkers? Will they have opportunities to problem solve? All of these are crucial skills to help us through life but without taking the risks associated with these tasks, we will never gain these important skills.

I would not classify myself as much of a risk taker, but when I look back on the last few years of my life, I can see all of the risks I have taken. They all came with a degree of fear- joining TIE-BC (I don’t really know anyone, I will have to public speak and put on professional development for people-am I qualified for this?), driving our boat on the ocean (What do I do when there are other boats around? How do I know I am going in the right direction? What do I do if I see a whale, or a rock, or a big wave, or a log?), going for surgery on my jaw (What am I going to look like afterwards? Is it going to hurt? How long am I going to have to be off of work?) and even going out on the lake or the ocean in a kayak (What if it tips? What if a whale surfaces right near us? What happens if the weather turns bad and we get stuck in huge waves/the tide?). If I had given in to these fears, I would not be where I am today,sitting in the airport in Vancouver, writing this blog post. I would not have gotten to play hide and seek in the marshy area of our favourite lake while kayaking with my family. I would not met all the wonderful people on the TIE-BC Executive. I would probably have sleep apnea and need a c-pap machine to sleep with. I would not be able to drive our boat back to the marina in the event of an emergency.

It is important to look at what is the driving force behind our behaviours. When we are frustrated with someone, what is behind it? Fear? Perfectionism? Stress? Once we can identify the driving factors, it is important to separate out the facts involved as well. Asking ourselves questions to help us determine an appropriate course of action rather than responding using our driving source will help us through the situation. These questions help us to widen our peripheral vision so we can maneuver through the situation in a way that is respectful of all involved.


Think about a situation in which you allowed fear, or some other factor, drive your behaviour. What was the driving factor? Now that you can look back, how would you change your behaviour? What could you do next time that would allow the situation to be resolved in a more positive fashion?

December 10

Chapter 12- It’s OK to Be Not-OK

Everyone comes with baggage of one sort or another and that is absolutely ok. In our society, however, we are made to hide our feelings and pretend that everything is perfect, unless we are grieving over the loss of a loved one-and even at that we are expected to get over it quickly and move on. In reality though, not everything is perfect all the time. I think of my Mom and the sudden loss of her second husband, my step-father. It has been six years and the pain is still there, lingering underneath the surface. Some days are wonderful, spent enjoying life, while other days she just wants to hide under the blankets and hope that when she wakes up she finds that the past 6 years were all a dream and Duncan is still with us. And my sister and I just need to remember that it is ok for her to be like this. It is ok to be not-ok. Her pain is as real today as it was on September 30th of 2011 when we were informed of his sudden passing. The only difference is that the pain has lessened through time and I am sure that it will continue to do so. As her daughter I need to be there to support her thought that pain.

Our students require that same support and understanding. We need to realize that, every day wen they step through the doors of the school, they might not be ok, and that is ok. They will need our love, care and attention more that day to help support the through their difficult time and that’s ok too. They might not be ready to learn everything we have to offer them at that time, and that is also ok. However, we must strive to support them through their difficult days so that they do not remain entrenched in their feelings. We need to help them learn to balance life and life’s troubles so that they can continue to move forward.

In order to continue to move forward, it is crucial for us to have a “person.” Someone who is there for us in our time of need, to help support us through the difficult times and to encourage us to move forward. For some, this might be a family member, for others, it is a close friend and others still it might be someone they just met, but the need for that “person” is there. For my Mom, I believe it is me. Her and I have spent countless hours on the phone and on Facetime, talking about life, what is new, what is going on in our worlds, encouraging each other to move forward through the hard times. She also has my sister, who lives in the same city, who makes her join different classes like crocheting class and quilting class. They even do paint nights and other small activities together. For me, my friend Jamie is my person. She helps me through my dark days, takes me out and reminds me that I am special and important to many people. Without these “safe people” I am sure that many people feel alone and possibly end up with mental health struggles like depression and suicidal thoughts and actions.


Who are the “safe people” in your lives? What has made them safe? How do they support you in times of need?


Are you a “safe person” for any of your students? How do you support them in their times of need? How do you know that you are their “person?”

December 1

Part 4- Belief Chapter 11-Forever Changed, Not Forever Damaged

It is very true that trauma changes a person. Those changes are forever with us. The whole point of this chapter is to show the reader that although a person is forever changed, they are not forever damaged or broken. A person can choose to move past the traumatic event and not allow it to damage them forever, or they can choose to remain in the grasp of the trauma, thus remaining damaged. If we as teachers pity students who have endured a traumatic experience and allow them to have lower expectations, then we are allowing them to remain in their damaged state. They need to be supported, challenged and given high expectations that will help them to move past their traumatic experience. They will be changed, but the do not need to remain damaged.

Once again, our relationship with the student is integral in helping them through their experience. Knowing their strengths, passions and potential will help us remind them or show them how to succeed and live up to the high expectations. Traumatic experiences have a profound impact on a student’s self-esteem, ability to self-regulate and overall belief in themselves. It is up to the adults in their lives to help them move away from these thoughts and behaviours.


Think about a student in your school that you know has experienced trauma. How do you approach this student? Do you use a strength-based approach or a deficit-based approach?


In thinking of my student, a little girl in Grade 4 who had a difficult  beginning full of neglect, I believe that I have had lower expectations for her. She struggles academically as she displays many signs of a developmental delay and is awaiting further assessments through the Vancouver Island Children’s Assessment Network. I have been working with her since she was in Kindergarten and have always felt sorry for her, as she struggles in so many ways. This year however, I have decided to change my thinking. She is capable of learning far more than I give her credit for, I just need to find the right way to teach her. She is a delightful student who loves to learn. She gets so frustrated when she thinks she is not able to do so, going so far as to call herself a “dull pencil” and wishing she was a “sharp pencil.” Her perseverance should be a lesson for all of us and instead of pitying her, I should be looking up to her and all that she has overcome. She deserves a strength-based approach.

November 19

Chapter 10-Doors and Windows: Remembering to Explore All Options

When you find yourself stuck in a situation with a student in which you feel there is no way out, what do you do? According to Souers, we really need to step back and look at the whole situation, including all the options, rather than moving in to the ultimatum. Giving yourself the permission to look for the window when you come up against a locked door is imperative. This might be hard for us to do, especially if we are used to using the ultimatum.

Change is difficult. It is also important to remember that change take a lot of time and patience. During these difficult situations we will make  mistakes and so will our students. They need us to help them learn the skills to make it through the difficult situations in which they find themselves. We, as teachers, need to know that the students will not learn these skills overnight, the first time we teach them.

The activity on page 125, teaching us to widen our peripheral vision, is a great strategy to help us out of the ultimatum situation. Once we are better able to expand our focus from the incident with the student to the bigger picture, we can see that there are, in fact, many different possibilities that can be explored and that the ultimatum is not the solution at all.

Think about a time when you gave a student/child an ultimatum. Looking back, because we always have much better vision when we look at something a second time, was there something you could have done better?


November 12

Chapter 9- Names, Labels, and the Need for Control

For me, this chapter was more difficult to read/hear. Since it is my job to designate students in order to get adequate support, hearing that “this deficit-focused orientation leads to unhealthy interactions and, often, students seeking inappropriate and disruptive ways to have their needs met” (page 116) makes me feel a bit like we are wrong to give a student a designation, more specifically a behaviour designation. I do believe that designations are important, but so is understanding our students, how they learn and what they need in order to be successful.

The section on I can’t….but I can…is a very important reminder for me. It is so important for all of us to remember that many things are out of our control, but there are things within those areas with which we can control. For example, many mornings I struggle with my son to get him out the door. I need to remember that I can’t control how long it takes him to get on his shoes, backpack and jacket, but I can control my frustration by taking a deep breath and reminding him calmly to keep on task.

What are some of the things you might not be able to control? What might you be able to control within that situation?

November 5

Chapter 8- The Power of Relationship

Relationships are absolutely integral in life. Teaching is no different. It is next to impossible to teach a student with whom you have no relationship. Those students with whom you struggle to connect will cause problems within the classroom or will simply stop attending. Rita Pierson, in her April 2013 TED Talk, discusses this exactly. https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion#t-439357

Chapter 8 discusses the ways in which we build relationships with our students. The first ingredient for relationship building is trust. Another key ingredient is building a safe environment an invites a sense of belonging as well. Some safe environment must-haves include a safe and secure school and school ground, clear behavioural expectations,an open-door policy for family members and clear routines, among others.

Relationships with students are key when having to deal with behaviours that arise. We need to be aware that students need to be held accountable for their choices and actions but we do not always have to be heavy-handed with these consequences. Although consequences are appropriate at times, and should be used to hold students accountable for their actions, we also need to teach them appropriate ways to cope with the stressors that may be behind the behaviours. We need to ensure that we validate the student’s feelings during these times of need. Reminding them that they are safe is also imperative to help them back into a regulated state. These two things need to happen before moving on to teaching them how to respond more appropriately to their stress and allowing them to take some control back into their lives.

Pete reminds us “It doesn’t take any longer than that (seven seconds) to make someone’s day, no matter how his or her day began.”


Who was the teacher that made a difference in your life? What did they do that was so memorable? How do you/could you incorporate some of that teacher’s characteristics into your own life?


What could you do to make someone’s day?

November 1

Part 3- Chapter 7 No One Said Relationship is Easy

How do we create strong, emotional relationships with our students? According to the author we go the extra mile, giving of our time and energy for those students. We let them know how much we care about them and we wonder about them in the future. For me, the very first student with whom I created that strong, emotional bond was a boy in my first teaching position, on a reserve in northern Alberta. He was not in my class for long, a foster child who was returned to his family before Christmas, but to this day I still think of him often. Some how, once he moved back home with his family, he got my phone number and when he had had a particularly rough day, he would phone me, at 2:00 in the morning. I fought to get him back in to foster care to no avail and I never saw him again. He is an adult now and I have heard, from friends still in the region, that he is happy and doing well. I do know that these relationships do not happen with every student and that is okay too.

Kristin Souers does say that, even though we cannot create a deep relationship with every student, it is possible to create a relationship that is safe enough and healthy enough for every student that crosses our path. This means we need to create an environment that is consistent and positive. We need to ensure that every student leaves our room with their integrity still intact. These things will ensure that the students feel safe. An environment that is healthy enough would include one in which reparations are made whenever it is necessary, and the teacher ensure that appropriate social interactions are modeled and cultivated. Can I say that I have done this for every student in my past? No, probably not for every single student, although I did try. I can think of one student in particular. I taught him last year and in trying to get him support him and grow his work, I believe he saw me as a threat to his intelligence. He told me once that he wanted to learn everything because he wanted to be a genius, but would not take feedback as opportunities to learn and improve. He also stopped completing his homework and coming to school. I failed this student and will always wonder how I could have made our relationship better.


Do you have a student or students with whom you have created a lasting relationship? How about any students with whom you were not able to connect?

What are some strategies that you can use to be safe enough and or healthy enough for all of your students?