How Educators Can Use Social Media for Good

By Stephanie Filio, M.Ed., author of Responding to Student Trauma: A Toolkit for Schools in Times of Crisis

How Educators Can Use Social Media for GoodSocial media has taken on a Shakespearian role in our lives in which we love it and we hate it simultaneously. Sometimes social media gives me life, especially this past year in which I’ve had to redefine what it is to connect to others. And yet, there have also been times, in this emotionally charged period of history, where social media has felt like the bane of my existence. With so many people converging in one (virtual) place during the most stressful period of many people’s lives, it is bound to not be pretty.

As the year 2020 progressed, and I grappled with concepts of life that I had never had to think about on such a large scale, I found that I began to recognize solace in feeling small. Staying home watering my plants tentatively and not being around hundreds of people every day was difficult at first. Eventually, I found a sensation similar to sitting on a beach and staring at a wide-open ocean. In a strange way, social media brought about some of that.

Balancing Connection

Online, I met people that lived in different districts, states, or even countries, experiencing the same struggles as me. They were also trying to connect with students and attempting to understand how to redefine their roles in education. I felt understood, I felt small, and I felt less alone. Did you feel it too? For all the times that social media played with my emotions, I was surprised to find a therapeutic diamond in the rough.

The seemingly impossible dream is learning how to be in control of how we interact with social media . . . instead of letting it control us. The magical part about meeting other people within the education field is that they get it. They truly get it. It’s hard to understand what it feels like to stand in the middle of the hallway with all of the sounds, the questions, the tears, the laughter, and the movement, unless you’ve actually been there. On social media, I get to meet other people who live further away but also know exactly what it’s like to stand in my shoes in my sacred hallway. And yet, I also have met people right in my backyard who think what we do is trivial.

Social media has undoubtedly given us the ability to continue communicating with and being inspired by each other during a dark time. But of course, there can also be some pitfalls to our technological communications. The vocal debate about whether schools need to be opened or closed and whether or not it is safe for teachers is draining. Everybody has so many opinions online, and those opinions can become so very toxic so very quickly when they are typed into a computer and sent out into wide space.

For a period, comments on social media made me feel disheartened. I would become impassioned about things that weren’t even of value to me or that didn’t really impact my career or relationships in a meaningful way. At the same time, these things would seep in and make me feel triggered. I would feel emotionally destitute at times, reading how people devalued educators with flippant comments about whether teachers have the right to even ask questions about their safety (especially when my friends and coworkers were experiencing some very difficult times with COVID-19).

How do you find the balance of enjoying social media while also remaining restrained from its power? It is easy to say we should simply limit time online, especially this year while some of us are still working from home and others are in taxed schools. At the end of the day, we all just would like to be home watching bad reality TV while scrolling through mindless social media feeds to distract us . . . or maybe that is just me?

Different Flavors for Different Purposes

The first step to finding your social media zen is to simply decide what you want to use it for. I use different social media platforms for different needs. Each platform can provide a different type of escape and defining what needs each one meets can help you decide where to log on.

LinkedIn

My LinkedIn is strictly professional. Other educators and people in diverse industries share their powerful work strategies and focus on productivity. There is so much super inspiring work that is being posted on LinkedIn, so when I need to reconnect with my profession, while also disengaging from the controversy, I love this buttoned up connection.

Bonus: You might also be able to expand your network and find some side-work to help fuel your office-supply habit!

Twitter

Twitter is super fun for me. I love Twitter chats (using a hashtag and Q and A system) and threads because this platform is kind of like the pep squad of all other platforms. Here, people are posting the cool stuff they do all day, and the creative ways they operate their school. My Twitter is half personal and half professional. I post some interesting aspects of my home-life that connect with my profession, and love to send a quick tweet about cool things going on in my hallway or school. Twitter also has a cap on words, which, for someone like me, helps with focus and a concise message.

Bonus: I have heard that in many districts, senior leadership learns about the awesome campaigns and projects in schools from Twitter feeds! Connect and show off your spirit!

Facebook

Facebook is like conversations around your kitchen table. Mine is pretty personal, and my connections on Facebook are largely made up of people I have connected with in person at some point. My coworkers are on there, but I am getting to learn more about their home lives rather than just their amazing classroom lessons.

Bonus: Facebook adds a humanizing quality to add to rapport building in hallways and staff meetings.

Instagram and Pinterest

I love a good creative outlet such as Instagram or Pinterest to inspire weekend crafty sessions while I unwind. These are places I go to look for ideas for work or home projects. And I always find visually pleasing cool-down images and connect with others who also enjoy writing engaging lessons, making captivating student posters, or learning meditative crafts to stay sane.

Bonus: There are so many freebies on the web, from patterns to Google templates to worksheets!

TikTok

Who would have ever thought we would be teaching algebra over TikTok?! There are many social media fads that young people are on that have allowed us to connect with our students and learn more about their lives. Exploring them will helps me learn about what is important and popular these days.

Bonus: Find out what your students like on TikTok by searching for widely viewed videos to embed into your class content to get them hooked!

What’s the Big Deal?

What draws educators to social media is that, at the end of the day, we are public relations experts and marketing moguls. First, to be truthful, we have to uphold a certain image that we give to our taxpayers (our funders) and make the controlled chaos seem easy. But more importantly, also we have to know the ins and outs of successful marketing in order to truly reach our students. Engagement and collaboration with students and the community alike happens when our “clients” feel connected.

Social media can provide us with a vessel to collaborate with other educators, develop relationships with our coworkers, gain inspiration, and connect with our students. When old Mrs. Filio the hippy school counselor pulls out some social media tagline, I open a window for students to feel seen (even if it is through their laughter at me).

The best gift you can give yourself with social media is to not go down the rabbit hole of the negativity where social media becomes part of our reality. Online, there are more perspectives presented than our hearts and minds can process and rationalize at once. Find what it is that you want social media to do for you and make the choice to use a critical eye. Maybe that is signing off, or maybe it is searching for new connections, trying a new platform, or using a new hashtag. Fill your feed with things you enjoy, and Marie Kondo those parts that don’t bring you joy right off of your phone or tablet!

 

Stephanie Filio, author of Responding to Student TraumaStephanie Filio is a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. In a discussion with one of her UVA professors about her desire to stay in school forever, her mentor wisely responded, “If you want to be a lifelong learner, go into education,” and so she found her place. Prior to her six years as a school counselor, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She writes about her career and hobbies at her blog, Weekend Therapy, and can be found on Twitter @steffschoolcoun. Stephanie also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.

Responding to Student TraumaStephanie is the author of Responding to Student Trauma: A Toolkit for Schools in Times of Crisis.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Counselor's Corner | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Kids Can Cope with Frustration and Disappointment During the Pandemic

By Allison Amy Wedell

How Kids Can Cope with Frustration and Disappointment During the PandemicI think it’s safe to say that two of the dominant pandemic-induced emotions we’re experiencing are frustration and disappointment. There are so many things we can’t control, so many things we’re missing. I feel frustrated that I can’t protect my mom, who is more vulnerable to this virus than most, and that many of my closest friends have lost their livelihoods to the pandemic. I feel disappointed that I can’t hug many of the people I love and that we’ve had to cancel exciting trips and events.

Both frustration and disappointment stem from a lack of control. So if I’m feeling those emotions, I can bet that my daughter is feeling them that much more keenly. In Step Back from Frustration, author Gill Hasson describes frustration in several ways. The one that resonates most with me is that frustration feels like you can see where you want to go, but you just can’t quite get there. I can’t think of a better description for distance learning. My daughter’s teachers are doing their best, and she is absolutely learning. But she wants so desperately to be with her friends—she can see them on her screen during class—and is so frustrated that she can’t.

Hasson’s Get Unstuck from Disappointment contains similar themes. Disappointment feels like being sad, let down, or even angry—that things are not fair. Sound familiar? There is absolutely nothing fair about this pandemic, about having to worry about older relatives, about missing plays and concerts.

To get off the “hamster wheel” of frustration that Hasson describes, my daughter and I have unwittingly used a lot of the same tactics listed in the book. We use deep breathing to calm down, and I send her out to the backyard to blow off steam. Hasson suggests a good cry too, and that’s a strategy my daughter and I both employ. I’ve always made a point of letting my daughter see me cry, because I want her to understand that crying is a healthy, normal way for people to express their feelings.

Where disappointment is concerned, Hasson suggests (among other tactics) thinking about positive things, having a “Plan B,” and focusing on what you have. Despite the cold winter where we live, I do manage to set up the occasional outdoor, masked, socially distanced hangout for my daughter and her best friend. It’s not a sleepover with movies and shared popcorn, but our Plan B is still fun. And focusing on what we have can be a joy-inducing exercise. We feel lucky to have technological platforms that allow us not only to see our faraway family, but play games and watch movies with them too. It helps us manage our disappointment at not being able to do those things in person.

I think the most compelling frustration management tactic in Hasson’s book is letting it go. “When you can’t change the situation, try to let go.” Oof. It’s easier said than done, of course, but there’s something to be said for refusing to waste energy on a situation you can’t change. My daughter and I talk often about the things we can do—wearing masks, limiting outings, washing our hands—and try to focus less on the things we can’t do—going back to school and hugging our friends.

I’m grateful to be able to acknowledge the feelings this pandemic induces. The emotion management tactics I’m learning help me help my daughter cope, yes—but they help me too. And in a pandemic, that is no small thing.

Step Back from Frustration and Get Unstuck from Disappointment are part of the Kids Can Cope series from Free Spirit Publishing. These inviting picture books offer kids a wide range of practical strategies they can use to cope with difficult feelings and situations, such as anger, worry, teasing, and jealousy. With gentle humor, charming illustrations, and kid-friendly advice—plus additional information for children and adults at the back of each book—the Kids Can Cope series gives kids the tools they need to face challenges.

Allison Amy WedellAllison Amy Wedell is a writer, editor, and mom whose diverse work focuses on sexual abuse prevention, bullying prevention, social and emotional learning, public safety, and theater/acting. She is the author of Shaking Hands with Shakespeare: A Teenager’s Guide to Reading and Performing the Bard (Simon & Schuster, 2004), and her work has been featured here and at babycenter.com, MomsRising.org, and Committee for Children. You can find her on LinkedIn.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Ways to Foster Kindness in Your Virtual or Hybrid Classroom During the Pandemic

By Naomi Drew, M.A., author of Create a Culture of Kindness in Elementary School

7 Ways to Foster Kindness in Your Virtual or Hybrid Classroom During the PandemicAs teachers, we are charged with one of the most important tasks of all: shaping the futures of young people. It’s more important than ever to make our classrooms places of respect, decency, hope, and possibility. All of this begins with kindness.

Integrating the teaching of kindness into our daily plans can be pretty simple. In fact, the process of fostering kindness can inspire and lift us up.

Begin by emphasizing that our words and actions create ripples touching the lives of everyone we know: family, friends, schoolmates, and more. Words of kindness generate more kindness. Hurtful words generate more hurt. In a single moment, we can brighten someone’s day or darken it. We get to choose.

One of our most famous peacemakers, Mohandas Gandhi, also known as Mahatma, once said, “If we are to reach real peace in the world . . . we shall have to begin with children.” The kids we teach today will grow up to be the adults of this world. If we foster compassion, kindness, and respect, hopefully our kids will bring these qualities with them as they go out into the world.

Kindness not only benefits our culture, it also benefits us personally. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Social Psychology cites a direct correlation between kind acts and increased happiness. With each act of kindness we perform, the happier we become. The same goes for kindness to ourselves and kind acts we observe. Every act of kindness counts.

Acts of kindness change the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Being kind boosts serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being.” Endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers, are also released through acts of kindness. How wonderful to know that something as simple as kindness has so many benefits!

We can foster kindness in our kids by showing how much we value it ourselves. Don’t wait! Get started now.

Here are seven simple ways you can integrate kindness into your teaching.

1. Start Every Day with a Message of Hope and Kindness

Tell your kids how happy you are to see them. Let them know that their presence makes a positive difference in your life. Tell them that our world is a better place because they are in it.

2. Model, Teach, and Expect Kindness

Share these guidelines with your kids and use them yourself:

  • Use put-ups rather than put-downs.
  • Choose kindness over meanness every minute, every day.
  • Show kindness through words, actions, gestures, and intentions.
  • Remember that it’s cooler to be kind.

These guidelines apply to how we treat ourselves too. Kindness to others starts with kindness to ourselves. Get that critical voice out of your head! Replace it with a voice that’s reassuring, kind, and accepting.

3. Teach Your Kids to Be Kindness Detectives

Be on the lookout for kindness and compliment your kids for kind acts. Together, brainstorm acts of kindness they can look for: helpfulness, good listening, willingness to share, words of affirmation. What else? Encourage your kids to not only notice these things, but to offer compliments accordingly.

4. Brainstorm Kindness Role Models

Kindness role models can be people we know or people we’ve learned about through films, books, or the internet. How did each person demonstrate kindness? How can we follow their example? Talk about it, write about it, lock it in your brain.

5. Give Kindness Homework

Write a short note or text thanking someone for a kind act.

Do an anonymous act of kindness for someone. Afterward, write a paragraph describing what you did, how it felt, and any reaction you observed from the recipient.

Write about a story character who shows kindness, generosity, empathy, or inclusiveness. What can you do to be like them?

Set a kindness goal for yourself. How can you be more kind in the next twenty-four hours? Write it down. At the end of twenty-four hours, write about how it made you feel.

6. Teach Your Students That Listening Respectfully Is an Important Act of Kindness

Feeling truly heard is a rare gift. Poet John Fox expresses this beautifully: “When someone deeply listens to you it is like holding out a dented cup you’ve had since childhood and watching it fill up with cold, fresh water.” We can do this for each other by following these guidelines:

  • Look directly at the speaker.
  • Focus on what the other person is saying rather than what you want to say next.
  • Resist the urge to interrupt. Take a deep breath when you want to jump in.
  • Reflect back what the other person says. For example, say, “Sounds like you really enjoyed _______. I’d like to hear more about ________.”

Give your kids a copy of these guidelines and have them practice good listening with someone at home. Remind your kids that listening intently makes people feel valued, and what could be kinder than that?

7. Share Kindness Memories

Have your kids write about a special memory of kindness—kind words or actions they received or offered to someone else. Have your kids create new kindness memories for people in their lives.

Encourage your kids to keep kindness going day after day, year after year. Remind them that they will one day be the adults of this world. What they learn now will shape the people they become.

As the United States’ first National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, said in her inspiring poem “The Hill We Climb,” “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” Each time we are kind, we are the light, and we spread it. What a special privilege it is to bring the light of kindness into our classrooms.

Bonus! Download a kindness activity called “Coach Poggi’s Golden Rule.”

Author Naomi DrewNaomi Drew, M.A., is the award-winning author of eight books. She is recognized around the world for her work in conflict resolution, peacemaking, and anti-bullying. Her work has been instrumental in introducing the skills of peacemaking into public education and has been recognized by educational leaders throughout the world. Naomi has served as a consultant to school districts, parent groups, and civic organizations and headed up the New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s Conflict Resolution Advisory Panel for nine years, training K–12 trainers to develop more harmonious schools. She lives in New Jersey.

Free Spirit books by Naomi Drew:

Create a Culture of Kindness in Elementary School Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Teaching Strategies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Follow These Education Authors for Fun and Professional Learning

Looking for a way to connect with Free Spirit authors beyond their books and our blog? Many of them are on social media! Check out just a few of our authors of teacher resources and where you can find them below.

Follow These Education Authors for Fun and Professional Learning

Chris Amirault and Christine Snyder

Chris Amirault, Ph.D., and Christine M. Snyder, M.A., are the authors of Finding Your Way Through Conflict.

Chris is the school director of Tulsa Educare MacArthur in Oklahoma, and for over three decades has dedicated himself to high-quality education, teaching courses and facilitating workshops on early childhood education, conflict, assessment and instruction, ethics and professionalism, challenging behavior, family engagement, anti-bias education, and equity.

Christine has worked in the early childhood education field since 1999 as a teacher, center director, author, and trainer/coach. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education and a bachelor’s degree in child development. She is currently director of the University of Michigan Health System Children’s Center and assistant professor in the college of education at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan.

On Twitter, you can connect with Chris (@chrisamirault) and Christine (@csnyder926). Be sure to like their Facebook page for Finding Your Way Through Conflict.

Michele Borba

Michele Borba, Ed.D., is the author of End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy. She’s a globally recognized educational psychologist and an expert in character development and bullying prevention whose aim is to strengthen children’s empathy and resilience and break the cycle of youth violence. She has delivered keynotes and workshops to over 1 million participants and authored 24 books translated into 14 languages. Dr. Borba is an NBC contributor with frequent appearances on the Today show as well as Dateline, Anderson Cooper, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, The View, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and others. She is an in-demand motivational speaker and former classroom teacher.

Connect with Dr. Borba on Twitter (@micheleborba), Facebook, or Instagram (@drmicheleborba). Visit her website (micheleborba.com) and check out her blog!

Richard Cash

Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., is the author of Advancing Differentiation and Self-Regulation in the Classroom and coauthor of Differentiation for Gifted Learners. Dr. Cash is an award-winning author and educator who has worked in the field of education for over 25 years. His range of experience includes teaching, curriculum coordination, and program administration. Currently, he’s an internationally recognized education consultant whose work has taken him around the world.

You can connect with Dr. Cash on Twitter (@RichardCash) or Facebook. Also visit his website (nrichconsulting.com) and check out his workshop offerings.

Stephanie Filio

Stephanie Filio, M.Ed., is the author of Responding to Student Trauma. She’s a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. Prior to school counseling, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.

Connect with Stephanie on Twitter (@SteffSchoolCoun) and stop by her website (Weekend Therapy) where she talks about her career and hobbies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The views expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Free Spirit News | Tagged , | 1 Comment

How to Build Empathy and Trust During Circle Time

By Lydia Bowers, author of We Listen to Our Bodies

How to Build Empathy and Trust During Circle TimeAs educators, we tend to use circle time to recite the days of the week (clap, clap), sing a few songs, and introduce lessons. Instead, circle time can provide a much-needed moment of group connection. It can offer a space to set intention and peace.

The world is sometimes a scary place, and it’s even more so within the context of a global pandemic. During a pandemic, the world is chaotic and unpredictable. To keep children safe, many schools must implement rigid, often harsh guidelines. Kirke Olson, school psychologist, describes the classroom environment as a river flowing between two banks. One bank is chaos—scary and unpredictable. The other bank is rigidity—harsh rule enforcement. Between these two banks, educators can create a cultural island in their classrooms by emphasizing connection, safety, and positivity.

But how does connection help? Within the occipital lobe of our brains is an area called the fusiform face area (FFA), which helps us recognize faces. The FFA combines information from emotional areas of the brain. These connections with the emotional areas of the brain allow empathy and emotional resonance with others. Emotional resonance means that things like worry and anxiety are contagious. But so are calm, peace, and feelings of safety. In circle time, a teacher can set the tone for the day. When the teacher intentionally projects a calm, cheerful voice and facial cues, the children notice these, and they resonate.

Here is how you can create a circle time that’s intentional and meaningful:

Check In

Provide time to check in about emotions. Ask children how they are feeling. What worries do they have? Make sure to validate children’s emotions and any sense of loss they are feeling. In the face of fears, we do not have to have solutions and answers for everything. We cannot necessarily answer when this will be over, or why some people get sick and others don’t. And those answers aren’t helpful anyway. In a YouTube video on empathy, Brené Brown explains how trying to fix others’ pain misses the mark because “the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

Care for Each Other

Have children brainstorm ways to show care for each other, in and out of the classroom. Why do we wear masks? How can we comfort friends at a distance? Gahmya Drummond-Bey has taught through multiple pandemics and offers insight and tips from her experience. Check them out at her Facebook here.

Look for Joy

Look for moments of joy and pleasure. Have children find a classroom object that they enjoy the texture of. Ask them to share a story of a classmate who helped them in some way. Children can learn to recognize not only the physical sensations of being sad or angry, but also of calm and peace and joy. When we identify those sensations in advance, they become a tool we can use when we need help facing fear and anxiety.

Set Intentions

What do we want to do today to take care of ourselves and each other? Can we each try to do at least one kind thing for someone else? Remember that children mirror our forward-facing emotions without realizing it. So set your intentions as well: how will you approach the children today?

Circle time may not always go smoothly. Sometimes tumultuous feelings will bubble up, especially in a chaotic world. Those feelings may be from the children or from ourselves. Allowing space to confront those feelings and respond to each other can shift the entire day. Right now, how you choose to connect during your circle time is more important than ever.

References

Olson, Kirke. 2014. The Invisible Classroom: Relationships, Neuroscience, and Mindfulness in School. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Lydia BowersLydia Bowers is a speaker, consultant, and trainer who happily exists in the Venn diagram overlap between early childhood and sex education. After spending almost two decades working directly with children as a classroom teacher and a parent, she is passionate about reframing sexuality conversations. Lydia now teaches families and educators how to talk to children about subjects like gender, reproduction, and abuse. When she’s not traveling around the country for conferences and speaking engagements, she lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two children and adds to her growing collection of children’s book character tattoos as often as she can. Follow her on TikTok @lydiatalksconsent and Instagram @lydiambowers.

We Listen to Our Bodies book coverLydia is the author of We Listen to Our Bodies.


We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.


FSP Springybook Signature(c)© 2021 by Free Spirit Publishing. All rights reserved. The view expressed in this post represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily Free Spirit Publishing.

Posted in Early Childhood, Teaching Strategies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment