Positive Self Talk – and Why it Matters

Our thoughts determine our actions – if we are in the habit of positive self-talk and positive thinking, we find that we can do things and marvel at our successes. However, all too often our internal chatter  is very negative; we can’t, we are stupid, people will laugh at me. Here are some tips on turning off the negative – and switching on the positive with yourself – and your children. Continue reading

10 Benefits of Taking Risks

Taking risks is important for children and teens – this doesn’t mean being reckless or placing themselves in danger, but having a positive attitude to stepping out of your comfort zone is a key life skill – and there are so many advantages.

 

As a parent you want your child to be safe – and protect them from any kind of hurt or harm. Realistically, I am afraid, this isn´t possible and it´s all too easy to be  over protective. Stopping children from trying new things  actually means they learn to fear taking  risks  – and they seek to continually stay in their comfort zone. In this way, children can become very limited in their ability to become resilient or overcome their fears. So, as always, it´s about balance. Even when things go wrong, that in itself is a valuable learning experience – no matter how bad the experience, we can always take a positive lesson from it, if we seek to.

Our comfort zones are exactly that – safe and stable. Nothing will change for the better if we insist on staying in them. Change will happen through external forces – but those who seek to only stay in the comfort zone begin to fear and resent those external forces. Those who proactively seek to change and control things on their own terms, however, are those who ultimately lead a more fulfilling and happy life. Change IS scary sometimes – however, it´s usually nowhere near as scary if we are the ones to “seize the day” and make it happen.

 

Benefits of taking risks

  1. Children learn and experience new and exiting things – they discover new things about themselves and what they do (and do not) like to do.
  2. They meet new people and form new friendships and relationships
  3. They learn how to handle it when things go wrong and this in turn can help them develop a sense of resilience and responsibility for their own actions.
  4. They learn to challenge themselves – to continually progress and learn more and more things – they develop a love of learning and a passion to succeed.
  5. They do not fear challenges – rather they embrace it and seek to continually try new things.
  6. Taking risks means you have greater confidence and are not afraid of failure.
  7. You are inspired by, rather than threatened by others, and develop a “give it a go” attitude rather than judging or criticizing others for taking a risk.
  8. Children who take risks learn from their mistakes, learn new life skills and inspire others.
  9. Risk taking fosters a love of resilience and perseverance – and children who take risks are more likely to acknowledge and celebrate their success and achievements – this boosting their self-esteem
  10. It´s the difference between living life and watching it go by – far better to join the party, than sit on the sidelines. Yes – children (and adults) who take risks are happier, have more fun and attract more positivity into their lives.

So go on – take a risk and let me know what you did and how you got on!

 

 

 

Kindness Makes the World go Round

To be kind is one of life´s virtues. It says a great deal about who we are as a person. It reflects how we respect and treat others and ourselves, and how we wish to be seen in the grand scheme of things. Continue reading

The importance of “ME” time

Having time to ourselves is really important – it is healthy and normal. Many of my “kids” complain they need more “me time” yet they find it hard to schedule in and do not always understand this need in others. Continue reading

How to Make time for Downtime – and Why it is SO important: A Spookje Story

Are you and your children constantly busy and on the go, with little or no downtime? The importance of being mindful and taking time out has never been more important. Continue reading

How to Get My Child to Think …

Children can ask many – many – questions; it is a sign of their innate curiosity and is key in developing how they think and their problem solving skills. Continue reading

How to Get Kids to Help at Home and Take Initiative

Ever wondered how to get the kids off the sofa or iPad and have them help at home? Do they seem to lack any kind of problem solving skills, or seem unable to take the initiative? Continue reading

Helping Your Child Learn at Home

#1 What They Need to Hear – and What You Can Say

#1 What They Need to Hear – and What You Can Say

Whatever type of school your child goes to, they benefit from having their learning supported at home. There are a plethora of ways in which your child’s school may expect you to do this: reading with them, helping with, and taking an active interest in, their homework, learning weekly spellings and learning off by heart the times-tables. There is no doubt that support from home can reap huge benefits in terms of building a child’s confidence and developing a passion for, and interest in, life-long learning. You may even be approached by your child’s class teacher to give them additional support at home in a particular area.

Trouble is, helping them at home can be difficult.

So, how to help? First of all, the message behind what we say to children is hugely important. Here are my top messages that your child needs to hear when you are helping them at home:

  1. “Our working together at home is a great way for us to spend time together and for me to help you with your learning” working with your child at home is not a punishment, nor because they are “not very good” at something, nor because they did something wrong – it’s an opportunity. Try to ensure this message comes across right from the start. Your child may be feeling very insecure about “having to do extra work at home” so tell them you believe in them. You’re great – you are a bright, intelligent wonderful person and I am proud of you – boosting your child’s self-esteem goes hand in hand with learning, and that means hearing lots of positive messages about their attitude to learning and the effort they put in.
  2. Let’s TALK to each other about your learning today – lots and lots of talking! Tell me what you know, tell me what confuses you – this is so important – it’s a DIALOGUE – not just you talking and them listening and doing. A two way conversation is essential when working with your child at home – how else will you know what they know or do not know if they aren’t talking to you about what they do and do not know? They need to be able to explain what they are stuck on and what they have learned. If they can explain it, they can do it – that is the big test to see if they really “get it”
  3. We are going to work together for 30 minutes MAXIMUMchildren (and you) need to know there is an agreed, set time limit for how long you will be working together, and to be honest even 30 minutes can be too long, especially if they are young Primary aged children. Stick to the agreed time limit – if they’re on a high when they finish, they will want more tomorrow. If you and they are becoming upset, agitated, highly frustrated– leave it, end the session for today. No learning can take place if they are highly emotional and you can’t be calm and patient if you’re upset and frustrated too. There’s no point making it a situation that needs to be battled through – say calmly that maybe it’s time to finish, end the session on a positive, and both go and do something else.
  4. We learn through making mistakes – we all make mistakes – even as adults – and it’s OK – this is an important about powerful life lesson – if children are unafraid of making mistakes they will learn greater resilience and risk taking. Try not to make a big thing over them making mistakes, as that can make children nervous which then causes them to shut down and stop learning.
  5. I’m not frustrated with you – I’m frustrated that I can’t make this easier for you – yet – if you are explaining something one way, and it’s not working for your child, you are the one that needs to change the way you are explaining it – try a different way, make a story out of it, use characters from their favourite book or TV – just make a change in your explanation. Try using counters – anything that they can physically see and move to help them count etc. Please don’t keep doing what you are already doing if it’s not working. Ask your child exactly which bit they don’t understand and maybe that will help you too.
  6. Here’s the answer – lets work out how to get it together –yes – really – give them the answer! It’s not cheating! The idea is that the children become familiar with, and start to understand, the concept so they can repeatedly get to the answers – it’s not about getting that answer correct. Give children the answer so they can work back from it. This gives them the power and understanding to continually repeat and apply their learning to new areas.
  7. We’ve had enough for today – let’s do something different – celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate! Always end on a positive and treat them (and you) to positive words and then something totally different.

I really hope these are a good starting point and please let me know how you get on! If you’d like any support in working with your child at home, I coach internationally using Skype / Facetime / Whatsapp etc. Coaching will enable you to support your child at home more easily and with increased patience and understanding of what will work – and what won’t.

Teen Talk – Preparing For a New School

This part of my blog is based on the advice of a pre-teen called Milly. Through coaching, Milly is learning how to make being her age a little less complicated – for herself and others around her. She would like to share her ideas, in the hope that she can help others going through the same kind of things.

Starting A New School

“Everyone gets nervous about starting a new school. I’m really excited but I’m also really nervous! I’m nervous that the teachers won’t like me, that I won’t know what to do, that I won’t make friends – and that my Dad will be super annoying when he takes me to school and embarrasses me in front of everyone.”

Here are a few bits of advice to help make the start of either a brand new school, or a new school year, less stressful:

Teachers

New teachers can be scary, and that’s because you don’t know what their rules and expectations are. You may have heard that Mr X or Mrs Y is really strict, so just keep it in mind; wait and see how it goes. Just be calm, smile nicely when you meet them and listen to what they are telling you about the behaviour they want to see in class. Teachers are always more strict in the beginning because they want a good start to the school year – for them and for all the children in the class. You’ll get to know them soon enough, and they will get to know you. So give it a bit of time, is really my best advice; smile, be polite, and wait and see.

If you’re worried about reputation, and you are going to a new school, remember, every year is a fresh start. No one really wants to deliberately get into trouble (and that’s a different blog post if they do). Mostly, you don’t have a reputation – you’re just worried about getting one on your first day. You’re worried you will do something wrong, or get lost, or your bag won’t fit into the locker etc. You worry that a teacher will see and you’ll get into trouble. Remember, teachers see this every year, and they are really hoping that, if you do have a reputation, this is the year you can break free of it, or if you don’t they are not looking to give you one. Really. Stick with others and watch what they do.

I Don’t Know What To Do

Everyone that’s new has this worry – even adults starting a new job. It’s completely OK and  normal to worry about this. You are in a new pace, with new people, with new routines. My best advice is to carefully (but not actually staring at others because that’s a bit weird) watch and see what others do and follow their lead. If you’re not sure, it is also a good way to start talking to someone and ask for their help.

“I’m worried that my bag won’t fit in my locker, that I’ll lose my locker key or I won’t have anywhere to put the key.”

I wrote down some of my fears – some are just there to worry you and you need to say to yourself, “I am going to out that at the back of my mind and deal with it if it really happens.” I talked to my mum about the key and we went and bought a key ring, so if I needed it, it was there. I also checked my school uniform to see if there was a loop on the skirt. There was, so we made sure I had a thing on the key ring to clip it onto the loop – if that’s what the other girls did and if we were allowed. I also worried about getting lost so I decided I would always stick with a group and try to just chat and say “Hi” to other people, even if I didn’t know them.

Making Friends

Lots of people worry about making friends – it is normal. My best advice, even if you are really shy, is to smile, and say “Hi”. This is a good first step. If they don’t respond, then have a few prepared things to say. My advice is, try not to stick with only one new friend as it might stop you making friends with other people too.

At my old school, I used to take a book onto the playground and read all the time. It was a great way to protect me as I had something to “disappear” into and then it didn’t really matter if no one was my friend or invited me to play. Actually, this isn’t true – of course it hurt. I now realise that the book made it look like I am not interested in talking to anyone else, so I’m not going to do this in my new school.

“Honestly, just talk to everyone – soon people will realise that you’re friendly and they will come up to you and start talking. I know it’s easy to say and I am really going to give it a go when I start my new school this week.”

Dad

If you’re worried about your parents embarrassing you on your first day, maybe because they have been teasing you about it, or you are really unsure, then find another adult to share your worries with, if you can. Just check-in with them that he’s not really going to give you a big hug and kiss and hold your hand when you go to your new school – and you’re 11 years old – because that’s so embarrassing. He’s probably only joking, but if it is on your mind, try to ask someone for help. If that’s not possible, try to say politely but firmly, “Dad, I am a little bit worried about this teasing. I’d really like to have a good start at school, so please I need your help to make that happen.” If you’re polite and share your feelings, hopefully the message will get through.

Teen-Talk: New School – New Friends

This part of my blog is based on the advice of a pre-teen called Milly. Through coaching, Milly is learning how to make being her age a little less complicated – for herself and others around her. She would like to share her ideas, in the hope that she can help others going through the same kind of things.

Making New Friends

“Friends aren’t always something you get straight away – even if that’s what you really want. It’s easy to feel like you just want someone to hang around with, but then they can actually stop you making new friends.”

“Some people really have a thing about popularity and they will be mean to you just so they can be friends with the person you are friends with. And then, the friend you used to be friends with, starts being mean to you because that’s what the other person wants. But, if the false friend is being mean to your old friend, then that’s not friendship at all. That sounds weird and complicated, but people my age will get it.”
“Sometimes making new friends is scary and really you want them to like you. Be yourself – not the person they want you to be.”

Some strategies on how to make a friend:

  • Smile
  • Ask them their name and tell them yours
  • Ask a question about what they like to do or what TV they watch
  • Give a compliment
  • Be aware of things you do when you are nervous, like talk too much – acknowledge it and then move on to chatting about something else
  • Remember – everyone can be nervous when trying to make new friends, even if they do not look nervous.

 

Inspiring Pupil Engagement

Pupil engagement is central to successful learning; the more a pupil is engaged in the learning taking place, the better the quality of learning and progress they will make. A child already switched onto learning, those children who enjoy going to school, and children who enjoy success from extension learning opportunities, are easy to engage. That is to say, a teacher has to do very little at all to engage them – because they already are. It is those quieter children, the daydreamers or apathetic non-participants, looking out of the window that require engaging. It’s the children actively involved in work avoidance; fiddling with their (or a friend’s) hair, rummaging constantly in their pencil case, arranging thing with meticulous precision on their desks, doodling, dropping things on the floor, writing notes – or simply being down right disruptive – these are the children we as teachers need to seek to engage.
Lack of pupil engagement happens for many reasons. We can formulate an extensive list, and one that is certainly not limited to; any kind of learning difficulty or medical issues, illness, fatigue, language barriers, boredom, dislike of their teacher (ill-concealed dislike clearly reflected through active non-engagement is the easiest weapon of choice), and family or friendship issues. Most commonly, children do not see the relevance or purpose of what they are being asked to do.
Alternatively, they are one of those children who have “fallen behind”. They know they were supposed to have acquired a seemingly strange and bizarre concept the first time round. Yet, here it is again, and they are still confused.  Most of the other children so it seems, have moved on to more advanced concepts. They now find themselves in a remedial or “extra special support lesson” to get them to where their peers were this time last year. Problem is, everyone else in the “support class” is in the same boat. They are probably just as disillusioned or lacking in hope of ever mastering the illusive concept being taught as they are. No hope then of inspiration from their neither peers – nor hope of copying and getting the right answers that way.

Over the years, I’ve always tried to keep these simple rules in mind. The learning goal is set down by the curriculum – however, the method you use to inspire your pupils, is all yours. Making it fun and interesting for them, means its more engaging for you – so everyone wins.
First rule of engagement – make the learning fun, interesting and relevant to the child’s context or situation. Use your environment, things they are familiar with and can easily make connections to.  When it is a situation or context they can relate to, children (and indeed adults) will start to make more sense of, and have a clearer idea of what they are supposed to be learning. And this is the Costa del Sol – so, we went shopping. We “went” to a big shopping complex – the big posh and expensive one up the road in Marbella – the one with the multi-storey underground car park. We drew it on the whiteboard and talked about what we could buy on each floor, using the lift to travel between floors.

Rule number two – scaffold with something ridiculously easy – something that they feel confident with already. Therefore, we carried out very basic calculations in positive numbers. The giggling started. They started talking. This was easy they thought. They felt confident. Then I “realised” the driver had left the money to pay for our items  in the car in the underground car-park. Therefore, we had to leave the iPhone where it was on the fourth floor and travel down to the car park on floor minus one. Then back up to the shopping centre – and so on. Eight different children, eight different drivers who had left various methods of payment in the car on different levels of the car park – and they were hooked.

This defines rule number three; let them talk while they learn. Pupil talk can never be underestimated. While it can be very frustrating at times – let them talk!
Within 10 minutes, these children were confidently and correctly answering questions on basic addition and subtraction of negative numbers. Not only that, they were encouraging one another and explaining to each other, in a language they understood, how the concepts worked.

Rule four – when they can explain it to another, they themselves have learned it, and are ready to move on.

Finally – have children reflect on what they have learned. By identifying what they have learned, it “locks in the learning.” It is also a great way of celebrating and acknowledging every step, which boosts their self esteem, awareness of their learning – and will inspire greater pupil engagement in the long run.

These simple rules for pupil engagement have worked for me over the years. I am certainly not saying pupil engagement is limited to these concepts, nor that it is that simple. It absolutely is not. Anyone who has stood in front of an unruly class of 30 plus children who clearly can think of other ways they would rather be spending their time, can testify to this. These are merely anecdotes – and if they help you as a parent or teacher to help children learn negative numbers, or the like, then that is what Inspired Learning is.

Go on… What’s Stopping You?

mistakes, fear and learning – love to learn, make mistakes and down with fear

The most essential ingredient for all learners, whatever their age, culture, nationality or languages spoken, is to be unafraid when approaching new learning.

make mistakes – it’s ok

The old saying that primary school teachers often use; we learn by making mistakes, is relevant to us throughout our lifetime – whatever we are learning about.  Naturally, this is easier said than done, as many of us have perhaps had trouble learning or acquiring new skills in the past. Our previous experiences and attitudes often shape our approach to new learning.

take risks – have a go

Many children (such as myself all those years ago) start off with an enthusiasm for school and learning. However, sometimes, something happens and they start to lose their confidence and enthusiasm to try new things. It could be something so small and seemingly insignificant, yet that uncertainty in themselves, or their ability, seems to flourish and prosper with far more determination than their initial blossoming desire to learn. Suddenly it’s not so easy to just “have a go” – they have become afraid. They are afraid of making mistakes, of looking silly and start to feel foolish. It is then that they start to copy whoever is sitting next to them and they worry about how they look in front of their peers and their teacher. The hands that once willing went up to answer all manner of questions start to waver mid-air, or stop being held up altogether. This learned fear can have far-reaching consequences to our self-confidence and self-esteem.

a little inspiration – and inspired learning was born

As a primary school teacher for many years, both in England, Scotland and with over a decade of international experience, I have seen many children who initially lacked confidence in themselves and their ability to learn; it transcends language, culture and gender. However, with a little inspiration, someone to inspire them, all this can change, just like a little bit of magic.  When children grow their wings of self-confidence, when they have their passion for learning reignited – or even lit for the first time – that really does look and feel like magic.

It has been my pleasure to see this in so many children over the years and this is why I am inspired to write this blog; to tell their stories and to hopefully hear some of yours.

It is my dream to make inspired learning a reality for children and adults around the world. Together we can inspire all learners, whatever their age, for today, tomorrow and for the future. Once you start to believe, there are no limits. Where are your wings taking you?