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Tag Archives: Mental Health

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How to approach first-time in-person learning for early education students

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The 2020-21 school year has ended in most parts of the country. However, it’s never too early for teachers and educators to think about the next school year.

Returning to school after COVID-19 and virtual learning is a big step for educators, parents, and students. Many have adjusted to the new normal this past year, and although it was a challenge for most, schools are going back to the “old normal” now that most states and localities have lifted masking mandates and gathering restrictions.

Teachers, as you prepare to head back to in-person instruction in the fall, you might be wondering how to approach first-time in-person learning for early education students. If you’re a kindergarten or first-grade teacher, this will be a challenge since most of your students likely have only been in school virtually and during the pandemic.

There are a few ways to navigate this transition for early elementary students, though, with the help of teaching strategies for new learners.

Be Open and Honest With Your Students

As you enter the classroom in-person in the fall, you’re going to have students who may feel anxious about the pandemic and being around other students. They’ll likely be asking you a million questions about things like social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands, and more.

The best thing you can do is to be open and honest with them. Provide factual details to your students in words they understand. Since you’re teaching early education students, focus on talking about what might be different from virtual and in-person learning. Help them stay safe and healthy throughout the school year by talking about things they can control.

Do What Makes You and Your Students Most Comfortable

Each school and classroom will look different in this next school year. Some schools may still require masks or face shields, while others feel safe removing that from their regulations.

Mask-wearing policies have become part of daily life for everyone, especially kids, for whom the pandemic has been a much larger chunk of their lives. It might be strange for young students to be in a classroom with multiple other students without wearing masks. As a teacher, do what makes you and your students most comfortable. If some kids want to wear a mask, then let the class know that it’s OK, and vice versa.

Help Students Build a Routine

Kindergarten and first-grade students likely have little to no experience with an in-person school routine. You likely have a set schedule for your class topics, but many schools decided to allow students to complete assignments and attend or view lectures in their own time during online learning.

These early education students will need to learn how to go about a school day. During the first few weeks of the new school year, perhaps spend time walking your students through a schedule and take breaks for questions as needed. You will have to focus on teaching how to behave in a structured learning environment.

Model Calmness in the Classroom

You, your students, and your students’ parents probably all feel worried about what will happen throughout the school year. Will you have to revert to online learning? Will there be a COVID-19 variant outbreak? Modeling calm behavior will be one of your greatest assets in how to help first-time learners.

The pandemic has been a traumatic experience for people of all ages. Help your students care for their mental health. Validate their fears and worries. Teach coping strategies if necessary. Above all, remain calm and encourage the new learners you’ll get through the school year together, one way or another.

Remain Flexible With Learning and Adjust to Student Needs

Finally, remain flexible with your students’ learning and adjust to their educational needs as the year progresses. Your students likely had different experiences with online learning. And if you teach kindergarten, your students have no idea what it means to be in the classroom.

If you teach first-graders, during the last school year, they likely learned at different paces. You may need to individualize education for some students who may have missed lectures or assignments or may not understand the subject at hand. This will help your kids stay current on their academic progress. Keep your students at their grade level, but give specific instruction when necessary to accelerate their learning.

There’s a First for Everything

Much like last year, this year will be another new learning and teaching experience for everyone. Lean on your co-workers, and be open and honest with your students and their parents. Continue to support your students through this added “new normal” of heading back into in-person instruction.

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‘Impairment’ at work means more than just alcohol and other substances

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When describing “impaired” workers, there’s a tendency to limit this term to alcohol, opioids, or cannabis. But according to the National Safety Council (NSC), the definition needs to be expanded. And 93% of employers who responded to a recent NSC survey agreed that workplace impairment includes more than alcohol and drugs.

Workplace impairment

First, we need to define workplace impairment. According to Claire Stroer, MPH, CHES, NSC Impairment Program Manager, workplace impairment impedes the ability to function normally or safely.

And she says it is the result of a number of factors, including:

  • Chemical substances, like alcohol, opioids, cannabis, certain prescriptions or OTC medications
  • Physical factors, such as fatigue, extreme temperatures, certain medical conditions such as hypoglycemia
  • Mental distress, featuring conditions like anxiety, traumatic shock, and other distress
  • Social factors, like stress from personal or work-related causes

“Many of these factors can be interrelated; for example, an employee who is stressed might be experiencing chronic fatigue, resort to substance use, or both,” Stroer explains.

While most companies have policies and internal programming to address chemical or substance-related impairment factors, she warns that any type of impairment can present safety risks.

The dangers of an employee working while impaired

“Impairment is a fitness for duty concern, and in general, these factors can affect an employee’s cognitive and physical performance,” Stroer says. It’s a particular concern for safety-sensitive employees, but all employees should understand workplace impairment — and this is especially true for workers who drive to work.

“For example, 13% of work injuries could be attributed to sleep problems and both moderate and severe mental health distress have been found to increase risk for workplace safety incidents,” Stroer explains.

Employee mental health during the pandemic

Another survey, by the Recovery Village, sought to understand how the pandemic is affecting employee mental health. In January 2021, survey participants were asked about their mental health over the last six months, and 75% say they experienced mental health symptoms. The symptoms breakdown is as follows:

  • 76% reported feelings of anxiety/nervousness
  • 66% reported feeling stressed
  • 64% reported depression or loneliness
  • 61% reported sleep issues
  • 41% reported anger or agitation

“Interestingly, in this sample, 64% were aware of mental health resources offered by their employer, leaving over a third of respondents without employer-supported mental health resource access or knowledge as to whether or not this is provided — over a year after the onset of this pandemic,” explains Angela Philips, MSW, PhD, Clinical Product Manager at the Recovery Village.

Even though many employers in the Recovery Village survey reported experiencing adverse mental health symptoms, Philips says many employees were struggling with conditions before the pandemic. “In our sample, almost half reported being diagnosed or treated for a mental health disorder in the past.”

Challenges to seeking help

The most commonly utilized resources were EAP programs and teletherapy. However, Philips says the majority of people using these resources are at the management level or higher. “However, not even a third of the lower-tiered workers reported doing the same.” She says that those in management were also more comfortable talking to a boss about mental health, compared to lower-tiered workers.

Some of the problem is related to the stigmatization of mental health issues, and Philips says those who seek help can be viewed as weak, dangerous, or uncapable of performing the job. “This is also one of the biggest perceived threats to job security, which is reflected in how the workforce is clearly still very hesitant to discuss, let alone access mental healthcare, out of fear.”

What employers can do

As it relates to impairment, Stroer recommends that employers take a holistic approach. “Employers have a distinct role to play in creating a workplace culture that supports employee wellbeing and ensures employees are fit for duty.” For example, she says companies need to learn how to recognize impairment, and prevent employees from working impaired. “Companies should also develop and enforce policies in a fair, consistent manner, and make sure employees are aware of their responsibilities and policies regarding impairment.”

However, Stroer says there’s something else organizations can do, and she thinks this is the most important step. “The right workplace environment can help prevent further substance misuse, stress, fatigue and other issues, while also helping those already affected.”

Philips agrees that employers play a major role. “Employers are in a uniquely powerful position as the gateway to employee mental healthcare, with their ‘finger on the button’ as to what is offered and how it is delivered,” she explains. Since company culture is critical in determining an employee’s well-being and performance, she says companies must create an environment in which employees feel comfortable reaching out.

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It’s not perfectionism that’s hurting us. It’s our approach to it.

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This article first appeared in Real Leaders.

Finding a perfectionist that isn’t in some way proud to be one is like finding out you’ve won $100 million on the lottery. It’s not unheard of, but it’s rare! Why? Because perfectionists believe their strong work ethic, superior attention to detail, and ability to achieve more than everyone else puts them in a class above the rest.

For the most part, they’re right! Numerous studies have shown that perfectionists outperform non-perfectionists in sports, the workplace, and in education, and there is an increasing belief that society’s largely negative portrayal of perfectionism now requires an update. But whilst these positive qualities of perfectionism continue to garner support, the negative aspects must not be ignored.

Perfectionism continues to cause a host of health problems for perfectionists, with the endless pursuit of perfection causing many to experience chronic low self-esteem and fear of failure whilst being highly critical of their efforts. These symptoms can invariably lead to burnout and depression, and it often takes a major life event such as a health scare for perfectionists to realize the stress this approach brings to their lives.

Even though the desire for perfection can often be a thankless task, perfectionists remain doggedly faithful to their cause. Why? Well, the answer lies in perfectionism itself.

A perfectionist’s beliefs are often rigid and unrealistic, largely driven by behaviors and beliefs developed in early life. Their “black-and-white” or “all-or-nothing” thinking prevents the perfectionist from considering wider alternatives or solutions to any given problem, and it’s this fixed mindset that leads them to believe that the thoughts and behaviors they display are permanent and impossible to change. This is far from the case, however.

Research shows that adopting a growth mindset helps ensure a happier and healthier existence for perfectionists, and I can personally attest to its power. In 2017, I was the music director of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” on tour in the U.S. when I experienced a mild heart attack on my walk home from conducting a performance. As it turned out, my right coronary artery was 90% blocked, and extensive work with a psychologist after the event would eventually identify my perfectionism as the underlying cause of the attack. It was a big wake-up call, and thus began my connection with the growth mindset and the practice of many techniques that will (hopefully) ensure I’m still around for many years to come.

Switching a mindset is relatively easy to do, but you’ll only succeed if you connect with why you’re doing it. Much like an alcoholic will only stop drinking once they’ve admitted they have a problem, the first step to making sustained change to mindset as a perfectionist is to admit that perfectionism is causing you pain. For some, that’s a bridge too far. Because most perfectionists are proud of the healthy aspects of their perfectionism, any change in mindset is often perceived as a negative.

Perfectionists are reluctant to consider change because they believe it will somehow make them lazy or unmotivated, and change is often seen as a threat to the very thing that makes them special (did I mention that the fixed mindset is part of perfectionism?!) Even though it causes them pain, perfectionists are often much happier regarding the unhealthy parts of their perfectionism as something they just have to live with in order to benefit from the healthy parts. It’s a never-ending circle of self-sacrifice — and it’s exhausting!

But imagine what it would be like to free yourself from the chains of unhealthy perfectionism whilst still benefiting from the healthy parts; understanding your perfectionism so well that you wake up one morning to find that you no longer feel the need to leave the bedroom looking like a show home or spend hours on your appearance before heading downstairs to the kitchen because you’ve realized that no-one other than you really cares.

Imagine deciding that the fridge didn’t really have to be stocked in alphabetical order because your time was better spent elsewhere, or that you wouldn’t be overly bothered if you turned up for brunch with a friend a few minutes late because you decided to prioritize your perfectionism and only focus on perfecting the things that really matter to you. Imagine how much freer you would feel and how much more time you would have to perfect the things you care about the most by taking this approach.

It’s all there for the taking — you just have to want it!

It’s my belief that we all have a responsibility to be the best we can be in life, and that the switch to a growth mindset is one of the most powerful ways to achieve that goal. This isn’t about saying there’s something wrong with you; it’s about connecting with the realization that every perfectionist deserves to be happy, and that meaningful change in your approach to perfectionism will mean a more balanced, peaceful, and calmer existence.

It’s about recognizing that you are worth more than a life filled with fear and low self-esteem, and that productive change within your perfectionism is not only possible but achievable without compromising standards. This change might scare you — I get it, I’ve been there — but if you can view this change as something that will offer untold rewards in your success and happiness in life, I promise you’ll be grateful for it.

Imagine what you could achieve by “perfecting” your perfectionism! Be brave and embrace the growth mindset. You deserve it. You’re a perfectionist, and you’re awesome!

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Infographic: The art and science of storytelling

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We all share stories every day through blogs, social media, and conversations with friends. Between Facebook and Twitter, nearly 1 billion posts are shared every day. Yet many believe they don’t have what it takes to tell your story. Your writing doesn’t have to be excellent to provide great benefits. Taking the time to develop a daily writing habit will benefit your physical and mental health.

Writing about your experiences for as little as 15 minutes a day can help organize your thought, heal from traumatic experiences, and even speed wound healing. People who take the simple step of writing down their goals are 1.5 times more likely to achieve them. Sharing your stories with others builds community, understanding, and can highlight core human experiences we all share in some form.

Every beginning writer needs support and tools to help them on their journey. Find inspiration to begin your writing journey in this infographic.

Infographic courtesy Opyrus

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B2B tactic boosts high-value service lines

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While healthcare organizations are busier than ever due to the pandemic, their bottom lines have suffered. But hospitals and healthcare systems can offset the fiscal hit by leveraging their top revenue-generating clinical services.

High-value service lines, even in competitive markets such as metro New York, have been setting themselves apart with precisely targeted, multi-faceted B2B marketing that incorporates specialty publications. Elite cardiology and ortho service lines have used high-impact journal-style publications to target referring physicians with a great deal of success.

Not only can these generate direct referrals by educating other physicians on new and emerging procedures, they also serve as a recruitment tool. One New York-based hospital has produced an annual cardiac journal for almost 20 years and still considers it among their strongest tools for building awareness and referrals.

Reinforce Reputation, Boost Rankings

There is a higher confidence in using the printed word to achieve certain marketing goals. For example, some of our clients highlight clinical excellence and innovation in their service-line publications in order to boost reputation scores. Their publications go to a targeted list of medical colleagues who are likely voters for rankings such as U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals and Best Pediatric Hospitals.

Digital and print communications work hand-in-hand in these efforts, and a high-quality print publication delivers a reference piece that is easily accessed and shared. Perhaps due to the tactile nature of print, it captures attention longer and is more readily understood and retained compared to digital media, according to a Canada Post/True Impact study.

Getting something in the mail is a special occasion now, thanks to streaming, digital publishing, social media and online billing. So, a high-end publication stands out when it arrives in targeted colleagues’ mailboxes, making a lasting impression to motivate referrals and add patient traffic.

Successful Steps for Service-Line Publications

When your service line lays groundwork in advance, before production begins, it sets the stage for your print showcase to travel safely from the mailbox to the hands of a referring clinician.

Use data analytics in order to understand what services your catchment area needs and wants, advises the Healthcare Financial Management Association, then customize content according to those insights. This can help to attract new referrals to high-value service lines and maximize efforts and budget to serve new patients “most likely to remain within the hospital’s care network,” HFMA says.

Focus all content on the physician who receives it, so you retain attention and reinforce the benefits of your service line — not only for patients, but also for doctors. Acknowledge concerns plainly, citing your data, and then show how physicians and people benefit from choosing care from you.

Appeal to busy doctors by detailing how your facility accommodates them. For example, your EHR provides seamless referrals, admissions and follow up. Or perhaps you save their time with valet parking and convenient security and pandemic-safety measures.

Share success stories with quotes from patients and referring clinicians, demonstrating how your service line makes a real difference for real people. Consider a before-and-after showcase with a variety of success stories, ideally with patients who reflect your catchment area’s targeted demographic. Show passages from illness toward health with text and professional photos.

Use separate sidebars to mention fellowships, certifications and awards, accompanied by accrediting organizations’ logos so physicians can absorb them in glance. This treatment keeps your main narratives on-track in order to maintain each reader’s attention.

Finally, harness that attention into action. Equip doctors with bullet points for their patients. Add calls to action on every spread, optimally with print-specific phone numbers and QR codes (popular again because they don’t require apps). Also include print-specific URLs in order to flag responses for your web analytics colleagues and strengthen connections between your digital and print marketing tactics.

High-Value Service Lines

These specialties generate the highest average net revenue annually for hospitals, according to the 2019 Merritt Hawkins Physician Inpatient/Outpatient Revenue Survey.

  1. Cardiovascular surgery
  2. Invasive cardiology
  3. Neurosurgery
  4. Orthopedic surgery
  5. Gastroenterology
  6. Hematology/Oncology
  7. General surgery
  8. Internal medicine
  9. Pulmonology
  10. Noninvasive cardiology

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Celebrate the end of the school year with fun closing activities

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You made it! We all made it! What a year! Though my articles usually provide instructional strategies to support diverse learners, as this school year wraps up, it is only fitting that everyone stop and play the song “Celebrate” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Please take a special moment to celebrate yourself, students, and our community of families. This school year was no ordinary year, full of unprecedented events and more.

Before the school year wraps up, provide yourself and students opportunities to celebrate, appreciate the great times, and close with optimism. Innovation, resilience, and grace are my top three words to describe the 2020-21 school year. What are your three words?

For You

Teacher appreciation never ends. Like a superhero, you are always ON. Dreaming and creating amazing learning opportunities for students. If you need a pick me up, watch this Learning Forward “Thank you, teachers!” video to remind yourself that because of you, a student’s life is better; because of you, a student made it through a historical period of collective trauma.

Students will remember YOU and how you made them feel. This year was more than academic standards, it was about “who” we want students to become along their way: wiser, braver, more resilient, greater perspective, more compassionate.

Try these mindfulness practices:

Appreciation: as you inhale and exhale, take a moment to connect with yourself. As you slowly breathe in and out, reflect on something you are looking forward to, big or small.

Harnessing Joy: as you inhale and exhale, take a moment to connect with yourself. What would it look like for you to be the happiest, greatest version of myself? What do you see, feel, hear, smell, etc.

Proud Moment: as you inhale and exhale, take a moment to connect with yourself. What are you most proud of in this moment?

Fill Your Cup: as you inhale and exhale, think about how you fill yourself when you start to feel drained (see my “Why self-care is a must for educators” article).

For Students/Families

Our goal is to end every lesson and, most importantly, this school year with a sense of optimism. This is a chance for students to reflect on growth, celebrate progress, and share their journey with classmates and families. I’ve collected a few resources with great activities for both in-person and remote learning that can help you end the year with excitement.

  1. TCEA has provided an extensive list of great closure activities.
  2. Common Sense Education provides us with a comprehensive list of virtual and in-person games and instructional opportunities for students to highlight accomplishments.
  3. ABC’s EOY Countdown Activities provides a teacher guide to 25 quick and exciting fun closing activities.
  4. One of my favorite activities to use as a closure with students is the 3-2-1.
    • 3 unique things about your family
    • 2 challenges you’re currently facing
    • 1 goal or dream you have
    • Create a virtual board using Padlet or Jamboard. Students will share whichever prompt they feel comfortable and encourage students to comment on their peers’ responses to build connection and community.
  5. End the year using the Compliment Project (aka Spread the Love). This is a great way to build community and celebrate each student! Watch the strategy in action here.

In closing, as you reflect on the hurdles and triumphs of the 2020-21 school year, please remember Brené Brown’s famous one-liner, “It is good enough,” and rejuvenate over the summer knowing that your best is always good enough. Thank you for your dedication to reaching and teaching ALL students.

Take care and see you in August!

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Infographic: Fixing the world of disconnected payments in healthcare

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Healthcare payments can be a big headache for clinics and patients alike. In fact, 25% of unnecessary spending in healthcare goes toward payment processing, totaling $190 billion every year.

Where does the wasted money go? Minor mistakes in data entry can cause insurance claims to be denied. Correcting and resubmitting claims can cost clinics up to $37,000 on average. Time spent correcting insurance claims distracts from services that really matter.

Two-thirds of Americans worry about being able to afford healthcare costs. Many want to know

exactly what services will cost ahead of time. But only half of providers’ estimates turn out to be accurate.

Patients and clinics alike are unsure of what insurance will cover. As high-deductible health plans grow more popular, uncertainty about out-of-pocket costs is on the rise. This uncertainty can lead patients to ignore bills or even avoid treatment altogether.

Learn how technology is streamlining healthcare payments using contactless check-in with this infographic:

Infographic courtesy PracticeSquire

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Bridging the gap between school safety and emotional wellness during a pandemic: Part 2

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For part 1, please click here.

Family Friendly Schools

Schools seeking assessment for the purpose of evaluating and improving family and community connection can earn a family friendly school designation by the Department of Education. The recognition is the result of an assessment process centered around surveys of school staff, parents, and students. The Family Friendly School program addresses not only academic, but physical, emotional and social needs of students. Schools earn distinction by providing evidentiary documentation addressing the components of the program.

Components of the Family Friendly School program include: 1) welcoming all families, 2) communicating effectively, 3) supporting student success, 4) speaking up for every child, 5) sharing power, and 6) collaborating with the community (Georgia Department of Education, 2016). Welcoming all families includes items such as friendly staff ready to assist with questions, easily available information, available administration, use of home visits, and acknowledgement of visitors.

Effective communication includes the use of a variety of methods to inform families in their native language about school activities, maintaining up to date websites, regular teacher communication with parents, and ways for parents to voice potential concerns. Supporting student success heavily relies on parent involvement both as volunteers and through ensuring teachers work with parents to support learning at home. Speaking up for every child includes parent empowerment to advocate for their child to ensure support for success. Sharing power acknowledges the equal partnership in decision making about policies and practices within the school. Lastly, collaborating with the community provides a connection to resources that benefit the school, families, and the organizations connected with them.

Characteristics of family-friendly schools can serve as a first step guide for creating partnerships and engagement in support of emotional wellness in the community, school, and family during this time of uncertainty and stress. How would your school rank as family friendly?

Emotional Support

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2019) describes trauma as “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, or spiritual well-being” (par. 1).Children and teens may be experiencing increased stress responses as a result of the current crises (National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, 2020). Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic experiences that erode a child’s sense of safety and are considered risk factors for poor future physical and mental health outcomes (Heramis, 2020; Jennings, 2018).

Often school personnel are the first to notice warning signs of crisis in children; school closures have hampered the school’s ability to support or intervene (Masonbrink & Hurley, 2020). Schools have opened, then closed, and attempted to teach virtually. Families have suffered the burden of schools closing down leaving them with no option for childcare. Families had to make the decision of whether or not to send children back to school when they reopened, and many struggled with attempting to engage their children in on-line learning while at home.

People are experiencing increased anxiety about physical health, mental health, job security, and economic collapse resulting in stressful environments (Brown et al., 2020). Additionally, social distancing measures have impacted the social life of families and typical daily patterns reducing community connections commonly utilized to cope with crises (Polizzi et al., 2020). Increased parental stress has shown to subsequently increase the presence of childhood maltreatment (Brown et al., 2020). Adequate support can temper the impact of traumatic experiences on children. Schools need to recognize student vulnerability and the possibility of lasting impact if left untreated.

On the contrary, emotional support within compassionate relationships may help offset the impact of stress (Heramis, 2020). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020) provides guidelines for helping children to cope after emergencies. The CDC (2020) guidelines include: 1) providing children with a sense of control, 2) allowance for conversation about feelings, 3) and communication between adults involved in the child’s life. School personnel are essential in the provision of emotional support to assist children with coping during this time. Heramis (2020) noted positive relationships within a school’s culture are necessary when increasing emotional support.

Schools that forge ahead and ensure actions to cultivate emotional wellness can do so through “Compassionate Schools.” The “Compassionate Schools” approach was developed to assist schools supporting children and families dealing specifically with trauma (Wolpow et al., 2016). Within compassionate school’s emotional wellness is cultivated through unconditional empathy and respect for students and families.

As children and families navigate educational systems during uncertain times, it is critical for schools to operate with compassion as a protective factor to decrease lasting impacts of toxic stress and increase chances students are in a prepared state to learn (Heramis, 2020). Consequently, our school systems are only as empathetic and strong as the people in them. Therefore, it is important schools take the time to realize, those that survive traumatic experiences depend upon the social capital of created relationships (Payne, 2020). Is your school prepared to offer support and compassion to decrease future risk factors?

Building Networks

Many families lacked the support from external sources previously provided by schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown et al., (2020) states we can learn much from the experiences of COVID-19 stressors on parents. The authors note measures should be taken by providers and educators to mitigate beyond the emotional and social support received in the past by connecting families with other community resources to develop a broader network of support.

The authors highlight supports that should include: 1) providing culturally responsive whole-family programs and services to extended family and, 2) increasing perceived control over life events by promoting acceptance and mindfulness. The authors note parents with higher perceived control over life events are more likely to be able to use available resources to manage stressors (Brown et al., 2020). What broadened network opportunities does your school offer as a result of the pandemic?

Reflection

Our schools are not equal; the achievement gap is a product of our unequal society; even an equal education will not produce equal outcomes (Strauss, 2020). It brings to question: Will bridging the gap and creating schools focused on emotional wellness including cultural awareness and family connectivity automatically make all students successful? No, however if schools make a fraction of a difference for more students each year they will have progressed considerably from where they are now.

Reflect on your own school experiences. It is the emotional triggers; those relationships and connections you remember and took with you. Fred Rogers, the star of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” once said, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person” (F. Rogers, 2003).Creating compassionate, friendly, emotionally healthy, and family supported schools can make all the difference in creating a culture of connection and wellness. A culture of connection and wellness with long-term outcomes that meet the needs of students, parents, and community members regardless of a pandemic. Consequently, it will be how we work together as a community to survive that will determine outcomes and long-term effects (Payne, 2020).

References

Ambady, N., & Skowronski, J. J. (2008). First impressions. Guilford Publications.

Brenan, M. (2019). Parents’ concern about school safety remains elevated. Gallup News Service. Retrieved fromhttps://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=138309399&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=current

Brown, S. M., Doom, J. R., Lechuga-Peña, S., Watamura, S. E., & Koppels, T. (2020). Stress and parenting during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Child Abuse & Neglect, 110(2). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104699

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Back to school planning: Checklists to guide parents, guardians, and caregivers. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/parent-checklist.html

Georgia Department of Education. (2016). Family-friendly partnership school walk-through: Part of the Georgia family-friendly partnership school initiative. https://www.gadoe.org/School-Improvement/Federal-Programs/Partnerships/Documents/Parent%20Engagement/FFPS/FFPS%20Walk%20Through.pdf

Hair N.L., Hanson J.L., Wolfe B.L., & Pollak S.D. (2015). Association of child poverty, brain development, and academic achievement. JAMA Pediatrics, 169(9), 822-829. doi: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1475

Henderson, A.T., Mapp, K. L., Johnson, V. R., & Davies, D. (2007). Beyond the bake sale: The essential guide to family-school partnerships. New Press.

Heramis, L. (2020). Developing a trauma-informed perspective in school communities: An introduction for educators, school counselors, and administrators. Cognella Academic Publishing.

Indiana Department of Education. (2019). Family friendly schools program. Retrieved fromhttps://www.doe.in.gov/accountability/family-friendly-schools-program

Jennings, P. A. (2018). The trauma-sensitive classroom: Building resilience with compassionate teaching. WW Norton & Company, Inc.

Juvonen, J. (2001). School violence: Prevalence, fears, and prevention. RAND Corporation. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7249/IP219

Madfis, E. (2020). How to Stop School Rampage Killing Lessons from Averted Mass Shootings and Bombings. Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-37181-4

Masonbrink, A. R., & Hurley, E. (2020). Advocating for children during the COVID-19 school closures. Pediatrics, 146(3). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-1440

National Center for Children in Poverty. (2018). America’s child poverty rate remains stubbornly high despite important progress. https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/america%E2%80%99s-child-poverty-rate-remains-stubbornly-high-despite-important-progress

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases. (2020, July). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html

National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. (2020, December 16). Emotional Safety. https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/topic-research/safety/emotional-safety

Patrick, S. W., Henkhaus, L E., Zickafoose, J. S., Lovell, K., Halvorson, A., Loch, S., Letterie, M., & Davis, M. M. (2020). Well-being of parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national survey. Pediatrics, 146(4), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-016824

Payne, R.K. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic: How we work together will determine outcomes. aha! Moments, Community, Health and Healthcare. https://www.ahaprocess.com/covid-19-pandemic-how-we-work-together-will-determine-outcomes/

Payne, R. K. (2013). A framework for understanding poverty: A cognitive approach created for educators, employers, policymakers, and service providers. Highlands, TX: Aha! Process.

Payne, R. K., DeVol, P. E., & Smith, T. D. (2014). Bridges out of poverty: Strategies for professionals and communities: Workbook. Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Polizzi, C., Lynn, S. J., & Perry, A. (2020). Stress and coping in the time of covid-19: pathways to resilience and recovery. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 17(2). https://delphicentre.com.au/uploads/01.%20App%20-%20Attachment%202020/4.%202020-02-02-Polizzietal..pdf

Rogers, F. (2003). The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember. New York, NY.Family Communications, Inc.

Strauss, V. (2020). How covid-19 has laid bare the vast inequities in U.S. public education. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/04/14/how-covid-19-has-laid-bare-vast-inequities-us-public-education/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2019). Trauma and Violence. https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2020). KIDS COUNT Data Book. https://www.aecf.org/resources/2020-kids-count-data-book/

Thompson, J. (2016). Eliminating zero tolerance policies in schools: Miami-Dade county public school’s approach. Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, 2016(2), 325-349. https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/elj/vol2016/iss2/5

U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. (2020). Employment Situation News. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/empsit_05082020.htm

Wolpow, R.J., Johnson, M. M., Hertel, R., & Kincaid, S. O. (2016). The heart of learning and teaching: Compassion, resiliency, and academic success (3rd ed.). Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Compassionate Schools.

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Bridging the gap between school safety and emotional wellness during a pandemic: Part 1

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The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE, 2020) defines emotional safety as experiences in which one feels safe to express emotions, confidence to take risks, and feels challenged and excited to try something new. They conclude emotionally safe learning environments can be achieved by making social and emotional learning (SEL) an essential part of education. Emotional and physical safety allows the brain to be in a prepared state to learn (Heramis, 2020).

Now more than ever, schools have an indispensable obligation to seize the opportunity, evaluate past practices, and adopt new methods to bridge the gap between physical safety and emotional wellness. Creating supportive networks including culturally responsive connections between families and schools through family friendly and compassionate program implementation can offer a way to afford safe learning environments.

With the arrival of the pandemic education has recently experienced unprecedented challenges. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic school safety concerns focused on prevention policies and practices to curb school violence. As a result of intense public pressure, past efforts hyper-focused on physical surveillance, presence of resource officers, weapons detection equipment, violent offender profiling, and development of zero tolerance policies (Juvonen, 2001).

Although well-intended, costly and intrusive practices such as these left many considering proactive efforts in social-emotional learning as more appropriate and effective. Recent research by Madfis (2020) examined common school policies and practices and found many termed as prevention may increase the likelihood of a school violent offense.

For example, zero tolerance policies originally intended to increase safety in schools disproportionately increased suspensions, expulsions, the school to prison pipeline, youth victimization, and suicide risk (Thompson, 2016). As a result, trauma-informed practices would emerge as a new way to address underlying trauma potentially causing negative student behaviors for which zero tolerance policies were applied (Heramis, 2020). Even with long-standing attempts to create safe environments, a 2019 Gallup poll indicated parents remained fearful about their children’s school safety (Brenan, 2019).

An unprecedented end to the 2019-20 school year would shift parent fears and public pressure. While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was impossible to prepare for, the world will remember 2020 as a year of fear, pain and loss for everyone, including the children old enough to recall their experience long after this trying time is behind us (Annie E. Casey Foundation [AECF], 2020). According to AECF (2020), an organization that yearly publishes comprehensive assessments on the well-being of children, the crisis overwhelmed states and communities and has decimated the health and economic stability of many families. Consequently, schools play a significant role in providing stability and support to communities as a whole, but even more so to individual students and families that depend on them (NCSSLE, 2020).

In midst of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) provided recommendations and resources to support back to school learning options. School safety practices currently focus on temperature checks, appropriate mask wearing, social distancing, and recommendations for a mix of remote and in-person learning (CDC, 2020). While K-12 schools nationally navigate recommended precautions, 45% of U.S. parents report being very worried their kids will get COVID-19 at school (Marken & Harlen, 2020). In addition, results of a national survey conducted in June 2020 revealed approximately 1 in 10 parents report worsening mental health in themselves and behavioral health needs in their children (Patrick et al., 2020).

While school physical safety precautions have changed in comparison to just a year ago the importance of supporting emotional health and wellness in the school environment can no longer be ignored. Currently, much focus has been placed on following recommendations to support a safe environment, offer a sense of normalcy, and address valid parent concerns during the shift. Meanwhile, the bigger question to be asked in support of emotional health and safety should be, “but how are the children emotionally”?

Naming Problems and Finding Solutions

The pandemic shined illuminated gaping and persistent inequalities in education across the U. S. when schools closed and switched to distance learning (Strauss, 2020). Compounding already strained educational systems the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number of unemployed persons across the nation rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million in April 2020 alone; resulting in the largest over-the-month increase to unemployment dating back to 1948. According to the NCCP (2018), the national definition of low income alone means not being able to afford basic necessities. The lack of basic necessities associated with poverty impacting brain development may be part of the reason for poor academic achievement outcomes (Hair et al., 2015).

Prior to the pandemic, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) at Columbia University reported 26.1 million children were living in some level of poverty in 2018 (NCCP, 2018). Consequently, many families are now experiencing situational poverty for the first time and need schools with a greater understanding of socioeconomic culture (U. S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2020; Payne, 2020).

Socioeconomic culture impacts the relationship between family and school. When unintentionally overlooked relational connectivity is severed or possibly never established. When considering socioeconomic culture, it is imperative to understand that the majority of schools traditionally operate within middle-class norms, and most teachers grew up learning the hidden rules of middle-class families (Payne et al., 2014). According to Payne et al., (2014) individuals of poverty often struggle in understanding environments outside of their own socioeconomic norm resulting in lack of school connection.

Connection and Culture

Students, families, and stakeholders feel a sense of belonging and connection when a school develops a welcoming environment. Establishing a positive school climate and culture of connection does not solely rest upon teachers and administrators, it begins with front-line office staff (Payne et al., 2014). People in these settings greet the public, gather data, orient others, schedule appointments, and collect fees. They have brief but, perhaps frequent encounters. They set the tone and climate for the organization’s environment. Satisfaction studies show individuals make up their mind about an establishment very quickly upon first contact and the opinion formed influences perception of future events (Ambady & Skowronski, 2008).

For individuals from poverty and those suffering emotionally, the primary motivation for success will result from relationship and connection (Payne et al., 2014). A sense of belonging has been shown to motivate more active involvement in a child’s education, which in turn has shown to positively impact student achievement (Henderson et al., 2007). Kindness, courtesy, and the understanding of different social class rules can create connections and healthy relationships. Does your school staff have these skills?

References

Ambady, N., & Skowronski, J. J. (2008). First impressions. Guilford Publications.

Brenan, M. (2019). Parents’ concern about school safety remains elevated. Gallup News Service. Retrieved fromhttps://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=138309399&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=current

Brown, S. M., Doom, J. R., Lechuga-Peña, S., Watamura, S. E., & Koppels, T. (2020). Stress and parenting during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Child Abuse & Neglect, 110(2). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2020.104699

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Back to school planning: Checklists to guide parents, guardians, and caregivers. Retrieved fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/parent-checklist.html

Georgia Department of Education. (2016). Family-friendly partnership school walk-through: Part of the Georgia family-friendly partnership school initiative. https://www.gadoe.org/School-Improvement/Federal-Programs/Partnerships/Documents/Parent%20Engagement/FFPS/FFPS%20Walk%20Through.pdf

Hair N.L., Hanson J.L., Wolfe B.L., & Pollak S.D. (2015). Association of child poverty, brain development, and academic achievement. JAMA Pediatrics, 169(9), 822-829. doi: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1475

Henderson, A.T., Mapp, K. L., Johnson, V. R., & Davies, D. (2007). Beyond the bake sale: The essential guide to family-school partnerships. New Press.

Heramis, L. (2020). Developing a trauma-informed perspective in school communities: An introduction for educators, school counselors, and administrators. Cognella Academic Publishing.

Indiana Department of Education. (2019). Family friendly schools program. Retrieved fromhttps://www.doe.in.gov/accountability/family-friendly-schools-program

Jennings, P. A. (2018). The trauma-sensitive classroom: Building resilience with compassionate teaching. WW Norton & Company, Inc.

Juvonen, J. (2001). School violence: Prevalence, fears, and prevention. RAND Corporation. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7249/IP219

Madfis, E. (2020). How to Stop School Rampage Killing Lessons from Averted Mass Shootings and Bombings. Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-37181-4

Masonbrink, A. R., & Hurley, E. (2020). Advocating for children during the COVID-19 school closures. Pediatrics, 146(3). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-1440

National Center for Children in Poverty. (2018). America’s child poverty rate remains stubbornly high despite important progress. https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/america%E2%80%99s-child-poverty-rate-remains-stubbornly-high-despite-important-progress

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases. (2020, July). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/for-parents.html

National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments. (2020, December 16). Emotional Safety. https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov/topic-research/safety/emotional-safety

Patrick, S. W., Henkhaus, L E., Zickafoose, J. S., Lovell, K., Halvorson, A., Loch, S., Letterie, M., & Davis, M. M. (2020). Well-being of parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national survey. Pediatrics, 146(4), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-016824

Payne, R.K. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic: How we work together will determine outcomes. aha! Moments, Community, Health and Healthcare. https://www.ahaprocess.com/covid-19-pandemic-how-we-work-together-will-determine-outcomes/

Payne, R. K. (2013). A framework for understanding poverty: A cognitive approach created for educators, employers, policymakers, and service providers. Highlands, TX: Aha! Process.

Payne, R. K., DeVol, P. E., & Smith, T. D. (2014). Bridges out of poverty: Strategies for professionals and communities: Workbook. Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Polizzi, C., Lynn, S. J., & Perry, A. (2020). Stress and coping in the time of covid-19: pathways to resilience and recovery. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 17(2). https://delphicentre.com.au/uploads/01.%20App%20-%20Attachment%202020/4.%202020-02-02-Polizzietal..pdf

Rogers, F. (2003). The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember. New York, NY.Family Communications, Inc.

Strauss, V. (2020). How covid-19 has laid bare the vast inequities in U.S. public education. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/04/14/how-covid-19-has-laid-bare-vast-inequities-us-public-education/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2019). Trauma and Violence. https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2020). KIDS COUNT Data Book. https://www.aecf.org/resources/2020-kids-count-data-book/

Thompson, J. (2016). Eliminating zero tolerance policies in schools: Miami-Dade county public school’s approach. Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, 2016(2), 325-349. https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/elj/vol2016/iss2/5

U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. (2020). Employment Situation News. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/empsit_05082020.htm

Wolpow, R.J., Johnson, M. M., Hertel, R., & Kincaid, S. O. (2016). The heart of learning and teaching: Compassion, resiliency, and academic success (3rd ed.). Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Compassionate Schools.

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Survey: Employee incentives don’t align with their preferences

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It’s important for employers to show appreciation for their workers. However, a recent survey reveals that many organizations are missing the mark in terms of incentives and rewards.

Blackhawk’s “Employee Appreciation Survey,” conducted online in January 2021, reveals the following:

Employees want to be celebrated

  • 80% of employees believe that it is important for employers to celebrate workplace accomplishments, anniversaries, and achievements.
  • 86% of employees want their employer to express appreciation for their personal contributions.

Not all companies have recognition and incentive programs

“The biggest mistake employers are making today is in not offering rewards and incentives to their employees,” says Betty Weinkle, director of partnerships at Blackhawk Network. “We learned that more than 40% of our respondents’ employers do not offer incentives/rewards or formally recognize their human capital.”’

What employees want doesn’t align with what they’re offered

When comparing the types of incentives that the surveyed employees would like to receive with the types of incentives they’re actually receiving, there’s a broad disconnect:

  • 66% of employees want bonuses; only 28% say they receive them
  • 42% of employees would like time off work; only 15% say their company grants it
  • 41% of employees prefer prepaid or gift cards; only 20% agree their company awards them
  • 33% of employees want personalized cards or emails; only 25% say they receive them

Interestingly, only 19% of employees are interested in being singled out at a company event or ceremony; however, a higher percentage (27%) are recognized this way.

The issue of timing

Survey respondents also said how long it takes to receive their reward would determine its impact. However, opinions vary on what’s actually considered too long:

  • 22% felt that more than a month is too long
  • 23% thought a month is too long
  • 24% considered two weeks to be too long
  • 24% listed a week as being too long
  • 7% believe a day is too long

Tips for showing appreciation for employees

One of the biggest mistakes that employees make in showing appreciation for their workers is the same mistake that most people make: Giving people what you like (or you think they “should” like), instead of giving them what they actually want.

This is why some men who enjoy receiving power tools for Father’s Day don’t understand that some women may not appreciate receiving appliances for Mother’s Day. Those of us who tend to celebrate with food may not understand people who don’t think every occasion calls for food.

At many organizations, the people handling rewards and incentives are making decisions based on their personal preferences. For example, at one organization, I remember someone suggesting that an employee’s birthday should be considered an additional vacation day. Many of the employees loved this idea. But the people in charge of making these decisions voted the idea down because they said they would want to spend their birthday surrounded by colleagues. Obviously, they didn’t understand that it wasn’t about them.

The same organization would have elaborate, formal banquets (requiring dress attire) to recognize workers — even though the feedback indicated a significant portion of the workers hated these events. Again, the decision-makers chose these events based on their preferences. Many of them stated that they liked to don gowns and tuxedos and considered the banquets their favorite event of the year.

If you’re going to reward and incentivize employees, take the time to find out what they want. This should be done anonymously to avoid putting undue pressure on workers to respond a certain way.

“We recommend employers take care to adopt incentive practices that are meaningful to their workforce, but don’t create additional administrative burden,” Weinkle says. “Prepaid and gift cards are a perfect way to achieve this because they are highly desirable, easy to disburse, and can also be offered digitally.”

Blackhawk’s research found that employees now place as much value on digital cards as they do physical cards. This popularity has been fueled by COVID-19, which resulted in a dramatic increase in online shopping.

Whether you choose a physical or an online card, make sure that it’s general enough to appeal to all workers. For example, a Starbucks gift card might not appeal to someone who doesn’t drink coffee, and a Home Depot or Lowe’s gift card might not appeal to those who wouldn’t normally shop there.

And since bonuses and time off were the top two responses among surveyed employees, it’s worth considering how to work these options into your company’s budget.

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