Category Archives: Daily Thoughts

Kindness in the Classroom

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Let’s Talk About Kindness

kindnessKindness helps everything.  It can smooth over advice for improvements.  Sincere empathy during a difficult time can make that adversity seem a little more bearable.   An unexpected kindness can build a positive rapport between people.  That rapport can then be used to give a young person the courage to discuss their challenges and dreams with you.  There is always a choice to bring kindness into a situation…especially the classroom.  Kindness can make even devastating news more palatable.  Kindness can be as simple as saying nothing when a young person has really made a poor choice.  We all need kindness the most when we deserve it least.

Be Kind to Yourself

kindness in the classroomAs a rule teachers are pretty tough on themselves.  We accept assignments late and jeopardize our own free time to show kindness to students.  We give up our lunch breaks, planning bells and spend countless hours before and after school tutoring, running clubs, or just talking with students.  We answer emails, call parents, serve on committees, mentor a new teacher and then end up taking all our grading home.  Most teachers are “yes” people.  It seems the last person we are kind to is ourselves.

A few summers ago I enrolled in a couple of one week workshops for teachers. One of the teachers had us do an activity I will never forget.  She asked us to write a letter to ourselves about any area or aspect of our life that concerned us.  The letters were going to be mailed back to our homes in a self-addressed stamped envelope at a specified later date.  But here is the twist that made this activity to powerful.  She asked us to write that letter using the same type of kind and encouraging words that we would use with a student.  Whoa! I learned very quickly that I talk to and criticize myself in a very different way than I would talk to students.  Writing to myself using the tact and care I use with my students was a very emotional experience.  I could tell it had the same impact on every teacher in that room. It revealed to me that on a daily basis I am probably my own worst enemy.

Helping Students Learn Kind Self-Talk

teach kindness to students

The following year I used this activity with my seniors shortly before they graduated.  It was a classroom full of future teachers.  They were going to be writing encouraging notes and letters to students.  I had them practice on themselves.  I gave them the same instructions my workshop teacher had given me.  They asked if I was going to read them or not.  I gave them the same answer as my workshop teacher.  “If you seal them, I won’t read them.”  As they wrote silently, you could feel the intensity in the classroom.  Rachael began to cry quietly as she wrote encouraging words to herself.  She wasn’t the only student who reacted with emotion.  She later said, “Well, Mrs. Easley, you made me cry in school.  I have managed to get through kindergarten and twelve years of school without ever crying in class.  But just before I graduate, you make me cry in class!”  Ouch.

While my goal certainly wasn’t to make her cry,  (truthfully she made herself cry with what she wrote), I could see the experience had made a lasting impact on her and many others in class.  When that much emotion is attached to an activity, you know that they have experienced something memorable.  To be honest I knew there were a few in the room who found the activity too emotional, and then just wrote something meaningless in the envelope and sealed it.  But I suppose that is true of any endeavor.  We get out of it what we are willing to put into it.  That is also true of life.

Hurdle Roadblocks with Kindness

roadblocks in lifeI’ve also learned that kindness works for me when I come across a roadblock in my life. I try to teach students about this technique.  The kindness doesn’t even have to be directed at the situation that is presenting a roadblock.  In fact it works better if it is completely unrelated.  Small kindnesses make us feel as good as the person to whom we direct the kindness.  When we feel better about ourselves, we are more effective on many fronts. Unselfish kindnesses do have a way of coming back to us with unexpected rewards, but that cannot and should not be our original goal.  Spreading kindness has a domino effect.  Except unlike dominoes kindness doesn’t knock people over, it builds them up.  And isn’t that the best definition of teaching?

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available from Amazon.com

Taking the Leap

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Making the LeapCan I Do It?

Sooner or later it happens to all of us.  We’re standing on one side of a ditch, or challenge, or life situation, and trying to imagine what it would be like to make the leap to the other side.  The chasm looks too wide.  The water looks too deep.  The distance is daunting when we get up close.  It was OK to dream about it, sure.  But dreaming and doing aren’t the same.  Doing is scary.  As we flex to make the jump everything inside of us is screaming, “NO!  You will fail.”

We may be dissatisfied with where we are in life, but the risk involved in change keeps us paralyzed.  We may feel frustrated, but we feel a little bit safe also.  This life is what I know!  What if I leave this job and fail in my next job?  I don’t like my current position, but it may be better to stay put than to move to a new organization and lose all my seniority.  This marriage isn’t satisfying but what if I never find anyone else to love?  What if no one else ever loves me?  I’d like to enter a writing contest, but what makes me think I could possibly win?  Rejection may hurt too much and I’ll stop writing altogether.

“I’m afraid of failure.  I’m afraid I’ll feel humiliated.  I’m afraid I can’t support myself or my family.” We say it all.   Blah, blah, de blah, blah, blah.

The Good News

Here’s the thing you never learn until you take the leap.  Standing between two choices is incredibly hard.  You are using double the energy it would take to commit to one.  Half of your psyche is committed to one outcome.  The other half of you is pleading with yourself to make the change.  That mental dichotomy is absolutely exhausting.  Everything in your life seems twice as hard and half as satisfying.  As soon as you make the leap, even if you completely wipe out, things get easier.  You can turn your entire focus toward making your new venture a success.   Your chances of succeeding in your new choice explode forward.  You find out you CAN do it after all.  It was only your doubt holding you back.

The Bad News

good news/ bad news

Most people are like this cow.

So who are you?

The cow or the surfer?

Only you can make the choice.

Questions from Teens

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  questions from teens

Why Me?

I could have a lot of fun listing questions teens love to ask.  In fact that may be a great topic for a future post.  Teens are full of questions from the ridiculous, to the obvious and beyond the embarrassing.    But one question that would fall consistently within the top three is, “Why me?”

Why are you asking ME to do that? 

Don’t you see all these other kids doing nothing? 

googing off

Look at them goofing off!

Why aren’t you asking THEM to do anything?

Okay.  Sue me.  Life isn’t fair.  The truth is, “Yeah I see those other turkeys goofing off.”  I’m not blind.  Look at their body language.  Everything about them says, “Don’t even THINK about asking me to do something.”  The classroom unfortunately mirrors life.  Here comes a life truth I’m slinging at you.

 5% of the people breathing air are doing 95% of the work.

This isn’t a pretty thought.  Actually it is disconcerting and maddening.  It is blatantly unfair. But it is the truth.  You’ll find it in the work place.  You will find it in the home.  You will find it wherever you go.  I’m not sure if it is a universal truth; I only possess  the American experience.  Open your eyes and look around you.  You’ll be giving me a high-five for my astute observational skills.

But There is Good News

What can be the good news about you always picking on me and asking me to do all the dirty work?

What is fair about that?

Answer that question.

I dare you.

life truth

Okay I will.  Here comes another life truth you probably also don’t want to hear.  We often have to work a job before we are actually offered the job.  When you have an entry-level job your boss will always be asking you to do extra things.  He (or she) will look around and see others goofing off and then will ask YOU to do something no one else wants to do.

“What is the good news about that??!!”

You have already been identified as a leader.  Your teacher already sees it.  Your attitude has placed you in that 5% that will always be asked to do more.  While it seems like the slackers are winning momentarily, you are winning in the long run.

Why?  Whenever you do something extra… willingly, you are proving your leadership potential.   You will be the one your boss thinks of when a promotion opportunity happens.  YOU will frequently be promoted over someone with more experience, skills or seniority.  YOU will have already demonstrated your ability to work at the next level, because you will have been performing a supervisor’s responsibilities and demonstrating a management attitude.

Yep.  Short term, the slackers seem to be winning.  I’ll grant you that. But that is the attitude of the 95%.  Believe me there is a price to pay for passivity, just getting by.  The cost?  Lower self-esteem, acceptance of mediocrity, lack of pride in accomplishments.  Long term?  Regret.

When I ask you to do something no one else wants to do I’m really calling you a winner.  Congratulations!  Now say, “Thank you,” and just do what I asked you to do with a smile. 🙂

I’m Not Oprah

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what I know for sureI’m Not Oprah

Clearly.  I’m not Oprah so unfortunately not too many people will care what I think.  There is no magazine or TV show with my name on it. But let’s talk about Oprah for just a second.  In her magazine on the very last page she writes a feature every month titled ‘What I Know for Sure.’  She came up with the idea because someone on TV asked her that question, and she couldn’t formulate a good answer on the spot.

She found that the question, “What do you know for sure?’ really intrigued her and she reflected on it quite a bit.  She decided she would use the last page of her magazine to answer that revealing question differently each month.  She later confessed that she lived in minor fear of not being able to come up with a new idea each month; but I’m proud of her because she has stuck with it.

In case Oprah is reading this (stop laughing, it could happen) I’d like her to know that the last page is always the first page of her magazine that I read each month.  It IS a wonderful question to answer.  So….with a nod to Oprah…here are my answers.

What I Know for Sure

what I know for sure

  • Wisdom comes only slowly.  And frequently it can only be located at all by looking in the rear view mirror.  I’m astonished…as the decades accumulate…how I can have a whole new vantage point and understanding of something that happened way in my past.  Wisdom reveals itself when you least expect it.  “Why did that have to happen?” becomes, “Oh, now I get it.  If X hadn’t happened then Y would never have been an option.”  The challenging part is waiting for the wisdom.  It can’t be forced.  Believe me I’ve tried to force it.  A new understanding will just occur when you are ready to believe it.
  • Regrets usually come from the things I didn’t do.  Over time mistakes dim. You take a risk.  You fail.  You recover and learn from it.  But not stepping up to an opportunity, not even trying, that inaction  becomes a regret.  From my vantage point regrets hurt much more than mistakes.
  • Often the way people treat you has absolutely nothing to do with you.  This is such an amazing lesson that I have to keep learning it every day.  While it is true that if we treat people well, we also hope that they will value us, it isn’t always so.  When people treat you badly, or talk behind your back, it often is a product of their own insecurities.  They don’t feel good about themselves and can’t accept your good intentions.  It frequently has nothing to do with you at all. I wish I could have understood this when I was much younger.  OK I admit it,  even today I have to continue to remind myself of this truth, even though I’ve reached the age our parents used to call “You’re old enough to know better.”

income earned

  • The amount of money a person earns does not determine their value.  This seems obvious to a young person, but in our capitalistic culture it becomes fuzzy to us as we age. Especially in America where our value system is so skewed, we have to keep our personal definition of value separate from income.  In this country we seem to worship celebrities and people who can kick, hit or dunk a ball.   America gives a thumbs down to someone who is “just” a teacher, especially recently.  Celebrities are assigned ghost writers so they can claim to be authors and plagiarize the talents of true designers to claim their own line of fashions.  Reality TV has taken the word celebrity to a new lower level.  The family most willing to publicly display their dysfunction becomes rich quickly.  Income seems completely unrelated to value anymore.  If we tie our personal worth to income, people of real value frequently lose self-respect.

  • The education you give yourself is more important than all the degrees you can accumulate. I’m a career teacher, so it is a little difficult to admit this.  Earning a degree shows perseverance and an initial thirst for knowledge.  However, if we allow learning to stop at age 22 or 35, we’ve missed the most valuable education of all.  The real goal of earning a degree should be to make us become life long learners.  I’ve learned a hundred times more from the books I’ve read than the degrees I’ve earned.  A PhD doesn’t mean you are well-educated.  Continually seeking knowledge throughout your life makes you well-educated.  Nothing else does.
  • Messages that come from your parents early in life are the hardest to change.  Even when you understand that, it is still hard to break the hold those messages have on you.  I’ve been the recipient of both the positive and negative sides of that truth.  My parents thought I was incredibly intelligent and frequently voiced this.  I was in my thirties before I realized that I wasn’t as smart as my parents believed. But by then my confidence in my intelligence already had a firm hold on me.  However, my father was hypercritical about women’s appearances and especially critical of weight.  None of his three children will ever feel attractive as a result of those early messages.
  • We are all responsible for surrounding ourselves with a circle of people who are encouragers.  To live life with some success we all need our own group of cheerleaders. We all know people who lift and people who discourage.  We know blamers, doubters, dreamers, and winners.  We have to be selective and surround ourselves with people who encourage us to take positive risks, and people who believe in our ability to soar.  In our vulnerable moments we must turn to our encouragers and away from the naysayers.  It can mean the difference between living the life we dream of or a life of mediocrity.

Thank you Oprah, for giving us your answers to this insightful question each month.  But mostly thank you for challenging me to reflect on my OWN  life.  These are the things Dauna Easley has learned for sure…so far.

I Can’t Stand this Woman

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voice in my headShe Has to Go

Seriously.  I don’t like to be rude; but there is a woman in my life who has to go.  Do you know a woman like this?   Maybe we could form an un-fan club or something and brainstorm ways to get rid of these women.  We could put them on a deserted island and let them annoy one another.

She pesters me enough, that if she were my neighbor I’d move across the country to avoid her.  She never has anything nice to say about me.  And of course she is always talking about me. She complains about my weight, my hair, my clothes, my face.  Let’s be honest she doesn’t like the way I look at all.

But that is not the worst of it.  She questions all of my abilities.  Oh, how I hate it when she questions my abilities.  According to her I can’t say or do anything just right.   I’ve never beat up anyone.  But this gal honestly deserves a punch.

 self talkPOW!  

I know it’s not nice to talk about people.  But I’ve really had my fill of this gal so I’m gonna name names.

Her name is….drum roll please…. The Voice in My Head.   You see why it is difficult  to move away from her?   She is my shadow critic.  When I’m tired or discouraged she works overtime and her words become louder and louder until I almost can’t hear anything else.  Even ear plugs won’t help because she rattles around inside my brain.   But when I experience a success, she can yell and I can’t hear her. Oh, how I love those moments.  When I’m with my friends, her words roll right off my back.   I can even laugh at her and ridicule her opinion when something good happens.  “Take that!” I say to her.   I love it when I can prove her wrong.  I do a little mental victory dance in front of her.

There are only two small things that I have learned from her.  And please don’t give her any credit for these.  She is too mean and negative to deserve credit of any kind!  I give myself credit for learning these two things from the old meany.

  • I’ve learned how to say nice things to myself when she taunts me.  Sometimes I even have to say them out loud.  Sometimes I have to say those kind words over and over again.  But that’s OK.  I deserve those nice words.  If I don’t say them she can paralyze me.
  • She has taught me how to recognize when other people are struggling with a negative voice in their heads.  As a teacher, that has been a valuable tool to possess.

But Honestly, She Has Got to Go!

Breakthrough

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When Breakthrough Breaks Down

So what happens when you go public with three habits that have consistently beaten you for years?  I can answer that question.  In fact I’m an expert on the answer to that question.

First comes a surge of success shored up with determination and resolve.  BIG progress is made.  You are filled with pride and one burning question.  Why didn’t I do this sooner?  It is so easy once you simply commit yourself.  Why didn’t I make this public sooner?  I will inspire everyone.  I am Super Woman!  Watch me soar!  I will be a role model for the world.  Everyone will see that I can do this.  Then they will conquer all their bad habits and overcome all their fears.

It takes a few months for the backward spiral to begin to eat away at your best intentions. Then comes lots of  self recriminations followed by a pretty large dose of self loathing.  It is all wrapped untidily in doubt  and topped with a big bow of guilt.  You scramble to hang in there.  Your fingernails are ripping as you try hard to hang on.  This is no longer just a personal failure.  I HAVE FAILED THE ENTIRE WORLD.

Oh how I wish IHKMBMS.  I’m at that age when it is difficult to keep all the texting acronyms straight.  And let’s be honest, I just made that one up.  So in fairness I will let you in on what it stands for.  “Oh I  wish I had kept my big mouth shut.”  Perhaps now I will.  Maybe that is the big lesson in this whole venture.  Right now I doubt if I can even keep that resolution…the one about keeping my big mouth shut, I mean.  But I’m gonna try.  These days that is all I can promise.

How to Give a Great Speech

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Tips for Effective Speaking

effective speaking

Want to Give a Great Speech?

Try these suggestions…

DO…start right in the middle of a story.  If you want to make a point,  think of a true story that illustrates that point and start right in the middle of that story.  The best stories are the true stories that have happened to YOU in YOUR life.  Only borrow your stories from books very sparingly.  Audiences will likely have already heard those stories.  You’ll come across as someone who doesn’t really know what you are talking about from experience.

DON’T… say things like “I’m glad to be here today”.  You will lose your audience in the first few seconds.

DON’Tsay “Here is a point I want to make.”  The audience will check out right then.  Just start in the middle of the story.  Stories teach.  Let your story make the point.

DO… speak in the same manner you would use talking to a good friend when you are having fun.  Move your arms and body in the same way you would if you were telling a funny or frustrating story to a good friend.  Be as animated as you would be if you were recounting a story to someone you know well.  If you would say, “Well, duh!” to a friend, it is OK to say “Well, duh!” to an audience.

DON’T…obsess about all the things you have ‘learned’ about giving a speech.  If you have to think about moving your arms, the entire gesture will look wooden.  If you have to think about voice inflection, tempo and eye contact, you will look terrified and plastic.

DO…what feels natural.  After quite a bit of experience speaking, I decided to join Toastmasters to further improve my skills.  What did I discover?  Toastmasters wasn’t for me.  They had lots of rules like, “Never walk away from the microphone.”  I move when I speak.  It feels natural.  I didn’t want to become self conscious about my movement so I had to give up on the Toastmaster way.

DO…look for a ‘nodder’ in the audience.  There is always at least one person there, nodding at what you say.  They are hoping you do well.  Their nods will encourage you.  Make eye contact with that person and talk to them like you are talking to a best friend.  Use all the animation you would use with a best friend. The whole audience will feel that eye contact.  As the larger audience starts to feel the story with you, then move your eyes to another person and connect with that person.  Once the audience starts to laugh and feel with you, move your eyes to others.

DON’T…move your eyes around the room looking over all their heads.  You aren’t performing.  You are connecting.  Caution:  There are two exceptions to this.

  • When you are in a spotlight and the audience is in the dark, this becomes more difficult.  Try to focus on someone in the front rows if that is possible at all.  Or ask to have the lights turned up.
  • When I’m telling a story and an audience member becomes emotional, I may move my eyes to someone else.  I don’t want to cry as I speak.  I want my audience to feel the emotion, but I need to be able to tell the story without someone else’s tears making me lose my composure.

DO…pause and let your audience laugh.  If you go on too quickly after a funny part of the story, you won’t give them time to enjoy the story with a laugh.  If you can pause just a little bit longer, they will laugh twice.  It takes courage at first.  Inexperienced speakers tend to rush through their material.  But audiences feel during the pauses.  That is when they will laugh and cry a little.

DO…relax and let your personality shine through.  The audience wants you to do well.  When they see you relax, they will relax and enjoy what you have to say.  If you are overly worried about your weight or hair or outfit they will feel your discomfort.  Audiences are very forgiving.  Your less than perfect outfit, hair or weight makes you more endearing.  It puts them on your side.  Focus on your connection with them, not your appearance.

DO…use audio visuals.  But use them sparingly and well.  Show a slide of a person whose story you are telling.  Use a silly prop to make a point.  Use music when your audience enters or leaves.  Use music to speak over to add emotion. Speaking over music takes quite a bit of rehearsal.  But once you have it nailed it will be dynamite.

DON’T…use a slide with lots of writing and then read the slide to them.  This is the biggest don’t on my list. Don’t, don’t, don’t do this!

DO…laugh at yourself.  Your audience will love that.  Tell about a time you goofed up, a mistake you made.  They have failed and goofed up too.  They will love you and want to see you succeed.  They’ll think, “Hey, she is just like me.”  I once fell down on the stage right in the middle of a speech.  I was in my fifties and getting up wasn’t pretty either.  But once I was up I did a curtsy and waited.  I got a standing ovation.

DOend with an inspiring story.  Audiences will remember the stories.  If you tie them in well with your points they will remember the point you were making.  But they WILL remember the stories and how they felt when you told the stories.  The big skill is noticing the stories in your life as they occur.  Use your stories to encourage others and you will hear plenty of…

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