My 2nd Podcast Episode with Seth Godin

So a couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Seth Godin (New York Times Bestselling Author, TED speaker, blogger, podcast host, and marketing guru) to discuss creativity and his new book, The Practice.

Here’s the interview link for your commute or walk…it’s worth a listen:

Here’s what I learned about creative ventures:

  1. You have to clap for yourself. Don’t wait for permission or recognition. Just do it.
  2. Your taste will be better than your ability, initially. Wade through the muck until you get good.
  3. Just ship your work. Done is better than perfect.
  4. Creativity is a practice, not a talent. Develop the practice and commit to it, even when you don’t wanna.
  5. Keep making work that matters. If you want to share from a place of generosity not greed, your work will tend to resonate more authentically with folks.
  6. Be generous with others. People want to be seen. It’s important to bolster the efforts and work of others, too!
  7. Don’t forget to ask yourself what you’re doing it for? Why do you do what you do?
  8. Oh…and who is it for? Create an avatar in your mind of who you are speaking to, when it comes to your work. One hint is that you try and scratch your own itch…that way, at least one person (YOU) will get some benefit from your work.
  9. Don’t read the reviews. You are not for everyone. Choose a few people you trust to give you truthful, meaningful advice and feedback. Don’t aim to please everyone…because you simply won’t!
  10. Creativity is our most authentic human expression. It’s like exhaling. Creativity is within all of us. Don’t you dare tell yourself (or others) that you are not creative. Creativity starts with curiosity. What makes you curious?

Creativity and Our Teachers…

Creativity is accessible to all folks! Here are some teachers who are embracing their creative tendencies both in and out of the classroom:

Megan Chow has been teaching for over a decade at her local high-school and is the mother of two young, busy boys in a small West Coast town in British Columbia. When I asked her what feeds her soul, creatively, she said, “I love food- eating it, making it, talking about it. My ideal night is cooking a big meal, having friends and family around and then talking about what we are going to make the next time we gather.” When asked how she carves time out for her creative passion, she responded by saying, “ I’m lucky that your family kind of expects to be fed daily- sometimes even more than once? Most people will get the heck out of your way and give you some space and time if you promise them something delicious at the end.”

            It turns out preparing food was something she learned from her own mother, who is an amazing cook. According to Megan, her mother “found her Zen in the kitchen” and has passed that passion on to her. So many of Megan’s best memories revolve around food and it has enriched her life, overall.

            Megan’s creative prowess in the kitchen spilled over into her teaching career when she got her dream job teaching Foods. She gushes about her job, saying, it is “so satisfying to watch a kid walk in, unsure of themselves, questioning every step (How do I flip this? What does fold mean? Is this ready?) to completing their final lab, a Chopped-style challenge, where they choose and make-up their own recipes, telling me about their spice choices and why they chose the techniques they did…I literally get weepy.” In Megan’s case, her creativity created a job opportunity that brings her significant fulfillment and joy, professionally and personally. And…her students adore her for it!


Kristin Weins (@kweins62) is an educator and inclusion coach in a growing school district. Her passion about visuals and Universal Design Learning (UDL) has made her visual work ubiquitous in the education world. As a result of her outreach and beautiful graphics, she has collaborated extensively, with such people as the children’s singer-songwriter Raffi, with Dr. Stuart Shanker, and inclusion guru Shelley Moore. She’s written and illustrated a children’s book about gratitude called, The Gratitude Jar, creates videos that help student self-regulate, and designs courses for educators that helps them to effectively put inclusion into practice. Most of Kristin’s inspiration comes from resources or individuals related to inclusion, self-regulation, or wellness.

            When I asked Kristin what drives her creative passion, she said, “I love starting with a blank canvas and using my heart and my mind to create something brand new. It is especially meaningful when something I’ve created connects with other people.”

            These days, her creativity mostly takes the form of her daily doodles. She started the daily doodle challenge for herself more than a year ago. She remembers:

 “I wanted to carve out more time for creativity. I have created far more than I ever would did in previous years. It feels good to be honoring the creative part of me and like I am reminding myself each day that creativity is an important part of me and worth prioritizing. I feel very satisfied after I’ve finished a creation. It takes care of my soul. The added bonus, because I share on social media, is how gratifying it is when something I’ve created connects deeply with other people around the world. I am so grateful for that experience.”

            Kristin’s process seems manageable. She keeps a sketchbook of ideas that she accumulates until she’s ready to sit down, flip through the pages, and see what “jumps” out at her. When she has more time, in the summer, she loves to incorporate collage and cut paper illustrations into her ‘daily doodle.’

            When I asked her what fuels her creativity, Kristin told me that it’s always been a big part of her life. “My dad was a professional graphic designer and had lots of other creative hobbies Now, in a lot of ways my dad and I are very different people with a different set of values. I am super grateful that we have creativity in common. It keeps us connected in a meaningful way.  It transcends all of our differences.”

            Creativity energizes Kristin personally, but it has also been tremendous for her, professionally. “Creativity is closely linked to my role as an educator,” she states. “Creativity supports my belief in providing others with multiple ways to understand, communicate and represent their learning. By engaging with my work creatively, it allows me to keep my enthusiasm and engagement level high. Much of the time that I am creating work- related material, I am having fun and experiencing flow.”


Tina McDougald is an educational assistant at a big urban school downtown in the city. Photography is her passion. “Getting away from the busyness of the world and photographing nature feeds my soul and helps take my mind off my troubles. It gives me quiet time to recharge and process what I need to, but in the moment I’m taking photos, everything else falls away. It’s like time stops, which is cool, since photos capture a single moment in time that’ll never happen again,” Tina recounted when I asked her to describe her passion. “Sometimes the simplest of moments can take my breath away, and the wonder with which children view the world is pretty lovely to witness,” she continued.

            Generally, she carves out time for her photography on the weekends or after school. Summertime allows her to make the most of the day by getting up early and making new discoveries. The connection with nature, leaves her more balanced, giving her a sense of peace, but it also energizes her. “There’s also a bit of anticipation, as once I get home I’ll get see exactly what I’ve got waiting for me on my camera! I tend to zone out a bit while taking photos and often won’t realize I’ve taken hundreds,” she explained.

            Part of the joy of taking photographs is in the sharing of them. “There’s a lot of beauty to be found in this place we live. Also, it has connected me with other photographers who share my passion and give me new ideas and inspiration,” she asserts.

            When I asked Tina how she learned the art of photography, she said, “I’m self-taught, I do come by the interest naturally, as I have an aunt who is a talented photographer, a grandmother who loved to take photos, and I’m told my great-grandmother was skilled in photography as well. I think I’ve always had an eye, but it’s only within the last five years or so that I started to learn more.” Taking photos makes her feel more connected to her familial roots.

            During the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Tina was one of the Educational Assistants providing childcare to our few students whose parents are essential workers. I began to photograph the strangeness of the playground all taped-off.” She remembers, “I think photography helped me to be more present in those moments, creating fun memories for those kids and separating myself a bit from the emotional turmoil I was in, due to the pandemic and also the loss of my stepdad to cancer. I get really emotional looking at those photos now, though, but I’m glad that I took them.” Taking photographs has helped Tina to connect more readily to the learners she supports. In fact, it’s even helped the students in unexpected ways. She explained, “our learning support teacher was recently working in our class, and her way of teaching the children what a noun was that if Tina can take a photo of it, it’s a noun!”


Trish Robinson is a Grade One French Immersion teacher at a busy dual-track school and an active mother of three girls. Preparing food for those she loves, feeds her soul.  It relaxes her and gives her a sense of purpose. She makes time for it early in the morning every day, whether it is preparing something simple that she knows her daughters will be excited to wake up to, or baking a new treat to brighten coworker’s day. Giving to others fills her with happiness; the sharing of the food she makes truly fulfills her.

            She first became inspired by healthy cooking as a new mother. She recounts, “it became my mission to make my own everything as labor of love. I wanted to make everything as healthy as possible for my children.  From there I shared many recipes and ideas with other Mothers and it also became my way of mothering others whom I wanted to give a lift to. I show my love through food when words don’t seem to be enough.”

            Her passion for healthy cooking and eating enters the classroom in a number of ways, whether through her healthy foods unit, where she and her students make a number of healthy recipes together and eat them in order to illustrate the idea that healthy food can taste good.  She explains, “I love seeing kids who initially said “no thank you,” taste kale chips, energy bites, veggie soup or banana ice cream  and beg for more!  I have had wonderful feedback from parents over the years saying that their child would never try something they offered but because Madame Robinson said it was good for them, they now eat it, or insist on a healthier choice.” She continues, “I also know that because I fuel myself with healthy nourishing food, I have more energy and patience to offer my class.  I have the stress release and enjoyment daily, which makes me a better person and teacher.”

Seven Super Ideas for Celebrating Kindness in February

It’s February…love month. Loving others, loving neighbors, loving our students, loving our children, and yes, you guessed it, loving ourselves. 

Photo by Maksim Romashkin on

Here are 7 Spectacular ways you can incorporate kindness lessons and activities with your classroom, school, or your very own children:

1. Kindness Rocks – How to start this inclusive project in your school to boost kindness!
2. Start a Self-Care Challenge with your Staff or School (see this link for all of the FREE printables)
3. Do a Five-Day Kindness Challenge with Your Class (all of the ideas right here in the link)
4. Launch a COVID-friendly Online 21-Day Kindness Challenge (every link in these google slides)
5. Start Compliment Circles in Your Classroom  (Try this easy, new tradition)
6. Do a Kindness Demo (Sometimes you’ve got to see it to believe it)
7. Glitter and Gossip Activity (Gossip is contagious and a culture-killer. Do this simple trick to stop it!)

Thanks for taking a look. 
Spread the kindness, y’all. We need it more than ever!

Lots of love, 
Morgane Michael 

P.S. Check out some of my latest episodes about kindness from some of the best in the game, including Dr. Jody Carrington, Laurie McIntosh, and Tamara Letter. You won’t regret it!

Self-Care: An Invitation for Your Workplace

This year has been tough. No doubt about it. The more this pandemic continues, the more unsure things seem to be getting. Nerves are shot. Frustrations are high. Anxiety can be crippling. All of the uncertainty comes with big emotions, highs and lows.

Burnout is looming for many of us educators, parents, and anyone on the front lines of this pandemic.

The only way to replenish, is to take some time to explore our needs and to refill our empty cup in an intentional manner.

So, inspired by a principal in the US, I decided to launch a self-care invitation challenge at my school for our staff. Everyone has jumped on board and we will start Monday.

Here’s how it works:

1. Every day, every staff member would have the opportunity to pick a card off of the bulletin board, scratch off the sticker to reveal their challenge, and complete the challenge.
2. They write their name on the card and deposit into a designated jar (located next to the bulletin board display).
3. At the end of the week, we will draw 2-3 names and offer some fun, silly prizes.
While the challenges isn’t about winning prizes, as self care is a gift in itself, it’s a fun way to take some time for ourselves, while creating a cohesive theme for all of us at a busy time of year.

Want to join us and invite your school or workplace to join the self-care challenge, too?

Here is the link to the scratch-and-win cards. Just make a copy and edit as you wish.

Here is a link to the scratch and win stickers you place on top of the cards.

Here’s a link to the instructions, so that you can post them on the bulletin board.

Feel free to share and let me know how your challenge goes!


Morgane Michael

Host of the KindSight 101 Podcast

World Kindness Day Giveaway #smallactbigimpact

I don’t know about you, but I think if ever there was a time for a little extra kindness, this is IT! Kindness boosts our connection to one another, helps soothe our anxiety, and brings about a sense of psychological safety. Let’s mobilize kindness and make a big impact, together, one small act at a time!

-Morgane Michael

This year, I’ve decided to do an open-ended Kindness Invitation, that can be adapted for use in the primary, middle-school, high-school, or even hybrid classes. Educators can choose a quick and easy approach, or opt for an in-depth kindness inquiry.

It’s going to be a 5-day event centred around #worldkindnessday, starting Friday, November 13th. Please follow me over on Instagram to join in the challenge and feel free to invite your friends!

How to Participate in the Challenge

  1. Follow me on Instagram! Morgane Michael @smallactbigimpact. If you don’t have social media, feel free to do your own challenges using the links in this blog post and share your activities with me via email.
  2. Invite your students to accept the invitation. They can use the Kindness Pledge and initiate as official Kindness Ninjas (from @joysofkinder) or they can simply join the challenge.
  3. Read the daily challenges to your students-comment, tag others to join, use the hashtag #smallactbigimpact and don’t forget to tag me in your comments/photos/examples (make sure your posts are public so I can see)!
  4. Participate in all 5 challenges (tagging me and linking the hashtag, too) and you’ll enter to win a prizes at the end of the challenge! I’ll choose a winner by the end of November.
  5. Spread the love and kindness to your school, workplace and community!

The 5 Day Challenge (a sneaky-peek for you planners out there;)

Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

Allie Apels and the Kindness Ninjas

I recently had the amazing Allie Apels of @joysofkinder on my podcast to discuss the transformative power of her brainchild “Kindness Ninjas” Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program in her kindergarten class (#kindnessninjas).

Essentially, a few years ago, when Allie was faced with one of the most challenging groups of children she had ever taught, she and her teaching partner (yes, there were two teachers allocated to one class due to the high level of needs), came up with a brilliant way to encourage the development of a kind and supportive classroom. They introduced a kindness ambassador: the kindness ninja. Every day, leading up to Christmas break, Allie and her class would be greeted by the kindness ninja who would leave them notes and various random acts of kindness missions.

She explained that the experience was completely transformative. The class came together as a team and that year wound up becoming one of Allie’s favourite years as a teacher.

Kindness Ninjas Inquiry Workbook and Teacher Guide

The amazing Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt (author of Inquiry Mindset) and Allie Apels teamed together in the spring of 2020 to bring to life an amazing Kindness Ninjas Inquiry Handbook. The link to the booklet and teacher guide can be found here. This is a terrific accompaniment to this 5-Day World Kindness Day giveaway!

Here’s a look back to our 15-Day Kindness Challenge last fall, 2019. There are a ton a wonderful ideas there that you could incorporate into this 5-day invitation.

For extra links to some of the pre-recorded Kindness Ninjas videos for inspiration, HERE’s A DIRECT LINK TO THE YOUTUBE VIDEOS-in FRENCH & ENGLISH 

21-Day Kindness: The Physically-Distanced Edition

When Covid-19 first caused many of us around the world to go into lockdown and to run our classrooms from our couches, it occurred to me that the 21-Day Kindness Challenge would need a little Covid-friendly revamp. So…I created 21-Days of Kindness, choice-board-style.

There is an awesome list of challenges for kindness to others, kindness to the world, and kindness to self. Take a look, some of the ideas could work well for the 5-day invitation.

Overwhelmed in 2020? Small Steps Towards Educator Replenishment

It’s no surprise that the Covid-19 Pandemic has left educators more stressed than ever. According to a recent study (Blintiff et al., 2020), teacher wellness has decreased and overall stress has increased dramatically throughout the Pandemic. Educators are worried about the well-being of their students, they are experiencing stress as they scramble to meet the needs of their students online and face-to-face, are navigating the ever-changing safety protocols, as well as balancing work-life demands.

                Stress is the most cited reason for choosing to leave teaching (i.e., burning out). In a recent survey from the American Federation of Teachers, 61% of educators say that their work is always or often stressful and over 50% say that they don’t have the same enthusiasm as when they started teaching (2017). Consistent stress can lead to burnout. As workplace stress and burnout expert Dr. Christina Maslach explains, burnout is “a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job” and causes exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, ineffectiveness, and lack of motivation.” (Maslach and Leiter, 2016).

                Many of us are just holding on and few of us could really say we’re thriving in this environment. Many of us are on the road to burnout. Nevertheless, there are small ways that we can create the necessary space for mindful awareness, self-compassion, and meeting our own emotional and physical needs.

Reflecting on our Emotions

Reflecting on our emotions enables us to take stock of our current internal state, which helps us determine what we need and where to go next with on our wellness journey. The reality is that it is impossible to feel happy all the time. Emotions can be messy and difficult to understand, but one of the most important aspects of knowing ourselves is getting familiar with all our emotions, whether we like them or not. As Dr. Daniel Siegal (2010) said, when it comes to the challenging emotions, you have to “name them to tame them.”

Reflect on Your Feelings

Take some time to name your feelings every day, even multiple times per day. You can set your alarm three times a day to develop a thoughtful reflective practice. If it feels foreign to check-in so frequently. Ask yourself the following questions and write your responses in a journal:

1.            What emotions am I feeling right how?

2.            Where do I feel it in my body?

3.            What do I need right now?

Self-Compassion Response

                According to Dr. Kristin Neff (2011), a leading educator and researcher in the field of self-compassion, self-compassion means that “you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.” Self-compassion has three main components. First, self-compassion begins with a strong mindfulness practice to be able to identify and take note our own internal state, especially in suffering and stress. Next, self-compassion enables us to show non-judgement and unconditional kindness to ourselves. Finally, self-compassion practice enables us to identify with our common humanity when we are in the hardest moments in our lives, instead of turning inward and isolating ourselves from humanity. Part of our journey navigating through and being resilient in the stress of the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic will relate to our ability to alter the trajectory of our lives, to work through our uncomfortable emotions, and to hold compassionate space for ourselves during this time. Our 2019 goals may need to be reassessed in 2020. As the demands in our work-lives increase, perhaps this is a time when we need to work harder to attend to our own needs and take care of ourselves.

The Self-Care Action List

As an educator, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do for others (lighting up for your students as they walk in the door, planning, prepping, writing report cards, attending countless faculty meetings, engaging in meaningful professional development, keeping up on assessments, connecting with colleagues, coaching, running lunchtime clubs, spending your own money on classroom supplies, making dinner, and driving your own children to soccer practice). Take some time to create your very own Self-Care Action List, as a step in the direction toward being compassionate toward yourself in this challenging time.

  1. Reflect on some of the things you like to do that make you feel replenished, more aligned with where you want to go, or that enable you to gain the much-needed self-reflection time you need to recharge.
  2. Begin with a journal and a pen. It might be helpful to think of different categories: individual reflection, connection with other, health and fitness, creative, and goal-oriented self-care. Write everything down that comes to mind.
  3. When you’re feeling low or overwhelmed, go through your list and select tasks that stand out for you.
  4. Reflect on your mood after you’ve done one of the activities you’ve listed. You can even journal about it. You may have favorites that stand out for you and become part of your daily feel good routine.

When you are starting to feel a little burnt-out, all you’ll have to do is ask yourself, What do I need right now? and select from the list.


Bintliff, A., Holtzman, C., Barron-Borden, B., Ko, E. A., Thong, V., Ardell, K.  (2020). “It impacted me profoundly”: Causes of decreased teacher wellbeing during the initial shifts to virtual teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Manuscript in preparation.

Maslach, Christina, and Michael P. Leiter. “Understanding the Burnout Experience: Recent Research and Its Implications for Psychiatry.” World Psychiatry, vol. 15, no. 2, 2016, pp. 103–111., doi:10.1002/wps.20311.

Neff, K. (2011). Self-compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself. New York: William Morrow.

Self-Regulation for Educators

Self-Regulation: How to Minimize Stimuli to Increase Mindful Presence

  1. IMG_1015

Part of what contributes to burnout is the stress cycle and our inability to manage the effects of external stress on our moods and bodies. Our moods are often affected by external stimuli. Dr. Stuart Shanker and I once talked on KindSight101 about the 5 domains that affect our mental state. He also indicated several proven ways that we can self-regulate to achieve some kind of homeostasis between our possible states. Our bodies and minds are constantly trying to seek equilibrium between our 4 energetic states. According to the Thayer matrix, we have 4 main energetic states that exist within a matrix. When it comes to our colleagues and students, often we can search for visual and auditory clues to identify the different states people are in.

High Energy, Low Tension (Ideal State):

  • You are happy and/or excited
  • Overall high arousal and alertness
  • Positive affect
  • Picture This:
    • your child anticipating his birthday party,
    • imagine you’ve just received a promotion at work,
    • you’ve just completed report cards and there are no corrections

High Energy, High Tension

  • You are angry and/or anxious
  • Overall high arousal and alertness
  • Negative affect
  • Picture This:
    • Imagine that you have just been rear-ended on your way to work,
    • a student has just thrown a chair across the room,
    • your principal has just asked to speak to you in a stern tone

Low Energy, Low Tension

  • You are relaxed and/or calm
  • Overall low arousal and alertness
  • Positive affect
  • Picture This:
    • You have just finished a guided meditation
    • You just got a massage and you’re feeling relaxed and sleepy
    • You’ve entered your classroom earlier than usual, finished your list of things to do and now have 30 minutes before the bell rings to read or catch up with colleagues

Low Energy, High Tension (Least Desireable state)

  • You are sad and/or bored, restless
  • Overall low arousal and alertness
  • Negative affect
  • Picture This:
    • You didn’t get the job you wanted and you’re feeling disappointment
    • You haven’t yet started the report cards that are due in a week, it’s Sunday afternoon, and it’s raining
    • You’re favourite Vice Principal is leaving your school

Throughout the day, it is always a good idea to check in about our state-of-mind. Ask yourself: What state am I in? Why am I in that state? What stressors are affecting my mood? How might I address my state? Shanker outlines a wonderful framework through which we are able to self-regulate. The model is often used in classrooms with students who struggle to regulate the fluctuations in their own emotions, but his method is tremendous for adults too, since we also experience high variations between our energetic states. It is possible to engage with life in a calm and productive way, we just need to start by identifying some of the hidden stressors we’re up against.

5 Step Shanker Self-Reg Method:

  1. Reframing: According to Shanker, “We want to understand the difference between misbehaviour and stress behavior.” We need to distinguish between laziness and limbic breaking. We have to tune into our own needs, asking ourselves: What are your needs? The truth is, teachers need self-reg every bit as much as the kid. We need to acknowledge our energetic state and reframe our behaviour as an unmet need.
    1. Change the view of yourself: Reframe what is misbehaviour vs. what is stress behaviour?
    2. Identify what happens when we don’t get the behaviour under wraps. How do we feel when we are “out of control?” What are some of the thoughts going through our heads?
    3. Change your mindset: Instead of judging yourself for your behaviour, become a stress detective and approach your state from a curious standpoint.
    4. Find a way to turn off our limbic alarm. Ground yourself in the present moment. Take a break. Give yourself some space to think things through.
  2. Identify the stresses: There are 5 different types of stress that affect our mood and state of mind:
    1. Physical stress: Noise, lights, pain, and even the proximity of other people can cause undue stress on your nervous system. When I think about the COVID-19 pandemic, it was often stressful to be in the classroom or in a grocery store near other people because we were all so attuned to the possibility of getting infected by someone, unknowingly and had very little control over our physical stress. In many ways, the physical stress of being around people at this time caused me to avoid the grocery store as much as possible.
    2. Emotional stress: Strong emotions (positive and negative) can be overwhelming and even scary, so some of our behaviour comes from shutting down when the emotions become too big to handle. For example, when my children are in an elevated stress state and are fighting, I often feel a rising tension and alertness, too. Positive emotions can be hard too. Falling in love can be overwhelming, even though it is a positive.
    3. Cognitive Stress: A stress that makes a big demand on the working memory in our brain (eg. Math vs. art) can be categorized as cognitive stress. Children, specifically, are all developing at a different speeds. Some children have a different maturation in different skills and areas of the brain. A child with adhd has a slower maturation of the part of the brain that houses the internal biological clock. For example, time actually goes more slowly for them. Five minutes might feel like an hour to them. We, ourselves, might have a low frustration tolerance when we are learning something new, like a new app or technology. Are there ways that we can reduce the cognitive stresses in our lives?
    4. Social Stress: Social stress can be really challenging because it often calls into question our belonging, which is one of our fundamental human emotional needs. For a child in school this can be really stressful; we often think of the bullied child on the first day of school, having to each lunch all alone in the cafeteria. Educators often face similar stress. Fitting in with colleagues, managing disagreements and differences of opinions, and even making small talk at the holiday party cause significant social stress.
    5. Pro-social Stress: Our own ability to tune into the stress of others can be stressful. Empathy can be a stress. For example, if I feel someone else’s distress, I can become distressed. Children have a lot of trouble separating someone else’s distress from their own. They often shut down their empathy and compassion. Then, we get angry because the child is presenting as mean or selfish. The truth is, some adults also feel the weight of pro-social stress, too. When we find ourselves mind-reading to people please or when we consistently find ourselves managing others’ strong emotions, we can feel emotionally burnt out. It is possible to reduce the pro-social stress.
  3. Reduce the Stress: Now that you have eliminated the judgement from your behaviour, choosing instead to look at your stress through the eyes of a curious stress detective, you have identified the possible stressors, it is now time to examine the ways in which you can reduce some of the stressors in your life. Here are a few examples of ways you might reduce the stressors in each of the domains:
    1. Physical
      1. Experiment with lighting
      2. Reduce noise level
    2. Emotional
      1. Build in breaks for yourself
      2. Build in anticipatory stress reducers: activity, gratitude, positive relationships
  • What are some of the things that help you to stay calm?
  1. Cognitive:
    1. Identify particular tasks that are consistently challenging for you and give yourself more resources to solve the tasks
    2. Perhaps you need to give yourself permission to outsource certain tasks that consistently bring on the stress like, for example, filing taxes.
  • Allow yourself more time to complete difficult jobs or data entry. Schedule it in and be consistent with your own schedule.
  1. Give yourself the gift of a quiet, uninterrupted space to work when the going gets tough. Nothing is worse than navigating a challenge when kids are demanding your attention or dinner needs to be made.
  1. Social:
    1. Allow yourself some down time when you feel overwhelmed by others.
    2. Seek out the social connections that leave you feeling “full” not depleted.
  2. Prosocial:
    1. Allow yourself permission to create boundaries for yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You cannot always take care of others if you don’t allow yourself some recharge time.
    2. If you find yourself in a one-way relationship, where you are always the one giving your time and resources, you are enabling an unhealthy dependency and it is okay to create some healthy space within the relationship.
  3. Self-Awareness: An important part of decreasing the stressors in our lives starts with our own self-awareness, that ability to tune into ourselves. It’s helpful to check in with yourself every once in a while, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed and ask:
    1. When are you becoming overstressed, what does calm feel like? What does safety feel like?
    2. What are my coping strategies for dealing with stress? Sometimes these cause more stress. What are some of your maladaptive coping strategies? What are you dissociating yourself from, when it comes to hard emotions and reactions? What are you numbing yourself to?
    3. Are you aware of the beauty of your soul? You are someone with wonderful strengths. How can you identify and name some of those strengths in this moment?
  4. Restore: What gives you balance in all of your domains? Sleep? Diet? What are the activities that make you feel restored? Meditate? Run? Walks? Sit in nature. Do more of what makes you feel good and gives you a senses of homeostasis. Balance itself is always a moving target, so it’s unrealistic to aim to feel balanced at all times. Nevertheless, the key to feeling a sense of wholeness and health comes from the ability to ask ourselves, “What do I need right now?” and to nurture that need in return.

Ep. 89: How to be “Teacher of the Year” (With Kayla Dornfeld)


Kayla Dornfeld is the 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year, and Mrs. West Fargo International. Kayla is a two-time (2017 and 2018) Global Hundred honoree, recognizing her as 1 of the top 100 innovative educators in the world. The New York Times named her “one of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States”.

She has 13 years of teaching experience in second and third grade. Kayla holds her master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Dakota. In September 2018, she received the University of North Dakota Sioux Award, the highest honor of achievement offered by her University.

Governor Doug Burgum has recognized Kayla for her contributions to education in North Dakota, and assigned her a chair on North Dakota’s Innovative Education Task Force. 

She has been recognized as both an “ISTE Influencer” and “HarperCollins Publishing Influencer”. Additionally, in March 2018, she was named 1 of just 30 “All-Star Digital Innovators” in the United States by PBS. Who’s Who in America has also awarded Kayla for her contributions to education by publishing her biography.

Kayla frequently travels around the United States and other countries as a featured and keynote speaker. She has delivered hundreds of keynotes, one of note being at Twitter Headquarters. On July 23, 2015 she delivered her first TEDx Talk, Reimagining Classrooms: Students as Leaders and Teachers as Learners

Her work with classroom redesign and flexible seating has become the standard worldwide. She is currently writing a book about classroom learning spaces and flexible seating, titled FlexED: Flexible Seating for Flexible Learners, set to release in 2020. She is also a co-author of the best-selling book Education Write Now, published in December 2017, and 10 Perspectives on Learning in Education, coming out in December 2019.

You can connect with Kayla on all social media platforms @topdogteaching, and her student led social media accounts @topdogkids.


21-Days of (Physically-Distanced) Kindness

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As we make preparations to move back into the classroom in British Columbia, tensions are high and people across sectors are scrambling to accommodate back-to-work orders in a physically-distanced, Covid-pandemic era.

I’ve been scouring the internet for ideas that will enable me to continue supporting my students’ online learning and Social Emotional Learning, while attempting to prepare to provide loving, caring, and educational in-person learning opportunities within the physical school building.

While I am still on the hunt for wonderful physically-distanced group games and community building activities, I know that creating an environment of kindness and empathy is essential to helping all of us feel psychologically safe at a time when so much feels uncertain.

When we are in stress, cortisol blocks our ability to connect meaningfully to one another. Our social connections have been proven to be central to our well-being as human being. One of the ways that we can counteract the negative effects of cortisol is to be kind! Oxytocin (the love hormone) is released when we’re kind to one another, which decreases our stress levels.

Co-regulation is our ability to convey calm emotions and state of mind just by modelling it. Because of the way that our brain architecture works, all of our emotions are contagious. Back in the caveman days, our mirror neutrons helped us to pick up on danger signals by interpreting the facial expressions, vocal tone, and body language of those around to determine whether we were in safety or danger.

In order to foster a calm, happy classroom environment, it will be helpful for educators to model that calm and joyful energy so that we can co-regulate with our colleagues, administrators, the parents, and, most importantly, our students.

I’ve created 21-Days of Physically-Distanced Kindness that I thought might be a helpful first step in creating a happier online or in-person classroom experience.

Here is the free google-doc for your use. Please feel free to use it, share it, and adapt it (just make a copy). It offers 7 ways to be kind to yourself, 7 ways to be kind to others, and 7 ways to be kind to the world.

Also, I’ve recorded a few Covid-specific episodes for your listening pleasure:

  1. Dr. Shimi Kang : Healthy Heartfelt Habits for the Covid Crisis
  2. Dr. Jody Carrington: Not Today Corrrrona! How to survive the pandemic while working from home, balancing kids, and trying not to lose your mind.
  3. Trevor Mackenzie: Distance Learning Through Inquiry
  4. What to do with a Problem: A reflection from me to you about how to lean into the tough emotions you might be feeling and to come out the other end without self-judgement.


Marble-Jar Trust (Brené Brown)

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When starting up the year, I often refer to Dr. Brené Brown’s brilliant concept of the Marble Jar. Imagine that the trust in each of the relationships in your life is represented by a marble jar. At it’s core, Brené (yes, like most humans my age, I would like to imagine that we are on a first-name basis), explains that trust is built in the micro-moments, the seemingly insignificant moments of interaction. 

Relationships are build on trust. We can deposit marbles and build up our sense of trust or withdraw them and degrade that sense of trust through our interactions. When someone is able to make more deposits than withdrawals, generally, we trust them.

Trust can be deposited through:

  • asking for help,
  • receiving the generosity of others,
  • giving without recompense,
  • contributing constructive and helpful feedback,
  • designating and maintaining clear boundaries,
  • being capable and reliable,
  • owning your sh*t, being a vault,
  • choosing courage over comfort,
  • practicing non-judgement,
  • standing up for someone through integrity
  • and creating a generous narrative about others

She also makes a note about not confusing real trust for counterfeit trust. Real trust isn’t always easy to build. Integrity is a big part of creating a sense of trust. Being a chameleon, someone who changes depending on the surrounding political and social environment does not elicit a sense of trust from people. Gossiping is the worst kind of counterfeit trust, because as much as it hot-wires fake connection, it erodes the deep sense of trust within a relationship (and can often ripple outward to the climate at work or school).

#smallactbigimpact #kindsight101