How Empathy Can Reduce Suspensions in the Classroom

How Empathy Can Reduce Suspensions in the Classroom

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According to a new study, considering students’ perspectives cuts suspension rates in half and improves student-teacher relationships

In U.S. schools, disciplining with punishment is the norm. School suspension rates have nearly tripled in the last 30 years, with 11 percent of students suspended at some point in their school career. This happens even when the misbehavior is minor or non-violent and even though school suspension is linked to negative outcomes for students, both those suspended and their peers.

When students are misbehaving or disrupting class, it can be easy for even the most caring of teachers to fall into the trap of the quick fix: “You need to leave the classroom” and “It’s time to see the principal.”

What if teachers had an alternative strategy for dealing with student misbehavior—one that wasn’t punitive and was easy for them to implement in the middle of a busy classroom situation? What if they could apply a more empathic mindset, considering the student’s perspective and being sensitive to other issues that might be impacting the student’s decision to act out? How would this transform their disciplinary interactions with students, and how might that affect student behavior or student-teacher relationships?

A recent study out of Stanford University set out to answer some of these questions. This study found that adopting an empathic mindset and empathic discipline strategies strengthened student-teacher relationships, encouraged better behavior from students, and cut school suspension rates in half.

A diverse group of teachers from five middle schools in California completed two online modules that encouraged them to adopt an empathic mindset. The first module, administered halfway through the fall semester, discussed reasons for student misbehavior—the difficult social and biological changes of adolescence, for instance—and emphasized positive student-teacher relationships. Teachers were reminded that a safe, caring environment where students feel valued and respected is crucial for school success; this idea was supported by stories from students.

Finally, the educators were asked to generate ideas about how they could incorporate these concepts into their own classrooms. They responded in line with an empathic mindset, noting that their students were good and unique individuals deserving of love and respect.

The second module, completed two months later, was structured similarly to the first and reinforced the same concepts. “Students’ feelings about and behavior in school can and do improve when teachers successfully convey the care and respect students crave,” teachers were reminded. At this time, their students also completed a survey on school climate.

Compared to a control group (who completed an activity similar in form, but focused on using technology to promote learning), the students of teachers who participated in the empathic-mindset training were half as likely to be suspended that school year—at a rate of 4.8 percent rather than 9.6 percent—regardless of race, gender, or previous suspensions. Two months into the training, students who had been suspended before—who normally felt less respected by teachers than other students—ended up feeling just as respected when their teachers had undergone the training.

Clearly, students benefit when teachers adopt a more empathic mindset. But what does that look like on a daily basis? Here are some suggestions for cultivating an empathic mindset and practicing empathic discipline as an educator:

  1. Reframe the Question You Ask When a Student misbehaves

When a student misbehaves, your knee-jerk reaction might be to say, “What’s wrong with you?” With an empathic mindset, the question might change to “What happened to you?” Understanding student experiences is one of the main components of empathic discipline; asking the question “What happened to you?” allows you to gather information about how their experiences shape their behavior. Additionally, reframing the question in this way keeps you from making a value judgment about a student, where you risk labeling them as a “troublemaker.”

2. To better connect with students, explore your shared identity

Even though humans (teachers!) are predisposed to kindness and empathy, one of the biggest barriers to connecting with others—like students—is group difference. We are less motivated to help those who are different from us; at times, it might feel like you are worlds apart from your adolescent students. However, considering shared experiences or identities can mitigate some of that difference.

One way to do this is by completing a Shared Identity practice. Think of a student with whom you have trouble connecting. Then, make a list of all of the things you have in common with this student. Maybe you both have dogs for pets, or both like reading graphic novels, or both care for family members at home. When you’re finished with your list, look it over and consider all the ways in which you’re connected. Cultivating an empathic mindset requires challenging the preconceptions we have about others and searching for the commonalities we share, as opposed to the differences.

  1. Make empathy part of your school culture, starting with staff

If you’re an administrator, start by making sure your teachers know that they, too, are valued. Circle Forward suggests starting staff meetings with a “check in,” asking questions that highlight the humanity of your educators. For example, you might ask, “What is one rose and one thorn in your life right now?,” “What is something you’re looking forward to this week?,” or “Tell us what a high point of your week has been.” Make sure you’re encouraging everyone to stay present and listen to the responses intently. Revealing personal information about ourselves can be difficult, as can listening with intent, but these practices are vital to cultivating empathy.

One major benefit of adopting an empathic approach to discipline is that it requires no new programs or policies. Schools saw great change in a short time after a quick and flexible online training. Teachers already have the tools and values required to implement this approach; they just need to cultivate a different mindset.

 

This article was originally written by Marian Flynn and was published on Berkeley’s Greater Good.

 

10 Things Creative People Do (and make them happier)

10 Things Creative People Do (and make them happier)

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Have you ever wondered why some people are more creative than others? Did you ever wish you had more of that particular gene? The good news is that research shows that happiness and creativity are not only related, they can be developed. Here are 10 ways to jumpstart your creativity, starting right now:

  1. Listen in: Listen to your intuition and capture your new ideas. Whether from your morning shower, nighttime dreams, when running, in the car, or in nature, keep and idea notebook and jot it down.
  2. Mind your Mindset: When you start something new, you can either choose to put yourself down and succumb to the inner critic ( fixed mindset) or enjoy the process of creation (growth mindset).
  3. Get in the Flow: Focus on the moment rather than the goal. When you are totally immersed in a creative activity, when hours feel like moments, you open to tapping into something bigger than yourself. Let it flow through you.
  4. Let your senses come Alive: Notice not only how things look, but how they feel in your hand, how they smell, the sounds surrounding you, even the nuances of taste. Don’t forget to listen to your gut ̶ That’s an important sense too!
  5. Happiness Spurs Innovation: Sadness inhibits innovative ideas, causing people to exercise more restraint, but happiness expands creative thinking, fresh associations and new perspectives. Remember to take a break and make time for fun! You’ll come back refreshed.
  6. Gratitude rules: Being grateful for where you’re at and “taking in the good” helps sculpt your brain’s neural pathways to receive more of it. Imagine what you are creating. Like an athlete training for peak performance. When you visualize something special, you can embody it even more.
  7. Seek Out Challenging Tasks: Just for fun, challenge yourself with projects that don’t have solutions, like how to make a horse fly (no ̶ we’re not talking unicorns) or build a perfect model of a part of the body. This opens the mind for all types of strategies, which helps generate fresh ideas.
  8. Surround Yourself With Interesting People and Things: Spend time with diverse friends, listen to new music, see new exhibitions to broaden your horizons. Having unsual objects around you also helps you develop original ideas.
  9. Lear Something New: By taking a class outside your typical area of interest, you can have a wider range of ideas to draw from and interconnect. Research shows that connecting in new ways is the basis for all creative thought.
  10. Know Your Strengths and Passions: Get to know what makes your heart soar, what makes you feel most alive and energized, and use it as a fuel for the creative process.

 

By nourishing your creative side, you’ll bring happiness not only to yourself but to those around you. You’ll also know what you had inside yourself all along. What do you do to tap into your creativity?

 

This article was originally written by Randy Taran and was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Top 5 Meditation Apps for Pampering Your Mind, Body and Soul

Top 5 Meditation Apps for Pampering Your Mind, Body and Soul

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How many times a day we feel like running away from the relentless modern life? How about those noisy recurrent thoughts that won’t let us focus on work or even reading our favorite book? It has become a common issue in the modern Era to find ourselves stressed, tense, agitated and angry.

Lucky for us, meditation was able to make its way in the western world in the late 19th century, when the British were introduced to these disciplines through the Indian Buddhists, in the process of colonization. They were amazed on much peace and self-knowledge was obtained from the ancient practice.

All of this millennial knowledge got very popular on the 1960’s once again, as the hippie subculture in the United States started to boil with the influence of the eastern religion and spirituality. Almost 80 years later, we have technology to help us take the best from the ancient wisdom to our daily lives.

Today we bring you the top 5 Meditation Apps for coping with stress and getting back in touch with our inner-self, our source of wisdom, truth, strength, power, will and, of course, love.

1.Headspace

As the description on the App Store says “Headspace is meditation made simple, a way of treating your head right. Using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques we’ll show you how to train your mind for a healthier, happier, more enjoyable life”.

First developed two years ago by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe and his team, Headspace has launched the second version of the digital mindfulness platform on 2014. With counting celebrities and more than a million other people around the world, Headspace will get you in the path to self-awareness, inner peace and better understanding of your emotions and thoughts as you go placidly amidst the noise and haste of the day-to-day life.

The app offers 10 free guided sessions for starters. Also, Headspace Version 2 has been optimized with new features that include buzzers to remind users with little nudges how easily the mind wanders, along with different meditation routines to adapt every need.

2. Calm

For the busiest days, this App offers a Calm break to get you back in track right from your office PC. The Calm app aims to help us unwind through guided meditations. Official webpage states “Relax with Calm, a simple mindfulness meditation app that brings clarity and peace of mind into your life”.

For up to 30 minutes, it instructs meditation sessions to help you improve your sleep, relaxation and focus.

For a quick refresher mid-day, the app has nature scenes and calming background noises that aid relaxation during the instructed mediation, which focuses on breathing and body awareness.

3. Lucid

Attention athletes! Former Twitter executive Jason Stirman has focused his 2.0 building passion on developing Lucid, an App that brings mindfulness to athletes.

According to TechCrunch’s overview, a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups and reviewing new Internet products, “the Lucid App allows you to be a better athlete by training your mind in less than five minutes each day and learn what it means to truly be in the zone. Their mental coaches have worked with elite athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Aaron Gordon, and others from all sports and all levels to help them perform at a higher level. Only the best of the best have had access to this training and these coaches, until now”.

Training can focus on confidence, being present, visualizing the goal, speed and various other behaviors an athlete needs to succeed for five minutes a day.

Lucid was launched last May and is free to download on the App Store. A 10-day-meditation Training Try-out is available for up to five days and you can pay a yearly subscription for a $100 or or 10$ per month.

4. Smiling-mind: Meditation Made Easy

Available for PC, App Store and Google Play, Smiling Mind was developed by an Australian non-profit with support from ReachOut.com, which describes it as “modern meditation for young people”.

The app features guided meditations with the objective of managing stress, increasing resilience and assisting in reducing mental health risks in later life.

Smiling Mind has different sets of meditation targeted for specific demographic groups that go from 7-11 year-olds, 12-15, 16-22 and adults. Also, it is recommended as tool that should be introduced to young people with stress, anxiety and depression as a part of a cognitive behavioral framework. It offers assistance on recognizing unhelpful thoughts and creates processes to cognitively distance from them.

5. Omvana

With a simple interface of a calming field of blue fronted with attractive icons, Omvana guides you easily with just one click through the meditation sets of your choice. The app features a wide library of guided meditation from global experts, with tools that allows users to record their mood and receive guidance on which meditation is right for the moment.

As a plus for those practitioners who like to focus on a particular life issue or area of improvement, Omvana helps to hone in on topics like health, wealth, sleep, and support mind-quieting practices.

This App is available for mobiles and PC’s.

A lesson that could help build peace

A lesson that could help build peace

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Next week, Neal Keny-Guyer, Chief Executive Officer for the Mercy Corps since 1994, will join leaders from governments, the United Nations, business and civil society in Istanbul for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit. The aim is to make the humanitarian system fit-for-purpose in a world where crises hit with increasing frequency, intensity and complexity, and where wars seem endless and limitless. To do this right, there must be a radical change on how human beings, as global humanitarians, face down conflict.

There are 1.5 billion reasons why conflict is the world’s single greatest humanitarian and development challenge. That’s how many people – one in four people in the world – live in societies plagued by chronic conflict. Right now, 89% of global funding for humanitarian aid goes to lifesaving assistance in conflict situations that have been dragging on for over three years. Humanitarian action will churn in endless cycles of crisis response – dealing with the consequences of conflict but never digging in deep on the root causes – unless the conflict and its impact on fragile societies is addressed more effectively.

Tackle the causes of conflict early and head-on

The roots causes of fragility and conflict must be addressed from the get-go of any humanitarian response, investing in conflict-management, peace-building and governance programmes alongside meeting basic needs like shelter, water and food. It has been learnt that attention to the “software” of fragile societies is at least as important as improving infrastructure. “Peace-building” might sound fluffy, but it actually works to mitigate the probability of violent conflict breaking out.

During the recent civil war in the Central African Republic, a Mercy Corps peace-building and conflict-management programme working with community leaders on both sides of the conflict had a profound impact. It transformed people’s views of the “other side” – there was an 86% jump in people saying they trusted the rival group, and 96% of people involved in our study reported feeling hopeful that they could deliver peace in their communities together. More than 200 fighters from rival militias voluntarily disarmed and joined community peace groups working to resolve tensions and rebuild their hometowns.

So, this kind of work is actually making a difference. And from preview experiences, a vital lesson has been learnt about how pushing beyond conflict and fragility can be done towards more resilient people, communities and societies: a future for the millions of youth trapped in conflict must be unlocked.

Investing big in youth

In most fragile, conflict-hit societies, young people encompass the largest single demographic – 60% of Afghanistan’s population and around 50% in Nigeria, for example. Young men in particular make up the bulk of fighters in violent extremist groups or insurgent militia. Yet, in most humanitarian responses, youth are an overlooked and underserved population. All too often, programming is designed in a silo and does not adequately meet their many needs.

Nowhere is this more evident than in today’s greatest humanitarian crisis: Syria. More than 1 million young Syrians risk a future of exile and alienation. They will be driven to risk their lives on deadly migration routes or be forced to live on the edge of society, suffering discrimination and exploitation. Yet Syrian youth, like their peers around the world, offer hope and possibility. In interviews with Mercy Corps, they tell us they are eager to start building their futures, and do not want to lose time as they wait for this war to end.

In fragile, war-torn societies around the world, what’s needed is big, smart investment in youth. Moving beyond the same old top-down multilateral system is imperative, as well as building new kinds of partnerships between governments, civil society and big business, focused on empowering youth, lifting their voices for non-violent change, strengthening their physical and mental well-being, and opening up access to education and employment.

These programmes will benefit young refugees as well as the communities hosting them, which are often in already fragile regions. For example, concentrated investment through proven vehicles like enterprise funds can kick-start the crucial small- and medium-business sector and produce jobs for refugees and locals alike. Matching this with life- and job-skills training programmes that meet the needs and demands of local employers is necessary.

Justice matters as much as jobs

From research on the programmes made by the Mercy Corps in Somalia, Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq and, most recently, Nigeria, it was found that many of the assumptions about what can best prevent young people from supporting, or joining, violent extremist groups were incomplete.

Previously, a lot of attention and money was spent on vocational training for young people in fragile, crisis-prone states on the premise that being poor and not having a job were the primary drivers of violent extremism. It turns out that poverty, unemployment and sectarian identity aren’t the main recruiting sergeants for al Shabaab, Boko Haram and the Islamic State. It was heard from young people that it’s their sense of injustice and exclusion, together with doubt they’ll ever get a fair break and be able to make something of their lives, that influences whether or not they support extremists. People are less likely to feel the pull of extremism when they feel they have a voice in the future of their country.

In his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognized that preventing and ending conflict is the “core responsibility number one” of humanity. He is absolutely right. But peace and prosperity will never be brought to the world simply by responding to conflict. Commitment to a proactive approach that tackles the root causes of conflict head-on must be done, along with empowering the youth and giving citizens a true voice in their governance. If the humanitarian community makes this commitment together, then it is possible to say that working towards a better future for every person on earth is being addressed.

This article was originally written by Neal-Keny Guyer and was published along with a series of articles linked to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit on the World Economic Forum.

The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness

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Leading scientists and science writers reflect on the life-changing, perspective-changing, new science of human goodness

In these pages you will hear from Steven Pinker, who asks, “Why is there peace?”; Robert Sapolsky, who examines violence among primates; Paul Ekman, who talks with the Dalai Lama about global compassion; Daniel Goleman, who proposes “constructive anger”; and many others. Led by renowned psychologist Dacher Keltner, the Greater Good Science Center, based at the University of California in Berkeley, has been at the forefront of the positive psychology movement, making discoveries about how and why people do good. Four times a year the center publishes its findings with essays on forgiveness, moral inspiration, and everyday ethics in Greater Good magazine. The best of these writings are collected here for the first time.

A collection of personal stories and empirical research, The Compassionate Instinct will make you think not only about what it means to be happy and fulfilled but also about what it means to lead an ethical and compassionate life.

Top review customers have said:

“This is excellent material for people who have forgotten what our true purpose and potential is as humans. In a world so influenced by fear, this information is excellent for challenging the cultural programming that buries our instinct for compassionate choices and behaviors with the distortions, deletions, and generalizations our minds can deliver. An easy read, excellent for book studies and stimulating discussions”

-Janet Florence McCormak

The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness was published by W. W. Norton & Company (January 4, 2010).

 

This review was originally published on Amazon.com.

 

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