#25: How Sleeping on the Streets Taught These Students an Unforgettable Lesson About Homelessness (with Alan Barwin)

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In this episode, you’ll hear how sleeping on the streets taught these grade 8 students an unforgettable lesson about homelessness. I interview a passionate middle school teacher to learn how he was able to navigate understandable constraints to implement such a dramatic real-life lesson in empathy and how you can bring elements of his approach you’re your practice. You’ll also hear from three students whose lives were forever changed as a result of their experience. Get ready for your mind to be blown by this assumption-busting episode.

Alan Barwin is a teacher at Central Middle School in Victoria Canada, where he specializes in Grade 8 French Immersion, Media and Social Justice and Outdoor and Environmental Education. Activities like the annual Grade 8 overnight trip to the Juan de Fuca Trail, connecting with the local homeless community, and fundraising and awareness building campaigns for social justice causes are now part of the fabric of his school.

When not teaching, Alan can be found exploring the wilds of Vancouver Island by canoe, kayak and foot, reading and writing, and spending time with his wife, Pam, and their three daughters. For more information visit my website smallactbigimpact.com and search for episode #25.

For more information check out my website [smallactbigimpact.com][1]

[1]: http://smallactbigimpact.com

 

E 35: But, I’m Not Indigenous: How to Explore Indigenous Ways of Learning, Authentically (with Adrienne Gear)

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With the advent of more ethically-conscious curricula that challenge the outdated colonialist outlook on history, educators are more responsible than ever for carefully and accurately talking about cultures and ways of knowing that may not be personally familiar to us. In light of the Canadian government’s reconciliation efforts with indigenous people, the way we teach has to reflect a more culturally conscious approach.

“But, I’m not indigenous,” many people say. “How do I teach about indigenous culture?”

In this conversation, you’ll learn specific lessons, books, and approaches to teaching indigenous ways of knowing in an authentic, integrated way. Hope you enjoy this short, illuminating mini-episode with my esteemed guest, Adrienne Gear. Be sure to check out her full-length treasure trove interviews (E #9 and #10)AdrienneGear_600x480-300x240

Adrienne Gear has been a teacher in the Vancouver School district in Canada for over 18 years working as a classroom teacher, ESL teacher, teacher librarian and District Literacy Mentor. Adrienne developed Reading Power almost 10 years ago and has been since working with teachers in many districts throughout the province presenting workshops, giving demonstration lessons and facilitating Reading Power leadership teams. She has also presented workshops in the United States.

She is the author of six bestselling books including, Reading Power and Writing Power, and has just completed her sixth book Powerful Understanding : Helping Students Explore, Question, and Transform Their Thinking about Themselves, Others, and the World. Find her online on her website  or on social media by searching Adrienne Gear.
For more information about her books, book lists, blog, resources and workshops visit her blog.

#24: The Trauma-Informed School Making Waves Across the World (with Mathew Portell)

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Have you ever wondered how to authentically hold space for students who have experienced adverse trauma, uphold a successful results-based academic program, and maintain your sanity? Well, you are in for a treat. My guest has been featured on a number of viral educational videos for the incredible work his school is doing to realize the trauma-informed schools movement. In this episode we discuss 7 keys to developing student leadership and agency, creative ways to reduce compassionate burnout in teachers, specific strategies for developing growth mindset in our students, and explore two proven transformational strategies for reaching at-risk students within your classroom. Please enjoy this conversation.

Mathew Portell has dedicated over a decade to education in his role as a teacher, instructional coach, teacher mentor, and school administrator. He is currently in his third year as principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary, a nationally recognized innovative model school for trauma-informed school practices in Metro Nashville Public Schools. National Public Radio, Edutopia amongst other organizations have highlighted the school’s work.

In 2008, he combined his passion for literacy and cycling and founded the local double award winning non-profit Ride for Reading. The organization promotes literacy and healthy living through the distribution of more than 500,000 books via bicycle to underserved children. Portell also heads up Paradigm Shift Education which is focused on providing professional learning experience to assist in creating or cultivating a trauma informed school culture.

You can find him on social media by searching his name. For more information visit my website [smallactbigimpact.com][1] and search for episode #24.
[1]: http://smallactbigimpact.com

In Honour of Pink Shirt Day!

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“David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school. ‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’ So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag. As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled. The bullies were never heard from again.”

— GLOBE & MAIL

Tomorrow is Pink Shirt Day!

You may or may not be aware of the origin story related to #pinkshirtday but it’s an important one in Canada. Although gender diversity is becoming a more mainstream and accepted, it continues to be important to advocate for those who live their lives in marginalization, be it race or gender or socio-economic status.

We all need to be responsible for one another. Pink Shirt Day is a great way to have a conversation about kindness! Use it as a jump-off point to start the 21-Day Kindness Challenge with your class, staff, or within your community.

 

 

Power of Moments

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What makes for a powerful, memorable moment, in school or otherwise? Naturally, we all seek to be memorable. Nobody dreams of living an unremarkable life. We all want to be special to somebody. Some of us seek accolades from the masses, while others seek to be important to just a select few. That’s part of what makes us all so unique. We can all agree that there are magic moments that permeate our lives, but the tricky thing is creating magic, memorable moments for those we seek to serve. How do we make ourselves and the experiences we offer those around us, remarkable enough to make an indelible mark on our souls?

I recently read the incredible book The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, which outlined an easy-to-follow framework for creating remarkable memories.

Here’s the framework:

E: Elevate – Rise above the every day

Rise above the every day by marking transitions in special ways (100th day of school, 50th book read), building peaks, sensory appeal, raising the stake, and creating an element of surprise for the people you seek to serve.

P: Pride – Build in a sense of buy-in and pride

Celebrate those who have worked hard to achieve their goals! Help them to see their growth. Help them to develop affiliations with you and your tribe. The #1 reasons people leave their jobs is a lack of recognition. Break tasks into small and measurable goals…celebrate every milestone. Always be appreciating and noticing people…but know whether they want the recognition to be quiet or public (that’s important to note, especially with kids). The tribe’s win is everybody’s win!

I: Insight – Help people to learn about themselves in a supportive environment 

We tend to want to protect people from risk, but discomfort is where growth lies.

High standards + Assurance + Direction + Support = Insight

C: Connection

When we share our positive and negative moments together, lifting one another up and celebrating one another’s successes, it solidifies the bonds we have in a group. We feel tied to one another on a neuro-chemical level.

 

How might you apply these four pillars to create powerful moments for those you serve?

#23: How Kindness Softens Grief-How to Support Those Living Through Loss (Ben’s Bells with Jeannette Maré)

 

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Have you ever been face-to-face with someone who has experienced unimaginable heartbreak and been at a loss for words?

My guest’s personal insight into grief as a result of the sudden unexpected death of her 2 year old son will bring you to tears, inspire your soul, and provide you with tangible ways to meaningfully support parents, students, or colleagues who have experienced devastating loss.

Jeannette Maré is the founder and Executive Director of Ben’s Bells Project. Jeannette’s leadership has anchored the organization through remarkable growth, including the opening of four studios, collaborating with hundreds of local organizations and recruiting more than 25,000 annual volunteers. As part of her vision, Ben’s Bells has become nationally recognized and “kindness” is becoming part of the nation’s collective consciousness.Jeannette lives in Tucson and is grateful to have the opportunity to combine her two passions – teaching and community building – in her role with Ben’s Bells.

You can find her on social media @bensbells or on her website [www.bensbells.org][1]. For more information visit my website [smallactbigimpact.com][2] and search for episode #23.
[1]: http://bensbells.org
[2]: http://smallactbigimpact.com

Storytelling is Leadership: 6 Sentences to Help your Story

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These days, I find myself observing and mentally noting with fervour the magical elements that conspire to empower great leaders. There is a universality about great leadership that makes it easy for those to assume that one either has it or one doesn’t. However, in this growth mindset culture, we know that to be a fallacy. Leadership is a cultivated skill not a role we’re simply born into.

Sure, it helps to be competent at the work you do because competence surely goes a long distance in helping to create trust. But, I’d argue that true leadership goes beyond being the best at your job. Leadership is about enabling those around you to be their best, do their best work, and doing so in a way that helps them to feel autonomous, valued, and empowered. From what I’ve seen, read, listened to, and from the people with whom I’ve personally spoken on the KindSight 101 Podcast (and within my own life), leadership is rooted in storytelling. A solid story can do more to convince people to believe you, join your ranks, or sell you ideas than any coercive, strategic approaches can. Show me a good storyteller and I’ll show you a good leader.

So, how to tell a good story? I recently read the book To Sell is Human by the amazing Dan Pink (Seriously, if you haven’t heard him on a podcast, read or listened to one of his books/speeches, you’re missing out! He’s a guru in motivation and sales…and he’s funny, too!). He introduced me to Emma Coat’s Pixar Pitch framework, which uses the Hero’s Journey to formulate your ideas/story/pitch into a palatable pitch. You want to pique curiosity, solve someone’s problem, create value, and be specific enough that someone can see themselves benefitting from the solution you offer.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Set the tone for the way things are currently: Who is in the story, where do they live, what is the context? – Once upon a time…
  2. Talk about the routine of life-the status quo- Every day…
  3. Create tension and a disruption from the status quo- One day…
  4. What are the consequences of that event or disruption? – Because of that…
  5. What are the further consequences? – Because of that…
  6. Arrive at the conclusion, where things have returned to stasis, but things are better than they were- Until finally…

Take the Finding Nemo Plot, for instance:

  1. Once upon a time there was a fish named Marlin who lost his wife and was protective of his forgetful son, Nemo.
  2. Every day, Nemo would be warned by his Dad not to venture beyond the dangers of their coral reef.
  3. One day, Nemo ignores the warnings and swims beyond the cozy comforts of his home, to the open ocean.
  4. Because of that, he winds up being captured and winds up in a fish tank in someone’s home.
  5. Because of that, Marlin begins a tireless journey to find his son with the help of a few kind creatures at his side.
  6. Until finally, Marlin and Nemo reunite and understand that love is dependent on a sense of trust.

Here’s the Small Act Big Impact story in six sentences:

  1. Once upon a time, there was an education crisis in our schools and communities across North America and the World-at-large.
  2. Everyday, more than 25% of our students were mired in hopelessness, stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, to the point where it made it hard for them to learn, connect with one another, and feel deep and authentic happiness and life satisfaction. This was affecting their learning and well-being, making it hard for them to be their best expressions of themselves.
  3. One day, neuroscientists discovered that happiness and fulfilment could be derived from generosity and kindness on a chemical level in the brain. We learned we could learn to develop kindness habits that would release continuous happiness hormones not only to those demonstrating generosity and receiving kindness, but to even those who witnessed it.
  4. Because of that, Small Act Big Impact developed a 21-Day Kindness Challenge to encourage students, teachers, parents, businesses, communities, and educational leaders to develop meaningful habits of kindness that would ripple out into the community, inspiring people to adopt the habits, themselves.
  5. Because of that, students, teachers, and leaders began feeling happier and more hopeful, bringing levels of hopelessness, stress, anxiety, and depression down.
  6. Until finally, everyone knew that the path to living happy lives resides in our ability to help one another through deep and intentional kindness.

How will storytelling help you to become the leader you want to be?

#22: What Love Can Teach You About Learning: How to Get to Know Your Colleagues and Students Better (with Mandy Len Catron)

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Whether you want to create rapport with a new staff member, employee or student, this is a must listen episode for you! Get ready for deep dive into the topic of love, vulnerability, consent in the age of the “me too” movement and learning the practice of truly seeing one another.

My guest plunges into the story of how it took just 36 questions to fall in love with her now-husband and how the experience illuminates simple effective ways to create platonic rapport within schools amongst staff, parents, and students. Hope you enjoy this fun conversation.
You can find her on twitter, facebook and Instagram by searching Mandy Len Catron or on her website [mandylencatron.com][1]

Originally from Appalachian Virginia, Mandy Len Catron now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Rumpus, and The Walrus, as well as literary journals and anthologies.

She writes about love and love stories at The Love Story Project, and she teaches English and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Her article “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This” was one of the most po

 

Head, Heart, Hands

Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness: Head, Heart, and Hands

In order to feel proud of our communities, I believe we need to wrap our arms around those who struggle within them. Caring for people starts with a willingness to see, hear, and understand one another with an open heart. We have to begin with empathy, compassion, and an eagerness to bravely step into our kindness.

Empathy is the practice of being able to understand the feelings and circumstances of others, and putting yourself in their shoes.

IMG_4410.jpgImagine your friend has just spent the last hour meticulously creating a LEGO structure. Smiling ear to ear, she makes her way over, balancing the creation in the palm of her hand, when suddenly, her foot catches the edge of the rug beneath her. Time slows as her body sails through the air, the structure and pieces fly in all directions. Her chest hits the ground with defeat. In that moment, you understand how disappointed she must feel. You understand it, but you don’t feel disappointed yourself. That’s empathy.

Then, compassion hits you. Compassion literally means to suffer with. You start remembering that time when you built the best LEGO house you’d ever made and how you wanted to show it to your neighbour, but before you could beckon him over to check it out, your little brother had made other plans. With one sweep of his hands, your prized construction was destroyed. Remembering this moment makes you feel a flash of that same devastation again. Suddenly, you actually start feeling a sense of disappointment alongside her. Compassion takes the mind-based understanding of empathy, and moves it into our hearts.

Kindness is the ability to act upon our empathy and compassion for others by taking meaningful action, transforming the world drip-by-drip.  

In the case of your friend’s LEGO structure, for example, kindness is helping her to reconstruct it, giving her a hug, or helping her up. We are all responsible for one another.

 

 

#21: Instagram, Poetry, and Anxiety: What Teachers can Learn from Diving Head-First into Vulnerability (with Brittin Oakman)

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You’re going to love my guest today. Through her vulnerable poetry, she had made meaningful connections to tens of thousands of loyal followers on Instagram. You might be thinking; how does this relate to teaching? We discuss the ways that writing enables us to process our self-discovery and emotions Excellent teachers recognize the place for meaningful reflection in their practice not only for themselves, but for their students.

We touch on process over product, overcoming fear, getting to know the quiet, unassuming people in our lives because they often surprise the world with how much they have to say when given half a chance, and developing a sense of worthiness. This conversation is a warm cup of tea for the teacher’s soul.

Brittin Oakman who is currently combining dreams and ambitions by abroad in Scotland while completing her MSc. Health Psychology, is a soulful Canadian writer and storyteller, Health and Wellness advocate, and incredibly popular (with over 41, 000 followers) Instagram personality. You can find her @b.oakman on Instagram . For more information visit my website [smallactbigimpact.com][1] and search for episode #21.
[1]: http://smallactbigimpact.com