E 15: Bomb-Diffusal, A North Pole Exploration, and One War Hero’s Courageous Heart: Learning How To Teach Kids with Trauma and PTSD (with Bruno Guevremont)

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With Remembrance Day just around the corner, it’s so important to take a moment and hear the stories of our brave service-people and that we reach out to support them in any way we can.

Ever wonder what an ex-bomb-disposal war vet and paratrooper could teach you about being a better educator? You’re in for a real treat! I’d like to wager that after this conversation, you’ll see your students in a whole new light. In this episode we explore a number of important topics including challenging your assumptions about people, ways to challenge yourself, how nature and contribution can make you happier, and the a 140k multiple day hike across the North Pole helped this war vet overcome the devastating PTSD symptoms of trauma.

“I SPENT 15 YEARS WITH THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY, serving two tours in Afghanistan. I was trained as a Weapons Specialist, Paratrooper, Navy Diver, and spent a good portion of my military career as a member of a Canadian Counter Improvised Explosive Disposal Team.
I am also the only member of the Canadian Forces to ever dismantle an explosive vest off a live suicide bomber.
After returning home from my second tour in Afghanistan, I couldn’t function like a normal member of society. I was on high alert at all times, uncomfortable around others, and spiraling in the depths of my own mind.

I remember staring at my nightstand, and wishing there was a handgun inside to stop the pain. And then I’d get out of bed, get dressed and head out. This is how I started my day. I’d drive to the base and dream of crashing my car into the big rock face that I passed on the way. There were car crash casualties there all the time, so nobody would know I did it on purpose. My family would get the insurance money and this constant pain would end.

Around this same time, I was diagnosed with PTSD and medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces. I could’ve believed I was broken and gave up right there, but then I would think of my little guy growing up without a dad.
THANK GOD FOR MY LITTLE GUY.
IF IT WEREN’T FOR HIM, I WOULDN’T BE HERE TODAY HELPING OTHERS.I WENT ON A QUEST, A ONE MAN MISSION TO FIND A CURE.

This shit wasn’t about me anymore. It was all for my little guy. I forced myself to find ways to recover. But the first step was taking responsibility and accepting that I signed up for this. I was a warrior.

I dropped my ego and asked for help.
I chased my passions and opened my own gym.
I completed an expedition in the North Pole.
I led Team Canada in the Invictus Games.
I summited Mount Kilimanjaro.
I stepped back into the roles I was meant for – survivor, warrior, leader.

I became a voice for my brothers and sisters who serve.Today, I’m building a community, bringing those who serve together to conquer PTSD. I’m also fortunate to be able to help thousands of people transform their lives and businesses – from CEOs and influencers to athletes and celebrities (not to mention, some of the biggest veterans and charity organizations in Canada).

WHETHER YOU ARE A SERVICE MEMBER LOOKING TO RECLAIM YOUR WARRIOR SPIRIT, OR A BUSINESS LOOKING TO BOOST PERFORMANCE, FEEL FREE TO REACH OUT.”

For more information visit my podcast and search for episode #15.

https://www.brunoguevremont.com/
Facebook – @brunoguevremont
Linkedin – Bruno Guevremont
Twitter – @Be_Redemption
Instagram – @Bruno_Guevremont

https://www.brunoguevremont.com/

E 9: Hmmm? Huh? Aha! Tangible, Proven Ways to Develop Powerful Understanding of the Self, Others, and the World Part One (with Adrienne Gear)

We all want students to develop a sense of agency over their learning, but many of us simply want an easy-to-follow, laid out roadmap to do so. Back again with her wisdom, wit, and wealth of creativity, Adrienne Gear teaches us about her 3-step Inquiry-Based Powerful Understanding Model and how we can enable students from K-12 to develop a deep understanding of themselves, others, and the world around them. Be sure to catch part two of this interview for a deep dive into specific lessons around developing kindness, compassion, friendship, morality, social justice, and more!

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.

For more information about the workshops she provides, visit her website.

“I am grateful every day that I am doing what I love: teaching and learning along side children and being able to share my learning journey with others. Through my books and workshops, my hope is that in some small way, I am making learning better for kids.

This blog is a place for me to share some of my lesson ideas and books I love with others, to reflect on my practice, and to explore my thinking around reading and writing.   While it is a storage place of sorts, I also see it as a sharing place – so please feel free to use any of the ideas inlcuded to help you along on your literacy learning journey.  I welcome ideas and thoughts from you too!  Enjoy!” -Adrienne Gear

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 readingpowergear.com or on social media by searching Adrienne Gear. For more information about her books, book lists, blog, resources and workshops visit for episode #9.

The Letter Every Teacher Should Write in June

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The Letter Every Teacher Should Write in June

Five years ago at the end of each school-year in the busy month of June, I started the practice of writing a letter to myself.  Like a ritual, I would seal the letter and place it in the left-hand drawer of my desk on the last day of school.  At the end of September, during the beginning of the following school year, a time when the lighthearted novelty of freshly sharpened pencils, crisp and clean notebooks, and excitement to ignite passion in the hearts of our students seems to melt like a brightly-coloured rainbow popsicle on a hot sunny day into thick greyish soup of overwhelm, lack of sleep, and a thorough sense of imposter syndrome, I would allow myself to pry open the letter. I would read each word slowly, with intention, allowing the message to sink into my skeptical spirit… reminding it that, yes, these students would get to where they needed to go. I just had to meet them where they were.

Patience. Time. Faith.

That was all I needed to keep in my mind over the coming months in order to stay afloat.

Throughout most of my career, I have had the pleasure of teaching Grade One, one of the most incredibly rewarding age-groups to teach because of the nature of exponential, near-explosive growth and learning that occurs in such a short period of time.

Like little jumping jellybeans, pint-size bodies file into the classroom in September,

eyes and hearts wide-open to the possibility of learning,

passionate about their beliefs,

sure-footed about their perspectives of the world,

filled with a desire be their authentic selves,

some students filled with trepidation,

others eager to show off their strengths,

certain children combative and oppositional,

other kids quiet and observing,

most are not yet able to

read,

write,

or do math.

There’s truly nothing like it!

It’s exhilarating.

It’s also incredibly exhausting.

But most of all, teaching Grade One (or any grade) can seem insurmountable in September.

The magic of the learning and deep growth that occurs within the soul of each child seems impossible to the rational teacher’s mind at the beginning of the year.

And so, the letter served to remind my “September-Self” that according to my “June-Self”…it would all work out.

No matter how long you’ve been teaching, the beginning of the year can seem tough. Why not take a moment now, in June, to reflect on how far your students have come, you have come together on your journey?

I urge you to jot it down on paper, pop it into an envelope and open that gift of insight and wisdom in September. It’ll alleviate some stress and create a sense of certainty for the future.

I guarantee, it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

 

How These Well-Intentioned Compliments can Contribute to Devastating Inner Struggle

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“You’re so strong!”

“You’re so smart!”

“You’re so nice!”

How many times have we uttered these phrases, with the intention of bestowing our greatest admiration upon the receiver in front of us, whether a child, a colleague, a family member or a friend?

The truth is, when you’re told that you’re a certain way over and over, your identity can become inextricably linked to a particular set of traits or qualities.

What’s so bad about that?

Don’t we all want to exude a sense of effortless positive traits and be known for it?

What could honestly be so negative about reinforcing those characteristics in our loved ones?

Aren’t we being a little overly sensitive and PC?

When someone’s identity is so wrapped up in celebrated traits like emotional strength, kindness, intelligence, or happiness, it can be devastating and surprizing for that person (and others) when, for some reason, he or she can’t keep it up any longer.

The “strong” person shows vulnerability and cries.

The “smart” person gets a mediocre mark on a test.

The “nice” person shows anger.

Fixed or Growth Mindset?

Preoccupied by the desire to prove himself/herself, she might spend a great deal of energy trying to uphold the ideal of who he/she thinks she/he should be. As Dr.Carole Dweck asserts in her book Mindset, “I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves— in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”

Just Keep Swimming

Like a duck in water, he might find himself paddling furiously underwater to keep the illusion of strength, control, discipline, or intelligence alive, when inside he is feeling anything but in control. Sooner or later, his energy wears thinner and thinner with every paddle. It becomes too hard to show up the way he wants-too exhausting. Suddenly, the fragile nature of his ego is exposed. He finds himself acting in ways that deviate from the traits with which he most identifies, which can feel confusing. The stakes feel really high. Above all, the desire to cling to certainty can become overwhelming. Hello, identity crisis.

Veterans and PTSD

Take, for example, the war veteran who has been necessarily conditioned throughout most of his or her career to be emotionally strong, overcome fear, and show up selflessly for others. These skills and traits are what a serviceperson requires in order to survive some of the horrors and trails associated with war. That being said, the after-effects associated with adverse conflict-related trauma can be devastating. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “it is estimated that up to 10% of war zone veterans—including war service veterans and peacekeeping forces—will go on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder.”What’s more, the conditioning that a serviceperson has undergone throughout his/her training often precludes him/her from demonstrating the vulnerability required to seek medical attention and support. There’s often a stigma attached to PTSD. It feels impossible to admit that he/she is struggling because his/her identity as a strong, capable, helper is so deeply entrenched in who they are.

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High-achievers = Higher expectations

Quite often in classrooms and schools across the globe, it can be easy to get caught-up in the capitalist-industrial pressure to keep improving, keep exceeding expectations. It’s pretty common for teachers to be more surprized by average to mediocre results from our high-achievers than by failure by the lower-achieving students in our classes.

We expect our high-achievers to continue high-level products, to continually be improving, but we don’t always make space for them to show up in an average or mediocre way. Quite often, childhood prodigies or high-achievers will do anything they can to avoid failure because the expectations on their achievement is so high. Perfectionism can set in, which can cause really intelligent, capable kids to seek certainty and comfort over risk-taking and creativity. According to Dr. Adam Grant (Originals), “Child prodigies usually pursue conforming achievement, following the well-worn paths to Carnegie Hall, the science Olympics, and chess championships. They succeed by expertly following the rules rather than making their own.”

Now, I am by no means suggesting that we should all start lowering the bar for some of these high-performers but do want to bring attention to the fact that sometimes these kids will strike out. They’ll produce lower quality work, once in a while. They might have a couple of bad ideas, but it doesn’t make them any less intelligent. They shouldn’t be shamed or ridiculed or pressured to do better every single time. They should be encouraged to ask interesting questions, pursue creative exploits, and to express themselves fully so that they may become originals in their own right.

Separate Traits from the Person

When we can separate the person from traits or qualities (positive and negative), we can allow for the normalization of a wide range of emotions and traits within a person, as opposed to a fixed perspective of who they are. It can be helpful to think of the power of growth mindset, which Dweck has described as “the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well…This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

It is possible to free ourselves from the expectations of who we’re supposed to be and allow ourselves to sit within the essence of who we are, without judgement and with great admiration for ourselves and the journey that got us to where we are today.

Some practical replacements for common reinforcements:

            Instead of….                               Say….

You’re so strong!             ~                 You handled that with a lot of strength!

You’re so smart!        ~.                You solved that problem really well!

You’re so lucky!                  ~                  Way to be prepared for that opportunity!

You’re so pretty!                   ~                  That’s a lovely shirt. How do you feel in it?

You’re so organized!                 ~          You’ve thought of every detail. You must be feeling prepared.

https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-2/

Dr. Adam Grant (Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World)

Dr. Carole Dweck (Mindset)

 

The 25 Beliefs I Once Held to be True…but Don’t Anymore

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Like everyone else I know, I have a million-and-one things I should be doing instead of writing this post right now, but that tiny fleeting voice of inspiration came knocking and tugged on my shirtsleeve. So, while the kids were napping, I did what any self-respecting mom on a ‘nap-break’ with mountains of laundry, tons of research to do, gazillions of emails to respond to, and a disaster of a house to clean…I indulged the urge to sit down with a pen and paper. I gave inspiration an inch…then, as the saying goes…time literally evaporated.

My loved ones all know my passion for lists, but this one’s a little different than the usual to-do or goal-setting lists. The following is a compilation of some of the beliefs I once held to be true…the ones I now whole-heartedly reject.

Maybe you’ll agree with me, but more interestingly, perhaps you’ll disagree. Let me know!

Regardless, I felt compelled to examine, tease-out, and share some of the strongly held beliefs I once had to illustrate that it’s very possible to change one’s mind.

Here is goes…in no particular order:

  1. Mind-games and posturing are the only road to true love. Vulnerability is for suckers.
  2. Effective parenting results from manufacturing adversity so that one’s children will toughen-up for the real world. I once heard someone say that they seek to disappoint their children every single day for this reason!
  3. Perfection is the antidote to criticism-the notion that if one achieves perfection in terms of work performance, grades in school, physically, in our relationships (parents, children, friends, spouses) that we will receive immunity from the pain and hurt that our experiences have the capacity to unleash upon us (*And by-the-way, perfection is not only a total fallacy, but it’s a dangerous and seductive illusion founded in fear.)
  4. Grief is a finite process with an end date. (*Nope. It’s more like an ocean whose waves are sometimes gentle and lapping, and other times have the immense capacity to pull you right under.  Grief is unpredictable. The kindness and bravest thing we can do for others and ourselves is to hold space for grief and sit along those in grief as they navigate its choppy waters.)
  5. Achieving your goals = happiness
  6. Beauty is objective.
  7. Parenting is easy, if you’re doing it right. (Ha! Riggghht…)
  8. The only way to navigate this world and make it out alive is to construct and dawn a thick coat of armour so strong that neither joy nor pain shall penetrate one’s tender heart.
  9. Successful, obedient students exemplify successful teaching.
  10. Being courageous is not for me.
  11. I am alone in my experiences.
  12. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  13. Being “good” is the only road to worthiness.
  14. Admitting to experiencing sadness, anger, loneliness, and jealousy means that there’s something wrong with you.
  15. The only way to be spiritual is to go to church.
  16. Creativity lies inherently within the individual. You either are or you aren’t. The genius resides within the artist.
  17. Everything in life is random.
  18. We must ask our passions to provide for us, financially.
  19. Forgiveness is impossible because it means condoning.
  20. Seeking and acquiring approval from others is the only way to win at life. *In the words of Seth Godin, seeking to please everyone makes you a “walking generality” instead of a “meaningful specific.”
  21. Everyone deserves a second chance. *No they don’t! Maya Angelou once said, “When somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time!”
  22. My worthiness of love and belonging is directly dependent on my ability to earn it. It’s about hustling. *Nope. Nope. Nope! You are born worthy of love and belonging. The minute you start believing that, the more you can get down to the important, purposeful work you were meant to do!
  23. People’s personalities are fixed.
  24. I cannot write the ending to my story.
  25. Achieving and striving toward audacious goals is for other people.