This is a list of all the past blog posts.
One Last Road TripPosted: September 9, 2021, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
There’s a saying that if you wish for something long enough you need to be prepared to receive more than you asked for. Nothing is more true than this when it comes to the one wish I had growing up.
Living on a farm in a family of nine meant you hardly ever had alone time with yourself or with another family member. Being the middle child and the oldest of the girls meant my time was mostly spent doing domestic chores in the house, alongside my mom and younger sisters. Time with my dad, alone, was very limited. Providing for a family of nine as a farmer meant he was out of the house early in the morning to start his day. He would return to the house briefly for family meals throughout the day, followed by going back outside to continue his work until mid- to later evening.
There was something about my dad that made me yearn for more time with him, especially one-on-one time. He was one of those people you just wanted to be in the presence of. It didn’t take long to figure out that one way to make this happen was to earn the coveted ticket to ride with him in the truck when he took livestock to sell at the Omaha Stockyards. It guaranteed one full day alone with Dad. We wouldn’t talk a whole lot on those day trips, but we didn’t need to because Dad’s actions always meant more than the words he spoke. At least once during every trip I could count on him reaching across the cab of the truck and grabbing my hand to hold it. Riding down the road, together, holding hands in silence was enough to fulfill my yearning and to remind me that I was always loved by him.
Preparing for the Transition Into SummerPosted: April 15, 2021, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
It struck me that moving from March to April last week means we will soon be winding down the school year and gearing up for summer break.
This is usually a time when we begin to feel the excitement and anticipation of summer. Kids begin to dream about and plan for their favorite summer activities - time in the pool or on the beach with friends, going to the ballpark for games, taking vacations, attending county fairs, visiting amusement parks or going to summer camps. It’s a time of year that offers kids a new routine – time away from school and more free and unstructured time. It’s a transition that is usually welcomed by both kids and adults alike.
For many of us, summer break can’t come soon enough. It’s been a long and exhausting school year for everyone – teachers, parents and kids alike. But, for some, it might feel like summer break started last March and hasn’t yet ended.
Kids who have been able to return to school in-person may be more ready and excited for a summer break than kids who have been learning virtually this school year. For kids who have been learning at home this year, the idea of summer vacation may not bring the same excitement or anticipation it usually does. It may be the continuation of a similar routine they have been in for the past year.
I WonderPosted: April 1, 2021, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
I will confess. My blog is coming to you a day later than usual. It’s the first time in a long time I’m publishing my blog late.
It’s interesting that even though my blog deadline is a self-imposed deadline, not meeting it really bothers me. I guess it’s the side of me that needs to follow through on goals, do what I say I’m going to do and give 110% effort on everything I do. Lately though, I’ve found myself falling short of these things. I’ve been in a funk and it’s one that feels somewhat familiar to me. It’s the same funk I remember being in at this time last year as I was transitioning into a life with COVID-19.
As an increasing number of citizens are getting vaccinated and more states are seeing a drop in positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to coronavirus, we are beginning to see some forms of pre-COVID life return. More states, including mine, are lifting many of the restrictions we have been living under for over a year now. Whether it’s the right thing to do or the best time to do it, is up for debate. Regardless, it’s happening.
Lessons Learned: Writing the NarrativePosted: March 16, 2021, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Cue this week in March a year ago when our lives were abruptly put on hold and we were restricted from leaving our homes and seeing our loved ones. It feels like yesterday AND a lifetime ago. No matter who you are or where you live we all had to stop and face the unexpected and unknown challenges ahead of us.
Little did we know the challenges would continue into the same week a year later.
This past year forced us to endure a lot – isolation, uncertainty, hopelessness, fear, loss, insecurity, grief, frustration and loneliness.
On the flip side, this last year was also transformative. It forced creativity and flexibility and a new way of thinking, doing and being. We adapted and we learned.
I Know That Already!Posted: February 11, 2021, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
I remember the day my high school age son insisted that he already knew what I was talking about when I was telling him about the risks of riding in a vehicle when the driver has been drinking alcohol. It wasn’t the first time we had an exchange like this between us. As is the case with most high school age kids, he claimed to know “everything” about the subject, as well as most every other subject we talked about.
I also remember the frustration I felt that day with my son. In his mind, he knew what he needed to know and wasn’t interested in what I had to say. He shut me down and shut me up. It seemed like a losing battle and a battle he won.
As parents and educators, we can teach and teach and teach our kids what we think they need to know to become well-adjusted, healthy and successful individuals. But many times, it can feel like our teaching falls on “deaf ears”, especially as kids move through middle and high school. During this time, the tables can turn and they believe they know more than you. Roles reverse and now you become the student and they are the teacher.
It might seem easy to accept this role reversal and avoid the frustration of beating your head against the wall with your kids. But, in the short and long-term, it’s not the most effective way of dealing with the situation.
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell YouPosted: January 28, 2021, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.”
Have you ever had this said to you or even said it to someone yourself? This statement is usually said in annoyance and frustration after saying something repeatedly to someone.
But did you know there are times when having to repeat yourself is a necessary and even effective communication strategy with students?
Anyone with kids understands the power of redundant communication. How many children will clean their room the first time a parent tells them to do it? Or even the second time?
If you want a specific message to stick in the brains of kids they need to hear the same consistent message over and over and over from you. Repetition in communication is a tool you should use intentionally with your students.
Teen Nicotine Vaping Leveling Off, But Still Very HighPosted: January 14, 2021, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
For the first time in its 45-year history, the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study of adolescent substance use was stopped prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MTF survey is conducted annually by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It is conducted with students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade across the U.S. who self-report their substance use behaviors over various prevalence periods: daily, past 30 days, past 12 months and lifetime. The survey also documents students’ perceptions of harm, disapproval of use and perceived availability of drugs. The survey results are released the same year the data are collected.
From February 11 through March 14, 2020, the MTF survey investigators collected 11,821 surveys in 112 schools before the surveying stopped with the closure of schools nationwide. While the completed surveys from early 2020 represent about 25% of the sample size of a typical year’s data collection, the results were gathered from a broad geographic and representative sample, so the data were statistically weighted to provide national numbers.
I KnowPosted: December 18, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
It’s Wednesday morning, December 16, and in just a few hours you will receive this message in your Inbox.
As I wrote in last week’s post, my 89-year-old father had major surgery last Tuesday. He was initially doing well following the surgery, but he experienced a serious setback over the weekend. Fortunately, he is back on track and we are looking forward to a dismissal in the days to come.
Through it all, my priority has been making sure my dad knows he can count on me. I want him to know I am in his corner advocating for him and his healthcare needs and cheering him on through the setbacks. It has required much of my time and attention this past week of which I was more than willing to give.
As I lay in bed this morning, I realized that in the midst of all that has been going on with my dad, I had not written today’s blog. I wondered what I could write or say with the little time I had.
It didn’t take long for an idea to come to mind. It’s something I’ve been wanting to say for quite some time and now seems like the best time to say it to you…
Giving the Gift BackPosted: December 10, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
It’s Tuesday, December 8, and I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now writing this blog with a lot on my mind and my heart.
My 89-year-old father is having major surgery to remove a kidney and the ureter attached to it due to tumors inside the ureter. He has bladder cancer that has spread into the ureter. When he was given the diagnosis a few months ago, he was given two options…do nothing or have surgery. He chose the second option and so today the surgery is happening.
As my Dad’s health partner, I’ve sat in hospital waiting rooms during numerous surgeries as we have journeyed through a multitude of health issues together these past 18 months.
But today, the waiting is different. My mind is in a different place than it has been in the past.
So, if my blog seems a bit disjointed and my thoughts appear random, let me ask for your grace and understanding upfront. I’m writing from my heart and not so much from my head today.
Four Parenting StylesPosted: December 3, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
“Because I said so!”
“Whatever you want.”
“I really don’t care.”
“Let’s talk about it.”
Which of these phrases most resonate with you and the way you were parented as a child?
If you are a parent, which of these phrases do you most say to your own child?
If you’re a parent and you’re like me, you probably find yourself saying things to your child that you heard your own parents say to you – whether it’s intentional or not. Research shows that we are more likely to parent based on the parenting style we grew up with.
There are four parenting styles researchers have identified as being common among parents:
Each style takes a different approach to raising children and can be identified by a number of different characteristics. Each style has also shown to have different effects on children.
Make Every Day Thanksgiving DayPosted: November 25, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It always has been. I love watching Thanksgiving Day parades on TV. I love the aroma of pumpkin pie and turkey roasting in the oven. I love the feel and sound of family gathering. I love the crisp cool air that fills my lungs and the crunch of dried leaves under my feet when I go for a walk after eating too much. Everything about the holiday I love.
2020 has given all of us our share of challenges - most of them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been more unknowns than knowns, more sadness than joy, more conflict than peace and more doubt than hope. 2020 has been a difficult year.
There have been other years similarly challenging for me, but for different reasons. 2014 was one of those years. In fact, it was so challenging that it was the first time I was dreading my favorite holiday. Even though I knew I was going to celebrate Thanksgiving in all the ways I love and with the people I love, there was something missing that year that diminished my usual excitement and passion for the day.
Do The MathPosted: November 20, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Starting at a very young age my son loved country music and even more so, loved to dress as a cowboy. He was the proud owner of cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and a big belt buckle by the age of two. His outfit was always pulled together with blue jeans and a button-down shirt. He refused to dress any other way.
He was in the 1st grade.
In 1st grade, my son started playing soccer on the playground with his classmates during recess. Every day, during every recess, he would play soccer.
Each day I would pick him up after school and we would make the short drive home. It was just the right amount of time to hear about his day. Most of the time, the talk was about how many goals he made that day playing soccer.
One day, however, the conversation about soccer took a slightly different turn. When he got into the car, he insisted that we go shopping for new clothes for him. More specifically, he wanted me to buy him sweat pants to wear to school.
The One Thing Most All Parents Have In CommonPosted: November 12, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
A number of years ago an inner-city organization gathered middle school aged youth together weekly who had one thing in common with each other - their mothers were incarcerated.
The community-based organization offered tremendous support and programming to these kids. My association with them happened when they chose to bring the All Stars program to the kids. As the trainer of All Stars, I spent time with them their staff on how to effectively deliver the program and adapt it to the special needs of their kids.
All Stars offers the opportunity for kids to think about and imagine the best future for themselves. It challenges them to consider what they need to do and not do to achieve their best future and create a road map on how they will make it happen. They identify the four things they most want and least want in their best future. They commit to a reputation they most want and don’t want in their future. They write personal and voluntary commitments to what they will and will not do when it comes to risky behaviors in their future. All Stars is not about the past or even about the present. All Stars is about the future. It gives kids hope for their future and a pathway to get there.
To Tell The Truth Or NotPosted: November 5, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
“Miss Kathleen, did you drink alcohol when you were my age?”
I froze in my tracks the first time a student asked me this question as I was teaching an alcohol and drug prevention program years ago.
I didn’t know how to answer the question. In fact, I have no recollection of how I answered it – if I did at all.
Whether you are a parent or someone who works with kids, one of the most challenging situations we can be faced with is when kids want to know what we did when we were their age – specifically when it comes to risky behaviors.
Kids are naturally curious. It should be no surprise they would be curious about our past. Most of the time, they are looking for another person’s experience to help them determine what their own current or future actions might be.
Walk the WalkPosted: October 29, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Have you ever told your child to eat a food that you were not willing to eat yourself?
Have you asked your child to not use their cell phone at a time when you did not use yours?
Do you expect your teenager to not exceed the speed limit when they are driving, but you do?
Has your child ever questioned you on why they have to do something that you don’t do and your response to them was, “Because I said so! That’s why.”
I’m guilty, guilty, guilty and…GUILTY…on all four counts!
The saying, “Your actions speak louder than your words,” rings so true when it comes to effective parenting. What you say to your child is important, but what you DO is even more important.
You are an important influence on your child. Your child is watching and listening to you. They can recognize when your actions align with your words and when they don’t. And, when they don’t, they will be quick to call you out on it.
The "Talk About It" ChairPosted: October 22, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Years ago, I picked my 2 1/2-year-old son up from daycare and heard from his teacher that he had bit another toddler earlier in the day. Now, in defense of my son, he had been bitten by this other little boy numerous times leading up to him biting back. Even so, I knew I had to talk with him in a way that a 2 1/2-year-old could understand about why biting is not acceptable and what behavior I expected of him in the future. We drove home from daycare talking about everything else regarding his day other than the biting incident.
When we got home, I went to sit in a rocking chair in our living room and invited my son to come and sit on my lap. He climbed up and settled in. As we began to rock in the chair, I told him that he needed to tell me what he did to the little boy in daycare. He looked at me with tears forming in his eyes and said, “No, Mommy. I don’t want to.” I calmly encouraged and reassured him. I told him I just wanted to “talk about it.”
Nurturing Never Happens In A RushPosted: October 14, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
One of my most favorite conversations to have is about parenting. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been doing it for 31 years and I know how hard it can be, but equally, how rewarding it can be.
I’ve been thinking a lot about being a parent lately. My first-born just turned 31 years old and my daughter recently became a new 28-year-old which has left me wondering, “Where has the time gone?” In hindsight, the parenting years seem like they have passed by so quickly and yet, when I was in the “thick of it”, I could see no end in sight.
If parenting was hard for me years ago, I can only imagine how hard it is for parents today. If you are a parent yourself or work with parents, then you know first-hand that parenting isn’t easy. However, no matter if you were an active parent years ago like me or are one today, the research on the most effective parenting strategies hasn’t changed much over time. All the parenting books and articles I was reading years ago were telling me to do a lot of the same things parents are being told to do today.
YouPosted: October 8, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
The response to my blog last week about personally experiencing surge capacity depletion was quite overwhelming – to say the least. My gut feeling told me I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling and apparently it was right. It’s comforting and reassuring when you know so many other people in all parts of the world are on the same journey with you.
After reading last week’s blog, a friend and past client in Belfast, Northern Ireland, wrote:
"Many thanks for this – it just summed up how me and many colleagues are feeling. Thank you so much! It arrived at just the right time. I have shared it with my team and please know they appreciate it also.”
Thank you for trusting me by sharing your own personal stories of surge capacity depletion. I am truly humbled.
The Pitfalls of a “Grab the Bull by the Horns” Pandemic ResponsePosted: October 1, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
It’s great to be back after taking some time off. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve taken a full week off from work, and at the same time, I can’t remember the last time I felt such an overpowering need to take time off.
But, then again, it’s no surprise. Living through a pandemic these past seven months has been crazy challenging, right?
I feel like I've had two distinct pandemic experiences. The first three to four months marked my "Grab the Bull by the Horns" pandemic response. I was positive! I was energized! I was hopeful and optimistic! I accomplished more around my house during the early months of the pandemic than I have in a long time. I was Ms. Energizer Bunny!
I also began a brand-new workout practice at home and was cooking and eating healthier than I had for a long time. I was on fire with goals and productivity and can-do-it-ness. I was grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones; grateful that I had a job and one that I passionately love; grateful for the birds outside my office window and blooming flowers that brought color during a dismal time.
Turning “Nobody” Into “Somebody”Posted: September 10, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Early one morning in 2018, a “twitter challenge” caught my eye. It was from a principal in Missouri. This challenge struck a chord with me. It seemed like a valuable activity. When you are aware of a good idea, I've learned that it's good to go ahead and implement it if you are able. Don't wait! Don't procrastinate! So after I finished the morning announcements that day, I asked all our students to get out a sheet of paper and write down the name of one adult they trusted - someone that they could talk to if they needed. I told them that if they could not think of one, they could write "nobody." I collected all the papers and we began putting our data into a spreadsheet.
Out of about 500 students, we had 38 who wrote “nobody.” That's 38 too many! We want every student to feel connected in our school, as I know you do in your school. We want every child to have an adult they feel comfortable talking to.
I made a slide show of the pictures of our students that wrote “nobody.” We watched this slideshow at our faculty meeting the next week. There were no names attached to any of the pictures and we did not discuss who taught these students. We viewed these pictures in complete silence. It was a sobering moment - one that I will not soon forget. When it was over, I told our teachers, "It is my hope, that if we do this activity again in a few months, we won't have any students who write "nobody."
That evening, the activity inspired me to tweet about it. There were a number of people on Twitter who asked me what I was going to do with the data we generated. One person responded, "What are your next steps?" That left me feeling a bit convicted. Showing the pictures at the faculty meeting was a good activity, but it was not enough. The fact is, some of our kids don't feel sufficiently connected and we don't want to just hope they get connected. We don't want to leave it to chance. So, yesterday, I gave the list of these students to our counselor and I emailed our teachers asking them to connect with her to "adopt" a student on the list. This isn't a formal process, but it reflects our faculty's commitment to ensuring that every student in our school has an adult advocate. We don't want any student falling through the cracks. That is our goal. Every kid is important. Every kid matters. And they need to feel it.”
This story was shared by Danny Steele, a principal at a high school in Alabama, in his blog that I first read in 2018 and recently read again. It was just what I need to hear and be reminded of, especially right now.
How to Overcome the Balancing Act Between the Positive and the NegativePosted: September 3, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Picture this scenario… Kathleen, a third grader, is working hard on her math assignment and asks for your help. You review her work and your eyes are drawn to one of the 20 multiplication problems: 5 × 6 = 35. You note her mistake and continue scanning for other errors. You note two more incorrect answers before giving the assignment back to her. You ask her to correct the three wrong answers.
Now, hang on to this picture for a bit…
In last week’s blog I wrote about the importance of establishing standards of behavior with students in the first days of the new school year. The topic prompted a good number of emails to me.
The most asked question by readers was, “What are consequences I can use online when students aren’t living up to the standards of behavior?”
I understand why this question would quickly come to mind when you think about managing students’ behavior, especially if virtual learning is unchartered territory for you. Typically, we don’t worry about the students who will live up to the standards. They aren’t our problem. We worry more about the students who won’t live up to them. They are the ones who create challenges, chaos, stress and frustration for us.
You do need to be prepared to address problem behavior when it happens - even online. You can’t avoid it and ignoring the behavior won’t help.
Tips On Establishing Standards Of Behaviors With Your Students - Even In A Virtual WorldPosted: August 28, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Starting a new school year on a positive note with a classroom or group of students is important. It's important for learning. It's important for teamwork. It's important for enjoyment. Let's just say, it's important for everything!
There are many things you can do to create a positive environment with students in the first days and weeks of a new school year. One of the most important things you can do is set and reinforce standards of behavior with your students. This is important during a typical in-person back-to-school season. But, if you are beginning this school year partially or fully remote they will be even more important and you may need to re-think a new set of standards.
Having standards of behavior provides a sense of normalcy, fosters positive engagement and accountability, creates a safe and positive culture, eliminates stress and prevents problem behaviors with the students. Standards also allow all students to have a fair and equal opportunity to be seen and heard.
Creating standards of behavior is also beneficial to you. When students realize what is expected of them and the expectations are consistent and fair, they are more likely to build trusting and positive relationships with each other and with you. Standards of behavior also reduces your stress, allows you more time to listen to students and encourage their participation and increases the likelihood you will enjoy your time with them.
Community-Building and Getting-To-Know-You Activities You Can Do Virtually With Your StudentsPosted: August 20, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Never before have I seen so much uncertainty and anxiety surrounding heading back to school. It’s totally understandable! These are unprecedented times. This back-to-school time of the year looks NOTHING like we have ever seen before.
As summer comes to a close, many of you are preparing for the first day of school. If you are going back to school in-person, chances are you will be doing some remote learning in the future. Many of you will be doing a hybrid of in-person teaching and virtual learning.
No matter where you or your students are learning from, the first few weeks of the school year are crucial for community and relationship building between the students and with you. Fortunately, many of the beginning of the year activities you know and love can be done virtually! You just need to “think outside the box” and be creative!
To help you, I am sharing several activities you can do if you are teaching or engaging with students virtually. Consider how each idea can help you build a sense of community and encourage positive relationships among your students even in a virtual world.
The X FactorPosted: August 13, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Even bloggers like myself like to follow other bloggers. Reading blog posts from others inspires ideas for topics to write about, challenges my perspective on certain issues and affirms my own core values and experiences.
One blogger who does this for me is Danny Steele. Danny is in his 28th year of education and currently serves as principal at a high school in Alabama. Prior to this, he served as an Assistant Professor of Instructional Leadership, assistant principal, teacher and coach. In 2005, he was recognized as the “Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year” for the state of Alabama. In 2016, he was recognized as Alabama’s “Secondary Principal of the Year.”
I value Danny’s experience and perspective as many others do. He doesn’t blog regularly, but when a new post does land in my Inbox I know it’s something worth opening and reading. This happened last fall when I received his blog post entitled, The Unforgettable Interview.
Is the Glass Half Empty or is the Glass Half Full?Posted: August 6, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
You see a glass with water in it. The water is at the half-way mark in the glass.
Which leads to the question:
Is the glass half empty?
Or is the glass half full?
How would you choose to describe it?
A glass containing water to the half-way point is often used to point out the difference between optimists and pessimists. The optimist sees the glass as half full - focusing more on what is there and all that could be done with half a glass of water. The pessimist sees the glass as half empty – focusing more on half the water being gone and, eventually, the glass becoming empty.
Are you the optimist? Or are you the pessimist?
Making The Impossible Seem PossiblePosted: July 29, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
As a mom who raised two children I often thought about the many things I needed to be teaching them. Manners, kindness, empathy, volunteerism, hard work, resilience, teamwork, and of course, cleaning and hygiene. Hope was also high on my list of teachable items with my kids.
Hope is the feeling that what one desires WILL happen. Hope is a choice. It can be learned and shared. Best of all, it’s free and available to everyone. It doesn’t discriminate. If hope could speak, it would say, “The future will be better and I have the power to make it so!” With hope, we understand there are many paths to one goal, yet none of them are free of obstacles. Hope is the mindset that equips us to overcome those obstacles.
Hope, like oxygen, is essential to life. We simply can’t live without it. When we have it, it can carry us. When we don’t, it can suffocate us. It isn’t hard to see which kids are full of hope and which kids are grasping for it.
Just ListenPosted: July 23, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Giving another person our attention is one of the most important things we can give another person. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything else but listen to them. Take them in. Listen to what they are saying and care about it. Caring about what they are saying is more important than understanding what they say.
Have you ever tried telling your story to another person only to be interrupted by them saying they once had something similar happen to them? Subtly, our story ends up being their story and our story ends with them.
We connect with others through listening. When we interrupt someone who is talking we move the focus of attention to ourselves. When we just listen, the focus stays on them and lets them know they and their story matters and that we care.
Listening isn’t easy. It’s something most of us need to learn. But, a loving silence has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.
Remembering the Profound Change that Occurred that DayPosted: July 16, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
There were ten of us in a large room sitting in a ring of comfortable chairs encircling a large table. Late afternoon sunlight caught the red hair and freckles of a 15-year-old student (we’ll call her Sarah) as she tilted her head back slightly to keep tears from escaping.
This was my first Restorative Justice (RJ) Council and everyone at the table was sharing how they were affected by Sarah’s choice to drink on the student government weekend trip. Our principal had to call Sarah’s parents, drive her back to Seattle and miss a lot of the retreat. The 11th-grade student who facilitated this council meeting shared how alcoholism had affected his own family and the pain he felt seeing Sarah drunk. Sarah’s parents shared how scared they were to get a call from the principal in the middle of the night.
Sarah had her boyfriend there as a student ally. He wanted the group to know that she was a good person, that she has been depressed lately and that everyone makes mistakes when they are young.
The Challenges of Crossing Things Off Your “To Do” ListPosted: July 9, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
If you read last week’s blog post, it probably wouldn’t surprise you if I said that I’m a sucker for a to-do-list. I make lists for everything. It’s really the only way I can get things done.
However, when my “to do” list is long and every task on it seems equally important, knowing where to start can be overwhelming. The stress of not being able to find a starting point can make me sometimes freeze in my tracks, resulting in me doing a whole lot of nothing.
During the past four months I’ve hosted webinars and written weekly blog posts about the important things you will want to consider doing as you welcome your students back after months of isolation and separation due to COVID-19. Last week's blog challenged you to think about how you have used your time these past months to prepare for their return.
Are You Winging It?Posted: July 1, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome as a blogger is knowing what to write about every week. I value my followers, like you, and I want to write about what is important to you and the work you do with kids and families.
In my early days of blogging I discovered the importance of having a well thought out plan. At the beginning of every new year, I strategically plan what my blog topics will be every week in the coming year. The process starts with brainstorming at least 52+ topic ideas, writing each one on a sticky note and plastering them on my office wall. Then, the hard part begins – choosing the final 52 topics and arranging each one by the week it will be featured.
Like all previous years, this is how 2020 started for me. I had my weekly blogging plan and was faithfully following it every week…until…the coronavirus hit in mid-March. I remember sitting at my computer on Monday, March 16, and staring at the screen for what seemed liked hours without typing one word.
Trauma And KidsPosted: June 25, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Do kids experience trauma? Can the effects be long-lasting? Can trauma be treated? Can kids be happy again after experiencing trauma? The answer to all of these questions is, “Yes”!
Trauma is actually quite common among kids. In a groundbreaking research project called, The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied over 17,000 participants in the San Deigo, CA, area. Participants were given a questionnaire asking if they had experienced any difficult childhood events, such as a death in the family, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, parent imprisonment or similar events. Surprisingly, this study found that over 50% of all kids experience at least one traumatic event before the age of 17! It’s important to note that the study was conducted on primarily white, middle-class participants. In areas where there are high amounts of crime, poverty, or drugs, the incidence of trauma in kids can be as high as 100%!
I have to wonder then…If we surveyed ALL elementary, middle school and high school aged students today, what percentage of them would report having already experienced a traumatic event in their life?
I think the percentage would be much higher than 50%. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was close to 100%.
Why wouldn’t this surprise me? Because we are ALL experiencing life with COVID-19.
A traumatic event can be defined as exposure to actual or threatened injury or death. COVID-19 is all of that – for all of us – even kids. COVID-19 has threatened our sense of security, safety and life.
Would You Pass The TestPosted: June 16, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
If you were asked to identify up to 14 different vaping devices hidden in plain sight among a classroom of students, how confident are you that you could identify all of them? Would you know what to look for?
When you read or hear that kids have new ways to hide their vaping habits anywhere they go, including in school, at home, in public places, it's true. Kids are vaping in plain sight and most adults don't even know it.
If you are a parent who has been sheltering at home with a middle or high schooler these past months, vaping could be happening right under your roof without you even realizing it. If you are a teacher, coach, youth worker or anyone who engages with adolescents, you could also be unaware of the vaping that is taking place right in front of you.
I'm hosting a free webinar tomorrow from Noon-1:15 pm EST, called, "Youth, Vaping & E-Cigarettes: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly".
The Good, The Bad, And The UglyPosted: June 12, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
Every January I turn to the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results to see what the national trends were with adolescent substance use over the past year. Since 1975, the MTF study has been conducted annually by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
I’ve seen a lot of trends with different substances over the past 30+ years of reviewing MTF studies – trends that primarily showed a decrease in use while other trends raised some concerns.
This past January I read the summary of the 2019 MTF survey which involved about 42,500 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades enrolled in 396 secondary schools nationwide. I was a bit more prepared for the 2019 results than when I read the 2018 report a year earlier. From 2017 to 2018, increases in adolescent vaping were the largest EVER recorded in the past 43 years for any adolescent substance use outcome in the United States! So, not surprisingly, from 2018 to 2019, the vaping continued its dramatic increase.
A Summer Like No Other SummerPosted: June 5, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
I’m a day late with my blog. But, for good reason. I just returned from visiting my 88 and 89-year-old parents who still live on the family farm and who I haven’t seen or been with since COVID-19 hit in early March. I had to quarantine for 14 days before my visit due to my dad being a dialysis and cancer patient. After spending fourteen days alone in my home, followed by three days in the beautiful, quiet, peaceful countryside, I am more relaxed, focused and energized than I have been for a long time. It’s actually been a life-impacting experience for me.
Time was the gift I was given during my quarantine at home and visit to the farm. Being free of interruptions and distractions for 17 days, gave me the time to think about things that typically get pushed aside in my mind because I’m moving on to another task or I’m rushing off somewhere. I had numerous “a ha” moments these past several weeks. One of them came just a few days ago when I turned my calendar from May to June.
Come And Get It!Posted: May 29, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
“Come and get it!” When was the last time your family heard those words?
The case for family meals has always been strong, but with music lessons, ball practice, dance class and work schedules prior to the pandemic it was challenging to sit down and enjoy a meal together. However, as families are staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this is an opportune time to reset our routines.
Incorporating mealtime into your new normal – and making it a family ritual – can be a routine that is reassuring for everyone during this unsettling time. But, there are lots of other reasons to make it a priority.
This Is A Marathon, Not A SprintPosted: May 22, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
You have likely heard this phrase before as you have begun any number of ambitious tasks: “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
I’ve never run a marathon before (a 5K is my limit), but I have friends who have. I listen to them talk about what they endured while training for a marathon. I hear stories about what it is like to actually run 26.2 miles. The common theme I hear in all their stories is…marathons are hard. Really hard.
The race is a mental rollercoaster. You can feel unstoppable for miles, and then, out of the blue, your legs stop working. You can feel so many highs and lows over a four+ hour time period. At points you are cruising, passing people and smiling, and at other times, you are ready to pull yourself out of the race altogether.
Even though you are exhilarated and filled with pride (and relief!) for crossing the finish line, in the back of your mind, you’re already evaluating what you could have done differently. You think about all of the details you neglected in your training and the mistakes you made in your race.
Whether you realize it or not, you are running in a marathon right now. A pandemic marathon. Unfortunately, you didn’t have the opportunity to adequately train for it and your race has no set finish line. Pacing yourself and reserving all the energy you will need - physically, emotionally and mentally - to finish the race will be important in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Preventing A Second PandemicPosted: May 15, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
I recently saw a meme on Facebook that had been shared by thousands of people. It was a fictional story of a child asking his grandparent, who was a child during the 2020 coronavirus, what that scary time must have been like. The grandparent shares that he doesn't recall the fear or anxiety, but only remembers that it was a wonderful time at home with his loving family.
Sadly, many families and children across the nation will not think back to this time so fondly. From a loss of employment or cuts in pay, increased stress in relationships, food insecurity, unreported physical/emotional abuse, uptick in substance use, to a loved one's death without proper closure, the list of damaging stressors goes on for some families.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times in previous blogs, the coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything we have ever experienced. Consequently, there's no way of knowing what the long-term emotional effects of living through it will really be on families.
Restorative CirclesPosted: May 8, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
At some point, students will return to school, community-based programs and extra-curricular activities. When they do they will come with many questions, concerns and experiences on their minds and in their hearts. Giving your students the opportunity to tell their stories in an atmosphere of safety, trust, respect and equality will be vitally important.
Restorative practices can cultivate a culture of community in which all your students feel they belong and are seen, heard and respected – increasing the chances they will feel comfortable sharing their stories with you and each other.
Circles are the foundation of restorative practices. Restorative circles proactively build the trust students need to safely risk self-disclosure, authenticity, confrontation, empathy and care. Circles develop the relationships and skills students need to support one another and collectively address the challenges they face.
Circles are exactly what they are called. Students are arranged in a circle shape so that everyone can see every face without having to lean forward.
Sitting in a circle is a fundamentally different experience than sitting in rows or meeting across a desk. When we are in rows there is generally someone standing in front who is commanding our attention. Clearly, this is the person who is in charge and who has the answers and to whom the group is accountable to. When we are meeting with someone who faces us from behind a desk we instinctively know the authority and power belongs to that person.
Interact With Your Kids Using A Restorative LensPosted: May 1, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
There are so many unknowns living through the current pandemic. I’ve never had more unanswered questions in my life than I do right now. Just when I get an answer to one question another unanswered question comes to mind. Perhaps you’ve had a lot of unanswered questions, too.
Lately, I’ve been wondering about the effects physical isolation will have on kids’ relationships with their peers. I also ponder what the impact will be for kids who have been physically disconnected from the daily routine of school and afterschool activities where they learn how to get along with others, gain a sense of belonging and community and build supportive relationships. While texting, phone calls, social media apps, FaceTime and Zoom can help to fill kids’ need to socially connect with others, does technology meet all of the emotional and mental needs a face-to-face, in-person connection can provide? Even so, when we open our doors and welcome kids back, what physical restrictions will we need to adhere to and how might they continue to influence a sense of community among kids and their overall well-being?
Will You Respond or ReactPosted: April 24, 2020, 12:00am By: Kathleen Nelson-Simley
The COVID-19 pandemic has the capacity to affect every person in the world. Its immediate effects and long-term impacts is still unknown. But, one thing is for sure. Life is different today than it was before the pandemic.