Written By: Hans Appel
Last week, in our school’s staff meeting, someone was brave enough to share that some teachers are afraid of saying the wrong thing, when met with a student who’s struggling. I think many teachers feel this way…
Which got me thinking about some recent conversations I’ve had with educators who are afraid to be innovative in their classrooms, afraid to contact parents, afraid to be vulnerable with students, or even afraid to challenge colleagues. I think FEAR really permeates our profession.
But having spent most of my career talking with people who are struggling, I want you all to know, most people aren’t actually looking for others to solve their problems, give them inspiring advice or put together the most eloquent words. Most people who are struggling are looking for authentic CONNECTION. Students want us to demonstrate:
I SEE YOU.
I HEAR YOU.
I LOVE YOU.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve witnessed educators at Wildcat Nation having meaningful connection through their words and actions all over the school:
*One person took all the sting out of a difficult conversation with a simple heartfelt apology.
*One person connected online through a temperature check to get a student help.
*One person moved mountains to ensure a student’s home life was safe.
*One person is reimagining their workspace to create a safe landing place for struggling kids.
*One person gave up their prep period to check in on a student they DON’T EVEN HAVE IN CLASS.
*One person removed their own ego to ensure a student’s needs were being met.
*One person demonstrated empathy for a family by helping them access a district program by eliminating systemic barriers.
Believe me people notice. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER!!
I even had a colleague reach out to me and express concern that I wasn’t acting like myself. The truth is, that person didn’t have all the perfect words and in the right order but their effort and love meant the world to me. And, in the end, they were able to help me see something I wasn’t ready or able to see. Our connection is now stronger than ever!
It really comes down to getting out of our own heads and leading with the HEART. I encourage you to side-step fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and just go all in on HUMAN CONNECTION…
Brene Brown says it best:
“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
For more information check out this 3 minute video from Brene Brown on Empathy:
Also, check out Brene’s #DaringClassrooms web page for additional videos, posters, ideas, and inspiration on bringing vulnerable leadership and human connection to our schools.
About the Author
Hans Appel has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 19 years and at Enterprise Middle Schoolsince it opened. He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness. In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Additionally, the were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.
Written By: Hans Appel
-Brene Brown Braving the Wilderness
So, I recently threw out my back…
For those that know me well, they know this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Being 6 foot 4, with a history old basketball injuries, I’m frequently susceptible to herniating a disk in my lower lumbar region. In the past 12 years, it’s probably happened to me half a dozen times. When I talk about pain, I’m not talking muscle soreness. Typically, when I injure my back, my spine becomes misaligned and rests on the sciatic nerve that runs all the way down my right leg. Nerve pain is unlike anything else out there. It’s excruciating!
A couple weeks ago, I found myself face down on the floor, in this uncomfortable mix of pain, frustration, and anger. Experience has taught me that this ‘back tweak’ will take weeks to recover from through a mix of massage, chiropractor, and physical therapy exercises. My entire world is immediately turned upside down as I no longer function in the way I’m accustomed to. There will be missed days at work, different sleeping arrangements, and less time for the activities that light me up. Indeed, my beautiful dog, Maya, will stare longingly at me from the corner of the room wondering why I refuse to participate on our daily walks or fail to reach over to pet her soft black fur.
After hours of ice, heat, and therapy, my back is slowly making progress; but not without a host of new aches and pains. For anyone that’s severely injured their back, you know that the back impacts all areas of the body. Soon, my hip, legs, shoulder, and neck all seem to be impacted on various levels from the overcompensation that naturally happens when we’re rehabbing an injury. Friends and family pepper me with variations of, “what did the doctor say to prevent this?” My typical response:
“they all say, I need to work on my core.”
In essence, your core is your midsection that includes all your muscles in that area of the front, back and sides. It includes the traverse abdominis, erector spinae, obliques, and lower lats. Our core muscles help us perform a wide range of daily activities and help prevent other injuries throughout the body. Basically, your core facilitates the functioning of your entire body.
As I’m slowing making my way out of this sciatica fog, and am finally able to sit up comfortably and begin writing again, this idea of working on the core got me thinking about our work in education..
What is our CORE in education? When I grew up, and even most of my educational career, the core content has included: Science, Math, ELA, and History. Educators, policymakers, and thought leaders have traditionally viewed these as the most important elements of a quality education. As a counselor over the last 19 years in education, we’ve moved mountains to ensure students core instruction was strong. This meant doubling up math classes or increasing reading interventions to the detriment of other learning opportunities. We knew that math, reading, and writing were crucial to learning. I have no doubt that these original 4 core subject areas are important, valuable, and essential to a student’s success in education.
What if the core educational muscles that MOST impacted a student’s LIFE SUCCESS weren’t even the areas, many schools were actually working on?
Many colleges, businesses, and educational researchers have started to shift towards an emphasis on a variety of new soft skills. They’ve identified the need for students to regulate emotion, work with others, and be flexible problem finders and solvers who are capable of applying their knowledge to an ever changing world.
Perhaps, education’s new core is: CHARACTER.
**Character reminds us to be KIND and EMPATHIC in all relationships.
**Character allows us to stay COMMITTED learning challenging new material.
**Character provides us with GRIT and PERSEVERANCE when facing life’s obstacles.
**Character keeps us grounded to ideals like HARD WORK, RESPECT, and PATIENCE while solving complex problems.
**Character ensures we remain HUMBLE and SELFLESS in team activities.
**Character whispers to us to be HONEST, even when nobody’s watching.
Award Winning Culture emphasizes CHARACTER as the student body’s new core.
How are YOU teaching your students the new Core this year? At Wildcat Nation, we work on the Core every week using the CharacterStrong program. Students time in the Character gym shows up in athletics, academics, and...well...LIFE.
And thanks to the gift of a recent back injury, I’ve been strengthening, stretching, and rehabbing my own Character. As I pivot toward an emphasis on my core, will you join me? Afterall, a focus on character prepares students for all that life offers.
“Our job as teachers is not to prepare kids for something; our job is to help kids learn to prepare themselves for anything.”
About the Author
Hans Appel has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 19 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened. He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness. In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Additionally, they were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.