The Wonder of the Compliment

Knowing that teaching sexuality education comes with its own inherent ‘issues’ (unlike most all other subjects) teachers, in general, have a deep concern for how well they’re doing. They often wonder if they’rewoman worrying

teaching it correctly

saying the right things

saying the wrong things

getting through to students

giving all the right answers

creating a safe and inclusive environment

going to be faced with angry parents showing up out of nowhere

and so much more!

They review their outcomes and wonder

confused

why some grade levels do better than others

why certain myths prevail over facts

if intentions will translate into behavioral changes

if students will find trusted adults to talk to

if students will face dating violence

which students aren’t being given a choice

and so much more!

 

Teachers care about the information but, even more so, they care about their students’ healthy navigation through the labyrinth oflabyrinth

temptations

          pressures

                     decisions

                               relationships

                                         joys and

                                                      consequences

they will face as they develop in to adulthood.

burdenThere is an underlying pressure to succeed that teachers may not feel with other subjects largely, in part, because the consequences are much more serious potentially even life threatening. This is a huge burden that those who choose to teach sexuality education carry that often goes unnoticed; perhaps never even considered.

shock

Sexuality health teachers often feel isolated in their teaching. They know that it’s an uncomfortable subject for many. Even their adult counterparts would rather avoid discussing, let alone deal with, the teaching aspect where the fear of the unknown anonymous questions that arise can be more than they could ever imagine handling. Peers may frequently say things like, ‘how do you do that?’ or ‘I could never do that!’ thus deepening the divide sexuality educators may feel when needing someone with which to share their experiences.

compliment

It is no wonder, then, that an honest, heartfelt compliment was received with such impact by its recipient. This teacher was so deeply moved that someone took the time to express gratitude for their determined efforts (something, they noted, their boss hadn’t even done) they integrated the giving of compliments in to their lesson. This teacher didn’t hoard the wonder of the compliment. They shared it! They cared enough about their students; perhaps your child, that they wanted their students to experience that same warm, fuzzy feeling.

surprise-giftSo as the cold of winter descends upon us and we enter into the ‘giving season’ of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza, don’t let those around you wonder if they’re appreciated or doing a good job.

Surprise them with the wonderment of receiving your compliment.

You just may be surprised at how wonderful you feel, too!

Creativity As a Coping Strategy

When I entered the field of child welfare, I was required to attend long days at core training classes. If we became fidgety, stressed or distracted by our own thoughts, our tables were stocked with pictures to color and toys that could be bent, stretched and twisted enticing us to use creativity as a coping strategy.

information overload
I was delighted, and, yet, there was a traditionally trained teacher in me that felt guilty for not “fully attending” to the instructor by keeping my head up with eyes on speaker at all times and my hands still. After all, wasn’t that what I expected from the students in my classroom?

And yet, despite returning home with stacks of 8 X 10 finely colored pictures, I felt I had engaged and learned quite a bit despite the long hours and sometimes heavy topics. I reflected how little time I spent in my own head lamenting about how I just wish I could be somewhere else. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information and headiness of the content when I left.

Creativity and ProductivityI’ve often joked that gardening has saved me thousands in therapy bills. I can literally spend hours playing in the dirt, weeding, composting, admiring, and harvesting. Recently, I have also rediscovered my love of coloring books. So much so that, at one point over the holidays I found myself thinking about posting to my social media feed, “I can’t stop coloring!”

Turns out, I may have experienced the connection between creativity and mental health! Whatever creative outlet is chosen, you find your thoughts moving out of your mind and on to the paper, clay, dirt, musical instrument, etc. Not only do you get to experience the cathartic effect of creativity, you actually find yourself being proactive in your own therapy through non-disruptive, self-care activities. I guess my ‘joke’ had more truth in it than I realized.

Creative FreedomI think back to how I could have allowed free flowing creativity as a coping strategy with my students. Goodness knows there were plenty who had experienced trauma in their short lives! Goodness knows they could have used some self-controlled, therapeutic outlets! Goodness know I could have used better strategies for what appeared to be behavior problems that resulted in a lot of time put towards classroom management.

Allowing my students the benefits in the unexpected joy of art therapy even while I was teaching could have helped distract that student from their current state of stress and provided a healthy way to effectively release tension without the need for the teacher to redirect, dismiss from class, yell, throw things and all other levels of frustrated behaviors teachers have been guilty of displaying in an effort to thwart whatever was interrupting their teaching in the first place.
fidget toys
With so many schools cutting art, PE and even recess and upwards of 1/2 to 2/3 of students having experienced some level of trauma, teachers may want to redirect focus with fidget toys and art supplies not only as a creative outlet but as a coping strategy.

They may be surprised to how little time is now spent on managing behavior and how much more time they have to teach!

The Unexpected Joys of Art Therapy

Preself care activitiesviously, I attended the Colorado Advocacy In Action conference. “Self Care Activities” were offered at the end of the day that included your choice of a

Betty Ford Alpine Garden Tour

Yoga

Healthy Rhythms Drumming or

Group Art Therapy.

If you didn’t want to choose one of these, they suggested you take a dip in the pool, soak in the hot tub, take a nap, hike, shop…..They made it very difficult to not participate in some activity that would take care of ME.

After all, I have been a yoga instructor and, after an ankle injury, had to take some time off. Well, like many folks, I never resumed my practice for any number of reasons. This invitation to participate in a yoga class was going to be the catalyst I needed to get back on the horse, so to speak, and resume a yoga practice.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be as flexible or capable as before, I at least knew enough to feel like I could have some level of success. Basically, I was simply going to join an activity that was familiar. I convinced myself this was going to be challenging. In preparing to head out for the conference, I dressed for yoga, packed my mat and water bottle and away I went secretly looking forward to my predetermined success.

As the saying goes, ‘a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.’ I found myself in my first workshop with an art therapist who reminded me of my very best friend from high school (also an artist) and immediately made me feel like she was trustworthy. We participated in the class activity but didn’t really share anything more than that. I went to my next session. Then it was time to find a seat for lunch and listen to the keynote speaker before the afternoon sessions began.Negative Self Talk

As I was attending the conference alone, I picked an empty table ready and willing to welcome anyone else looking for a place to sit and new people to meet. Low and behold, this person who had immediately fostered a sense of trust came to sit at my table.

We began talking, and I asked her if she was leading the art therapy workshop in the self care activities. Yes, she was. I began to explain how bad personal school experiences and comments from art teachers led me to believe “I have no musical or artistic abilities.” – A statement I have been saying (and believing) about myself for many, many years, and my reason for not choosing her session.

She reassured me that I would only need the skill, interest and excitement of a preschooler to be able to successfully participate. While she was stating this conviction, she was also using her hand on her sleeve to demonstrate brushing off this negative memory that led to such a negative self concept. I instantly got her message.

Whatever quality she possessed to garner my instant trust earlier was again at work as I was quickly deciding to change my activity choice. She made me feel like I could step out of my comfort zone and be ok; perhaps even enjoy it some! So there I was later in the day, one of the first participants in the room ready to prove that even though I doubted my ability.

I was willing to believe what skills I had were enough to succeed at some level.

I opened myself up to the challenge to step outside what I knew; my comfort zone.

Truth be told, I felt empowered to slough off the weight of my past experiences. Peace with whatever I could produce was resonating throughout my body, heart and soul. I enjoyed it and was truly grateful that I made the less comfortable choice.

As I drove home (proudly carrying my work of art with me), I realized what a parody this was to the challenge many parents face when struggling with the idea of talking to their kids about sex! How difficult many parents must find it to

Step Out of Comfort ZoneStep out of their comfort zones

Slough off the after effects of their own experiences regarding sex talks (or lack thereof)

Be ok with not having all the answers

Enter in to an honest, truthful discussion with their own child(ren)

How bad could it be to risk a little bit of apprehension and discomfort in order to address something as important as your own child’s sexual health?Peace In Art Therapy Class

Find peace in your willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

Find peace in what knowledge you do have.

Find peace in knowing you’re creating an avenue for shared discovery, understanding and love.

Find peace and challenge your fear!

Chances are it won’t be as painful as you led yourself to believe.

Chances are both you and your child will be grateful you did.

Trust

In the year I have spent as PREP Program Manager, I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to listen to youth in our valley, and I have learned a LOT. One of the goals of PREP is to engage youth and adults in conversation around sensitive topics like sexuality. […]