Written By: Hans Appel
How often do YOU...work on...YOU?
Yesterday, I was thrilled to be at a Washington State ASCD sponsored training with Kristin Souers. Kristin is an expert in creating Trauma Invested schools. She’s the co-author of “Fostering Resilient Learners” along with Pete Hall. Their second book: “Relationships, Responsibility, and Regulation” will be released this December and their highly anticipated inaugural “Trauma Invested Institute for Fostering Resilient Learners” is available to educators next summer in Seattle, Wa. As a licensed mental health counselor, professor, speaker and consultant on trauma, Kristin’s work pairs perfectly with the Whole Child work of Character Strong.
As is often the case, when I find myself in the presence of greatness, I come away energized, refreshed, and full of introspection. There were pages of notes, insights, and inspiration. But perhaps one unintended takeaway came in the form of a quick conversation with an educator from another district. Like me, she comes from a Character Strong infused school who’s currently working on upping their game in becoming trauma sensitive. During a reflection activity, she mentioned that Souers’ trauma work is similar to John Norlin & Houston Kraft’s Character Strong work in one critical sense: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ADULTS. She said to me: "this work is more for US than it is for our kids." The underlying message being that if we take the time to work on ourselves, we have the opportunity to greatly impact our students. Her reflection fit with something I’ve heard John and Houston say a zillion times:
Question: “Who needs Character Development?”
Answer: “WE ALL DO!"
While this may seem like an obvious point, I think it’s FREQUENTLY overlooked by educators everyday…
Last year, in our early stages towards building an Award Winning Culture a veteran colleague said to me: “this is all great stuff Hans, but it’s all gonna come down to whether our leadership kids buy-in to this work and keep it going.” While I’m the first one to recognize the impact that a group of talented leaders can have on a school’s culture and commitment to creating a safe environment, her words really bothered me that fall windy day last October. In essence, she was underselling the influence of all the other students, staff, and parents on our school’s quest to infuse character and social emotional learning into the daily fabric of our school. Additionally, and perhaps more alarming; her narrow scope of impact was reducing her own effect on Enterprise Middle School's culture to that of a non-factor. Thus, she was putting the fate of our school culture in others' hands.
As we all know, the only thing we actually control is ourselves. Hoping that someone else’s influence will create the experience you seek...is futile. But one’s actions, attitudes, and aurora can create a ripple of positive change that’s astronomical!
Award Winning Culture is about creating a mindset that focuses on Character, Excellence, and Community in all areas of our lives.
By taking the time to work on ourselves, educators align themselves with an intentional mission to create their own Award Winning Culture within their individual sphere of influence.
My challenge to educators is to shift your mindset. Reposition your own professional learning to focus on YOU, not just your work. Stop thinking in terms of strategies, interventions, and techniques. This is why I’m such a proponent on something I’ve deemed Educational Cross-Training. If I take the time to work on me, I’m invariably improving my students' educational experience. When I grow as a person, I provide my students and peers an opportunity for growth.
Harness the magic of your own strengths while aggressively moving outside of your own comfort zone into spaces like vulnerability, reflection, and self discovery.
In the end, your students educational experience will be positively correlated to the work you do on YOU…
About the Author
Hans Appel has been school counselor in the Richland School District for the past 17 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened. He's passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness.
Enterprise Middle School received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness. By creating a culture of kindness, service, and empathy we've taken student leadership to an epic level.