“I am here, you are safe….”

This week we had a discussion with staff on the topic of what we say to children matters. Carole Dweck highlighted the importance of using the expression of “not yet,”  when considering achievement and working towards goals. From this our P1 children create their own versions of the abominable snowman called the Burnside “Yeti.” This reinforces the idea that learning is a journey and we shared this idea with parents through displays at our recent P1 open morning.

The discussion started and ended by looking at an image which said “Be mindful of how we talk to children as this becomes their inner voice.” What a really powerful sentiment that is…we all know the wee Jiminy Cricket voice is so important to helping us get through each day…..

As a newish parent myself,  with two girls under the age of five, as parents we are aware of how important words are….sometimes we get it right more often than not we don’t …

My five year olds favourite expression this month is “This is ridikulus,” before storming upstairs to sit on her bed in a huff and my three year old is often heard saying “Daddy, calm down …calm down,” last month it was     “Daddy you are still my love,” to give me much needed reassurance. We all need this reassurance. We need to be grounded so we can connect with others….even if the words of wisdom are coming from a three year old.

Imitation is more powerful than instruction as they say …so that says a lot about the chaotic nature of my own household and my own sabre tooth tiger moments. As a leader and a Dad I am definitely a work in progress.

In school we talked about a language of wellbeing around phrases which may help keep children calm and in their teddy bear system. We often talk about a language of learning in schools and we believe the language of wellbeing must give this type of thinking equal footing ….

We are using a phrase across the whole school, across every staff member in every part of the school ….whenever we see a child who needs support or reassurance to stay grounded and calm.

We are going to share this with you so we can all construct a language which supports parents too. We talked about the importance of “connection before correction” which will be our focus at Burnside. The idea is to look beyond the behaviour which we “see” and think about ways to connect…always.

Our primary focus is to bring the child back to a teddy bear state as safely and effectively as possible and often words are a powerful support.

Our first phrase we will use is “I am here, you are safe.”

Across the country perhaps we could try this in other schools and feedback on your successes in the next few weeks or months? We will continue to use this phrase consistently through to the end of January before we introduce another. We already have 12 others which have been created with wellbeing in mind. The idea here is a little and often.

We hope you support us with this idea and we all continue to build our capacity as parents, educators and human beings to be a little more human in moments of anxiety for the children we all care for …

Have a great week and remember “I am here, you are safe.”

 

 

 

 

 

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“I am here, you are safe….”

Where is my Grandad?

If you walk in my shoes on any given day you will be called Mum, Dad and Mrs Murray by children in the school. My usual response now is “Do I look and sound like a Mrs?”

But we all look and sound different don’t we? At our core though we have the same basic need, to know our children are safe, cared for, listened to, believed in and trusted. So we felt it was important to put ourselves (literally) behind our “mission” statement up on the wall of our school foyer. To share our strongest belief that your child will succeed….

We do understand your needs because deep down they are the same needs we have. After all we leave our own families everyday to become part of yours …..

On Tuesday I was standing at the gate and Olly ran past me “Night Mr Murray, hope you had a good day today?” “Great Olly, thanks for asking. Have a nice evening,” and he was off, past our amazing Mrs Wilmot and safely across the road.

Ten minutes later he returned running back the way he came.

“Hey Olly …What have you forgotten this time?”

He replied ” My Grandad!”

Brilliant! I wasn’t expecting that …a water bottle, a jacket maybe…Imagine forgetting your Grandad! So yes we do forget things a lot even, it would appear, our Grandads!

So the display is a reminder to all of us that we have a common purpose, a shared goal, a shared identity and a need which won’t go away, long after our wee ones grow up and leave the nest or for that matter our school.

We are in this together and do not doubt for one moment that in this community we are capable of moving mountains or …Grandads who are left wandering around our school playground looking for Ollys…!!!

Have a great weekend everyone …and let us continue our work with courage through our kindness and commitment to each other …

Thanks for reading this ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our work is hopefully making a few of our key points unforgettable and the point we have made last week was transitions and reunions are so important. Even before we learn to talk we understand the gesture for hello and goodbye it is so important. Laughter was also a way of showing people danger had passed long before talking had been invented …so if a school paid heed to hellos and goodbyes and had a lot of laughter in it then you are onto a good start even if we occasionally forget the odd Grandad or two ….

 

Thank you for reading this …

Where is my Grandad?

“Hugs are free” Mr Murray…

I am writing this blog to personally thank all of our parents, carers and grandparents who read and responded so positively to our request to keep their hands ready for a cuddle and their eyes ready for contact when they collect and drop off their children.

Family learning which is primarily centred around attainment doesn’t really mention cuddles, collections or neuroscience to be honest. We strongly believe it should and hope our work will influence future discussions about this across the teaching profession. Personally as a result of our experiences this year with our new way of working called NEAR & FAR  I think it should be referred to as ” learning profession” instead of a “teaching profession.”

One of the ways schools can support hard working parents is to promote self regulation. Everything which is experienced by our children goes through this system. Sometimes it is overloaded and a “meltdown”  can occur. We have two ends to a sort of continuum – a teddy bear ( calm) and a sabre tooth tiger ( stressed ) end. Our job is to keep or return the child to the Teddy bear system in as many creative ways as we can. We should also reasonably consider this at the end of the day to ensure the transition back to a parent is as calm as possible so parents can reap the benefits hours later. We don’t want to shake a coke bottle and then ask an already tired and hard working parent to open it. It’s just not on…

Sir Ken Robinson said intelligence is “distinct, dynamic and diverse,” and this also applies to how we promote self regulation for every child. Every child is unique and so must our offer to your child if we are to connect with them and promote healthy self regulation. It’s also imperative for us to share what is working in school so you can continue to support your child at home too.

We are committed to learning about the biology behind behaviour this year. We are …we all are.

As I walked along the corridor this week a wee boy was getting ready to go home and fiddling about with his jacket. As I walked past he said “Hey Mr Murray do you want a hug?” I stopped…looked at him for a moment then he said…as if I needed convincing … ” it’s free!” …so I did. Best bit of a brilliant week and we both went on our way laughing, connected…

When children start talking about “hug letters,” over 40 children attend a Tai Chi club at lunchtimes, teachers offer to support other teachers making “worry dolls,” the school office starts talking about breathing beads and parents openly stop us and remark about the impact of our workshops or refer to our work as inspirational  …all within a two hour window on any given day.. then something is changing within the DNA of our community …and it must …the world is a place full of wonder and joy but at other times full of sorrow and sadness.

This week at a parent workshop run by Dr Suzanne Zeedyk we heard about the chemical structure of a cuddle, a wonderful remark by Dr Harry Burns. Everything we “see” is underpinned by biology …oxytocin, endorphin, dopamine, serotonin.

As one of my wonderful staff remarked our present work is about preparing future generations for an unknown future. How do we do this? One day and one connection at a time. …

Whenever we “see” behaviour at home and school we need to look after ourselves first …breathe …keep yourself in the teddy bear system …then connect ..find a way to move past the behaviour and connect with your child …

Good luck and have a great week everyone ..remember hugs are free…

 

 

“Hugs are free” Mr Murray…

Feedback

The following was kindly posted by a former parent of the school and is written far better than I ever could. It sums up what we as a school community are trying to achieve…. connection and finding new ways of all working together.

“My kids both went to your school up until Summer 2016 when we moved house (Daughter was in P4 and Son only in afternoon nursery). I remember your first days standing outside the school gates welcoming everyone, and as an adult I even felt strange. As you say, Headmasters were a sort of mythical beast never to be spoken to, someone who you only heard from when you had done something wrong.

Within a few days you could sense a genuine difference in everyones arrival at school. This wasn’t old school intimidation, this was connecting with children, and there parents in a way I had never seen done by one of the senior members of a school. Something so simple worked extremly effectivley.

My daughter one day said it was amazing you were there collecting for charity, puzzled I asked her why she thought this was the case, and she told me you held a collection can somedays. I noticed you were holding one of those thermos coffee mug things and had a wee chuckle to myself.

The last day we were at the school, you walked past us, stopped for a second and spun round. You confirmed who we were (I was impressed you knew) and wished us well, offering that if my daughter ever required anything from the school, just to get in touch and you would help however you could.

I stumbled upon this page this morning through a link from Facebook. Not something I often feel compelled to do, but after reading this particular post I had an urge to comment. You may or may not hear it very often, but from a parents point of view, the work you do is outstanding. Even a year and half on from leaving, both my kids still remember you fondly, especially my daughter. That’s testimant to the great impression you made on them. Keep it up and I hope you one day manage  to influence all of your teaching profession  to work the way you and your school team do.

 

Thank you …

Feedback

Feedback

The following was kindly posted by a former parent of the school and is written far better than I ever could. It sums up what we as a school community are trying to achieve…. connection and finding new ways of all working together.

“My kids both went to your school up until Summer 2016 when we moved house (Daughter was in P4 and Son only in afternoon nursery). I remember your first days standing outside the school gates welcoming everyone, and as an adult I even felt strange. As you say, Headmasters were a sort of mythical beast never to be spoken to, someone who you only heard from when you had done something wrong.

Within a few days you could sense a genuine difference in everyones arrival at school. This wasn’t old school intimidation, this was connecting with children, and there parents in a way I had never seen done by one of the senior members of a school. Something so simple worked extremly effectivley.

My daughter one day said it was amazing you were there collecting for charity, puzzled I asked her why she thought this was the case, and she told me you held a collection can somedays. I noticed you were holding one of those thermos coffee mug things and had a wee chuckle to myself.

The last day we were at the school, you walked past us, stopped for a second and spun round. You confirmed who we were (I was impressed you knew) and wished us well, offering that if my daughter ever required anything from the school, just to get in touch and you would help however you could.

I stumbled upon this page this morning through a link from Facebook. Not something I often feel compelled to do, but after reading this particular post I had an urge to comment. You may or may not hear it very often, but from a parents point of view, the work you do is outstanding. Even a year and half on from leaving, both my kids still remember you fondly, especially my daughter. That’s testimant to the great impression you made on them. Keep it up and I hope you one day managed to influence your teaching peers to work the way you do.

My kids both went to your school up until Summer 2016 when we moved house (Daughter was in P4 and Son only in afternoon nursery). I remember your first days standing outside the school gates welcoming everyone, and as an adult I even felt strange. As you say, Headmasters were a sort of mythical beast never to be spoken to, someone who you only heard from when you had done something wrong.

Within a few days you could sense a genuine difference in everyones arrival at school. This wasn’t old school intimidation, this was connecting with children, and there parents in a way I had never seen done by one of the senior members of a school. Something so simple worked extremly effectivley.

My daughter one day said it was amazing you were there collecting for charity, puzzled I asked her why she thought this was the case, and she told me you held a collection can somedays. I noticed you were holding one of those thermos coffee mug things and had a wee chuckle to myself.

The last day we were at the school, you walked past us, stopped for a second and spun round. You confirmed who we were (I was impressed you knew) and wished us well, offering that if my daughter ever required anything from the school, just to get in touch and you would help however you could.

I stumbled upon this page this morning through a link from Facebook. Not something I often feel compelled to do, but after reading this particular post I had an urge to comment. You may or may not hear it very often, but from a parents point of view, the work you do is outstanding. Even a year and half on from leaving, both my kids still remember you fondly, especially my daughter. That’s testimant to the great impression you made on them. Keep it up and I hope you one day manage to influence all of the profession to work the way you and your school do.

Feedback

New York, New York

There is an interesting story which is told by a researcher called Garmezy. He studied resilience and in particular a nine year old boy in New York. The boy had an absent father and alcoholic mother  yet … despite this he appeared happy, confident, resilient. Garmezy’s studies revealed every day this boy would find two pieces of bread and take them into school for lunch. Just placing two pieces of bread together and sitting with his friends at lunchtime was enough to make him feel he was in control. Garmezy concluded we are resilient to the extent we feel we are in control ….

I told this story at the first screening of the resilience film to parents by a school in this country. I think as a school team we were very brave to share the film and the truths within it. The film itself has already proved to be a wonderful investment in our own and all our children’s future learning.

We don’t need to go as far as New York or the 60s to hear stories about resilience and overcoming adversity …… if …and it’s a big “if”…we are brave enough to create the right conditions to connect and allow every child to tell their own story..no matter how compelling or hard it is to hear…we have to “listen” whether it’s a hum or a roar…

Our own school is on a journey : parents, volunteers, teachers, support staff, children and other schools and agencies and we are proud of the distance we have travelled so far ..

To be honest I am absolutely amazed and humbled at being referred to as an inspirational speaker by the recent ACES conference announcement but in my role as school leader I realise I must also work harder to be an “inspirational listener” …as all of us must,  if we are to connect and really transform the lives of every child who has their own story to tell in this great country …

Good luck everyone …let’s all continue the journey together and keep listening …

Thank you for reading this …..

 

New York, New York

Connection to close the attainment gap …

The following occurred in a five minute window on Friday 11.05 – 11.10 …

Mr Murray I have a wobbly tooth…Mr Murray I have a present for you I’ll be right back …Mr Murray I’m going on holiday after this …Mr Murray I’ve got a new pet guinea pig…Mr Murray my wee brother is eating solids now …Mr Murray I like your tie…Mr Murray I like your costume ( I wasn’t wearing one ) …Mr Murray I’m playing in my first match tomorrow …Mr Murray I didn’t even recognise you …Mr Murray I like your haircut…. ( I hadn’t had one ) …Mr Murray I’m swimming in a gala on Saturday, Mr Murray how do you remember all the wee ones names they all look the same ..from the two P6 helpers on the doors today ….) Mr Murray look at this … ( a wee boy with a sprained wrist in a bandage ) this was all interspersed by four hundred and fifteen “Good mornings …” and a few hugs around the knees ( my knees ) before assembly began.

Five minutes had passed as I stood welcoming the boys and girls through the assembly hall door…all that was different about me today by the way was I had decided to wear a black shirt instead of a usually lighter one …not a costume!

Connection ….we hear a lot about this in the world of education at the moment. To connect with anything or anyone you have to attach / bind / bond and this is why attachment theory is critical to a schools and family/community learning. It’s also critical as a school leader ….

I remember when I was in school being wary of the Headteacher and didn’t speak one word to him in the passing in several years. He didn’t talk to me I didn’t talk to him unless I was in trouble. The antithesis of attachment and it manifested itself throughout my school career. He was so aloof you had to press a button on a traffic light display to even be granted an audience.

My door is always open literally …because I prefer to work that way. To be visible, approachable and seen. It can be frustrating but if I’m in the zone on a laptop …the children will knock and wait for the few seconds it takes for me to realise helping children is why I’m sitting at the desk in the first place. Even if I’m on the phone I’ll be giving children thumbs up or wee waves as they walk past.. why? I don’t know …but I do know it brings a smile to their face so why not?

On the way along the corridor I stop to pick up jackets that have fallen on the floor. Why? Because we set very high standards ..No, we do but I do it because I know imitation is more powerful than instruction. I’m hoping a wee boy or girl follows suit without prompting. It usually works but not always..

I also make a habit of trying to remember who is off sick and make a point of asking how the children are when they return. This I feel is a simple thing but often forgotten..the impact is usually a smile …

Then comes the serious stuff the collaborative problem solving …which I always, always start off with “You know I care about you don’t you ” and I do and whats more important they do …and then we begin with the talking bit …

I am now able to walk along the corridor and children offer me their hand in friendship – old school I hear you say …not really as it promotes oxytocin …so there is a reason to do it as it’s the trust chemical but I do it because when I was wee people shaking my hand told me without speaking I mattered…plain and simple ….

So connection can take many forms – talking, listening, hand shakes, gestures whilst on the phone, seeing, complimenting, hugging, remembering, paying attention, standing shoulder to shoulder and imitating healthy habits, being seen and simply put …being yourself and just being …and this can all be within the hour and do you know what …I’m not alone …every single one of my staff team does this and more and this is why we are all connected and it’s a great place to bring up your child …it’s also a terrific place to work and learn…

Connection matters in schools around our great country. It is the starting point if we are to promote an ethos where children are ready to learn and close any attainment gaps but more importantly promote resilience and reduce adversity …

Good luck everyone ….

Connection to close the attainment gap …