Author Archive

Mary Fowler

Consciously Dial Down Reaction

Read the first, second, third, and fourth posts in this series.

"Children should be taught to use their emotions and to be aware of them rather than control them." —Mary Helen Immordino-Yang

Succeeding "despite the odds" or overcoming adversity has a lot more to do with resource capacity than luck. We may have little control over what happens in our students' lives outside of school or the traumas that inevitably fall into each and every life. We can, however, influence outcomes when we construct the school environment in a way that reduces threat and increases the protective factors that we know build resilience and the skills needed to thrive despite adversity (Masten, 2001; Center for Disease Control, n.d.).

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Mary Fowler

Observe to Stop “Beliefing”

Read the first, second, and third posts in this series.

"The basis of all good human behavior is kindness." —Eleanor Roosevelt

It's a curiously human trait to cling to beliefs based on assumptions and preconceived notions. What we tell ourselves about what's going on with a student's behavior matters greatly and sometimes gravely. Negative beliefs and attributions are known drama enhancers. Not sure you believe this statement? Recall a recent unpleasant interpersonal experience—perhaps with a partner, close friend, your teenager, or a toddler. What do you notice in your body? Tension or ease? More or less anger? Did the argument solve the problem? I mean, really solve it?

My zero-tolerance war on Section 8C felt powerfully good while I planned it. It provided some momentary satisfaction as one by one my students crossed the line and reaped the fruits of my reaction. For a brief moment, I even thought their behavior proved the point that they were "deliberately disrespectful" and had caused my reaction. Of course, the joke was on me. In the end, I still had the behavior, one less coercive trick up my sleeve, and needy 8th grade students who had to take the test.

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Mary Fowler

The Power of 3: ATrauma-Informed Approach to Dial Down Reaction

Read the first and second posts in this series.

"The more mindful we are, the more choices we have and the less reactive we become." —Ellen Langer

In my workshops, I often invite participants to draw a large circle on the back of my handouts. They listen diligently to the instructions. When complete, I ask everyone to hold their papers up so I can "check their circles." They then place the paper on a flat surface. "Now," I say, "put your forehead in the middle of the circle. Raise it up. Lower it down. Repeat. Keep repeating." That's what I call "mindlessness."

Using a combination of intervention and prevention strategies known to dial down reaction and build resource capacity, we can indeed help students and ourselves improve the ability to accurately assess threat potential, improve appraisal skills, and build the resource capacity to increase resilience.

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Mary Fowler

Core Stability: What I Didn’t Know About Section 8C

Read the first post in this series.

I should tell you now that what happened in the end with Section 8C could be called a success story. That class turned out to be my most defining experience in education. Educators knew so little back then about the brain or stress reactions. I flew by the seat of my pants, followed my gut, and remained determined to reach and teach this group of learners. To do that, I had to feel them, to sense them, and what might set them off.

In this class of 28 learners, most of these students had rich histories of adverse childhood experiences. The child study team (CST) might easily have classified 10 as emotionally disturbed. Mental health professionals might diagnose them with post traumatic stress reaction or some other mental disorder. Believe me, there were so many times I wanted the CST to take these kids, fix them, and send them back in a "teachable" condition. How I laugh at this reaction now!

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Mary Fowler

Dial Down Reactive Behavior—Theirs and Ours!

You might have heard the old joke about the guy who goes up to a doctor at a party. "Doc," he says as he pokes his stomach, "Whenever I touch this spot it hurts. What should I do?"

"Stop touching it," the doctor replies. We laugh at the slapstick humor with its obvious simplistic solution for the suffering man's dilemma. Yet, somehow, when it comes to classroom management or working with a challenging student, we know we shouldn't do a lot of the things we do that poke an already delicate situation. Nonetheless, when buttons get pushed, we feel the unpleasant sensation that follows and get triggered into reaction. I know. I had Section 8C. Believe me—there was a whole lot of touchy-feely sensation going on with that class.

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