As an educator, I am excited for the new year ahead. If you are a teacher in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the chances are that you have returned to work to prepare this week. You are making sure that your seating plan in just right, that your rules are posted on the wall, that your supplies are in order and that you are confident to hit the ground running. As you make curriculum and physical layout decisions, be sure to put some thought into the emotional safety that you will create in your classroom.
I strongly believe that the most powerful learning happens through human connection. When students emotionally connect with their educators and with their environments, learning is magical. In order to have this type of learning, we need environments that are socially and emotionally safe for our learners.
Authentic learning is often driven by curiosity. The teacher may present a topic, and the child takes in what is being written on the board, or discussed. However, as educators, we want to see our students make connections with what is being taught. We want to see them taking the material further and grasping for more knowledge, and ways to apply it. We want to see them making connections with other subjects and the real world. This type of learning takes a curious student. Curiosity drives creativity and innovation and it is an essential part of the success of a 21st century student. The tricky thing about curiosity is that it is fragile. A student’s curiosity can be killed in a matter of seconds. Curiosity requires students to take risks and be vulnerable. Fear and shame kill curiosity, and in schools that are not emotionally safe, fear and shame are often seen as the foundation to keeping order and discipline.
As you return to school this month, remember the power you have an educator. Remember that you have the power to create an environment that is as emotionally rich as it is intellectually rich. Remember the value of creating strong connections with your students and that by encouraging, validating and empathizing with them openly, you are also modeling to all your students how to become adults that have a strong EQ (emotional quotient).
Thriving in today’s world takes a lot more than IQ (intelligence quotient). It takes the ability to connect with and understand others. This is also how our students thrive. So as you hang your charts on the wall and plan your first day of school, remember to constantly ask yourselves how you are going to ensure that your students feel emotionally and socially safe. You are in charge of the energy in your classroom. Set the tone for the microcosm of society that you will lead for the 2018-2019 academic year. As educators, we do not have the power to change the world, but we certainly have the power to shape the personality of our learners and to empower them to thrive and reach levels of potential that they never even imagined.
Here are my top 5 ways to create an emotionally safe classroom for your students to thrive.
1. Have a consistent and predictable routine. This will help reduce daily anxiety for many of your students and set a framework for them to thrive.
2. Build trust. The trust that exists between the teacher and the learner can be the difference between thriving and not. When your students trust you, they will join you wholeheartedly on educational journeys.
3. Do not use shame as a method of discipline. Shaming does not create better behaved students. Shaming often causes children to retreat in their shells or to transfer the feelings of guilt to act out in other ways.
4. Be aware. As you get to know your students, take note of their triggers or their signs of overload. Use this not only as a guide for you, but as a tool for them when developing their self regulation skills.
5. Be a champion. In the words of Rita Peirson, ‘Every Child needs a Champion.’ Be the biggest cheerleader you can for your students. This isn’t always easy, but when each student, no matter their level of intellect or ability to behave, thinks that they are your favorite student, a magical class dynamic is created.
If you are educator or administrator that would like support in making your classroom/school more emotionally and socially safe, contact Yolande at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family vacations, as glamorous as they sound, can also be stressful. For those with children, sometimes you can be so focused on ensuring that they are having an awesome experience, that it doesn’t really feel like a vacation to you. We recently took a family vacation. We usually spend our holiday time visiting family, so this much anticipated trip was our first family vacation in a number of years.
In the days prior as I prepared, I did question what possessed me to want us to take this vacation! Our staycation was so fabulous and stress free…why did I suddenly want to pack for 5 people for an entire week! This feeling returned when we had a flight delay prior to leaving Providenciales, and we had a crying baby, a over-active toddler and a restless kid on our hands.
Thankfully, our flight delay wasn’t long and InterCaribbean Airways provided a lovely flight to Kingston and on to Montego Bay. We were certainly happy to be able to access the region directly from the TCI! So fabulous!
We then were shuttled to the Grand Palladium - Lady Hamilton Resort and Spa. We enjoyed the benefits of being special guests of Travel Club members and everything was phenomenal. The service, the food, the facilities…we couldn’t have asked for a better environment to have a family vacation and to meet with some friends.
The thing is, no matter how phenomenal the environment, so much of an experience revolves around ones attitude and mindset. This is even more true when you are travelling with little people, as little people have very little predictability!
If you want to enjoy a family vacation, you need to take intentional steps to do so. Otherwise, it is very easy to miss out on the ordinary magic that takes place in front of you and come home feeling exhausted, frustrated and needing to re-fuel.
Here are my top 5 ways to actually enjoy your family vacations.
1. Disconnect to Connect. Detach from phones, tablets and computers. If tech communication time is needed, schedule it. With constant availability of cellular service and Wi-Fi, it is very easy to check a ‘ping’ and end up getting lured into the latest happenings on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
2. Make your expectation family joy. Worry less about packing in the activities and excursions and choose just a few that are in line with what your family sees as joy.
3. Get enough sleep. Make sure your children get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation in children can mean irritability, impulsivity, inattentiveness and a bunch of other fun stuff. When your children are sleep deprived, you may have more behavior challenges than necessary.
4. Schedule non-negotiables. If you have daily non-negotiables such as meditating, working out, journaling etc. find a way to get it in most days. Most peoples non-negotiables generally fuel them and have a positive impact on their lives. Taking them out during family vacations can have a negative impact on the individual and on the dynamic of the vacation.
5. Choose a destination in line with your family needs. When choosing a destination, be sure to keep in mind the age of your children, their personality, yours, your partners and anyone else that will be travelling. We sometimes choose pop0ular destinations for their practicality and what they offer, just be sure that what they offer is in line with the needs of your family of travellers!
My one word is connection. I find connection fascinating and believe that we thrive through human connection. The best learning happens when the student or client feels connected. But how does connection affect our personal lives? More specifically, how does it affect women.
Although both men and women thrive when they connect with others, women have more of a need for it. From ancient times women have shared their lives. Sisterhood was essential for survival. Even before outlining the source of strength and comfort, sisterhood was needed for helping to raise children, cooking, daily tasks and the especially monumental task of childbirth. Women needed to help each other through day to day challenges in order to survive. A benefit to this was that this sisterhood also helped to improve their resilience and increase their level of happiness.
As we have evolved, we have moved away from living in closer communities and even if some may continue to live in small communities, community connection has a different feel. We now have the ability to connect through technology in an instant, yet our level of sisterly connection is decreasing. Women are feeling more isolated than ever. Whether it’s the day to day demands of the corporate world, being overrun by toddlers or pre-teens, or managing an online business, women’s time is stretched extremely thin. Therefore, we often cut out the extras. We cut out this needed connection time. The thing is, female friendships are extremely powerful. In an age where loneliness can create health issues, women have to be intentional about building each other up rather than tearing each other down. Are we really putting enough work into developing and caring for our sister friends?
Studies are emerging more and more that discuss the special bond between women. Women may not need each other to survive in the same ways as they did in ancient times, but they do need each other to thrive. When women are intentional about nurturing their tribes or sister-friend relationships, amazing things happen.
1. Women provide each other with courage to thrive. When women have sister friends that believe in them fiercely, it is motivating and fuels the courage and confidence needed to hit higher levels.
2. Women provide support in motherhood. Motherhood can be a lonely journey in which there is so much to navigate. When moms have other moms to connect with they have a sounding board to let out frustrations and look for solutions.
3. Sister-friend relationships provide an opportunity for authentic refueling. Sister friends provide a time to take off the armor and just be. When woman can just be, without judgement, it gives them the opportunity to embrace who they authentically are and an opportunity to truly refuel for the inevitable day to day challenges.
4. It allows your spouse/partner to be just that...your spouse or partner. As supportive as your spouse or partner may be, they provide a different support and play a different role than the ladies in your circle.
5. They tell you the truth…with love. Sometimes we need perspective checks and sister friends can provide this and help us navigate challenging situations.
So, if you have a circle of girlfriends …nurture it, be intentional about building and supporting each other. Will it be weekly or monthly happy hours? A Friday morning breakfast date or a weekly video chat if you are far away? Also, how are you going to make it work for the phase of life you are in? With each phase, comes different challenges. Remember that friendships are not about quantity, they are about quality. Nurturing and building a relationship with one or two sister friends can go a long way!
With September around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Irma was quite devastating to us here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Like many other families, my family has a story. Ours begins with leaking water, a boom, a hole in the roof, which translated into one of the longest nights of our life.
After a natural disaster occurs, we have the recovery phase. Post disaster, once the adrenalin needed to get through has subsided, you are hit with ‘the after.’ The after, which initially certainly doesn’t feel like ‘recovery’, in many ways feels like the beginning. The beginning of what can be an extremely physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially draining process.
If you are a believer of positive psychology principles, you know that dwelling on the negatives will not yield positive results. In the months post Irma it was important for me to be intentional about looking for the positive.
Irma taught us as a family many things. The item at the top of the list is ‘gratitude.’ In addition to being thankful for no injury nor loss of life, we were thankful to be able to temporarily relocate while the house we call our home was repaired. We relocated into a short-term rental. My first impression when we walked into this space was…’this is dry and does not feel like chaos.’ The first few days in this space, despite not having power returned as yet, were heavenly. It provided an environment with no visual reminders nor clutter of the destruction that had just taken place.
As time passed, we moved more of our things from our home into this two bedroom short term rental. This space was a fair bit smaller than ours, and as more and more stuff from our home came in, the smaller the space began to feel. Then, it became apparent that our ‘stuff’ didn’t have designated places the way it did in our home, which resulted in clutter in every corner and added to the feeling of chaos. Within days, despite a clean, dry and safe living space …the feeling of being overwhelmed was certainly sneaking in.
We found temporary ways to make do. While making the best of where we were, we were also clearing out at our home. In addition to getting rid of items that had been ruined, it provided an opportunity to purge. As a family of five, we have a lot of stuff! My kids….there is not a day where they don’t create stuff. As much as I love the art masterpieces and the Kleenex box creations, I did not realise how much our home was being taken over by stuff!
When we moved back into our home, I still felt as though we had too much stuff. My philosophy became that if we lived without it for 4 months, clearly we did not need it in our lives! I became a woman on a decluttering mission. Although an exhausting process, we were hit with the benefits immediately.
With decluttering, our home became better organized. I saw my children spending a lot less time ‘looking’ for the toy on their mind, or the shirt they wanted to wear. When I walked into my home, everything felt lighter and calmer. I felt more relaxed. It was then that I realized the effect that clutter had been having on us as a family.
As an educator who works with exceptional students, I know the importance of having everything in its place. Our center is full of books, games, and learning resources. Everything has its place. I designed it in a way to ensure that the visual stimuli does not affect the ability of our students to focus. Although principles of this were certainly present in my home and my personal office, it was Hurricane Irma that ensured that I fully understood the calm clarity that comes in a decluttered space.
Clutter affects our ability to function at work and at home. When an environment is disorganized it can feel overwhelming and create stress. Clutter also affects our ability to be creative and can take an emotional, physical and mental toll. In this day and age, we are also bombarded with digital clutter.
The clarity that was felt post Irma still resonates. Every few weeks I take on the persona of ‘decluttering queen’ and go on a rampage through our house. I am also more intentional about the things that we keep in our household. I am constantly asking: Does this really have value to us? Is it used regularly? Is it needed?
I challenge you to declutter. If stress or anxiety is a challenge for you, this is a great step in the reduction arena. I also know that decluttering can seem overwhelming, so here are my top give suggestions to adopt a lifestyle that embraces decluttering.
1. Create Systems. Start by creating systems that work for your family. If you already have an organized household, take a critical look and make sure your system is working well for your family. This is especially important if your children are at an age to help with organization. If you haven’t adopted any system in your house that works for you, start room by room. Maybe one room each weekend. There is no need to try and do it all at once.
2. Five minute family clean up. If you have children, things will be out of place. Have a 5 minute family clean up before bed. Set a timer and have children clean up as much as they can before the timer goes off. This may not take care of everything that needs to be cleared up, but it will certainly reduce the nightly feeling of being taken over by kiddy clutter!
3. Weekly Paper Purge. Once a week take a look at the paper that has accumulated around your household. Whether it’s newspapers, receipts or your children’s masterpieces, decide what needs to be kept and what can be thrown out. Hint: If you are concerned about throwing out “art masterpieces”, take pictures of them. I believe there are even a variety of apps that help parents organize pictures of their children’s artwork.
4. Clothing. Have a bag or bin discretely tucked in the corner of each family member’s closet for items that can be loved by another. As they do not fit, or you have decided that they do not wear anymore, add them to this bag. Depending on the age of your children, you may have a bag every 3 months to share with another or to drop off to the Salvation Army. If the clothes are too worn to pass them on, throw them in the garbage immediately rather than adding them to this bag.
5. Kitchen and Medicine Cabinet Check In. Once a month, take 10 – 15 minutes to take a critical look at your cabinets. Is there anything expired that needs to be tossed? Any medicine bottles with less than a dose left in them? Is it time to cycle out any plastic items that have been well loved but are now too worn out? Get rid of what is no longer needed and is now only clutter.
'As a soft skills trainer, one of the number one questions I am asked is how to motivate employees. Motivated employees positively impact both internal and external customers, which in turn increases the overall productivity and success of an organization. When motivation comes up, the topic of money also comes up. Do raises really increase motivation? Is monetary compensation really the best way to get the most out of your staff?
Before we tackle this question, I think its essential that we highlight one of the most popular psychological theories in motivation. Abraham Maslow created a pyramid that is knows as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This pyramid details human needs. Although this pyramid can be applied to many different domains, it is extremely relevant when discussing employee motivation.
Maslow’s pyramid highlights that individuals have different levels of needs. They begin with basic needs. These basic needs relate to their physiological and safety needs. Physiological needs refer to the basic needs such as food, water and sleep. Safety needs include feeling as though you and your family are safe. Once these needs are met, an individual begins to look for love and belonging. This is found through family and friendship. Once these first three levels of needs are met the individual moves on to ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualization.’ Even though when climbing the pyramid the needs become less essential, they do not become less important.
Let’s put this pyramid in the context of the average workplace. Where does money fall in this pyramid? Money is an extremely important motivator on the first and second level. When an individual does not have sufficient or feels a threat to their food, water, and/or shelter, money is a big motivator. In this case, a raise can do wonders for an employee's motivation. Money has the ability to strongly impact an employee's quality of life at these levels. Therefore, if your employees are struggling at these first two levels, money will indeed be a key motivator.
Now, let's move on to the third, fourth and fifth level. Can money buy family, friendship, confidence and morality? Individuals whose needs are in these top three levels are motivated by more than money. Although I am sure everyone would be happy with a raise, a raise will not keep individuals on these levels motivated. Take the employee whose salary is increased from $2500 to $2650 a month. The first few months this may be motivating, but what happens after the employee gets used to the pay increase? Does it still serve as a motivator?
It’s extremely important that leaders get to know their employees. Money certainly impacts an employees level of motivation, but employee motivation is a much more in-depth topic. It goes far beyond an increase of dollars and cents. For management teams to create an optimal environment for employees to thrive, they have to be willing to understand what motivates their staff..
Here is my top 5 employee motivators.
1. A sense of belonging. Belonging is a basic human need, and when employees believe that they belong and are important to the team, their dependability and quality of work increases.
2. Clear expectations. When expectations are not clear, confusion can occur. Make a point of having a written and verbal system to clarify expectations. This will make it more likely that management and employees are on the same page.
3. A voice. Employees want to feel as though they are heard and have a say in the plans of the team.
4. Confidence. Employees need to see their managers as competent and capable. Once they see this, they become more confident in their leaders. They also need to feel as though their leader has confidence in them.
5. Progress. Employees need to see that progress is being made on collective and personal goals.
If you are interested in finding out more about employee motivation, contact Yolande at email@example.com.
As an entrepreneur with young children, the summer can be a challenging time. Business rarely stops and children rarely slow down. Classes are in full swing at our center, coaching sessions continue, school supplies are in high demand, training is still needed…but my family needs seem more pressing when my two eldest are out of school.
This summer we have carved out a week to spend on another Caribbean island with some friends. We are very excited for our kids to have an entire week with their little friends and for us to have an entire week away on vacation with ours! The thing is, vacation can be daunting…it can be overwhelming, and do parents of little children really ever have ‘vacations’ or are they trips in which we cater to the little people?
As a planner, I have been on Pinterest looking for hacks and spending way too much money on Amazon ordering items to make our week away run smoothly. Although fun in the sun and sand brings great joy, it can also bring great fatigue, irritation and a lot of work for momma and poppa!
So, my husband and I decided that we needed a bit of a trial run to get a feel for what a vacation will be like with our family of 5. An opportunity to make sure that we are clear on what our ‘vacation needs’ are. So we decided to go on vacation at home. Right here in the Beautiful by Nature Turks and Caicos Islands. We had no idea how phenomenal of an experience this was going to be.
When we told our children that we would be spending a weekend at a resort it the TCI, they were over the moon with excitement. They started packing their bags. But, as a disclaimer, my children pack bags on a regular basis …but that’s for another post!
We decided to have our resort staycation at The Alexandra Resort in Grace Bay, which is walking distance form Learn and Lead. It is important that I mention this because while on our resort staycation, I still felt far away from my day to day work.
I began packing at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon, and we were at the resort a little after 3 p.m. A staycation took out the stress of packing, because really and truly, we were staying 8 minutes away from home and if I forgot anything it was a quick drive away. When we arrived at the front desk, the staff at The Alexandra greeted us and my children enjoyed the wet towels, cookies and fruit punch. I especially liked that a staff member took the time to explain to my kids what to do with the wet towels and why someone might need them upon arrival. After all, my island children were surely not shocked with the heat in Turks and Caicos, nor needing a cool down after our 8 minute drive to the resort.
Entering our weekend home was fairy-tale like. My children were immediately struck by the simple beauty of the space, and the view of the pool, garden, restaurants and ocean. My eight year old declared there was no need to return home; my three year went from room to room describing the beauty through his eyes; and, even my one year old seemed to clock more miles walking than he usually does…and his record is hard to beat!
After initial exploration, they enjoyed lounging on the balcony with their books and games. At home they may do the same thing, but the change in the environment was magical. They also had the extra treat of mommy and daddy being ‘unplugged.’ We took time off from the constant digital connection that can create such disconnection in marriages and in families. We were present. Our children were present. It was beautiful.
The rest of the weekend was filled with laughter, great food, friendly faces and some much needed family time. My husband and I were also celebrating our 10th Anniversary. On Saturday, after a day full of fun in the sun, we dropped our exhausted children home to the babysitter for them to sleep and recharge, and we enjoyed some quiet grown up time. A huge plus, when you are 8 minutes away from home!
Staycations, whether staying in your house and taking advantage of what your hometown has to offer, or a hotel/resort staycation have many benefits. This was a first for us, and I am so glad that we decided to do it.
Here are my top 5 tips to enjoying a hotel/resort staycation:
1. Take advantage of the family connection time. Staying on island makes it tempting to remain connected to work or your to-do list. Be intentional about devoting the time to connecting with your family.
2. Have a plan. Despite the fact that you are ‘home’ still decide on what you want to do. Will you take in certain entertainment opportunities? Will you need to bring any activities for the kids? What does fun, rest and relaxation look like to your family? What is needed to ensure that you have that fun and yet relaxing weekend?
3. Have a budget. Decide what you want to spend on your staycation. If you have not chosen an all-inclusive resort, decide what you will spend on meals and activities.
4. Be adventurous. When you remain on island, or in your hometown, there is less need to stress about seeing the sights and fitting it all in. This being said, be willing to try things. Staycations give you the opportunity to be a tourist in your own home.
5. Relax. Staycations provide an opportunity to rejuvenate. Often after family vacations, parents return feeling as though they need a vacation from their vacation. Staycations cut out a lot of the stress that can be associated with the fatigue of travelling. Embrace this and try your best not to replace this stress with others!
Shifting Perspectives is a weekly conversation with Yolande. Yolande, a Canadian of Caribbean descent, now calls the Turks and Caicos Islands home and in this podcast challenges Caribbean woman worldwide to fuel themselves with diversity in the way they think, the way they work, the way they parent and the way they live.