Sunday, 29 July 2012

Give It a Try Banana Pie!

How do you help young five year olds to develop and sustain healthy habits of thinking? By having fun of course! Learning is a serious business and it’s important to have some serious fun on our learning journey.

Children learn our behaviour, interpret the messages they receive, and process information accordingly. They construct their own set of rules, belief system that will guide them in the choices they make. These can be by and large helpful or unhelpful, rational or irrational.

Give it at try banana pie! There’s more to it this than meets the eye!

We want our children to develop the capacity to take on tasks with a view to do their best and to hang in there when the going gets tough. This is the ‘if it’s to be it’s up to me’ idea that helps the individual to complete tasks and build on self-confidence. Here are some ideas for teachers and parents/carers to use.

When children are working say:
  •        ‘You are giving it a try banana pie! (thumbs up gesture)

When the task is complete say:
  •        ‘You gave it a try banana pie! accompanied by a ‘thumbs up gesture and a highly animated facial expression (more exaggerated the better!)

When talking to a group before starting a task say:
  •        ‘What are we going to do?’ Response: ‘Give it a try banana pie! 

When you are doing something separate from the group say out loud:
  •        ‘I can’t do it this. It is too hard!’ and the children will say ‘Give it a try banana pie! ‘Thanks kids you helped me to keep going!’ you reply.

At the end of the day say to the children, ‘we did lots of stuff today and even when things didn’t go our way what did we do?’ And you will hear them say in unison:

‘We gave it a try banana pie!’

And what will we do tomorrow? Guess what they say?

The above is teaching the children some valuable ideas and competencies in a seriously fun way such as:
  •        ‘If it’s to be its up to me’ – internal locus of control.
  •          Hard work pays off in the end.
  •        ‘Giving up stops me doing things.’
  •         ‘The more things I do and finish the more I believe I can achieve my goals.’ (Confidence)
  •        ‘I can fail but I’m not a failure.’
  •        ‘Everyone can do different things and they have unique qualities.’
  •        ‘We are all good a lots of different things.’

Give It a Try Banana Pie!

Some things are easy
Some things are hard
But I will always try!
When things get tough
I will say
‘Give it a try banana pie!’

The ideas outlined in this blog are contained in the Early Childhood program 'Have a Go Spaghettio!' a resilience building program based on Rational Emotive Behaviour Education. Max and Sam always 'Give it a try banana pie!"

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Self-Acceptance or Self Esteem? In memory of Dr Albert Ellis

Inevitably failure and rejection are part and parcel of our experience. It is very energy sapping to protect our children from every vagary of human existence. Such vigilance also denies our children the opportunity to deal with disappointment and build their own resilience to tough situations. Children need our support and guidance but they also have to learn to stand on their own two feet and protecting them from the reality of rejection and failure does them no favours. "We have to give them self- esteem so that they feel good about themselves,' so has been the wisdom of the recent educational past. What is self esteem and how can you give it to someone? Albert Ellis who passed away five years ago this week said:

'Self-esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman because it's conditional.' 

He was on to something here, people learning to esteem themselves according to how others viewed them or how well they did at tasks was the order of the day. "I'm good because so and so said I am or I am clever because my teacher said I was. Aren't I good girl?" No you're not! Your self esteem will evaporate quickly until the next time someone else tells you how good you are! You grow to need the approval of others and the fix of getting an A grade in your assignments but this doesn't make you good, clever or any other label you want to put on your sorry self! 

No one can give you the worth you've always had and therefore no one can take it away and it is understanding this that gives you resilience. Dr Ellis calls this Unconditional Self Acceptance (USA) meaning 'I'm worthwhile EVEN if you don't think so and EVEN if I get an E in my English assignment.' So you can keep your 'warm fuzzies' to yourself!

Student A in High School A in Australia has four younger siblings and a mother who is dependent on her. Her father left many years ago. She is 14 years old and after she helps dress and feed her family she gets herself off to school everyday. She has dreams and aspirations and daily she 'steps up to the plate' ready for the next 'curve ball' that life will inevitably pitch her way. Will she be called home to help her mentally ill mother or will the local primary school ask her to come and help her younger sister because she 'misses' her so much? This is not a 'once upon a fairytale' situation, this is daily reality for this student. What benefit that she continue to seek the approval of others so that she can 'esteem herself' as a worthwhile person? None whatsoever! What can her school do about it?

Albert Ellis said that people who unconditionally accept themselves are less likely to suffer the ravages of extreme depression, anger and anxiety because they don't take what others think of them or how they perform at tasks TOO seriously. Why? Because what they think about themselves is more important than how others view them. 'Think as you will but don't expect me to agree with you' is another way to put it. This idea is embedded in the principles and practice of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy created by Albert Ellis in the 1950's and which is a core component of the new 'Positive Psychology' that has been touted in recent years. Albert Ellis was the original Positive Psychologist.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Education is the application of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy in teaching practice across all curriculum areas. A school that teaches students daily that their worth is not at question when they fail at a task or find that others reject them and that they are always worthwhile will be protected against Serious Approval Dependence (SAD). This (USA) is the antidote to 'self esteem sickness' and REBE delivers this to very child day in and day out. 

Albert Ellis said:

'I think the future of psychotherapy and psychology is in the school system. We need to teach every child how to rarely seriously disturb himself or herself and how to overcome disturbance when it occurs.'

To student A above, though your life is tough and it is difficult to get to school every day and because you may feel so desperate at times is not reason to avoid your studies and to give in. Hang in there and remember you are always worthwhile no matter what! This is the REBE philosophy.

In memory of Dr Albert Ellis creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy who passed away on July 24th 2007 Vale

The Albert Ellis Professional Learning Centre was opened in April this year in honour of the work and legacy Dr Albert Ellis. This news item was produced by Southern Cross Regional TV in South Australia. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Contradictory Practices in Schools – Education or Punishment?

The purpose of his post is to compare and contrast the contradictory philosophies, which underpin the practices and processes used in schools to address student behaviour.

Traditionally we have had a one-size fits all approach where student behaviour is managed and controlled by the adult characterized by language like ‘warnings, steps, detention, suspension and exclusion.’  Using our authority to punish might get students to comply and fear us but it doesn’t help them to gain insight into why they respond as they do emotionally and behaviourally to daily challenges in life. This approach contradicts constructivist theory on which all teachers’ work is based. Why do we base our teaching on constructivist theory for the subjects we teach and then use a system of behaviour management that ignores the developmental needs of the child? Why are we using two models for learning at the same time in the same context, one inclusive an the other not?

Enter Rational Emotive Behaviour Education (REBE) a system based on counselling theory and practice, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. REBE has been discussed in previous blog posts and it is offered as a way of educating students about their individually constructed philosophies which determine how they will respond behaviourally and emotionally to daily situations, especially the challenging ones.

REBE teaches explicitly essential resilience building competencies like Unconditional Self/Other and Life Acceptance across the school curriculum and in every student – teacher interaction. Based on constructivist theory REBE helps students to deconstruct unhealthy habits of believing and to construct healthy habits of believing.

In my experience as educator one thing is abundantly clear and that is students present with a diverse range of dispositions, personalities, learning styles and the list go on.  Despite this we have persisted and continue to persist in applying a system of ‘behaviour management,’ which assumes all children are the same and this has failed our young people significantly.

How so you may ask? A child with low frustration tolerance for instance may struggle to stay on task especially when it is a challenging one.  She may be prompted to get back on the job with a firm reminder and again stalls as her frustration level rises. Is she displaying non-compliance? Is she lazy? Or has she low frustration tolerance for tasks that require perseverance and continued focus? We can give her person specific labels like ‘she’s lazy’ or ‘she’s naughty’, which are inaccurate and harmful. Why? Because we are rating the students personal worth, not their behaviour.

REBE will support the child understand how her constructed beliefs gives rise to her extreme frustration. Does she think that life should be easy and that it isn’t fair that she doesn’t get what she wants? Is she a victim of learned helplessness where she believes she can’t do ‘tough stuff?’ Does she have low self worth, which stops her from taking risks in her learning because ‘I’m dumb anyway?’  REBE is about helping students unpack these harmful beliefs and to build new healthier ones.  REBE provides preventative mental health education systematically across all curriculum areas.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Zest and Happiness - an REBT perspective

What is zest and how do you get it? Bertrand Russell used the term in his book the Conquest of Happiness to describe the qualities of optimism and enthusiasm for life. He scoffed at the idea that we should aspire to be happy and successful all the time as an impossible ideal! The expectation that we could achieve such a state of being was an affliction in itself, an unrealistic goal indeed, causing anxiety and depression. So zest is a quality essential to the enjoyment of life, an energy precipitated by what? The literature talks about the role of our genetic predisposition towards having a particular personality type and the importance of our early learning, our socialisation. It is not clear which plays the bigger role in determining our philosophy on life but I think that our early experience goes a long way to formulating the ideas and beliefs that govern how we go about things. I subscribe to the constructivist view that each of us seeks meaning from the world around us and in making sense of what we experience we build our own personal philosophies about ourselves, others and life. If our mentors and role models present behaviours and attitudes that are healthy and rational then we're more likely to construct meanings that are helpful to us. According to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy unconditional self acceptance (USA) is a core philosophical belief that protects us from extreme unhealthy emotions like depression and anxiety. Why? Because we have constructed the healthy view that our worth cannot be lessened by others' view of us or whether we achieve our goals or not. Could this firmly held belief allow us to engage with life more enthusiastically? When the burden of fear of failure and the disapproval of others is lifted can we be more zestful? Maybe the life enhancing quality of zest cannot entirely be attributed to Unconditional Self Acceptance but I would suggest it would be an important component of it. Educators and counsellors in schools would do well to teach students this very important personal capacity so that they can engage with life zestfully!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

On Being a Turd!

Albert Ellis, creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy was renowned for his turn of colourful phrase in his illustrious lifetime. Consider the following utterance, used to illustrate his idea of conditional self-acceptance (CSA).

“I am a turd for acting turdily, as I must not. And I'll always be this way, and I'll never succeed" Albert Ellis

Probably expressed at a time and place when etiquette would have demanded a little more reserve and attention to protocol he was practicing unconditional self-acceptance. ‘If they don’t like me, too damn bad! I accept myself anyway’ I can hear him say. He didn’t need the approval of people in the room though he may have desired it. If they took umbrage at his colourful language it would have been an opportunity to point out that their ‘oughting’ ‘shoulding’ and ‘musting’ was causing it, not him.

Ellis used humour on many different levels to get his point across to his audience. In this case his use of the vernacular would have drawn attention immediately to his message; if you believe that acting inappropriately somehow diminishes your worth you are mistaken.

Ellis reminded us at every opportunity that we are worthwhile because we exist and how well or badly we do or how others view us cannot change that (unless we give our permission).

It stands to reason then if we are worthwhile because we are here on this planet then it is true that others are worthwhile because they also exist. Their worth is not tethered to how others view them or how well or badly they do. This, Ellis referred to as Unconditional Other Acceptance. I offer the following rework of the Little Jack Horner rhyme to illustrate Unconditional Other Acceptance.

Little Jack Horner

Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner
Resting reflectively
“Is my teacher a turd?”
“No that’s absurd!
She just acted turdily!”

I think Dr Ellis would have approved.