As some of you may, or may not, know in addition to being the proud father of a biological daughter I provide rest-bite fostering care for Boulder County. I don't share this for any sort of "let's improve my ego" motive, but rather an attempt to gain some credibility. After all, my daughter Florence is younger than your child(ren) at just 3 and a half years old and I frequently make the error of pushing too-hard domestically to ensure she is composing like Fanny Mendelssohn, computing like Lovelace or writing like Dickinson or Austen. Partially in recognition of my own limitations, and largely because I am obliged to attend group parenting sessions, I have been studying the concept of Emotional Hygiene.
Over the past few years I have been thinking about how lessons I have learned from these training courses might be applied to our school environment. Of course, there are social and emotional learning opportunities at ISDenver - whether this be through the classroom experience, our assemblies or through our Community & Service Programme in the MYP and beyond. This week, however, I've been thinking a lot about emotional hygiene at this specific time of year - that is, the weeks after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.
I've went through my old note-pads and through our old systems and I've gathered some, admittedly shaky, data - albeit data that I alone could find and would not necessarily be replicated in an identical study in another context. My goal was to compare the number of restorative conversations I have had with students week by week. What struck me was that the first week of December in 2017, 2016 and in 2015 was the week when I spent the most amount of time with students dealing with disciplinary matters; matters of low-level significance but matters to be addressed nonetheless. Incidentally, the quietest week of Trimester is always the first week back after a break/vacation - August is bliss. This data point led to me trying to extract a cause... (hopefully you're reading this and are too thinking "why?"). At this stage my answer is, with confidence, "I don't know for sure", but I would attempt to reason that behavioural problems emerge in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas because of the following factors: i. student, faculty and family fatigue/exhaustion, ii. student, faculty and family responses to Trimester I report card and iii. student sense of worth relative to peers. They'll be points of focus for discussions I have with Faculty; indeed, I'll forward this mail directly to Upper School educators.
One of the sticks that I ought to beat over my head is mantra that emotional well-being is seldom instinctively discernible. For me, it is important to recall that if a child I am temporarily caring for acts out or behaves poorly there's the potential that this the result of long-term trauma. In our context, I like to think we do a good job at trying to work with students to understand what is the context within which this child is located and how does this context impact their behavioural choices. Frequently, I come to the conclusion that students at ISDenver are quick to be able to identify a physical wound - a cut, a scratch or a tear, but like many of us adults, they are not necessarily able to discern why they are having a bad day, week or month. With this in mind, might I make a plea for "emotional hygiene". Just as we encourage our students to brush their teeth, wash their faces and to ensure that they exercise I'd like to encourage a home-school partnership where we check in with students in terms of their morale, their reaction to failure (and success). Life is full of many pressures and many exhausting social norms and customs to navigate. If you can - I'd encourage you to watch this 20minute clip with your child(ren) - I'm not offering this as a solution, but as a prompt for domestic discussion.
As I write this, I'm conscious that many of the recipients of this mail are far more knowledgeable on this matter than I ever shall be. I hope I haven't insulted anyone's intelligence by sending this stream of consciousness to your inbox.
With sincerest regards pleasant thoughts for the remainder of your weekend. I'm going to celebrate Georgia's win (I hope) over Alabama and the implications for the playoff committee.
P.S - As I've mentioned Community Service, do take a look at Leah Bassoff's page of sign ups for events suitable for our students to give back at this time of year. If you'd like to get involved with ISDenver's community service opportunities, do contact Leah directly on firstname.lastname@example.org