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Resetting in the New Year: Looking for Gifts in Unexpected Places

Happy New Year!

We hope this next calendar year brings much joy and fruition to you all. We will continue our series on the four strands of our approach: SEL, Cultural Responsiveness, Mindfulness and Whole Systems Thinking in February. 

This month, we are republishing our “Welcoming the Unwelcome” article from December– in hopes it can support you with the transition back to school. We know this time of year can be challenging in many ways. And, the new semester can also bring welcome opportunities to “reset” with students—to revisit classroom agreements, to assess your classroom culture and climate, to spend time investing in community building, and to invite students to set second semester goals for themselves. Shaking up the routine with some active or reflective focusing activities (see Five Dimensions book for ideas) and bringing back classroom practices that might have gotten dropped along the way can be just the remedy for mid-year winter blues or stagnancy.

Enjoy the “reset”!

Welcoming the Unwelcome
From the inception of our work, the principle of “welcoming the unwelcome” has been at the core of our approach.  This principle refers to our capacity to see challenges and obstacles as opportunities for learning and growth. When we take this perspective, we are more able to lean into—rather than away from— those situations that make us uncomfortable. 

A student acts out. A colleague snaps at us. A new policy comes down from on high. A conflict erupts, or stews under the surface. We might find ourselves feeling resistant, frustrated, confrontational, afraid, or avoidant. Our heart shuts down. We can’t see a solution.  

This is the opportunity—right here and now, in that moment—to pause, breathe, get curious, and ask ourselves: what is the hidden opportunity here? What gift might be waiting me or my students if I can meet this challenge from a place of resource and connection to myself and others?  It’s a simple—but not an easy—turn to make in the heat of the moment—when our amygdala and reptilian brain may be on high alert. The student who is sabotaging our classroom might be crying out for help or giving us important information about the safety or lack of safety in our learning community.  The colleague who confronts us angrily in the hallway might be giving us a chance to clear a long held tension that has prevented healthy collaboration.  And a funding cut or new policy might shakeup our old ways of doing things and invite our community to come together to creatively meet the challenge and speak to the impacts of this change. In other words, welcoming the unwelcome empowers us to act, choose our response, and transform ourselves in relation to any challenge that comes our way. 

So in this new year transition back to school, we invite you to consider practicing “welcoming the unwelcome,” —whether that’s during an uncomfortable political discussion or interaction with a student or simply in your own heart.  Sometimes, simply shifting our perspective can open the space for entirely new learnings and pathways to appear. 

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