Sunday, February 2, 2020

Feb. 2 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you are well. The winter months of a school year can feel like a slog for many of us for a variety of reasons. This is a time that we may see an increased level of irritability or incidents of outbursts of emotions from our students.  Many of these behaviors may be manifestations of stress. The word stress is often used in our community, and I find that there are times we are not on the same page about what this term means. Therefore, I would like to take this moment to share with you how we define this word at McCall and what can be done to support students who are overwhelmed with stress.

Stress is a feeling we get when we encounter challenges, demands, or even threats. Stress is often seen as something negative that needs to be reduced or eliminated. However, stress is really a neutral term. How we respond to stress can be positive or negative. For example, stress can help us to focus our energy to overcome challenges. If a person does not feel stress, he or she may be “chilling” all the time, and this approach will prevent them from being a productive individual. Our response to stress can be negative. For example, if stress causes a person to shut down or lash out instead of focusing on the task at hand, he or she will also be an unproductive individual.

Therefore, our goal with students should be helping learn how to manage stress instead of eliminating stress. Our work with Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and RULER speaks to this. Like stress, emotions and feelings can be pleasant or unpleasant.  They are neither good nor bad. Our goal should not be about creating an environment where students have pleasant feelings all the time; instead, we should be teaching them how to interpret the information that their feelings are telling them and how to use that information to adjust their emotions and reach their goals. This is what we mean when we say we are teaching students how to regulate their emotions.

One of the consultants who work with us reminded me that it is important to differentiate between soothing a student and teaching a student to self-regulate. Soothing is a short-term solution to coping with stress. It does not help students learn how to overcome challenges. For example, if a student is feeling stressed about preparing for tomorrow’s test, allowing them to take a break may get them to feel good for a short amount of time, but it does not help them fully prepare for that challenge.

I am attaching an article here about how to help students de-escalate when they are overwhelmed with stress. The strategies the author discusses are about helping students regulate as opposed to just soothing them. I also shared this article with our teachers because the target audience is educators. However, I think parents and guardians will also find the information to be useful when you are helping your children cope with everyday challenges that bring them stress.

On a separate note, I would like to remind everyone that the 7th/8th grade winter dance is scheduled for this Friday from 7:00-9:00 pm in the McCall gym. We are looking for parent volunteers to help chaperone the event. I encourage you to sign up here if you are able to support this effort.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate Mr. Danny Doucette on his retirement. Mr. Doucette is our head custodian, and he has decided to hang them up 
after thirty plus years of service to McCall Middle School. His last day was this past Friday.  Danny's brother, Mr. Phil Doucette, is also a custodian at our building. When I asked Phil what will be different after Danny leaves, he said, “I will miss talking to him and seeing him every day.” I think we all feel the same way. We all will miss seeing Danny and talking to him every day.

Thank you and enjoy the week!

James Lin
McCall Middle School

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