Author Archives: Brooke

Daily Blog / PAN – July 21st, 2020

Blog Prompt: What role did shame play in your family? How is shame a part of you now?

In Brene Brown’s Listening to Shame TED Talk, she suggests “Shame, for women, is this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations of who we are supposed to be”. Further, she argues “shame is an epidemic in our culture”. These two points bring to light the ubiquitous nature of shame in our society. When confronted with the question of what role shame played within my family, I am drawn to initially think beyond the family unit. Shame is not a single family problem. It is a cultural problem. It is part of Western socialization. So yes, shame plays a role in all families, but it is also much bigger than that. Shame is rooted in racism, patriarchy, capitalism and sexism, socioeconomic status, homophobia, ableism and beyond. In identifying as a woman, I am going to speak to my gendered experience of being bombarded with messages of “unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations” (Brown, 2012) through socialization with family and friends, in the workplace, at school, in motherhood and through media. Shame is deeply entrenched in our society and therefore deeply entrenched in the family system. In the reading of the Shame Handout for today’s class, the shame-based family rules of control, perfectionism, blame, and the no-talk rule stood out for in particular. These are patterns that stand out in my family; examples of which I can call to mind quite easily.

Recognizing these patterns in my family has helped me to reframe my thinking around shame for myself and as a parent, family member, friend and classroom teacher. In Brene Brown’s (2018) book Dare to Lead, she describes shame resilience as

“the ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values, and to come out on the other side of same experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had going into it. Ultimately, shame resilience is about moving from shame to empathy — the real antidote to shame” (p. 136).

For me, it is important to recognize that everyone feels shame. It is a typical human response to our socialization and the messages we receive about who we are. But, many people are crippled by their shame; it inhibits their creativity and is used as a defense mechanism. Through these understandings, I am able to begin working on lofty goals of shame resilience. My personal goals surrounding shame include being able to recognize why I am feeling shame, where that feeling is coming from (ie. what is it from my past/family that is causing that feeling), and then being able to move through and beyond that shame so that it doesn’t dull the light, creativity and innovation that I have to offer to the world. My personal goals around shame extend to understanding that I am my toughest critic and therefore working towards accepting myself more deeply. In understanding shame as a cultural problem, I hope to hold space for my friends and family when they need and want to be vulnerable, to diminish the “secrecy, silence and judgement” (Brown, 2012) that add fuel to (shame) fire. Further, as a classroom teacher, I plan to include more lessons on social and emotional literacy in my classroom in order to foster empathy, “the antidote to shame” (Brown, 2012). I am learning some new ways to do this in reading Borba’s (2016) book, Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World which was listed as a suggested reading for this course. These goals represent the work I am currently doing with regard to shame. I recognize that this work with shame will be an life-long process of deconstructing the messages I receive about myself from society and those around me and thinking critically about how I can work with my shame to better myself and those around me.

Daily PAN

References

Brown, Brene (2018). Dare to Lead. New York: Random House.

Brown, Brene (2012). Listening to Shame [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame?language=en#t-6516

Daily Blog / PAN – July 20th, 2020

Blog Prompt: How does your family handle anger? What is your relationship with anger? How do you soothe and regulate yourself? What role does dissociation play in your life?

My Relationship with Anger

Wallace & Lewis (2020) suggest “Generally, most people have learned from a young age that it is not okay or ‘good’ to be angry…” (p. 108). Growing up, it was common in my household for angry emotions to be met with a time out in your bedroom. The time to cool off was necessary but when emotions were not discussed afterwards, it led to feelings of resentment. Feelings of resentment often fester and when not discussed can leave the other person in the relationship in the dark about what the real problem may be. As Wallace & Lewis (2020) suggest “Anger is a signal that your rights have been violated, your needs are not being met, or that you are compromising yourself in some way” (p.108-109). Because it wasn’t common to work out issues in our home, resentment manifested in not speaking to the other person for several hours or sometimes days in the commonly referred to “silent treatment”. I continue to see this “strategy” detrimentally employed by my parents and in my sister’s relationship with her partner. I carried this same strategy into my partnership in the beginning and quickly learned the toxicity of resentment. While this was the norm in my family, it only caused further problems in my relationship with my partner. As a result, I have had to relearn how to deal more appropriately and effectively with my anger over the past several years. Because resentment was such a big part of what it meant to be angry in childhood, the most difficult parts of transforming my anger into energy for change as an adult are the ‘express your feelings’ and ‘let it go’ stages (Wallace & Lewis, 2020, p. 109).

Self-Soothing and Regulating Anger Emotions

When I am angry, I soothe and regulate myself by thinking carefully about conversations that need to occur and having courageous conversations with people whose actions have led to my feelings of anger. It is important for me to have these conversations in a timely manner because I know that once my brain switches to resentment mode, it often misconstrues or worsens the problem. Once these conversations have been had, I focus on doing activities that are calm, peaceful and bring me joy so that I can focus less on the anger and resentment and turn that energy instead to letting go of an issue that has been dealt with.

Dissociation

While I feel that my experiences with dissociation have been limited, there are events from my past that I believe that I have blocked out (amnesia) as my sister recalls them differently or in greater detail than I do. I experience flashbacks and intrusive thoughts at times but I feel these are more anxiety related than related to dissociative experiences caused by traumatic events.

Daily PAN

When Karen asked to find a part that looked like a face, I immediately saw two people hugging in the scribbles and decided to created that image instead of an animal.

References

Wallace & Lewis (2020). Trauma Informed Teaching through Play Art Narrative (PAN). Koninklijke Brill NV.

Polyvagal Observations – July 18th, 2020

Recent news articles have indicated a higher-than-normal bear population in the Western and Prairie provinces due to decreased spring hunting as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This increased population makes it more likely for people to come into contact with bears, a scenario that has been reported more frequently in the news. In this polyvagal observation, I would like to combine information from two incidents that occurred this past week to make my observations.

Stories of bear encounters always catch my attention as this is one of my own fears. In this news article a bear had entered a home in the area that same day, which put the subject of this news report, Alison, on alert. She states,

“I was kind of on edge because it was just the street over from me. I heard some banging outside and I peeked out and my garbage bin was flipped over…I was really paranoid”.

Alison is already in a state of hyper arousal and her sympathetic nervous system is engaged. Because she had been notified of a bear being close by, her autonomic nervous system was searching for cues of danger and it was found in the noises coming from outside. As Dr. Peter Levine states in Nature’s Lessons on Healing Trauma, “whenever we experience novelty in our environment, such as the snapping of a twig, our biological response is to orient towards locating the source of that novelty and to discern what is the relationship it has to us. For example, is it a source of safety…or a source of danger”. I predict at this point in her experience, Alison is state 4, according to Wallace & Lewis (2020) Autonomic Nervous System: Behaviour States scale in which she is “watch guarded: could be too alert, fine edge into overly aroused, flags of flight or fight up” (p. 84).

“I looked outside and that’s when I got a glimpse of it walking right towards my front doorstep…I was like ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh’ and I was so scared because I thought that the bear was going to try to come into my house.”

This ‘oh my gosh’ moment is perhaps a momentary lapse into the trauma response, freeze, where her brain is trying to sort out what she should do due to the proximity of the bear and her threatened safety. However, her merely glimpsing the bear walking up to her doorstep leads me to infer that she is hiding in her home and in which case, her flight response has already been engaged.

While this bear did injure another person earlier in the day, Alison and her family were able to stay safe inside their home but the close encounter with the bear was certainly an emotionally overwhelming experience for her family. Later in the article, the author writes of Alison:

She and her daughter are getting out of town to their cabin because her daughter is too scared to sleep at home.

Their cabin environment is currently a source of anxiety causing them to be unable to sleep for fear of reoccurence so their response is to leave (flee) to a safer environment.

Another incident occurred this past week where a runner was attacked by a bear. Although is it unclear how she was able to escape, her initial experience and escape are captured in the following quotes from the news interview:

“I’ve never been so scared in my life…When it happened I kind of went into shock a bit”

“I needed to calm down because I was starting to hyperventilate”

“I called my mom and stayed on the phone with her for about 40 minutes as I made my way back down to the car”

The runner describes extreme fear and shock. This momentary shock is perhaps her lapse into the dorsal vagal response where her brain, and likely her body, freeze up before being able to prioritize the next move (flight/fight). Following the attack she articulates her brain’s response to high stress via hyperventilation. I wonder if her response is similar to the response of the polar bear in the video Polar Bear Not Getting Traumatized where the bear involuntarily begins deep breathing as the brain’s response to a high stress event. Further, the runner describes calling her brother, mom and boyfriend as she makes her way back to her vehicle and her brain moves from the sympathetic to vental vagal. Her movement into social engagement biology symbolizes her attempt to further down regulate from the traumatic event.

Finally, in understanding some key differences between human and animal brains, the primal parts of the both brains evoke a similar trauma response (fight, flight or freeze). While one tends to empathize with humans upon hearing of animal “attacks”, it is important to remember that in these two instances, the human proximity to the bear’s environment is foundational to the reason behind the occurrences. Like the humans, the bear’s brain is responding in the only way it knows how once it feels it’s safety has been jeopardized.

References

Wallace & Lewis (2020). Trauma Informed Teaching through Play Art Narrative (PAN). Koninklijke Brill NV.

Daily Blog / PAN – July 16th, 2020

Blog Prompt: Are you aware of the press of your environment? What do you notice in your everyday surroundings? How are you grounded in the land you live upon? What are the sounds, the odours, the things looked upon, in relationship to you as you move through the environment?

Today’s lecture focused on sensory processing and how to create trauma-informed spaces. Our professor, Karen, mentioned the necessity for educators to be acutely aware of the classroom environment as students use their five senses to interpret the world around them in combination with their nervous system which is constantly scanning for cues of safety and danger. It is important then, for educators to examine personal awareness of the environments they occupy and notice how their preferences for organizing the classroom may appear soothing or chaotic, safe or unsafe, to students who enter the space.

Environmental Press

I am frequently aware of my environment, mostly in thanks to my mother, who throughout my childhood, frequently cautioned my sister and I to be aware of our surroundings. Through questioning us as we entered new environments both locally, and while travelling, she encouraged us to engage our nervous system and use environmental cues to determine our safety. Often times upon surveying our surroundings and verbalizing our noticings, she would ask us what our “gut feeling” was about the place we were in. This surveying of our surroundings often included us articulating what we noticed via our five senses. What smells did we notice? What did we notice about the people around us? What was the lighting like? What sense did our body give us about that particular place? Where are the exits? How would you leave this place if you had to do so quickly? What was it about that person that made you feel comfortable (or uncomfortable)? As this type of questioning was often part of the dialogue for most places we went, we grew to be keenly aware of how our bodies processed the environment around us.

Sensory Preferences in My Environment

My preferences for the spaces I occupy are soft or neutral colours, soft and calming objects, soft lighting, calming music, clutter free and clean, spacious, natural light, presence of life, in plants, for example, comfortable seating, scents that are not overpowering, and space for one to be alone, step away or take a break from the main event of that environment. These preferences signal safe, warm, inviting, comfortable feelings. When I am in environments that are opposite of the preferences I have just described I tend to feel the press of the environment and look for ways to spend less time in those spaces. These are all factors I consider when designing my classroom.

Grounding with the Land

Connection with the land is important to me. I have been fortunate for one week each summer to spend time in northern Saskatchewan at a fly-in camp with my family. There is no cell service or connection with the outside world once the tiny bush plane drops us off. Summers up north have been filled with teachings from my dad about living from the land. Hunting, fishing, berry picking, navigating the land and lakes, spotting animals, safety skills, and cooking shore lunches, are just a few of the many skills we learned (and continue to learn) on our visits. My dad has instilled in me the importance of being self-sustainable which has encouraged a love for gardening at home in the city, and choosing local food sources when needed. It is important for me to bring these teachings into the classroom and for students to have the opportunity to learn to grow plants, become aware of the local skills and products available, and spend time on the land as much as possible. Some of the ways we do this is through our Little Green Thumbs garden, inviting local guests and artists, and through a variety of Outdoor Ed opportunities.

Daily PAN

PAN #1 – Music Response
PAN #2 – Music Response – Circles
PAN #3 – Music Response – Standing at your locker and meeting three different people.
PAN #4 – Music Response – Connecting music to childhood experience

Daily Blog / PAN – July 15th, 2020

Blog Prompt: Who was the first person you felt attached to? Who are you attached to now? What is your attachment pattern? How does it affect your relationships? Do you have sensory issues and if so, how do you work with them?

I began learning about attachment theory by reading Jody Carrington’s (2019) discussion on Bowlby’s theory of attachment regarding a child’s ability to learn about emotional regulation. Bowlby’s argument states that relationships require a “a ‘safe haven’ to fall into in times of distress…[and] the ‘secure base’ from which to jump off into the world” (Carrington, 2019, p. 34). The safe haven is foundational to the attachment relationship as children find in this safe haven a place of comfort and protection, someone to delight in them and also act as a regulating body for their big emotions. Also critical to the attachment relationship is the secure base from which children receive scaffolded support to explore the world. Put simply, the presence of a safe haven and secure base result in a secure attachment relationship (this theory is also discussed in Craig, 2016). The definition of secure attachment in Craig (2016) and Wallace & Lewis (2020) similarly spoke to me as a description of my childhood experiences with attachment. Partaking in the attachment quiz for today’s class confirmed my positioning with secure attachment:

My Results

From the attachment quiz I learned that:

“People who are low in both attachment-related anxiety and avoidance are generally considered secure because they don’t typically worry about whether their partners are going to reject them and they are comfortable being emotionally close to others…People tend to have relatively enduring and satisfying relationships. They are comfortable expressing their emotions, and tend not to suffer from depression and other psychological disorders” (Fraley, Brennan, and Waller, 2000).

The results of learning about attachment theory and in taking the quiz align with beliefs that I had previously held about myself. The first people I felt attached to were my parents. My relationship with both parents were characterized by a “safe haven” and “secure base” which allowed me to “construct an explanatory narrative that defines [my] experience and forms [my] sense of identity…impacts [my] ability to cope with present and future stressors” (Craig, 2016, p. 28) which are all skills that have carried on into my adult life.

As an adult, I would consider myself to have a number of positive relationships or secure attachments. I view myself as being worthy of these relationships and find that for the most part, these relationships are mutually serving. I have secure relationships with my family, my partner and my friends, all of which serve different purposes for my secure base/safe haven as an adult. As my parents served as the regulating adults in my life, I would say that I have a better than average understanding of conflict resolution skills when my personal and professional relationships meet a crossroad. Additionally, sensory issues do not inhibit my relationships.

Daily PAN

References

Carrington, J. (2019). Kids these days: A game plan for (re)connecting with those we teach, lead, & love. Victoria, BC: FriesenPress.

Fraley, R. C., Waller, N. G., & Brennan, K. G. (2000). An item response theory analysis of self-report measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 350-365.

Wallace & Lewis (2020). Trauma Informed Teaching through Play Art Narrative (PAN). Koninklijke Brill NV.

Daily Blog / PAN – June 14th, 2020

Blog Prompt: In your life, try to remember the first time you felt safe. Is there a person, place or thing that helps you feel safe now, in the world? Using your five senses describe it. Where do you feel it in your body? What are your emotions? Where in your body can you anchor this resource? What is your trauma response: fight, flight or freeze?

More so than specific times, people and places stand out as being safe both as a child and throughout my adult life. For me, these safe people include my parents and some extended family members, in particular, my grandma and my aunt. In my adult life, I would include my partner as a person who makes me feel safe.

In addition, there are a few specific places that I find calmness within, particularly in nature. But my safest space has always been my home. My current home which I share with my partner, daughter and two dogs. My childhood home shared with my parents and sister. And my grandparent’s home.

To describe the feelings of safety being at home using my five senses, I arrive at the following responses:

  • Smell – aromas of good food being prepared, scented candles, the smell of old books and of fresh new books
  • Sound – sometimes laughter and conversation, sometimes calm and quiet, guitar music
  • Sight – photographs, people gathered, pets, sunshine
  • Taste – delicious meals
  • Touch – family and pets close by, camera close by to capture and preserve precious memories with one click!

This exercise in positive neuroception is felt initially in my shoulders and chest. As I become self-aware of my body beginning to relax into a safe and comfortable state, I am reminded to engage in a complete body scan. The feeling of safety is felt somatically as it extends in a flowing manner throughout the rest of my body, bringing peace and comfort.

The opposite becomes true when I am experiencing negative neuroception due to the presence of stressors. In these instances, my body initially feels tension in my chest and shoulders which is a primary indication of my level of discomfort with a person or situation. My trauma response is typically flight.

Daily PAN

Daily PAN / Blog – June 13th, 2020

Blog Prompt: In your life, how aware are you of your own trauma reactions and responses? Have you worked on your trauma issues? Are you aware of when you are activated and when you are stressed? What self-care do you do?

I arrive at this blog post with a significant amount of privilege due to my socialization as a white person. While I have experienced challenging times, I am aware that I have been afforded a limited number of what I would consider incidence of trauma over the course of my life and even in these incidence of trauma, I recognize that white privilege has served me in having a less traumatic experience than people of colour experience under similar circumstances. My stating these facts is for the purpose of recognizing the lens through which I am writing this response.

It is only within the last four years that I have been more aware of my trauma reactions and responses. Not because I have experienced significant trauma in this time frame but rather that in the past four years, I have become much more self-aware and have created personal goals for my self regarding self care and mental health. I am now quick to recognize when I am activated due to increased self awareness of physical responses. My body presents the initial signs when I feel myself shifting away from a self-regulated, ventral vagal state towards the sympathetic. With this increased self-awareness, I have worked towards self-care that decreases that frequency and severity of my response to stress.

My self care is primarily focused on being more calm and peaceful, allowing my mind to settle and avoiding ruminating about issues that cause anxious feelings. While I have always considered myself to be calm and peaceful in the classroom — many colleagues have commented on the calm environment present in my classroom — and through supportive interactions with close family or friends, I have not given myself the same type of care and compassion until more recently.

My physical self care is focused on proper nutrition, drinking adequate water throughout the day and taking time to move my body on days when this is possible. Self care for my mental and emotional self has occurred in the form of meditation, positive affirmations, and educating myself about setting boundaries, and working towards being simultaneously vulnerable and courageous in challenging situations (thanks Brené Brown!) both professionally and personally. This final point is particularly challenging for me as an introvert as I lean towards being quite private and non-confrontational. I recognize that my lack of confidence in being vulnerable and avoiding confrontation are skills that require development as these are two coping strategies I use to avoid being uncomfortable, hurt or from fear of having my boundaries crossed. Further, my practice of self care is focused towards spending my most precious gift, my time, with people I love and feel safe with and doing activities that I love such as reading, being in nature, exploring new places, photography and a new found passion for playing the guitar!

In the past year, I have experienced what I would consider a traumatic event and therefore have spent some time working on the issues related to this trauma. In fact, a number of the emotional and cognitive effects of trauma (Wallace & Lewis, 2020, p. 78) stood out for me as responses that I have experienced. Some of these responses I had previously recognized in myself and others of hadn’t initially occurred to me but now make sense as a response to the trauma I experienced. My primarily outlet for working on my trauma issues has been to lean into the trauma via education. I have immersed myself in understanding the event from multiple perspectives, sought out evidence-based information and narratives of people who have experienced similar situations as well as worked to gain a better understanding of increased personal agency should I experience a similar situation in the future. As Elder Joseph spoke on in class today, I am working to heal using empathy, kindness, respect, and love towards myself and opening myself up to other possibilities of healing processes.

Daily PAN: Hand Art Process Response

References

Wallace & Lewis (2020). Trauma Informed Teaching through Play Art Narrative (PAN). Koninklijke Brill NV.

Hello and Hooray!

Hello! Welcome back to my blog for another semester of learning! I am pleased to introduce myself in the short video below. I have already been enjoying watching the intro videos of my classmates.

Finally, hooray! I am so excited to be nearly complete my M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction. This is my final class and the culmination of many years of study at the U of R. I am looking forward to a great session to wrap up my program.

Cheers!

 

 

EC&I 831 Summary of Learning

Summary of Learning for EC&I 831:

About this Course:

Overall, this course provided real examples of the topics we were learning about:

  • My professor demonstrated effective use of social media in a professional setting. 
  • The course offered a networked, participatory environment in which students encouraged one another and shared resources in a variety of online platforms. 
  • Our learning project, a “a passion-project”, allowed us to focus on the process of learning rather than simply what we were learning. 
  • The interconnected nature of the course encouraged creativity and critical thinking, and pushed students to move from knowledgable to knowledge-able as each we had to find, analyze, criticize and create new information to inform our posts
  • Our learning project and class assignments encouraged the use of OER and the Creative Commons which led us to be more inclined to share our work with others. 
  • And as nebulous as OE and connectivist practices can be, much of what we learned about this practice can be found in the way this course was taught (participatory tech, contextually-based, formal/informal learning, co-designing learning, collaboration, sharing, reflection). 
  • My professor demonstrated ways in which he participates in social justice actions using social media mainly using Twitter as a means to approach controversial topics. 
  • Our assessment asked us to reflect on our learning, connecting and collaborating in true OEP fashion. 
  • Finally, my opinion about face-to-face learning has changed a lot. Nearly all of the benefits of face-to-face learning can be achieved in the online learning space of #eci831. This is something I didn’t previously believe to be true. 

The Making Of My Summary of Learning

  • I learned some new tricks such as how to add multiple picture-in-picture frames to iMovie and how to move titles around in iMovie.
  • At first I attempted to make my Summary of Learning using WeVideo and this project exposed the limitations of both WeVideo and iMovie. Ultimately, I decided to go with iMovie because it allowed me to customize the speed of my video which was important for this particular project.
  • Here is my in-home set up for filming the video. I later added precautionary pillows on and around the table in case my precariously perched iPad took a tumble. Thankfully, it didn’t!
  • Of all of the Summary of Learning’s (ECI830, ECI832, ECI833) I have completed, this one took the most planning, preparation, execution time and editing time.

Course-Related Blog Posts

*These posts can also be accessed using the EC&I 831 category.

Thank you to Dr. Couros and my amazing classmates for another great semester! One more class to go to complete my M.Ed.

The Guitar Project – A Summary

It feels a bit odd to title this post “a summary” of my guitar project because it is only a summary of what I have accomplished so far. This learning project has been an on-going process and one I intend to carry on with after this course. In the third week of my project, I began exploring the YouTube channel of Marty Music. In my post that week, I commented on some thoughts that stood out for me after watching his first beginner video:

He says that it is important not to give up until you get over the first hump of guitar playing which he quantifies as the first two months. In those first two months, he recommends giving yourself 5 minutes a day and not deciding that it’s too hard. He proposes that your 5 minutes of practice can often become 20 minutes or an hour if you have a breakthrough in your skills.

  • Week 3 of The Guitar Project

I am now at that two month mark. Marty was right. The first two months are tricky. There is a steep learning curve but practicing each day is important. On days I was really busy, I got in a 15-20 minute practice session but most days would start out with a plan for practice for about 30 minutes and often this 30 minutes turned into an hour and on several occasions, even longer.

Success
Source

I often keep in mind what my classmate Matteo said in one of his comments on a previous blog post. He said that guitar is easy to learn but difficult to become good at, difficult to perfect.

Luckily, I had several great resources to help me along the way. For my learning project, I used:

What Success REALLY Looks Like
Source

With these resources, I have only explored the tip of the iceberg. I have worked through a lot of the beginner work and continue to classify myself as a beginner. There are several levels in all of these resources that I won’t make it to for many months. I still have a lot to learn which is a great feeling!

For this reason, I don’t have a final product to present, but rather this post and my final vlog are a continuation of the next steps in my journey.

Thanks for following along with my learning “passion” project this semester!

A Collection of Artifacts Related to my Learning Project:

*Note: Blog post links contain text updates and a weekly vlog. I have embedded the weekly vlogs here for ease of access. Some of the posts are text only.

Learning Project Musings

Crunch Time – Making a Decision about my Learning Project

Week 1 – Learning Project

Week 2 – Learning Project – Yousician Seems Yousful for Beginners

Week 2 – Learning Project

Week 3 (Part 1) – Learning Project

Week 3 (Part 2) – Learning Project

Week 4 – Learning Project

Week 5 – Learning Project

Week 6 – Learning Project

Week 7 – Learning Project

Cheers!