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Community Wellbeing Project 2016 – Impact Report



To read the full report from the Community Wellbeing Project click here

Texas schools try to get a grip on discipline problems using social-emotional lessons

Adapted from the article, Texas schools try to get a grip on discipline problems with social-emotional lessons.

More and more schools throughout the United States and Texas in particular are introducing Social and Emotional Learning into their lesson plans. These classes essentially centre on how to manage emotions and develop skills; including empathy, responsibility and problem solving. An assistant principal at one of the key elementary schools used to be one of those teachers who had little or no time for kids squirming in their chairs and ‘other annoyances’. She thought that surely by fourth grade, her students would know how to raise their hand, sit quietly and walk in a straight line down the hallways. “But they don’t”, she said.

She realised that students needed to be taught appropriate behaviours and that it was her job to teach those behaviours as many times as it took students to grasp. “We don’t have the expectation that kids know all their math by fourth grade, so why do we have the expectation that they always know to behave? This is something that we have to continually teach.”

Authentic Compliments

One teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School, Amanda Self, has a goal to build empathy within her classroom. Instead of just imparting empty self-esteem talk or praising poor grades for students who remain upbeat, Self’s approach focuses on teaching students to give each other “authentic compliments”. An authentic compliment could be something like, “I liked the way you helped me solve a math problem” or “I appreciated the way you were a good friend and let Suzy come and play with us”. Whereas an authentic compliment is NOT, “I like your shoes and the way your wear your hair”.

Self asks the students to sit in a circle and each student takes a turn to either give praise or ask for it. On these days, more than half of her students in the class gush with admiration for their classmates.

“It builds relationships within the classroom so that when problems arise, the teacher can deal with it a lot easier when she has established a culture and climate of kindness. Problem-solving comes a lot easier.”

This has been particularly effective among vulnerable students who often enter school lacking in academic readiness and in social skills. In many cases those students are experiencing a number of social obstacles that hamper their learning. “They have so many things on their plate that until we can help them deal with this socially, they’re going to continue acting out and that’s often why the academics are low.”

Focus on Continual Learning

The principal at Caprock Elementary school was not faced with a frightening campus culture or violent students but needed to “get a handle on behaviours that were taking away from teaching and learning”. This included clowning around in class, excessive talking and rudeness.

The social and emotional lessons were implemented campus wide, with lots of discussion among staff. Together, the staff selected two virtues to reinforce with students day-in and day-out, these were respect and responsibility. Consequently, Caprock’s hallways, bathrooms, cafeteria and playground are lined with posters that remind students to show respect, as this can be shown slightly differently through different settings.

In addition, the teachers have used individual approaches for managing difficult behaviours in their classroom. For example in a grade four classroom, one child had ‘ants in her pants’. She couldn’t sit still for long at all, so each time the child would put her bottom on a chair, the teacher was there with a “Gator buck”, which the child could use to purchase a gift from the treasure box at school. This helped to reinforce ‘good behaviours’ in the classroom and create lasting changes.

Moreover, another student would erupt in loud laughter in class as well as get up and dance or tell jokes. The boy stopped this behaviour when his teacher agreed to allow him to be a comedian in front of the class for 10 minutes, twice a week. Ultimately, this 10 minutes was less time than the amount of time the teacher spent trying to correct him and getting the rest of the class back on track.

Our philosophy is that if we can focus more on the positive, we can decrease the negative and we’re seeing that happen. We’re seeing kids really want to work for that positive behaviour.

(For the full article, follow this link )

Guided Imagery – The magic shell meditation

As we know, meditation techniques are useful for relieving stress and anxiety or simply remaining calm during daily life. Guided imagery can be a powerful tool to use with young children as it places them in a calm state of mind and can provide mental tools for tackling their troubles throughout the day. The following guided meditation script provides the image of a magic shell which acts as the tool, where children can place all of their ‘yucky feelings’ and worries into.

The power of this lies in the fact that the shell is in their imagination, therefore they can manage their feelings at any time. However you can also suggest finding a real shell at the beach or in the garden which the child can carry with them. If the child struggles with bad dreams, you can place the shell underneath their pillow in order to help promote restful sleep.


This script is for younger children and can help with worry and anxiety. (From Meditations for Mini’s by Debbie Wildi)

Place yourself in a comfy, cozy position. Close your eyes and take a long slow deep breath. As you breathe out relax your body.

Imagine that you are standing on a beach. See the beach in your mind. Think about a beach that you may have visited, or you could use an imaginary beach if you like.

You can feel the sand beneath your toes and the sun is warm on your face. Look around you. In front of you is a huge ocean. It looks a silvery-blue colour and the sunlight sparkles like tiny stars dancing on the surface.

You look at the ground and in front of you in the sand is the most glorious shell you have ever seen. You pick it up. It feels warm. Notice how smooth the shell is. Feel it with your fingers. This is your magic shell. You can tell it your secrets and it will keep them. You can also tell your shell any worries that you may have. Tell it about any problems that may be troubling you at the moment. No matter how big or how small they are. The shell wants to hear them.

Whenever you have worried feelings you can tell your shell about them and it will magically take those horrid feelings and turn them into good ones.

Now see yourself holding the shell close to your mouth. In your mind silently tell it whatever you wish. No one else will know what you say. Only you and your shell! As you say your words they go right into the middle of the shell so that it can take them away for you. Tell your shell your worries right now….

Now you do not have to feel yucky feelings anymore. The shell has made them disappear. Just like magic!

They are gone!

As you hold your shell close all you feel is calm and happiness. You feel peaceful all the way from the tips of your toes, to the tip of your nose. Feel it right now. Notice how it feels.

It is important for you to know that you can imagine your shell whenever you wish to make yucky thoughts and feelings disappear, whenever you wish to feel calm. Your shell will always be there waiting in your imagination.

Guiding your child through their reaction to the Paris attacks

Based on an article published by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, written by Bonnie Brown, Robin Stern and Dawn DeCosta.

Not quite one week ago, a series of terrorist attacks rocked the city of Paris.

An act of terrorism makes us fear for both our own safety and the safety of those we love and care about. It can cause us to feel vulnerable. It can create an intense and overwhelming emotional response and you may not understand how to cope with these feelings. These same reactions are often true for children. Through this article I will suggest some ways to communicate with your children about the tragedy of the terror attacks in order to help them cope with and navigate their emotional reactions.

Terrorist attacks can be difficult to understand for a number of reasons. First and most fundamentally, people want to know why this happened. It is difficult to comprehend how a group of people can decide to create such devastation on a city of innocent people. In addition, these attacks naturally cause us to question our own safety and whether the same thing could happen in the city where you live. This can especially impact children if they do not understand that these attacks are relatively uncommon, one-off events. Therefore it is important to emphasise that these types of attacks are uncommon and that they are still safe.

pray for paris

Parents and educators alike are all thinking about the best way to approach the subject of the Paris tragedy. There may be an initial urge to avoid the subject and shield the child from the news. Moreover, it can be difficult to attempt to allay their anxiety when we feel the same and to answer questions that we do not yet understand. However, Social and emotional researchers at Yale proposed that the best approach is to be upfront and straightforward.

These researchers suggested that that you must first check-in with your own understanding and feelings toward this tragedy. If you can’t come to terms with your own reactions, how can you expect your child to deal with theirs? Therefore, identify strategies that you use to regulate your ‘RED’ emotion; you may wish to explain how you felt yourself shifting between emotions and how to were able to move from ‘RED’ to ‘GREEN’ emotions as you became calmer over time. This will help to prepare you to help your child as well as create examples for how they may overcome their own ‘RED’ emotions. Just remember, it is important to be authentic and clear about your own feelings and experiences.

Here are a number of suggestions for how to best help your child or student cope with this crisis:

  • Help the child to understand that the emotions they are feeling are normal, whether it be sadness, anger, fear, confusion, even numbness. These feelings are all normal reactions to tragic events. It is best for the child to voice their emotions and accept that it is ok and they should not feel pressure to move towards ‘GREEN’ emotional states.
  • Clearly identify social support as a regulation strategy that we can all use in school, at home and in the community when we want to reduce or prevent uncomfortable feelings.
  • People often find comfort in spending time with the ones they love and by supporting each other. You could suggest to the child that it could be nice to hold a friend’s hand or give someone they love a hug.
  • Although it’s natural to want to know what is happening, don’t spend hours glued to the television set. Taking a break from watching what’s going on in the world is OK. Read, play board games, or go outside.
  • Finally, highlight as many of the following points as you can: that events such as the Paris attacks are very rare and unlikely to occur, the child is loved and cherished by those around them, that there are many more good people in the world than bad and those people are working to make sure that events such as this do not happen again.

These events are difficult for children to understand, however don’t forget about your own psychological and emotional wellbeing. If you are finding it difficult to cope, remember to take care of yourself by talking to a friend or loved one, getting regular sleep and exercise and continuing to take part in activities that you enjoy. While the entire world mourns for those devastated by the attacks on Paris, remember that you do not need to take all of these issues on board, continue to enjoy your precious, wonderful life.




Book Review: How to Deliver a TED Talk – Jeremey Donovan

How to Deliver a TED Talk: Secrets of the World’s most inspiring presentations.

By Jeremey Donovan

How to Deliver a TED Talk

For those who love learning but haven’t discovered yet, you are set to enter a wonderful slice of paradise – go to and have your mind expanded over and over again. For those who love and also present or educate, this medium size book is a wonderful exploration into the structure and underlying formula of educator-learner engagement.

Jeremey Donovan is a self-confessed ‘public speaking super-nerd.’ This engaging read is a how-to guide for delivering an inspiring speech based on his intensive study of the popular TED talks. Jeremey covers all the regulars of giving a great talk: organising your talk, opening your talk, crafting your catchphrase, transitioning between parts of your talk, projecting emotion, adding humour, mastering your non-verbal delivery, creating inspiring slides, and using props and video effectively.

Going beyond the well-known basics Jeremey identifies less-known basics of great presentations that engage the mind of the listeners. These are clearly identified and articulated under tips such as:

  • Bring your audience through the broadest possible emotional range.
  • Encapsulate your idea worth spreading in a viral catchphrase.
  • Develop your story using the hero’s journey three-act structure.
  • Touch your audiences’ hearts and minds with premise and proof.
  • Remember that you speak in service of your audience.
  • Sow a single seed of inspiration.

Aside from being well-written and entertaining, the value in this book for myself, and I imagine most educators, is gaining those subtle presentation skills that enable us to completely grab the mind of those we work with in order to benefit them – whatever that might look like.

Review by James Ryan

TRUST: The ‘Glue’ of Human Relationships

With it kids flourish. Without it kids flounder.

“Trust is the hidden variable that makes everything else work,” says Lonnie Moore author of the High-Trust Classroom.  Lonnie paints the picture that trust is the glue of all positive human relations. This ‘trust glue’ keeps humans bonded – without trust as the bonding agent relationships weaken and fall apart.

“Relationship is the platform on which all social and emotional skills are built,” our Education Manager Deb says in her training. Without trust there is no relationship to speak of. Students need to get the sense that this teacher genuinely cares about their academic and emotional growth.

“When kids believe their teachers truly care about them as individuals, they will cooperate in class and work so much more diligently to be the best students they know how to be.”

James Comer


In his book on trust in the business world, Stephen R. Covey introduces the formula:

In a High Trust Culture: the Speed of Business goes up and the Costs of Business go down.

In a Low Trust Culture: the Speed of Business goes down and the Costs of Business go up.

He goes on to say, “Impact of trust always plays on two key outcomes – speed and cost – and how low or high trust either extracts a tax or produces a dividend on every activity and dimension within a relationship, team or organisation.”

One of the key examples is a low-trust business merger where both businesses try to get the best deal and have to hire (very) expensive lawyers to write detailed and complex agreements to protect their own interests. Covey compares this to Warren Buffet who, on a handshake and no lawyers present, agreed to a merger worth hundreds of millions – no months of negotiation and minimal legal fees.

In the educational world, instead of speed and cost, we could use ideas such as engagement, attendance, openness, speed of learning, passion for learning. Let’s keep it basic, but play with the ideas as you see fit.

For the classroom we could translate this to:

In a High Trust Culture: the Speed of Learning goes up and Disruptive Behaviours go down.

In a Low Trust Culture: the Speed of Learning goes down and Disruptive Behaviours go up.

When you look at trust carefully you will find that in any low trust environment, people become suspicious of each other – they question intents and motivations, guarded or sarcastic communication becomes the norm, shutting down and building walls become common place and disengagement drives up frustration on both sides.


A Helpful Mental Model

The Relationship Bank Account model is simple to understand and useful to apply. The ‘currency’ of any relationship is Trust. When an action that builds trust between people occurs a ‘deposit’ is made in their personal Relationship Bank Account. A withdrawal is made when an interaction occurs that reduces trust. Even seeing a teacher treat someone else with disrespect may cause a withdrawal in a student’s Relationship Bank Account. As long as regular deposits are being made it isn’t too harmful to have occasional withdrawals. But, it we don’t make deposits or make rather large withdrawals, this is when relationships get into trouble.

For instance, if I tell my kids I’m taking them out for gelati but later change my mind – this is a clearly a withdrawal. If I promise them week after week and every time I change my mind, they will stop believing my promises. Big problem. With a bank account in negative whatever I say, do, suggest will be met with, at best, suspicion. Is this a situation likely to lead to effective learning? This is called paying a Low-trust Tax.

“A relationship without trust is like having a phone with no service. And what do you do with a phone with no service?

You play games”


With regular deposits such as keeping my word, listening carefully, really getting to know my students, my bank balance steadily grows. Even with an occasional withdrawal the students will still believe that I care for them and have their best interests at heart. Great opportunity. Is this a situation more likely to lead to effective learning? This is called receiving a High-trust Dividend.

“Perhaps a more important question than ‘who do you trust?’ is the far more personal question of ‘who trusts you?’”

Lonnie Moore


Laredo Ratio

Try to make five deposits for every withdrawal. This is a psychological balance point. Go under this ratio and the bank account is heading quickly down. Connect before you Correct.

Track Record

Make commitments you will definitely keep. Communicate that this is what you hope will occur however other factors can intervene. This keeps expectations and emotions more balanced.

Extend Trust

Assign students special duties and trust them to do it. Make sure they have the basic skills to be competent in the given duties.

Know Them

Deliberately take the time to get to know your students. Build it in to your weekly and daily schedule.

Keep Getting Better

Keep learning how to be a better educator. Students will sense this and even see you get better as the year, or years, go on. And they will respect you for it.

Explain Trust

Talk about what trust is. How we can both trust others and be trustworthy. Tell them how they can earn your trust and ask them how you can earn theirs.

Avoid Punishment

Find better ways to help kids make better choices and become more responsible. In many kids, punishment activates oppositional attitudes and habits.

Meaningful Learning

Show kids respect in the form of meaningful, challenging and rewarding learning activities that are truly worthy of their time and best efforts.

Listen Carefully

Remember, ‘You can listen someone into existence.’

Don’t Take It Personally

Don’t personalise the words and behaviours of your students. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Look deeply, past the behaviour, and see what it is about for them.

Be Fair

Fair means all students get the same rules, and exceptions to those rules. Unfair teachers will have serious trust issues.

Be Humble

Laugh at your mistakes. Don’t defend them. Apologise when you get it wrong. Trust isn’t built from always being right.

So take the time to reflect on the trust level you have with the kids you work with. Get curious about where you are paying Low-Trust Taxes and look for opportunities to build trust and eventually you will be reaping High-Trust Dividends.

Tip: Integrate Mindfulness – Choose one trust building idea for a week and bring it to mind every time your mindfulness bell brings you back to the present moment.

“You may not be able to control everything, but you can influence certain things. Trust starts with you.”

Stephen Covey

Further Reading

The High Trust Classroom:   Lonnie Moore

The Speed of Trust:   Stephen Covey

Discipline with Dignity: Curwin and Mendler

Article by James Ryan – Training Manager

New Year, New Start and Making a Difference

ImageNew Year, New Start and Make a Difference

Every year without fail many people decide to make new years’ resolutions.  The type of resolutions vary greatly; often they are about losing weight, getting more exercise, giving something up or making some kind of change.   Often these resolutions are broken even before the year has begun. 

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. This begs the question, why?  I for one have never been overly successful at keeping new years’ resolutions, but I have had some success setting goals and working to achieve them, particularly when they are shared with others and articulated clearly to friends, family and colleagues.

In his new year’s resolution book “A course in happiness” author Frank Ra says : “Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in success rate with new year’s resolutions”.  I would like to suggest this is the case with any resolution or goal we set for ourselves.

I think the best thing about any change be it a new year, a new job, a new school is that we have an opportunity to reflect on the past and consider what we want our future to be. I remember some years back I left a job I had held for a very long time, it was a job I loved, I had had many successes, learnt from the odd failure, grown enormously in skill and ability and respected those I worked with without question.  Leaving was a huge change and a challenge, I had to redefine myself, who I was, what I wanted out of life and above all else what was the next thing I wanted to do.  Needless to say this involved some period of contemplation, reflection and a resolve to start the next chapter in my life’s journey.

After taking a period of downtime I realised that the thing that I wanted to do most was to take all the skills I had learnt, all the abilities I had gained to date and to apply them to making a difference in the lives of others.  In deciding to choose this path and telling others this is what I wanted to do new doors opened that led me to where I am today, leading this wonderful organisation whose work effects the life of others on a daily basis.

The team here at Pathways to Resilience Trust is completely committed to our work and to making a difference to others.  When we all started working together a few years ago we came upon the starfish story and it resonated with all of us and very much became part of who we wanted to be as a team.  I thought I would share the story with you.

 The Starfish StoryImage

adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley
1907 – 1977

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference to that one!”

It is a wonderful story and one that we have referred to time and time again over the last few years….it is definitely important to us to know we made a difference.