Make yourself at home 

mitch“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”- Matsuo Basho

It is important to feel at home in your world.  Wherever you work, shop, or visit, it is possible to bring your joy with you.  The best part about feeling at home is that it is something you can create in your experience, regardless of where you find yourself. All it takes is a shift in your perspective.

The key to feeling at home is carrying a sense of familiarity and warmth into every environment.  Many of us have been lead to believe that we are victims of circumstance.  We often think that life is a series of reactions, based on how the world around us is acting toward us.  This line of thinking leaves out the fact that we get to choose how we respond to life.  This choice is more valuable than we often realize.

We all know people who light up every room they enter.  It is important to honor these people for the gifts they share.  It is also wise to see them as examples, rather than exceptions, of what life can be like.  These examples of kindness have the effect they do because of the choices they make, not some magic that only they possess.  We all have the magic of joy within us.  We just need to trust it enough to share it.

One of the most important roles a teacher can have is to make students feel welcome.  This takes a willingness to let go of the past and consistently look toward the future, and what is possible for our students.   By shining a light on the best in these young people, it is easier for them to see and believe that they are capable of great things.  The option to choose to love unconditionally can have transformative effects on people.

I recently witnessed the positive effects of bringing a welcoming attitude to one of my lunch groups.  For a couple of weeks the group had been getting more contentious with one another.  During that time I had given them a lecture on bullying, as well as used humor to shine light on the situation.  Last week, however, I was tired and was not looking forward to seeing this particular group of rambunctious fifth graders.

Rather than run and hide, or take my frustration out on the students, I decided to sit quietly for a few moments before they arrived.  I calmed myself down and reminded myself that I would be done with the group in 35 minutes.  I sent silent blessings of appreciation to each of the students, and then sat for three minutes in silence.

When the three minutes were up, the door flew open.  In walked four of the nine students.  One them immediately told me that he was going the be the nicest he had ever been.  Another suggested that we come up with rules for the group and write them on the board.  It was amazing to see these young people coming up with their own solutions to the conflicts that had been arising in the group.

I sprung to life, feeling the enthusiasm and care that these boys were demonstrating.  When the others arrived we came up with three rules together.  Anyone who violated the rules three times would return to the cafeteria for the day.  They would be allowed to return the next week, no questions asked.  We then commenced with a game of hangman.  Remarkably, no one had to go to the cafeteria.  After one student received two strikes, he made a sincere effort not to get booted.  The group had come together as a family, in a whole new way.

During the holiday season, and any time of year, it is worth making yourself at home in your world.  Bring your joy and share your gifts.  Treat every stop on your journey as a holiday party, an opportunity to wish everyone well, and appreciate the gifts they bring.  Treating the world like your home turns strangers into family, and opens you up to opportunities to enjoy life to the fullest.  Remember, bringing the warmth of home to the outside world is always a choice that you get to make.

Photo (Top):  Extend kindness to everyone you meet.  You will turn strangers into friends, and create your own success in the process.  Behavior Interventionist, Mitch Casto, encourages our students to feel at home and share their best with everyone in the community.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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Tell a story that feels good

Justice“Every story I create, creates me.  I write to create myself.” – Octavia E. Butler

Everyone is living their own story.  No matter who you are, you have ups and downs.  You have struggled at times, and you have cruised through life.  It does not matter how big or how small you believe yourself to be, you have a story to tell.

The most important story is the one that you tell yourself.  Regardless of what is going on around you, you get to interpret it any way you choose.  You have, within yourself, the capacity to interpret the world through a lens of empowerment or one of disempowerment.  Whether you realize it or not, you have the final say in the way you tell your own story.

One thing that can get in the way of telling an empowering story is the narrators that we have constantly chattering in our heads.  These voices are often unconscious beliefs.  They run below the surface, telling us things that either propel us forward or hold us back.  Regardless of what these voices of the past may tell us, we have the ability to make a new choice in the present.

I have been working with a wonderful young man named Justice.  He recently had a bone marrow transplant and has been living in a single room at the hospital for close to two months.  Thankfully, he will be returning home soon.  Through the entire experience he has had to make choices as to how he was going to look at his experience.

What I have witnessed has been inspiring.  With the support of a dedicated staff of doctors, nurses, friends, and a family committed to maintaining a vision of health and wellness, Justice has moved through his experience with a positive outlook and an award winning smile.   My time with Justice has been yet another reminder that we all have the choice as to how we respond to the circumstances that life dishes out.

We have to tell a good story if we want to get the best results.  A wonderful story is one full of appreciation.  As the great doctor, Viktor Frankl, proved, we all have a choice as to how we respond to our circumstances.  Frankl survived life in a concentration camp.  He noted that it was his ability to find the smallest things to appreciate that kept his spirit alive in a situation which understandably destroyed the morale of so many of the people around him.  Frankl’s story is a testament to our ability to determine our future by the story we choose to tell.

It does not matter if you were born with everything, or next to nothing.  You have a story to tell.  Your story is important to who you are and greatly effects how you show up in the world.  When you tell an empowering story, your personal energy rises, and your vision expands.  When others see you in this state, they too are inspired.  There is a ripple effect created by one person who dares to tell an empowering story.

If you have lost some of your fire, it is time to tell a new story.  Write your story down.  Reinterpret life through the lens of appreciation for all that you are, all that you have, and all that you have done.  Include appreciation for what others have done for you.  Find the smallest things to be grateful for and they will lead to the bigger things.  Life is a blessing.  It is up to us to polish that blessing into a thing of beauty that shines for all the world to see.

Photo (Top):  You get to tell the story of your life, so make it a blockbuster.  Justice Griffith, a sixth grade student at Culver City Middle School, is a shining of example of someone who chooses to see the best, and be the best, that life has to offer.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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You can always change the story you are telling

Lorena“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” - Philip Pullman

We all have experiences that challenge us in some way.  Whether we feel scared, embarrassed, or angry, we go through situations that evoke uncomfortable feelings.  It is easy to feel victimized by these experiences and come away feeling violated in some way.   When we find ourselves struggling to get our bearings after a difficult encounter, it is important to pay attention to the story we are telling ourselves about what has happened.

The story we tell about life determines the way we feel.  This was perfectly illustrated at a party in Topanga Canyon.  The party was moving along joyfully when a 6-foot long snake appeared on the pool deck.  A majority of the party attendees were not familiar with snakes, and were terrified at the sight of the slithering fellow.   Most of them jumped on chairs, or tried to get as far away as possible.

One man in attendance had a completely different response.  His eyes lit up when he saw the snake.  He had grown up with snakes as pets, and had studied the different varieties of snakes.  He actually enjoyed being around snakes.  It helped that he recognized the type of snake and knew that is was not a threat to him, or anyone else.

This man was so intrigued by the cold-blooded party crasher that he picked it up and had it slung across his shoulders in no time.  He proceeded to introduce the snake to other party attendees.  He was able to demonstrate a new way of looking at something that had, at first glance, appeared to be a major threat.

Like the man at the party, and the guests who lined up to pet the snake, we can learn new ways of looking at situations that once evoked fear in our hearts.  In fact, parents and teachers do this for children, and adults, all-day, everyday.  Most importantly, we can act as a guide for our own minds when we are feeling scared, angry, or embarrassed by difficult situations.

When we tell a new story, we begin to have new experiences.  For example, I had a difficult lunch group last week.  Immediately after the group, I questioned my abilities as a teacher.  I was tempted to hand in my badge and seek a new profession.  Then I took a moment to remind myself that my job is not always easy, and that the best teachers have difficult days.  I thought about all of the groups that have gone well, and all of the wonderful young people that I had gotten to know over the years.  This refreshed my mind and allowed me to return to work without any lingering doubts about my worth.

To further illustrate, I know a kindergarten student who was once convinced that he had no friends.  It seemed strange to me because whenever I would go to the cafeteria to pick him up, he was surrounded by other little boys.  They were always laughing together; the other smiling faces calling him by name.  The problem was that, regardless of what the other children did, he believed he had no friends.

Due to his age, this was an easy fix.  I simply pointed out how silly his story was. When I went to get him, I encouraged him to notice all of the friends that surrounded him.   Six months later, and this student is no longer concerned with having friends.  When asked, he will joyfully list off the names of several of his buddies.

Remember, you have the ability to tell a new story about any troubling situation.  For many of us, who have been taught to look outside of ourselves for answers, this exercise may seem futile.  It will not take long, however, for the relief to kick in.  You will naturally increase the value that you place on your own story, when you realize that the way you feel is directly tied to the things you believe about yourself and the world around you.  When you change your story, a new freedom will open up.  You will discover that the possibilities for you are limitless.

Photo (Top):  Tell yourself a new story.  Believe that you have the best to offer, because it is true.  Lorena Lopez, Noon Duty Supervisor at La Ballona Elementary School, encourages all of our students to believe in themselves.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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Sit back and enjoy the ride

Yasaman“Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Franklin P. Jones

Sometimes you have to let go of your worries and all of your stories about what is happening in your life.  Take some time to settle into your chair and look around.  Notice how life is moving about in all directions.  Somehow, life continues in spite of our concerns.

This simple practice is the foundation of meditation, and a wonderful way to reset during a busy day.  It is a great relief to recognize that we are not responsible for making life move forward.  In many ways, we are passengers on a vehicle that keeps rolling along.

When we take the time to slow down and enjoy the ride, we gain access to more choices about the direction that we are headed.  Once we get our bearings, we are in a better place to decide what to do next. If we feel stressed because it seems that we are headed in the wrong direction, then it is wise to relax and assess the situation from an elevated perspective.

In education, we call this being a lifelong learner.  It is the willingness to admit that we do not know everything, nor are we expected to.  Being a lifelong learner means asking for directions when we need to, and exploring new places and ideas when they present themselves.  This keeps our minds young and flexible, full of wonder and curiosity.

One of the keys to working with students in our district is to give them guidance that allows them to relax and trust that they are headed in the right direction.  Giving them a plan that they can buy into enables them to put down their guard and collaborate effectively with teachers and peers.  Then these young people will come away with an enriched experience and knowledge that they did not have before the journey.

I recently spoke with a parent who was concerned because his son had seen a decline in grades over the past several months.  The parent, and the boy’s teacher, were concerned that the young man was going to veer further in the wrong direction.  When I spoke to the boy, it was apparent that the worry of the adults was adding to his own worry.  As a result he was rebelling even more and accomplishing less.

As we worked together as a team, we were able to recognize that although there was some slight slippage in grades, there was really nothing to worry about.  We were able to support this young man in renewing his confidence in his teacher and in himself.  As everyone calmed down, the boy’s natural intelligence took over and he went back to achieving his typical excellence.

We are all like children on the inside.  When part of us believes that things are not going well, it is easy to panic and take action from that anxious place.  We are better off taking some time to calm that inner worry.  Some people refer to this as self-love; providing ourselves with the nurturing and encouragement we need to reconnect to our potential and enjoy the process of living.

If you are feeling out of sorts in an area of your life, the first step is to relax.  Assess what is really going on.  Are there any places inside that could benefit from a little self-love? What would need to happen in order for you to regain your hope and move forward confidently?  When you recognize what is required you will likely find that success is not nearly as far off as you suspected.  Your well-being is worth the effort, and the results will reflect that.

Photo (Top):  If you are feeling stressed, slow down.  Give yourself some love and enjoy the ride.  Yasaman Dianat, District Behavior Specialist for Culver City Unified School District, helps our students slow down and make the best choices for their success.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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Take a Break in the Action

IMG_6654“Don’t try too hard.  A positive, constructive, don’t care feeling is very valuable.” – Emmet Fox

There are times when no matter how hard we try, we feel powerless to change a situation.  In fact, the more we try to change something, the more tangled up we become.  It is at these times that it is important to take a break from our efforts, and let life work in our favor.

This past weekend I came down with a flu.  It hit me quickly and there was nothing I could do to feel better.  Having had a history, in my younger days, of frequent illness, I have developed a bag of tricks to treat all the symptoms and get myself feeling better quickly.  This time, however, none of it was working.

What did work was curling up in a ball on the sofa and going to sleep.  When I finally gave in to this rest period, I found myself grateful for the downtime.  I was able to get the sleep I had been missing, and think about all the experiences I have had over the past month.  This opportunity to digest what was going on in my life was invaluable, and the illness left just as quickly as it came.

We all have experiences that we think should be different.  We believe that if we could just change the situation, or the person involved, then we would be on top of the world.  Unfortunately, we do not have control over the people around us, or the conditions.  Our power actually lies in our ability to respond to life in a poised and confident manner.

One of the students who attends a lunch group that I facilitate was at odds with the rest of the group.  They openly expressed their dislike for him, and he wavered between wanting their approval and wanting to fight back, at least verbally, against them.  Unfortunately, every time he would lash out, it would only bring him more of what he did not want in the first place.

Many of us can relate to that feeling of desperately wanting others to like us.  In my case, I can recall many times when I attempted, unsuccessfully, to earn the approval of people in my life.  The challenge with these type of situations is to remember that the most important person to be in good with is myself.

By taking the time to nurture myself, and remind myself that all is well, I find that the rest of my life works itself out just fine.  From the outside, it is easy for me to see that the student that I mentioned does not need the approval of these children.  It is as if his desperate need to be liked by them is attracting him to the very people who will never approve of him.  I am quite sure that as he releases his desire to be approved of by the students that I mentioned, a new world of friendships will open up to him.

As I stated, the key is to develop a good relationship with yourself.  The ability to remind yourself that you are a valuable human being, and that you do not need to desperately strive for anything, is essential to living a free and successful life.  As you take the initiative to be your own cheerleader, new doors open up, and you will naturally rise to new levels of fulfillment.

Perhaps there is an area of your life that you have been desperately wanting to change.  The first step is to drop the desperation.  Take some time to remind yourself that you are an amazing person exactly as you are right now.  Remind yourself that life is full of unexpected good, and that your job is to open your mind to new possibilities.  You will be surprised by how fast things begin to change as you cooperate with life, instead of fighting for what you think you need.

Photo (Top):  If you are feeling stressed, take a break.  Remind yourself that you are worthy of the best in life.  Alina Parvez, a student at West LA College, volunteers her time to help our students shine.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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The Most Important Opinion is Your Own

IMG_6451“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

We all interact with countless people during the day.  Each one of them brings a unique perspective and way of being.  It is easy to get caught up in the energy of the people we encounter and momentarily lose track of who we are.  We can save ourselves time and energy by recognizing what is happening and doing something proactive to get things moving in a positive direction.

In the teaching world, this is not an uncommon experience.  If one of my students is having a challenging day, for example, I might inadvertently get pulled into a power struggle with them.  Although their attitude has nothing to do with me, and more to do with whatever happened before they saw me, they might not be conscious of that fact.  Some students arrive with a head, or heart, full of challenging experiences.  This can lead to coping behaviors, such as arguing, that might target me as the enemy.

In moments when we feel attacked, or betrayed, it is important to remember that although we cannot control outside circumstances, we can choose how we are going to respond to them.  This is an important tool if we are going to live a life that reflects who we are, and not a life that is based on reacting to what others are doing, saying, and thinking.

The truth is that we never really know what other people are thinking, why they are thinking that way, or what is going on in their lives outside of the present moment.  Remembering this, it becomes progressively easier to let go of judgment when others are acting in ways that we do not appreciate.  At those times, it is helpful to check in with ourselves.  We can ask ourselves what it is that we are really needing from the other person in that moment.

The reason why this question is so liberating, is that once we identify what we are seeking from someone else, we can start to provide it for ourselves.  If I am seeking approval, or appreciation from my students, for example, I typically find that I have not been approving of, or appreciating myself enough.  With practice we can learn to give ourselves the praise, and the respect, that we believe has to come from outside.

I recently had an experience in my lunch group that served as a great reminder.  A student was being verbally combative with me, and I was tempted to argue back.  I wondered how someone would dare talk to me that way, especially a student.  Then I realized that I had been thinking very poorly of myself earlier that day.  I had been judging my work as a teacher and my ability to facilitate the lunch groups as being inadequate.  It turned out that my student was being a perfect reflection of my own self-condemnation.

When I recognized what was going on, I felt instant relief.  I was no longer compelled to fight with the student.  In fact, I was able to ask the student if something was wrong in their own life.  After some resistance the student admitted that they too had not been feeling good about themselves.  After a few moments of talking together, all the combativeness was gone and we returned to our typically pleasant relationship.

The thing to remember is that we do not need the approval or attention of others to feel good about life.  In fact, the reverse is true.  We must get into a place of feeling good about ourselves and appreciating our lives, and then extend that appreciation and acceptance to the people and conditions that surround us.  When we do this, life becomes an exciting adventure, full of positive experiences.

If there is someone in your life who is pushing your buttons, take a pause.  Sit down and ask yourself what you believe you need to get from them in order to feel better.  When you are aware of what it is, reflect on ways that you can give that very thing to yourself.  Appreciate yourself more, approve of yourself more, and then see if you can extend that appreciation and acceptance to the very people that were getting under your skin in the first place.  The relief you will feel as you reclaim your power, and get back into the flow of life, is well worth the effort.

Photo (Top):  Your opinion matters.  Focus on the good in yourself and others and you will bring out the best in life.  Jonathan Mitchell, a seventh grader at Culver City Middle School, brings out the best in every situation with his smile and positive attitude.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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When All Else Fails, Be Yourself

Aidan“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

During the holidays, it is especially easy to get caught up in the lists of things that we must do.  Sometimes, in the midst of all the action, we forget who we are.  Considering the wide range of emotions that can come up at this time of year, it is important that we take care of ourselves.  We must take time to do the things that we normally do to support our own well-being.  If we are willing to take a few steps toward caring for our own needs, we will add even more good to the people and places we visit.

One of the first steps in getting back into a good feeling place is to slow down and acknowledge all the thoughts and feelings that are coming up.  There is something inherently healing about stopping and checking in with ourselves. In those moments we are breaking our old patterns and programs, and inserting a new choice.  It does not have to be a long pause.  All you need is enough time to slow down and breathe, while listening to what is going on inside and all around you.

This simple act of acknowledging our own thoughts and feelings will make it less likely that they will boil over in front of people that might be in the midst of their own inner turmoil.  That is the key to reclaiming our own power.  It is also a great way to take the stress out of the holidays, and every day.

When we take care of our own thoughts and feelings, then we are less likely to be emotionally dependent on the people around us.  This is very liberating because we have no control over the way others are acting and we have no idea what might be going on behind the scenes in their lives.  If we have taken good care of ourselves, we are likely to have more space in our mind to show up lovingly for others.

There is another value in checking in with ourselves and being gentle with whatever is coming up.  There is a place inside us that is waiting to be heard.  Too often we look outward for someone to acknowledge and honor us.  All the while, there is within us, a part that wants our own attention and care.  When we provide that love to the places inside us that are begging for our attention, we start to bloom.  In those moments, we get real enjoyment out of the people we are with, and the places we go.

When I meet students who are going through a challenging time, it is the students who are at peace with themselves that have the easiest time making the adjustments and taking the steps that might be required to move gracefully through whatever they are facing.  It is easier because they are not as concerned about what others might think of them, and are not afraid that someone might find out that they have challenges.

A parent recently told me about a wonderful interaction that he witnessed between his son, who is autistic, and some friends.  His son is attending a school that specializes in the education of children with autism.  He was talking to some of his buddies who are attending a school in Culver City Unified School District.

The parent shared that he was in tears as his son openly shared with the others that he attends a private school because he has learning challenges and requires extra support.  What was even more beautiful was that one friend responded that he was also interested in attending a private school because he was interested in the education that they have to offer.

There is something liberating about being who we are.  Having nothing to hide and no one to blame is a wonderful feeling.  This is something that I continue to work on in my own life.  When we know who we are, and take care of our dreams and desires, the rest of life seems to line up to cheer us on and support us.

If you feel stressed around the holiday season, or at any time, take the time to slow down.  Give yourself a few minutes in the day to check in with your thoughts and feelings.  Do something wonderful, just for you.  Cheer yourself on and reclaim your power.  When you are living in full accord with who you are, the world will light up and you will have a real reason to celebrate.

Photo (Top):  Take some time to celebrate yourself. When you feel good inside, the world feels good outside.  Aidan Ferreria, a fourth grader at Farragut Elementary School, brightens the world by sharing who he is, in and out of the classroom.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com

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If you are Feeling Stuck, Refresh Your Browser

dylan“The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” – Steve Jobs

We all have moments when things do not seem to make sense.  No matter how hard we try, things just do not go our way.  It is not always easy to understand why things are happening in the moment they are happening.  This is why it is helpful to sit back and reflect on things once in a while.  Self-reflection is a tool that helps us come unstuck.

It is easy to write columns about life because the things I am describing have already happened.  Sitting and writing this column serves as a way for me to recognize and digest the lessons from the week that I might have missed in the moment.  Similarly, writing in a journal is a method of self-reflection that can help you to more fully assimilate your own experiences and gain new perspectives on what is happening.

When sitting down to reflect, it is helpful to remember that you always find more of what you are looking for.  I tend to spend most of my journaling time making lists of positives and things I am grateful for.  I have found that this activity gives me a greater sense of well-being and an understanding of the bigger picture.  It is a simple practice that pays big dividends.  Make it simple and fun.  Make a “This day is awesome because” list and then write down all the reasons from the day that you have to be celebrate being alive.

Remember, we are the ones who get to construct meaning out of our surroundings.  We are blessed with the capacity to take the raw data from any experience and then interpret it.  It all happens rather quickly.  That is why it is important to pay attention to the way we feel.  If we are feeling frustrated and stuck, there are likely some beliefs active in our mind that are not serving us very well.

The good news is that we can start right now to create more life-affirming beliefs.  Each week, I encourage students to look at their struggles, doubts, and fears through a new lens.  By seeing the potential in these students, it is also easy to recognize the beliefs that they are holding onto that are getting in the way of their success. From there, it is just a matter of holding on to the vision of their success regardless of their current success rate, or their current beliefs.

The number one thing that I remind our students is that all is well.  Life is a complex and beautiful adventure that is constantly changing and revealing new ideas, and new ways of being.  If one way is no longer working, try something new.  If you are coming up short by your own measures, then change your measures.  Find a way to witness the gifts that you have in a renewed light.  Go eat at a new restaurant, or take a different route home.  Do anything to get a new perspective on things.

One of my students was constantly pounding his head on the wall, trying hard to be a good writer.  He thought he had to be.  With time, he learned to slow down and drop those expectations of himself.  He was so focused on writing that he was overlooking his aptitude for math, and for telling jokes.  He had forgotten how amazing he was.  It did not take long, however, with a little encouragement, for him to rekindle his zest for life.  While he did not turn into Ernest Hemingway, he was able to pass his language arts classes and sleep better at night.

I had another student who was the exact opposite.  She thought so poorly of her writing that she was scared to try, and scared to let others read what she had written.  In her case, she has a gift with words.  Her challenge was to let go of her own judgments and listen to the praise that others were lending to her work.  It was inspiring to see her transform from doubtful to confident, and to share her gifts freely with the world.

Perhaps you feel stuck in some area.  Check in with yourself regarding your own judgments and ways of looking at things.  Find a way to give yourself a break and some much needed encouragement.  It is only a matter of time before your renewed enthusiasm and joy will open doors that you have overlooked in the past.  The energy and resources you need to be successful are already present, waiting to be discovered.

Photo (Top):   Take the time to reflect on the good in your life.  It is always better than you think.  For Dillon Zehnder, a 10th grader at Culver City High School, all of his learning paid off when he won the bronze medal at the SCSFL Novice High School Men’s Epee fencing tournament this past weekend.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com

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Relax, Reset, Then Start Again

daryl“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line.  You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to getting where we want to go is our own thinking.  When we allow ourselves to be driven by fear, stress, and worry, we inadvertently create roadblocks to the very success we desire.  The easiest way to avoid this pattern of self-defeating action is to take time to take care of yourself.  This is much simpler than many of us make it out to be.

The number one indicator that we have lost touch with our inspiration, and moved into unproductive action is a feeling of stress and anxiety.  These feelings indicate that we have started working against ourselves and that it is time to take inventory of our personal needs.  Although this is a simple process, many of us have been taught to do the opposite.

In our world there is a commonly held misconception that working harder is the solution when we feel stuck.  We often berate ourselves for not being good enough and then try to force ourselves to move forward in spite of what we believe are our shortcomings.  Once again, there is an easier, and more effective way of doing things.  We have to learn to prioritize self-care, and let our stress be an indicator that it is time to be kind to ourselves, rather than adding more pressure.

It is the simple things, such as sleeping, eating, resting, and relaxing, that we often undervalue when we are engaged in something that seems important.  I used to hold on to fantasies of the artist, teacher, or parent, who pushes himself past the breaking point for the betterment of others.  While this scenario looks romantic in movies and on television, in reality it causes more harm than good.

It is often illness or some other unexpected event that comes along to slow us down when we have been pushing too hard against our own fatigue, or hunger, trying to achieve some external goal.  We do not have to wait for these unpleasant outer indicators.  We must consciously develop a new model for success.  We must place ourselves at the top of the list of people that we are responsible for.  Rather than being selfish, this turns out to be the method that gives us the most energy and joy, which we then share generously with the people around us.  Our willingness to take care of our own needs first is something that benefits everyone.

I have many students who come to me with beliefs that they are not smart enough to do well in school.  When we investigate these situations further, we often find out that these same students do not really give themselves a chance to be successful.  They are so scared of failing, or being a failure, that they rush their work, and they do not really believe they can be successful.  This discomfort can lead to eating poorly, and having difficulty sleeping at night.  The stress mounts and manifests outwardly in disruptive behavior in an attempt to compensate for a clouded mind and a sense of unworthiness.

It is often the students who are not doing well that are the most stressed and worried about school.  It does not seem this way because so much energy is being put into pretending to be secure and in control.  Working with these students is a joy for me because I get to be a conduit for greater self-care and love.  These two factors, when improved, always lead to amazing outer results.

I have many students in my lunch groups who simply need someone to look them in the eye and remind them that they are okay.  They need to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with them and that they are worthy of their own respect.  This same statement can be made about each one of us, when we are feeling stressed and unworthy.  We must slow down and remind ourselves that we are okay.  Instead of pressing on with that paper or report, slow down and eat, take a 20 minute nap, or reach out to a friend who can remind us of who we are.

The holiday season is the perfect time to slow down and reset.  After all, the term holiday means holy day.  During these sacred times, we have an opportunity to give ourselves the gift of nourishment in every way.  As we learn to slow down and care for our selves, we will truly catch the holiday spirit.  When we feel rested, fed, and loved, it is easy to see the best in others.  It is also when we experience the best of who we are.  Self-care allows us to enjoy our success.  This is the ultimate achievement.

Photo (Top):  Give yourself some love.  The sky is the limit when we take the time to relax and reset.  US Olympic sabre fencer, Daryl Homer, who recently dropped by Avant Garde Fencer’s Club for a demonstration, knows the value of self-care when training to be a champion

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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If You Feel Out of Place, Lend a Hand

Rick“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, and one for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

For many of us, one of the most challenging things to do is to enter a situation where we do not know anyone.  This is particularly true if we are out of our element, and not quite sure what our role is.  One of the easiest ways to transition into a new environment is to find a way to be of service.  This approach involves changing our perspective from one of seeking approval, to one of sharing our gifts.

In his book, What if Godzilla Just Wanted a Hug?, local artist, Darrell Fusaro, writes about how he was once invited to a biker party.  Members of the gang lived in his neighborhood, and had taken a liking to him.  Once at the party, surrounded by new faces and fresh tattoos, Fusaro was unsure of himself.  He questioned his decision to come in the first place.  Then, following some wisdom that had been handed to him, he decided to ask the host if he could lend a hand.  He carried ice, brought out cups, and did a little clean up. Before long, he had made fast friends and felt like one of the gang.  It worked so well that he met his wife, Lori, that very night.

I see this with my students all of the time.  In fact, one of the reasons students come to my lunch groups is because they have challenges making friends, and new connections, when they are in unfamiliar situations.  It is often their heightened anxiety that can lead to disruptive, or inappropriate behavior.  This state of worry also makes it difficult to process new information in the classroom, and partake in higher order thinking.

What worked for Fusaro also works for my students.  By giving them a way to be of service, they often forget about their self-conscious concerns and find a new level of confidence.  This works in the simplest of ways.  For example, some of my students have trouble sitting still.  They are prone to want to leave the room at some point during the group to go the restroom, go get another milk, or do anything that will get them outside.  To turn this into an act of service, I ask these students to report back to me about whether or not their peers in the cafeteria have gone out to the yard to play yet.  This simple request transforms their experience.  I can see the pride in their eyes when they return to give me an update.  Over time, these little errands give them a renewed sense of accomplishment and feeling of success.

Similarly, if I have a student who is standing on his own, unsure how to connect with his peers, I will give them a job.  I make it a fun job such as “Head of Security”.  I then check in with them throughout the group to find out how the group is going.  By having a job, they begin to notice and pay more attention to what their peers are up to.  They also get positive feedback from me.  They receive an added bonus because they look impressive when I introduce them to everyone in the group as the “Head of Security”.

Whether you are at work, or at a family gathering, there is always an easy way to connect with the people around you.  Find a way to be of service.  That might mean unloading the car, or lending an ear to someone you meet.  It might also be a matter of shifting your perspective.  Find a way to engage your situation in a constructive way.

If you are sitting in a meeting and feeling bored or disempowered, try imagining yourself as a consultant who was brought in to improve the quality of meetings for your company.  What would you do differently?  How would you make things better for everyone else?  By shifting into a creative state of mind, the quality of your thoughts will improve.  This will give you a much needed boost in mood, and the people around you will feel it.

By looking at life through the lens of joyful service, the quality of your experiences will improve.  When you are thinking creatively, you feel more joy and freedom.  This will lead to spontaneous connections with the people around you, and a deeper sense of satisfaction in any situation.  Try it over the holidays, or wherever you find yourself feeling out of place.  It is worth the effort to lend a hand, and make some new friends along the way.

Photo (Top):  If you are in a new situation, and not sure what to do, find a way to lend a hand.  Helpful students like Rick Ramirez, a seventh grader at Culver City Middle School, are always finding ways to make our groups a shining success.

Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District.  He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, to find out more go to www.DarrellandEd.com.

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