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LIVING SKILLFULLY


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Are there places in your life that cause you to get lost in your emotions — fear, anger, sadness, anxiety?

I have experienced many different kinds of environments like that --- places where I was afraid to speak because I thought I would set someone off and I wouldn’t know how to handle their reaction. Places where I just wanted to hide because I was sure that my voice would cause reactions I didn’t want to deal with. There are other places where all I feel is anger whether it's because of how I am treated or how I perceive others are treated. There are other places where I'm just sad. It seems hopeless to be there.


I would say that those experiences are all or mainly in the past.


Finding Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and learning how to approach my environment with emotional skills has changed everything.


There's an image I've seen in my DBT training called the Cycle of Change. We are all on it. Some of us look at these difficult environments and our fingers are pointed at everybody else. The truth is, the cycle of change is for us. Where do we fit on it?


image from socialworktech.com


The first step is to recognize that the only person that we truly can change is ourselves.

That was a very difficult lesson for me to learn. At home, my interactions with my son were very hard. He struggled with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which caused me to walk on eggshells much of the day, worried that I would set him off. Once I learned the skills that we teach in SILA Skills workshops, I recognized that my relationship with him could be much better if I changed a little rather than always expecting him to be different.


In my classroom, I have also changed. I have often had students whose explosive emotions I have feared. I would avoid their corner of the classroom just to keep from triggering them. I've had parents that I avoided contacting, even though I know I should send an email or pick up the phone. The truth is, the better I interact with those people or situations that I fear, the fewer challenges there are. I have learned to be compassionately curious and focus on their story, rather than my own.

I have learned to be compassionately curious and focus on their story, rather than my own.

This has also occurred with my colleagues. There are times I've wanted to hide and have felt inadequate in expressing myself in difficult conversations. To avoid any confrontations I would often go into my classroom and shut the door. Not a very effective strategy!


I'm learning that it's better to practice my skills. One of which is using opposite action — making a choice to act in a way that is opposite to how you feel. This skill helps me to respond to my fears rather than to hide.


Now, I finish my days without feeling regret. I can sleep better because I know I did my best and was as skillful as I could be. Sometimes people seek me out to talk about their day. I think it’s because I am able to approach situations mindfully and am effective which helps me foster positive relationships at my work. I have learned that hiding is not effective.


I could go on and on as I have struggled with both student and adult relationships. It's not easy living in this world and interacting with different people. We suffer a lot and it doesn't have to be that way.

We suffer a lot and it doesn't have to be that way.

Four years ago I started learning DBT skills and I have been trying to practice them every day.


They have changed my life.


They have given me hope and peace and the ability to be the person I've always wanted to be. They have given me relationship tools so I don't need to hide or respond in anger or walk on eggshells. I'm not perfect, but I'm a lot better than I used to be.


These skills work.

If any of my words connect with you, I encourage you to look at the cycle of change. Where are you on it? If you see that you need to change, you’re on the right track. You can start by attending a SILA Skills workshop and learn about these transformative skills. They will help you move towards growth in how you communicate more effectively with those in your environment. I know taking a SILA Skills Workshop will make a difference in your life.

You can be the change factor in your environment.

So the question is, to change or not to change?

The answer is up to you.


Are you ready to be transformed? Check out a Transforming Classrooms or Transforming Connections workshop today - www.SILAskills.org


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Have you ever heard that learning something new can be compared to making a path in the snow?

Years ago I heard this concept when attending a professional development session. Since that time, I have been reminded of its truth, both as an educator and as a learner.

I grew up in Alberta and the concept of being the first to walk through an expanse of freshly fallen snow is a very easy image for me to create.

He compared such a walk to learning new math skills and the depth of the snow to the age at which you learn them.

For instance, a young child learning a new idea is like walking through ankle-deep snow. Easy peasy. Whereas, learning something new as an adult can be like trudging through hip-deep snow. It's still attainable, but it takes more effort to not give up.

This totally makes sense to me as I am constantly working hard to learn new things and the effort it takes is definitely more now than when I was younger.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This learning journey has been like pushing through shoulder-deep snow at times! The concepts deal with the very core of who I am as a person and how I interact with those around me. It has forced me to reconsider what I thought was true about myself and dig deep to discover a new and better version of myself.

Learning DBT has also added to the analogy of the pathway in the snow.

You see, the way I was before I learned these DBT skills had created a very deep, very well-worn path. This path was created from my habits or ways that I responded to people and situations around me. They were my automatic thoughts and reactions. It was a very easy “path’ to travel on.

When I started to learn DBT skills, it took a lot of effort to push off of that old familiar path to create a new one. I knew I wanted to take the effort to do this. I knew my familiar ways of reacting, often very impulsively, were not effective. I knew that change would be worth the effort. Even using the smallest skill demonstrated this to me. So, I’d push through the unfamiliar world of empathy, radical acceptance, validation, and so much more to create a new path of connection and effective communication.

Many times I found myself back on the old path and I was often discouraged wondering if being skillful was really worth all the effort it took to use these DBT skills. Then, an interaction with a student, parent, colleague or loved one would be so much better than it would have been before the skills.

I knew I needed to persevere.

So, I'd keep pushing through and keep practicing and eventually this so-called new path is now starting to look well-travelled and is starting to get easier to stay on. My old path is getting filled in and I rarely find myself on it anymore.

What has surprised me the most is when I overhear people who are still on a path similar to my old path.

I hear so much suffering in their words, so much judgement, and so much anger. Is that what I sounded like?

That is why I continue to share the message of SILA Skills. These skills work! They are transformational! It's it easy? Nope. Is it worth it? Absolutely!


Sign up for a workshop today and start your own new path in the snow.

www.SILAskills.org


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Do you ever find that you talk to yourself in an unkind way?


“Why did you say that?”


“You’re not a very good teacher.”


“Why can’t you get it??”


“You’re such a loser.”


“You suck!”


People would be surprised at how hard we are on ourselves. It totally makes sense though. Our profession has Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook pages dedicated to what a ‘perfect’ classroom and teacher look and sound like. Yet, we read them and we compare ourselves and often find ourselves missing the mark.


We don’t even have to go online! We just look at the classroom bulletin boards down the hall or overhear conversations at the community hockey game to create these thoughts in our minds. Don’t get me started on Facebook rant and rave boards!


For me, I would often rehash lessons, interactions with difficult students/parents/colleagues in the evening or throughout the night. I always found myself lacking and struggled with knowing what I could have or should have done differently. As we say in SILA, I ‘should’ all over myself!

As we say in SILA, I ‘should’ all over myself!

Sometimes I was defensive and laid all the blame for the responses with those I was interacting with, but in my heart, I knew I could have handled things differently. I just didn’t know how to do it.

I also hated watching those movies and tv shows where the perfect teacher was given the imperfect class and made it look so easy to make connections and change lives! Watching those movies caused me to think that I would never be a teacher like that. Maybe that’s why shows like Mr. D became so popular.

We’d rather see the negative of our world, rather than the impossibly perfect.

Yet, shouldn’t those shows about the heroic teacher inspire us? Maybe they do for some. I think we need to recognize that there are things we can do to bring about the change we want to see in our classrooms. They don’t involve radical perfection, rather they involve learning some powerful skills.


These are the skills that are taught in a SILA Skills workshop. They are based on Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (or DBT) and when put into practice, can truly transform a person to be the best version of themselves.


So, rather than beating yourself up with words of condemnation, you can learn to validate yourself and create an environment for change.


You can learn to say things like this to yourself:

“You’re doing the best you can.”


“I know this is hard, and I believe in you!”


“Perfection is not expected today. Tomorrow is a new day.”


“Do-overs are allowed and appreciated.”


You can learn how to talk this way to yourself. All it takes is some time and self-compassion. We are all on this journey together.

You matter too!

Check out www.SILAskills.org and sign up for a workshop today!

You will never regret the time you took to invest in yourself.

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