Focused Attention …. Paying attention to attention
Inevitably something will go wrong in our lives …. whether you are a child, parent, teacher, coach … yes, even superintendent. To believe the converse, that everything will always go well, would be naive.
In my first installment of our Kindness Series, I noted an extremely important trait to develop in ourselves and our children is ‘resiliency.’ I emphasized kindness is our overarching ‘Green Umbrella’ that encompasses the traits of Focused Attention, Gratitude, Empathy, Inclusivity, Respectful Communication and Reflection. In this next installment of our Kindness Series, our message centers around Focused Attention.
Being able to stay focused, particularly when something goes wrong and when our anxiety starts to build, is important in managing stress. Sylvia Boorstein, who describes herself first as a grandmother/mother, while others know her as an author, scholar and teacher, uses her car’s GPS navigation as an example of how to manage when things go wrong. Imagine driving in your car, and either you have made a wrong turn or, by no fault of your own, a detour has been placed directly along your path. Anxiety will naturally build, but then your GPS, in a calm reassuring voice, says ‘recalculating.’ We focus … problem solve … and adjust. Recognizing and staying in touch with our emotions/anxiety while staying calm and focused is often the best strategy to get back on track.
In the Business Incubator (entrepreneurial education) course at Westlake High School, we teach our students to develop a plan, test it … and when they find an aspect that fails … pivot. We encourage our students to learn from failure, understand anxiety is natural, have trust in themselves and the supports that are around them, and move forward.
There are elements in this fast-paced world that often derail us from staying calm and remaining focused. Social media can, at times, be detrimental in our staying calm and focused and instead can act as an ‘amplifier’ in heightening our anxieties to the point where remaining focused and calm is extremely difficult.
Kids learn from adults with whom they have sustained relationships. Parents, teachers, coaches …. kids watch how we handle our difficulties. If we stay calm, focused, do not lose our temper, stay cool, control our impulses, continue to dialogue with those around us in a respectful manner and treat all with kindness, the children who are watching will learn to do the same. If we never say, ‘thank you’ or ‘I’m sorry,’ or stay calm and focused when difficulties arise, why would we expect our children to behave in that manner? By showing our children how we stay calm and focused, how we ‘recalculate’ when something goes wrong, our children will be much more likely to develop the resiliency we know will help them throughout their lives.
In our schools we are working in this domain:
All of our elementary schools are emphasizing kindness and resiliency. The schools are doing this in a variety of ways such as; daily morning meetings and social-emotional learning (SEL) lessons, a Kindness Challenge, acknowledging students who go above and beyond, "calming corners" in classrooms, “Think Kindness” assemblies and highlighting examples of students and staff exhibiting kindness.
Our secondary schools have been focusing on kindness through building strong relationships with our students and helping them manage to learn from challenges. Examples of this include a community-wide book study on one campus around overcoming challenges and creating a "Captains' Council" on another with leaders from school groups who are strategizing ways to develop kindness and resiliency.
We have provided guidance below for parents who wish to complement our efforts in helping their kids develop their ability to focus … and thus be more resilient.
- Tips for Increasing a Student's Attention Span
- The 7 Cs: The Essential Building Blocks of Resilience
- Building the 7Cs of Resilience in Your Child
- The 7 Cs: Practical Ways to Build Resilience in Kids
This Friday, Oct. 4, we will emphasize our commitment to focus our attention on our children, symbolically by wearing our Green Glasses of Kindness. We hope you will take a moment to reinforce our message and find some time to talk with your child(ren). Discuss the need for all of us to ‘recalculate’ when things go wrong in our lives. Understand our anxieties, breathe, stay calm and focus on the best path forward. And know that when things do go wrong in our lives, our children will learn by watching how we react and pivot to find a healthy solution to an adversity.
If you would like more information on this topic, we suggest the following: