Architecture Student Tool Kit

Architecture Student Tool Kit

As I am preparing my syllabus and other items for the quickly approaching fall semester, I have begun to have discussions and questions about the student “tool kit” if you want to call it that. What do you need to have for architecture school today versus just a decade ago and even further back? How much have these things changed? Should they?

Continue reading Architecture Student Tool Kit at Life of an Architect.

Zoom Tips for Teachers

Tips for Using Zoom with Your Students

A member of the STEM Teachers Group asked for everyone’s best tips for using Zoom with their students. The tips were so awesome and useful that I compiled them in this post (and downloadable graphic) so that everyone could benefit!
If you have additional tips please be sure to let me know via email so I can add them in!

1. Set Expectations

Set out expectations clearly at the beginning of your meeting on a slide, or keep a poster propped up behind you with expectations and procedures. Build community by having your students help come up with expectations and procedures!

2. Use the Waiting Room Feature

Use the virtual waiting room feature and enable the doorbell sound/chime when
someone enters. Not only will it alert you if someone enters late, it will help keep your meeting more secure. Once all students arrive, lock the meeting.

3. Make Sure to Mute

Make sure your meeting is set to “mute upon entry” and encourage your
students to mute themselves after speaking.

As a backup option, learn where the “mute all” button is in the event they
forget to mute themselves!

4. Set a Meeting ID

Set up a meeting ID and password so it’s always the same for a particular group.

Beware, though that if the link gets shared with others you may need to change it.

5. Use Breakout Rooms

For small group collaboration, utilize the breakout room feature. Rotate through to pop in and check on each group. *Breakout rooms may need adult supervision, so ask for volunteer helpers if possible.

6. No Annotation, Chat, OR Screen Share

Turn OFF annotation and screen share, or students will be able to draw on the screen or share their own screen with everyone.
Turn OFF chat for everyone but the host.

7. Basic Requirements

Consider having basic requirements for your meetings for your meetings, such as:
  • Students must use their real name when logging in.
  • Cameras must remain on.
  • Students must virtually raise their hand to speak.

8. Headset Quality

Built-in microphones are often not clear. Your voice should be clear for the
students and you want your ears to be comfortable, too! Invest in a good headset or mic.

9. Try New Things

Not only can you keep your meetings more interesting, you can make them run more efficiently if you keep tabs on what your students see as a student participant, using keyboard shortcuts to not have to constantly search in menus for what you need, and having a variety of ways to interact to keep students engaged.
  • Backgrounds
  • Split screens
  • A document camera
  • Using two computers/devices (one as yourself and one as a student)
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts

10. Pre-record

Pre-record video lessons for your students to watch prior to your meeting, or find a suitable YouTube video on the topic you are teaching. Give students tasks before the meeting, so that when you do meet, you are following up with them and addressing issues or questions.

11. Take Breaks

Have a fun activity like scavenger hunt while students are waiting to join. Try quick brain breaks, stretching exercises, or mindfulness activities to help your students stay focused.

12. Be Willing to Learn

If you have a meeting that didn’t go well, take a deep breath and try again next
time. There will be kinks to work out, but enlist your students to help brainstorm
ways to make your meetings work for everyone!
Download the tips! You can download this graphic to keep a copy of the tips:

Do you like STEM? Try Elementary STEM Club!

You may have noticed that little logo at the bottom left corner of the image for Elementary STEM Club. If you are a K-5 teacher and incorporate STEM, or a dedicated STEM teacher, I would love for you to check out Elementary STEM Club!
What is it?
Elementary STEM Club is a 3-month experience to kickstart your back to school months with support, activities, and tips for navigating the year, whether you are in person, distance teaching, hybrid teaching, or mobile.
Each month, you will gain access to:

    • A tried and true STEM resource with a video walk-through of what you need to get started, how to use it, and tips for success.
    • A LIVE panel discussion, featuring educators chatting about a timely topic in STEM.
    • A book chat: a focus on K-5 picture books to enhance your STEM lessons and learning.
    • Some surprise bonuses along the way (from our hosts, presenters, and guests)!
    • Interaction with other STEM educators in the private Facebook group and club site – you may even find your new STEM teacher bestie!

      Most of all, you will receive a solid foundation and the support you need this fall to start your school year off right.

Find out more about Elementary STEM Club:
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Cultivating Joy Takes Work: 3 Ways to Turn Happiness Into a Habit

Back in the fall, Michelle Shiota noticed she wasn’t feeling like herself. Her mind felt trapped. “I don’t know if you’ve ever worn a corset, but I had this very tight, straining feeling in my mind,” she says. “My mind had shrunk.”

Shiota is a psychologist at Arizona State University and an expert on emotions. When the COVID-19 crisis struck, she began working from home and doing one activity, over and over again, all day long.

“I will be honest, for the past 14 months, I have spent most of my waking hours looking at a screen, either my laptop, my phone or a TV screen,” she says, often from the same sofa, in the same room in her San Francisco home. All that isolation — and screen time — had taken a toll on Shiota.

During the pandemic, many people have felt their mental health decline. The problem has hit essential workers and young adults, ages 18 to 24, the worst, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in May. The percentage of adults with signs of anxiety or depression has grown threefold, from about 10% to 30%.

Although some people are starting to test the waters of public life again, planning vacations and socializing more, others may still have lingering signs of what psychologists call languishing. They may feel an emptiness or dissatisfaction in day-to-day life. Or feel like they’re stuck in weariness or stagnation.

Luckily, an emerging area of brain science has a new way to help lift yourself out of languishing — and bring more joy into your life. It worked for Shiota.

“I had to expand my consciousness,” she says. And she did it by intentionally cultivating a particular emotion.

Explore ways to cultivate well-being with NPR’s Joy Generator.

How emotions arise

For thousands of years, there’s been a common belief in Western culture about emotions — that they are hard-wired and reflexive, psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett writes in the book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. “When something happens in the world … our emotions come on fast and uncontrollable, as if somebody flipped a switch,” she writes.

But when researchers look at what’s going on inside the brain and inside the body during specific emotional states, the theory doesn’t hold up.

Over the past decade, neuroscientists have begun to shift how they think emotions arise. Rather than being inevitable, hard-coded experiences, researchers now think emotions are malleable, and people have more influence over them than previously thought.

Say for example, you’re walking in the woods, and you see a grizzly bear, says neuroscientist Anil Seth at the University of Sussex. “You recognize it’s a bear,” he says, “and then what happens?”

Previously researchers thought the emotion comes first. “You see a bear and then you feel afraid,” Seth says. “Because you’re afraid, your brain then jacks up your adrenaline levels.”

Your heart rate rises. Your breath quickens. Your pupils dilate. And blood rushes to your skeletal muscles. The old theory was that “the fear sets in train all kinds of flight and fight responses so that you are well-prepared to run away and live another day,” he adds. In other words, the emotion (i.e., fear) triggers the physiological responses (i.e., an adrenaline rush).

But according to the latest research, the human body probably works the other way around, Seth says. “The brain registers a grizzly bear, and that perception sets in train all the physiological responses.” You get an adrenaline rush. Your heart rate goes up. You start breathing faster. Blood rushes to your muscles. And then the emotion comes.

The brain senses these physiological changes and decides which emotion to conjure up. The emotion is an interpretation of what’s going on both inside the body (the adrenaline rush) and the outside of the body (the sight of the bear). “The brain has to figure out what caused the sensory signals,” Seth says.

The chosen emotion not only helps the brain make sense of these signals, but it also helps the brain predict better the immediate future and how to handle the situation at hand. Which emotion would be most useful? Which emotion will help me survive?

To figure that all out, Seth says, the brain uses one more piece of information — and this part is key. The brain takes into account your past experiences, your memories.

Let’s return back to that encounter with the grizzly bear. If your past experiences with bears come largely through news reports of attacks and maulings, then your brain will likely interpret your bodily sensations — raised heart rate, raised blood pressure, sweaty palms — as fear. Lots of fear! And this emotion will help drive you away from the bear. “So you can live another day,” Seth says.

But what if your family hunts for a living? And your past encounters with a bear ended in a wonderful feast for you and your neighbors. Then your brain may interpret the adrenaline rush — the heavy breathing and raised heart rate — as excitement. This positive emotion will help drive you forward toward the bear, while all the physiological changes help you bring home dinner.

“Your brain uses memories from the past in order to create the present,” says Barrett, who also does neuroscience research. “It’s bringing knowledge from the past to make sense of the immediate future, which then becomes your present.”

Neuroscientists call this “the predictive brain.” Understanding how these predictions work is “very powerful knowledge,” Barrett says. It means that emotions aren’t hard-wired reactions to particular situations, which are out of your control (i.e., you see a bear and therefore you must feel afraid). But rather it’s the opposite. “You can, in fact, modify what you feel in very direct ways,” she says.

Emotional muscle memory

It’s not about trying to force a happier or less fearful feeling in the moment, Barrett says. But rather, it’s all about planning ahead. You can stack the deck in favor of your brain, choosing positive, uplifting emotions in two major ways, she says.

The first one is a no-brainer: You can take care of your body physically. According to this new theory, the brain constructs emotions based largely on physiological signals and other sensations from your body. So by boosting your physical health, you can decrease the chance your body will send unpleasant signals to your brain and, in turn, increase the chance, your brain will construct positive emotions instead of negative ones. “You can get more sleep. You can eat properly and exercise,” she says.

The second approach to influencing your emotions may be less familiar but likely just as impactful: You can “cultivate” the emotions you want to have in the future.

“If you know that your brain uses your past in order to make sense [of] and create the present, then you can practice cultivating [positive] emotions today so that your brain can automatically use that knowledge when it’s making emotions tomorrow,” Barrett says.

By practicing particular emotions, you can “rewire” your brain, she says. “Your brain grows new connections that make it easier for you to automatically cultivate these emotions in the future.” So when you start to feel a negative emotion, such as sadness or frustration, you can more easily swap that negative feeling for a positive one, such as awe or gratitude.

“For example, when I am video chatting with somebody in China, I can feel irritated very easily when the connection isn’t very good,” Barrett says. “Or I can feel awe at the fact that someone can be halfway around the world, and I can see their face and hear their voice, even if it is imperfect, and I can be grateful for that ability.”

In this way, emotions are a bit like muscle memory. If you practice the finger patterns for a chord on the piano, a few minutes each day, eventually your fingers can play those chords with little thought. The chords become second nature.

The same goes for emotions. To help pull out of the pandemic blues, it’s time to start “practicing” positive emotions — and it won’t take as much as learning all the chords.

All you need is about five to 10 minutes, says psychologist Belinda Campos at the University of California, Irvine. “Hopefully it wouldn’t take people as much effort as it does to eat healthier or to exercise,” she says. “Positive emotions feel good. I think people will find them rewarding enough to return to them and keep doing them.”

Scientists say this practice is helpful to prevent or work with everyday doldrums and weariness. It isn’t intended as a replacement for treatments, such as counseling and medication, for serious mood disorders or anyone going through intense or prolonged bouts of depression.

The antidote to isolation

A few decades ago, scientists used to lump together all kinds of positive emotions into one concept: happiness. Since then, a group of psychologists, including Campos and Shiota, figured that there is a whole “family tree” of positive emotions, including pride, nurturant love, contentment, nostalgia, flow, gratitude and awe.

One reason these emotions often make us feel good is they shift our focus away from the self — that is “me and my problems” — and onto others, Campos says. “They help put the self in its balanced place, of not being absolutely the highest thing on the to-do list. They help us focus on the joys that relationships can bring.”

She adds, “In this way, positive emotions are part of what helps you to put others before the self.” And helping others often makes people feel good. “So, for example, people report levels of higher well-being when they’re giving to others, and it can feel better to be on the giving end rather than the receiving end,” she says. “I think that’s more evidence that focusing on others can be really good for us.”

The idea of cultivating positive emotions is pretty simple. Choose one of these emotions and then do a specific action regularly that helps evoke it. Psychologists have devised suggestions for how to get started, but it can be as simple as taking time to notice and appreciate the small things around you that uplift you. (Read three tips to get started at the end of this piece.)

Over time, your brain will start to use these emotions more often — and turn to negative emotions less frequently.

Take, for instance, gratitude.

For the past year and a half, Dr. Sriram Shamasunder has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shamasunder is a physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and he spends about half his time in low-income communities around the world.

To help bring more “light” into his life, Shamasunder started to keep a gratitude journal. It was part of a project for the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

Each day, Shamasunder simply jotted down things around him for which he was grateful. “So not necessarily spending a whole lot of time racking my mind, but just everyday occurrences that were powerful or meaningful or just simple and beautiful,” Shamasunder told The Science of Happiness podcast. He jotted down the doctors and nurses working on Sunday, “the unseen hands who created a vaccine,” “the evening light, magical and orange and blue,” and a tree outside that provides refuge to birds, ants and squirrels.

By intentionally cultivating gratitude, for even a short period each day, Shamasunder found it easier to evoke positive feelings throughout the day. “The act of naming the gratitudes carried into the next day and the next, where I became more aware of things in my life that I should cherish in the moment, or I need to cherish.”

An awe a day keeps the malaise away

Back in the fall, when Shiota, the Arizona State psychologist, felt her mind shrinking, she knew exactly which emotion she needed to cultivate.

She got up off the couch, drove West from her San Francisco home and ended up at the edge of the ocean. “I am trying to reconnect with the vast natural world, with the universe beyond my professional and personal responsibilities, and beyond this moment in time,” Shiota writes in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. “I am searching for awe.”

Shiota is a world expert on awe. She says the emotion is difficult to define, “but I think that what we are dealing with is a change that happens in our mind — and in our bodies and in our feelings — when we encounter something so extraordinary that we can’t explain it.”

That encounter can be with something grand, such as a panoramic view of a red sun dipping into the Pacific Ocean. It can be with something minuscule, such as the black spots on a ladybug. (How did they get so perfectly round?) It can be a scent, a taste or sound. “It can be a very complex and powerful song that you’ve never heard before or even a scene in a TV show,” Shiota says.

Whatever it is, the extraordinariness of the event makes you pause, for a bit, Shiota says, and try to figure it out. How does a rose smell like a lemon? Why does a perfectly ripened peach taste so good? “We simply slow down our body, slow down,” Shiota says.

And this pause calms your body. “I’ve found evidence that the activation of our fight-flight sympathetic nervous system dials back a little bit.”

The feeling of awe also widens your perspective, she says — which Shiota desperately needed after spending so much time looking at screens. “I had to consciously force myself to look further away. I had to let my senses — my sight, my sound, take in a broader scope of what was going on around me.”

In addition to going to the beach, Shiota also simply walked around her neighborhood, looking for unexpected and inspiring things.

“There was this amazingly elaborate, chalk drawing in recognition of somebody’s birthday. There was a couple, in which one person was clearly helping the other learn to roller-skate on the San Francisco hills. And they’re clinging on to each other for dear life,” she says with a chuckle. “Then the flowers! If you look closely at flowers, in a way that you never take the time to do, you’ll see how incredibly intricate they are.

“So the opportunities for awe are there,” she says. “Look for what moves you, what pushes your sense of boundaries of what is out there in the world.”

It took a little time — and patience — Shiota says, but eventually these “awe walks” helped her recover from her pandemic funk. Practicing awe released her mind from that constraining “corset.”

“Then my mind was able to spread out and take up the space that it needs to take to feel OK,” she says. And once her mind released, her body followed. “When you take off the corset, your whole body goes, ‘Oh, oh! That’s much better.’ ”

Three ways to practice happiness

Psychologists say you can improve your well-being if you recognize moments of positive feelings, value them and seek them out more often. Below, find a few other ideas for cultivating positive emotions and turning happiness into a habit. To explore more ideas, check out NPR’s Joy Generator.

1) Share some appreciation: Campos recommends this simple practice. Get together with some friends and write out on cards three things that you’re grateful for in the other person. Then share the cards with each other.

“We’re using this task right now in my laboratory, and it seems to be very evocative of positive emotion,” she says. And though the data is preliminary, she says, “what we see so far is that people enjoy writing what they appreciate in others, and they enjoy sharing it with the other person. It seems to be affirming bonds.” Sometimes it even ends in hugs.

2) Take an awe walk: Take a five-minute walk outside each day where you intentionally shift your thoughts outward. Turn off your cellphone or even better don’t bring it with you. “Focus your attention on small details of the world around you,” psychologist Piercarlo Valdesolo at Claremont McKenna College suggests. Look for things that are unexpected, hard to explain and delightful.

For example, take a moment and find a crack in the sidewalk, where a weed is poking out, Barrett says. And let yourself feel awe at the power of nature. “Practice that feeling over and over again,” she says. “Practice feeling awe at colorful clouds, an intricate pattern on a flower or the sight of a full moon.”

3) Listen to a calm concert: A recent meta-analysis from the University of Michigan found that sounds of nature, including birdsongs and water sounds, lower stress, promote calmness and improve mood. Find a bench in your neighborhood under a tree or near water. Sit down, close your eyes and consciously listen to the natural sounds around you. Listen for birdsongs, rustling wind or trickling water. Try sitting for at least five minutes whenever you get a chance. Allow and enjoy calm to wash over you.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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What’s a Long-Term Remote Work Plan, and Do You Need One?

The coronavirus pandemic ushered in a new era of remote work: Companies sent their workers out of the office and into their homes to do a variety of jobs, and a recent survey shows that an overwhelming number of employees would like the option to continue remote work indefinitely.

While many companies shifted to remote work out of pure necessity, “one thing the pandemic has proved is that remote working works,” says Sean Hoff, corporate culture expert and founder and managing partner of Moniker. He points out that remote workforces are often more productive and happier, which can help companies recruit and keep top talent. Plus, being able to recruit workers from across the country — and not just your company’s immediate geographic vicinity — can widen the pool of applicants. “No longer having an in-person or local requirement means that recruitment teams can take their pick-up of the pack, cherry-picking the crème de la crème of talent from all hemispheres to bolster their business,” Hoff explains.

A remote workforce can also be a financial boon for companies: Office space is expensive — and “saying goodbye to the physical workspace means commercial mortgages and monthly rent and overhead costs will vanish,” Hoff says, “freeing up resources to reinvest in the business.”

And companies with remote workers have found they’re getting more work from their workers. “Instead of long commutes, employees are jumping on the computer earlier and able to stay on later,” says Amy Sanchez, executive career and leadership coach. “There have been unprecedented increases in productivity in the corporate space” over the last several months.

With all of these clear benefits — and employees’ clear desire to continue working remotely — it’s no wonder that many companies are considering making their remote work options more permanent. But to make that shift, they’ll need what’s called a long-term remote work plan.

A long-term remote work plan is a detailed plan that outlines how a company will manage its remote workforce over the long term — not just a few weeks or months. “A good plan would clearly address what the expectation is for remote versus not remote, and what systems should be in-place if employees do remain remote to optimize communication,” Sanchez explains.

It would also “balance productivity, health and wellness, and address a path to career growth and promotion,” she says, to keep employees happy, productive, and engaged with the company.

Any company that wants to make remote work permanent needs a long-term remote work plan, these experts say. Here’s what a good long-term remote work plan includes and how to create it.

Ask employees for feedback.

The first step in creating a long-term remote work plan will be identifying what’s working for your remote workforce now — and what isn’t. “Identify the main pain points your business has experienced since pivoting to remote by actively asking your employees to participate in feedback and double-down on research to find the perfect tools, clouds, and software to streamline new processes and iron out any crinkles” advises Hoff. And Sanchez agrees: She suggests using an anonymous survey to collect thoughts from the entire workforce. Ask your employees about “what they want from their remote workplace, the types of rewards and incentive schemes they’d like to see in place, how often they’d like to have career progression catch-ups, and [ideas] for business development or improvement they might have,” she says.

Once your plan is in place, though, your company should continue to solicit employee feedback.

“Implement regular check-ins with your workforce to find out how they are adapting and to take note of any recommendations, they might have for improving the remote work structure,” Hoff says. “Ultimately, they are the ones living and breathing this shift, so they will be best placed to make recommendations that feed into a bright vision for long-term remote working.”

Set clear rules and expectations for work hours.

An excellent long-term remote work plan establishes rules and expectations around work hours so that at-home employees can avoid burnout. Sanchez advises that you set a schedule that “will support healthy and motivated employees while also maximizing productivity. For example, your plan could include the hours employees are expected to respond to emails, not to feel like they have to be “on-call” at all times of the day or night. Or, it could set a policy barring back-to-back Zoom meetings so that employees don’t become overwhelmed with screen time. “The companies who get this right will be the ones who attract the top talent,” she says.

If you recruit top talent from across the country, you may have employees that live in different time zones, and it will be important for your long-term remote work plan to establish when they are expected to work. Their hours should have at least some overlap with the rest of your team.

Include team-building opportunities.

One thing that remote workforces can lack is connectivity to team members. So, a good long-term remote work plan will ensure employees build positive relationships with one another.

To do this, “consider what is already important to your employees,” says Hoff. For example, if your workers value speaking face-to-face, make sure your plan includes a schedule of “regular, weekly virtual calls to catch up about work and non-work-related items,” Hoff suggests. And as pandemic restrictions abate, you may consider outlining opportunities for in-person gathering, such as monthly meetups for team-building activities such as bowling or trivia nights, he says.

Support employees with comfortable workspaces.

Not all of your remote employees will have a dedicated office. Amid the pandemic, “all too often the kitchen table or small coffee table became the defacto office desk,” says Hoff. “For parents of younger children, this transition was challenging as they were forced to play both ‘teacher’ and ‘babysitter’ while also trying to juggle the day-to-day responsibilities of their jobs.”

And while working from the kitchen table might work in the short term for some employees, it shouldn’t be a part of your long-term remote work plan. Instead, the best long-term remote work plans will make accommodations for employees’ home workspaces to be productive.

Hoff suggests having candid conversations with your employees to learn about their at-home workspaces, asking how you can make their work-from-home situation better. Your plan might include supplying items such as sound-canceling earphones, ergonomic chairs, or even subsidizing a co-working space membership where employees can find some quiet time, he says.

Create a new, redesigned onboarding process.

With a remote workforce, it’s time to change up your onboarding process and make it a part of your long-term remote work plan. With in-person workforces, “most companies had a checklist of ‘new employee onboarding tasks’ they walked through one by one when introducing a new hire into the company,” describes Hoff. But “in most cases, this process won’t translate that well to a virtual onboarding, he adds, in part because, with a remote workforce, there needs to be a greater emphasis on introducing people to their coworkers. “What used to be taken for granted — sitting down with a new group over lunch, or spending time sitting with someone in their office as you were trained on company protocols — should now be a priority,” says Hoff.  

Your long-term remote work plan, then, should “focus efforts on integrating them culturally into the organization and its people,” he says, with a new and remote-friendly onboarding process. 

Whereas before, your company likely spent more time on-the-job training, “it’s now equally about integration,” Hoff says. “Ensuring new team members feel welcomed and familiar with people beyond their immediate team or the department should become a priority in the onboarding process to ensure company culture becomes engrained and proliferated” with your remote workers.

But you can’t forget about job training entirely, of course, and your long-term remote work plan should include an onboarding process that has training elements. Sanchez suggests that larger companies set up automated teaching modules as well as assigning new employees a mentor who can answer one-off questions; smaller companies, she says, could use mentors for everything.  

Get your employees behind your plan.

With a long-term remote work plan in place, it’s time to rally your employees behind it.

“Although the majority of the workforce has adapted well to the remote work structure, some still do miss and prefer having that face-to-face interaction” says Hoff. “It will take a little more convincing to get this portion of the population behind long-term remote working, but there are some strategies that can be implemented to get workers excited about what this era has to offer.”

For example, your company might choose to offer incentives for working from home, such as a stipend for cell phone costs or childcare, for example. Or your company might consider scheduling annual offsite trips — retreats that allow employees to gather together for a combination of work and relaxing — for high-performing or newly remote workers. “Recognizing your employees’ hard work and whisking them off to somewhere exotic certainly won’t go amiss,” Hoff says. “The remainder of this trip throughout the work year will help those unsure of the remote structure get behind the plan knowing this reward will come.”

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Returning To The Office: A Survival Guide

It’s hard to imagine. After nearly 16 months of remote work, and all the logistical and emotional baggage that came with propelling yourself and your family through the global pandemic, it’s time to return to an office that you haven’t seen since March 2020.  

But everything feels different now. You feel different now. It’s uncomfortable to think about being surrounded by people all day-even people you know, like, and trust. The thought of sharing spaces with others is hard to stomach after more than a year of hand-washing, mask-wearing and worrying.  

How do you get comfortable with this? How do you get your mind around your upcoming return to the office?  See our tips below.

Consider what you need.

Many of us are more vigilant about germs now; for over a year, we’ve had to be. For much of that time, we didn’t fully know which risks were most pressing. We nervously washed our produce and sanitized surfaces as experts learned more about the virus and how COVID-19 spreads. It was a scary, stressful time. 

So now, we’re going back to closed quarters with our co-workers. If the thought of shared restrooms, communal refrigerators, and coffee pots stir your anxiety, you are certainly not alone.

Your company, likely, has regulations around some of these anxiety producers. Learn everything you can about that protocol before you return. Pose all your questions to your management team and your HR partners. Make sure you understand the expectations. Secure your supplies.  

Think about what you need to feel comfortable in a shared workspace. Maybe bringing disinfectant spray or wipes, for example, will make you feel comfortable using communal spaces like restrooms. Ask your HR partners if this is acceptable. Maybe you need to wipe down your desk and keyboard each night to feel safe and secure. Consider what feels right to you and secure the information and supplies you need as you think through your return logistics.  

Dr. Mark Allen, author and lecturer in talent management, corporate universities, and human resources at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School points out: “Things will be different. The environment will be different (possible plexiglass, temperature checks, etc.). The work will be different (some people are still working from home, with hybrid meetings, etc.). The social aspects of work will be different (fewer people in the office each day, no birthday parties, etc.). Change is difficult under the best of circumstances, and these aren’t the best of circumstances. Our responses to change are always emotional, and we (and our bosses) need to remember that.”

Know your boundaries.  

As you talk with your human resources partners, see what support and resources are being made available to staff, and honestly explore what you need. Trust your gut. If you are not comfortable, if this genuinely does not feel right or doable to you, listen to that. You have to be comfortable at work to be able to concentrate and to find your fit there.

A recent Glassdoor survey conducted online by The Harris Poll reveals that 7 in 10 (70%) U.S. employees who are currently working from home due to COVID-19 believe that workers should be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine to return to the office. And even after offices reopen, nearly 9 in 10 (86%) say they would prefer to continue working from home at least part of the time. 

You matter more than your job. If this experience has led you to conclude that you need to be a remote worker for a while, pursue that, either via your HR team or by finding an arrangement that serves you better.

“COVID-19 has triggered a new wave of employee expectations, from incentives to get a vaccine to more flexible work options, even after it’s safe to return to the office,” says Carina Cortez, Glassdoor’s Chief People Officer. “Employers must take employee feedback into account to determine what is best for their workforce, including how to best support employees who plan to get the vaccine, and employees who do not.”

This means recognizing that the return to the workplace may not be a fit for you. If that’s the case, do what is available to you to change your situation so that you can find one that better suits you.

If your workplace requires staff to be onsite but doesn’t require vaccinations, and if that feels unsafe to you, then your professional culture is no longer a fit for you. Likewise, if your employer requires staff to get vaccinated and you’re uncomfortable with that, you’ve lost fit in your professional culture. The pandemic has cued plenty of cultural changes. Recognizing and owning which ones are suitable for you is an important part of getting acclimated to the post-covid workplace. 

Support safety protocol.

If you decide to work in your office full or part-time, it’s your professional responsibility to support your employer’s safety protocol. “Be prepared for new requirements. Possible temperature checks, mandatory masks, social distancing. Don’t be resistant to these requirements even if you disagree with them. They are in place for your safety and the safety of your co-workers.” Dr. Allen shares. Workplace culture matters, especially now. Pull together with your team to make this work.

Dr. Allen offers this reminder: “I recently saw someone arguing with a security guard who was politely asking him to put his mask back on. This was in Los Angeles County, where masks are still mandatory indoors. There’s no point in arguing with the guard–he didn’t make the rules. Let’s all be prepared to accept whatever restrictions are in place–we’ve lasted this long under Covid rules–let’s accept that it might be just a little bit longer.”

If you want to offer feedback about the protocol, find the right way to do so. Learn who on the HR team is the right person to share that with; show your concern by offering help, suggestions, support. If you feel like you need to vent, do that work with your mental health professional, who can help you neutralize your feelings and manage them productively.  

Recognize that this is a challenging time organization-wide. Sharing suggestions are likely to be appreciated, as is patience, kindness, and empathy. We’re not yet done with the pandemic. It remains a hard time.

Get support.

Think about what you need. We’ve just weathered a global pandemic. None of us have ever been through anything like this. Find the help and support you need as you sort it out. Whether you’re feeling excited or hesitant about your return to the office, it may be helpful to find a coach, therapist, or counselor to help you get your mind around this transition. It’s a big change.

Our feelings about the pandemic tend to run deep. Many of us had to shoulder trauma that we haven’t fully processed as we saw family members suffering from COVID-19, and as we tried to cobble together emergency plans to protect the children and the seniors we care for in case we got sick. It can be surprising how the trauma resurfaces unexpectedly.

Take this opportunity to get the care that you need so that you can feel well-supported as you return to the office. You deserve mental health care that sustains you from within. Make that a priority as you contemplate this transition. You deserve it.  

Keep in mind that the leaders and managers guiding us through the transition back into the workplace have also never been through this kind of change. Examining your feelings, being able to understand and articulate them is especially helpful during transitional times.

Have realistic expectations

Whether you are excited or apprehensive about your return to work, recognize that things stand to be different. Prepare for that. Dr. Allen points out: “Things won’t be like the Beforetimes. We are not going back to what life was like in February of 2020. We need to adjust to the fact that things will be different. And let’s not talk about The New Normal. That’s a myth. When we first go back, there will still be some Covid restrictions. Those will ease, and things will change again. There won’t be a Normal.”

We’ve been through a global pandemic. Many of us didn’t fully realize that something like this could happen. Take it slow as you get your mind around how to move forward. While it feels good to see our lives starting to look more normal, we’re different people now. We have to be kinder to ourselves and our coworkers.

“The best thing we can offer our employees is flexibility. Let those who want to work from home for a few days do it if possible. If people need flexible schedules, let them have it. We’ve all been through a lot–let’s do what we can to ease people back into the workplace.”  Dr. Allen advises.

Best wishes with your transition. We’re all rooting for you.

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Emerging Trends in Educational Publishing and Beyond with Cynthia Knable

Cynthia Knable is the Founder and CEO of CeresEd, an educational content development company. She leads teams of talented project managers, writers, editors, and artists in creating products for educational publishers, EdTech companies and more.

Cynthia joins Mike Palmer to share her experiences beginning as a content writer and editor before quickly rising to a leadership role culminating in founding Ceres-Ed. She shares her perspectives on emerging trends in content development and educational publishing as we touch on themes of diversity, equity and inclusion, and democratization of publishing through the removal of traditional gatekeepers.

It’s an engaging and insightful look into the world of content as a service that you won’t want to miss!

For more great shows like this subscribe to Trending in Education wherever you get your podcasts. Visit us at TrendinginEd.com.

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Back to School Guide for Fall 2021

Get Your Kids Excited

Create anticipation for back to school by bringing back traditions you’ve had in the past, or making some new ones:

  • Say farewell to summer with their choice of a fun day out.
  • Make shopping for new school supplies special by going out for lunch or ice cream after.
  • Make an annual time capsule with photos, handwriting samples and drawings. Open it at the beginning of every school year.
  • Do a back-to-school interview. Record height, weight, friends, favorite movie and foods, and what they want to be when they grow up. Keep them in a notebook to read the day before school starts.
  • Plan a special back-to-school dinner with your kids’ favorite foods. Break out the decorations and dress up for the occasion.

Teachers are Excited About School, Too!

“Nothing can replace the impact, relationships and joy of in-person learning environments,” says Katie Blum, a second grade teacher at Sugar Hill Elementary and Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year. “Having all of our students in the same classroom allows teachers to develop a closer community, or class family, and nurture not only academic skills, but also behavior and social skills.”

“I’m excited about returning to campus for many reasons. The most important part of it is that I can see the emotion from each face,” says Yao Li, a Chinese Instructor at OMNI International School. “Face-to-face interaction helps me see students’ learning experience and tells me instantly what I should do next. My students told me that they love going back to school, too.”

Tips and Tricks For a Great School Year!

  • Work together to create an outline of your child’s school and activity schedules in a cute planner. Create a family calendar with everyone’s activities and commitments.
  • Refresh rules for screen time. When and for how long can they use electronics? Have a “bedtime” for electronics that is well before your child’s actual bedtime.
  • Shop for school supplies and clothes early. Before shopping, go through your kids’ wardrobes and last year’s school supplies, and toss or donate the items they’ve outgrown or no longer want.
  • Increase the independence of younger kids by practicing tasks before school starts: refilling a water bottle from a water fountain or sink; opening a lunch box, snacks and containers; sitting, eating and cleaning up a meal at a table within 20-25 minutes; memorizing family or guardians’ real name, phone number and address; and focusing on an independent task for 10-20 minutes.
  • Have a backup transportation plan in case your kids miss the bus – make sure they know who to call if this happens.
  • Create an “inbox” for kids to leave sheets that need your attention, like permission slips.
  • Know how to ask about their day – “how was school?” may not be the best conversation starter. Ask open-ended questions, or share something about your own day before asking what the best part of their day was. If they come to you with a problem, brainstorm solutions together rather than immediately trying to fix it.
  • Serve a healthy breakfast that contains protein. Children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better.
  • Prioritize your family’s activities. Even though things are slowly returning to normal, use this time to evaluate the hobbies and activities your children enjoy, rather than overscheduling and signing your kids up for every available opportunity.
  • Create a quiet workspace for homework and projects. Remove distractions from the area, and keep school supplies organized nearby.

Advice from Experts

Make the transition back to school better with these ideas and advice from professionals.

Melisa Marsh, Cobb Schools’ Supervisor of School Counseling, Advisement and Crisis Response:

As children and families acclimate to shifting school schedules, many will struggle with changes in routine and the loss of whatever daily online habits they’d settled into during distance learning. Returning to school in-person will also mean navigating new or altered physical environments and following a variety of safety protocols. Some children could even feel like they’re experiencing withdrawals from their digital lives. To help with this, parents could ask their child to identify ways they might balance their media use.

Lisa Kelly, Lower School Principal at Mt. Bethel Christian Academy:

Parents should start establishing the morning routine a few days before school starts to help make the transition to getting up and out of the house easier. Identify who is responsible for each task, the parent or the child, including: packing lunch, snack and water bottle; ensuring homework and school items are in the backpack; and having a morning hygiene and breakfast routine. Having a solid plan in place that has been rehearsed will help make those first few early mornings go more smoothly, which greatly benefits the child. Students who feel rushed and out of sorts at the  beginning of the day will be more anxious and unsettled in the classroom.

Barbara Jacoby, Cherokee County School District’s Chief Communications Officer:

Cherokee County School District encourages parents of rising kindergartners to check out the information on our website that highlights the learning and fun planned for their child’s upcoming year, including a kindergarten guidebook and a “day in the life of a kindergartner” video at bit.ly/CCSDkindergarten. Resource webpages for each elementary school grade with printables, like flash cards and handwriting templates, is at bit.ly/CCSDresourcesK.

Dr. Andi Shane, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University:

In-school instruction is a personal choice, and every family needs to make a decision based on what works best for their child and their family. We have increasing evidence that secondary transmission (infections resulting from infections in children and staff at school) is rare. In addition, as more people 12 and older are being vaccinated, the risk of transmission in the school setting is reduced even further. We also know that the social, emotional and developmental opportunities afforded by in-person instruction far outweigh the risks of infection transmission. However, as a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease and epidemiology, we still need to be safe. This means ensuring that students and staff are completely asymptomatic before going into the school environment, emphasizing hand hygiene and masking, and reminding students about reporting symptoms immediately.

Planning for a Changed School Environment

Keep in mind schools and school systems are monitoring guidelines to determine what changes will be implemented for the year.

  • Parents may want to check their school’s policies on social distancing, masks, visitors, serving meals in the cafeteria, assigning seats on buses, health checks, using water fountains, after school programs, recess and playground protocols.
  • To help your child acclimate to socializing with more than just family members, choose a family you trust to have a playdate at a playground or park.
  • Know your school’s resources. “Since some students may be returning to in-person instruction from a year and three months of distance learning, teachers will do a COVID-19 debriefing with students during the first week of school to help get them acclimated back into the school building,” says Brent Shropshire, Bartow County School System’s Director or Counselors, College Readiness, Wellness and Fine Arts. “School counselors will also have a Trauma 101 Training prior to the start of the school year to help them recognize signs of trauma a student may have experienced during their time away from the school building.”

The post Back to School Guide for Fall 2021 appeared first on Atlanta Parent.

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How to Cope with Back-to-School Stress

Many students and families are relieved to be returning to in-person classes, but your child may be anxious about the upcoming school year. Atlanta Parent spoke to Dr. Stephanie Walsh, the Medical Director of Child Wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life, about how you can help your child cope with back-to-school stress.

Dr. Walsh

How can you talk to your kids about back-to-school anxiety?

Regardless of a child’s age, start by asking open-ended questions to find out what’s on their mind and actively listen. Remove any distractions, like your phone, give them your full attention, and be careful to avoid statements such as “Don’t worry about that!” or “It’s going to be fine.” Even though you mean well, these types of responses minimize your child’s feelings and may make them less likely to share their thoughts or feelings in the future. Instead, let your child know you understand by repeating back what you hear and letting them know it’s OK to feel however they’re feeling. Once you know how they are feeling, help them work through those emotions rather than avoiding them.

How can you help your child prepare for school if this is their first in-person experience?

If your child is going to be attending school for the first time in the fall, you can help ease their anxiety by using the summer to prepare them for what to expect. If possible, you may want to:

  • Visit the school before the first day.
  • Meet the teacher.
  • Drive or walk the bus or drop-off route.
  • Have playdates with other kids that will be at the school.

How can you help your kids deal with the anxiety about COVID-19 if they’re returning to in-person school?

It’s important to ask kids open-ended questions to get a sense of how they really feel, rather than making assumptions. Dismissing or minimizing their concerns doesn’t help them feel better.  Instead, let them know it’s normal and OK to feel anxiety about in-person learning. Help your child learn to name, and work through, their feelings with healthy coping skills. If your child is feeling anxious about the unknown, help them focus on the facts and what we do know. If they are particularly overwhelmed thinking about the future and all the “what if” scenarios, try to shift their focus to what you know right now. Knowing what to expect can put their mind at ease.

How can you make the transition to back to school easier?

Create daily routines to help keep things predictable. Knowing what to expect can help create a sense of comfort and security. Although things can change from day to day, try to have some  consistency with bed- and wake-times to help your child transition back to school more easily. Encourage your family to prioritize healthy habits, such as drinking water, eating balanced meals  and snacks, being active, getting enough quality sleep and limiting screen time. Practicing healthy habits will help support your child’s mind and body as they transition back to school and can have a positive impact on their mood, focus and behavior.

How should you talk to your kids about COVID-19 safety precautions?

As much as possible:

  • Stick to the facts, and tell your kids only what they need to know.
  • Use language that is clear, simple and developmentally appropriate.
  • Help them understand that regardless of changing guidelines related to masking, they can continue helping to keep themselves and others safe by washing their hands, keeping their distance and  staying home if they are sick.

If you are more nervous about the return to in-person school than your child is, how can you keep them from picking up on your own anxiety?

As a parent, you are human and have your own feelings, too. It’s normal and understandable to feel worried about your child returning to school, but keep in mind that kids look to adults to see how they should behave or react. If you are showing signs of anxiety, your kids will think they should feel anxious, too. Try to share your calm, instead of your anxiety. Consider talking to friends, family and other caregivers about how you feel. If any confusion or uncertainty is causing anxiety, talk with the school to get your questions or concerns answered.

How can you teach your child to deal with their anxiety?

Here are some simple coping skills you can teach and practice with your child:

Find more helpful family and parenting resources at strong4life.com.

The post How to Cope with Back-to-School Stress appeared first on Atlanta Parent.

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How to Join a Homeschool Group

WANTED:
Group of local or online homeschoolers to form a community where we all feel relaxed and comfortable. Must naturally hit it off, and if our kids get along, that’s even better. Must share ideas, field trips, encouragement, tears, laughs, rides, curriculum, coffee, playdates and frustrations. Future possibilities include: starting a small learning co-op, holiday parties, book clubs for different ages, sports and more.

Sound too good to be true? It can be your reality! If you are new to homeschooling and haven’t yet found your tribe, taking the leap could lead you (and your kids!) to homeschool zen. Everybody talks about homeschool socialization for your kids, but what about for you? Why can’t you have both at the same time?

Homeschooling mom Angie Pemberton shares, “My tribe is our little group of kids about the same age. I think it gets a bit harder to homeschool as kids get older and they start feeling like they are missing out on some of the school stuff. This group helps us get the good stuff without the drama. We have our own little summer co-op and field trip group and love the support we get from each other.”

So where can you find – or how can you start – your own homeschooling tribe? Here are my suggestions:

Join an Existing Group

There are many homeschooling support groups in Georgia and the metro Atlanta area; a good place to start is the Georgia Home Education Association, which has a list of names and regions. Start with a large support group meeting to see if it’s a good fit for both you and your children. You may jell with a few moms, and you can then branch off into your own weekly meetup and bring others in as you make connections.

During school hours, go to places where homeschoolers hang out – libraries, parks, indoor play areas, zoos and children’s museums. Some libraries have a homeschooler lunch bunch; you can also search online for local co-ops and classes. Maybe you meet someone at the library who you think would fit into your group very well, and you invite him or her to your next park date or book club meetup.

Unless you are a social butterfly, heading into a group of homeschooling parents might seem a little scary. Take a deep breath and do it anyway … it’s for you and for your kids, after all, and you deserve to find that special supportive set of people.

Start your own group

Host a book club, nature hike or field trip and invite a variety of people you’ve collected using the methods above. Some might never come, some will come religiously, but soon enough you’ll start to figure out who your tribe is. My experience has always been that the kids will follow your lead and, if you get a large enough group going, they will find at least one person they also connect with.

Online

For me, this is the easiest way to find and maintain your tribe. Start with social media sites like Yahoo Groups, Meetup and Facebook. You can start your own group online if you aren’t finding what you want, or if you just want to do your own thing. Invite tribe potentials and then they can invite friends they like. Your group might be full of homeschoolers from all over the country (or world!) or maybe you connect with a handful with whom you can meet locally.

Don’t forget you can have more than one tribe! I put together a great tribe of hippie-ish unschooling parents that met at a coffeehouse/gym combo for a long time, but then I also found a fantastic group of structured homeschooling women when my family started at a co-op. They are on entirely different ends of the homeschooling spectrum at times, but then so am I. You can, conversely, have one tribe that’s entirely online and one that only meets for field trips. The sky’s the limit.

What about disagreements and problems? It’s true that there are going to be disagreements in any group. Sometimes you just need a break after a sticky situation with another mom or between the kids; sometimes there needs to be a full-on break-up with the entire group. Sometimes you just change and maybe outgrow the tribe and slowly and politely make your exit with no hard feelings. People in your tribe will move away, stop homeschooling altogether, have drama over things non-homeschool-related and more.

Your tribe will grow, shrink and change. Be open to the tribe concept and I promise it will enrich the homeschooling experience for both you and your kids. Keep an open mind and collect your wonderful homeschool friends wherever you can find them. Then nurture those relationships, because you’re going to need the support on your homeschooling journey!

– Kerrie McLoughlin

The post How to Join a Homeschool Group appeared first on Atlanta Parent.

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Congregational Learning with Matt Burke and Ben Tapper

Matt Burke and Ben Tapper join Mike Palmer to talk about what we can learn from the congregational experience especially in light of the transformative times we’ve been living in. Matt and Ben work for the Center of Congregations in Indiana and cohost its podcast providing tools and educational resources to congregations across the state and beyond.

We look for parallels and opportunities that come from examining online learning and digital delivery in congregational contexts and explore how to embrace difference while modeling tolerance in an ecumenical way. Ben and Matt share their journeys to this point in their professional lives as we explore the importance of adaptability, relationship-building, and theological hospitality in providing great learning environments. We also dive into how to build welcoming, evolving congregational spaces that provide equitable access to a wide and diverse audience. It’s a meaning-rich conversation that you won’t want to miss.

For more information, you can check out the Center’s resource guide.

If you’re enjoying what you hear, subscribe to Trending in Education wherever you get your podcasts. Visit us at TrendinginEd.com

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100 Days of Summer: Week 4

The Escape Game

Movies Under the Stars

Catch a new release at these drive-in experiences, or head to a city park for a movie night. Find more free movie series here.

Make an Escape

Put your problem-solving skills to the test with these themed challenges. Find more escape rooms here.

  • Breakout Games’ themes put you in the role of an undercover detective in Undercover Alley, freeing the passengers in Runaway Train, finding stolen art in Museum Heist and more.
  • Find the artifact that will save the planet, solve the case and prove your innocence, regain control of a submarine, disarm a nuclear bomb, or find treasure in a castle with Project: Escape’s rooms.
  • The Escape Game’s themes include Prison Break, Special Ops: Mysterious Market, Gold Rush, Playground and The Heist to find items and solve challenges.
  • Urban Escape Games has 10 different scenarios, including The King’s Treasure, an escape room built for kids to solve puzzles and do activities.
  • Cobb County PARKS’ The Emporium asks you to solve the mystery behind the owner of the local Emporium’s disappearance, as you step up to run the business in his place.

Behind the Scenes

Metro Atlanta provides the backdrop to amazing movies and TV shows. See sites from “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Walking Dead,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and more.

Up in the Clouds

Soar high in a plane or hot air balloon.

  • Soar over Atlanta’s notable attractions and get a bird’s-eye-view with Biplane Rides Over Atlanta.
  • Magic Carpet Ride Balloon Adventures offer hot air balloon rides over the entire metro area, and they may even be able to fly you from your own property.
  • Balloon Atlanta offers private rides for two or shared rides for three or more for views of Alpharetta, Marietta, Canton, Roswell and Cartersville.

Become a Junior Ranger

Kids can learn about history and explore the outdoors at parks and historic sites in Georgia as they work toward earning 59 different site-specific Junior Ranger badges. Inside each Junior Ranger Activity Book there are missions to complete for badges at each park.

The post 100 Days of Summer: Week 4 appeared first on Atlanta Parent.

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