Godzilla Gazette, 35

Week of May 16, 2016


  • From Grace
  • The Reflective Practitioner
  • Weekly Team Planning Link
  • Weekly Events
  • For Your Information

From Grace

Aloha, everyone! At the parent coffee on Friday, our guest speaker shared some of the neuroscience behind emotions and their contagious nature. She referenced the power of even one person to create a space that is full of negativity or full of something much more positive. We learned that negative experiences imprint on the brain immediately while positive ones take 15 seconds to imprint. This is important for us to keep in mind as we close out this school year and face the emotions that come with it - the stress of getting everything done, the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbye to our students and each other, or the annoyance of negative behavior rising up. Let's commit to spreading positive emotions and catching them from each other to finish the year up strong.

For some of our students, the end of they year brings uncertainties for them and they too can spread their emotions to their classmates. When I came across this week's Reflective Practitioner, it seemed like perfect timing, mirroring our learning at the coffee, and sharing helpful ideas for responding to stress in a positive way. When you couple this with the Website to Explore, shared by Alma, that hosts videos designed to calm and refocus, this Gazette is full of resources that will help us all navigate the tricky emotions of the last few weeks of school.

Have a good Spirit Week. As always, be a spreader of good, greet each other, smile, breathe, and embrace your power to stay positive and have fun with each day's theme!

The Reflective Practitioner

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Dr. Lori Desautels

Assistant Professor in the School of Education Marian University

March 31, 2016

Neuroscience research suggests that emotions are contagious. Our brains are social organs, and we are wired for relationships. When we encounter or experience intense emotions from another individual, we feel those feelings as if they were our own. Mirror neurons in our brains are responsible for empathy, happiness, and the contagious anger, sadness, or anxiety that we feel when another person is experiencing these same feelings.

In the film Inside Out, 11-year-old Riley and her parents are sitting together at dinner in their new San Francisco home. As the three discuss the youth hockey team that Riley's mother has discovered, Riley's anger builds quickly because Joy has left headquarters (the frontal lobes in her brain), and Fear and Anger are on duty instead. As Riley's anger grows, her father's anger begins to match hers, and the dinner conversation ends in an explosive outburst of emotional contagion. This amusing dramatization of a very real family dynamic demonstrates how our brains can react and quickly jump into a conflict without our conscious awareness or conscious choice.

Students and educators need to understand how quickly this negative interaction can occur. Conflicts escalate unconsciously when our amygdala, the emotional control centers in the limbic system, are triggered and we instantaneously react. When two people are experiencing an active stress response, no one is thinking clearly as the frontal lobes are shut down, and behaviors and words can become painful and hurtful. In the end, we rarely feel better, because the amygdala's language is feelings, not words.

When we feel negative emotion, words are not heard or understood. This is why co-regulation is so important before we begin to problem solve or explain consequences for poor choices. Co-regulation or calming the stress response system is needed to prime the brain for broadened thinking, planning, and understanding. Research reports that movement and breathing are two significant ways to calm the stress response system. We'll discuss these below as we delve into a few calming strategies for healthy brain functioning.

Calming the Stress Response

Focused attention practices and movement are the two neurological strategies for calming an angry and anxiety-ridden brain. When we are in this fight-flight-freeze response, we do not hear words or explanations because the neural pathway from the prefrontal cortex back to the amygdala is much like a dirt road -- it's underdeveloped, and messages in words are not heard or understood.

1. Get Some Distance

Give students -- and yourself -- a few minutes to step away from a conflict and de-escalate the limbic reaction. You can accomplish this with deep breaths, some physical space, a few push-ups, jumping rope, a walk, or listening to instrumental music while focusing on your breath.

2. Validate the Feelings

Once the negative emotions have calmed down and the brain has regulated, validation is critical for helping students know that they are heard and understood. Examples of validating statements include:

  • That must have made you feel really angry.
  • What a frustrating situation to be in!
  • It must make you feel angry to have someone do that.
  • Wow, how hard that must be.
  • That stinks!
  • That's messed up!
  • How frustrating!
  • Yeah, I can see how that might make you feel really sad.
  • Boy, you must be angry.
  • What a horrible feeling.
  • What a tough spot.

3. Questions and Choices

Once the student feels heard and felt, we can gain a better understanding of his or her feelings. We then have an opportunity to implement questions and choices. Both questioning and choice assist in up-shifting an oxygenated glucose blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, where we are better problem solvers, to think clearly about choices and consequences. Here are some sample questions:

  • How can I help?
  • What do you need?
  • What can we do together to make this better?
  • What is a plan we can create together?
  • Is there anything you need from me now or later that would help you reach your goals?

Reasonable Consequences

The brain loves to make sense out of experiences, information, and relationships that fit together. This is why we need to implement consequences that attend to the hurt or pain that one person has caused another. Consequences for poor decisions and the choices aligned with them will make sense and feel relevant and meaningful to students who are ready to process this information, responding from their frontal lobes in a calm brain state. This is the place in which they'll experience and feel the connection between choices and consequences. Here are some examples of those connections:

  • For a student who interrupted whole-class learning, have him or her create an extra-credit assignment for the class on a specific topic or standard.
  • For a student who used unkind words to another classmate, have these two partner to create a special assignment, job, or favor for another class or the cafeteria or office staff, starting a "pay it forward" chain for a week of school.
  • For a student who showed disrespectful behavior toward an adult, have him or her write a letter of apology explaining what was beneath the hurt feelings that caused the behavior, accompanied by a plan of action to make amends for the hurt feelings that he or she caused.

There are many YouTube videos presenting kindness, empathy, and the tough struggles of others that students will enjoy and learn from. This activity helps us reach beyond our own stubborn egos and negative emotions to serve another. The following links take you to sources of short videos that will help your students create positive emotions and diminish anger:

What are other ways that we could align consequences to impact future behaviors with positive emotion?


Weekly Team Planning Template Link

Weekly Events - School Health Team and Teacher Appreciation Week!

Monday, May 16, 2016 - A Day - Pajama Day!

  • 21st Century Skills Technology Assessment
  • EOY ORF Window Opens - 3rd-5th Grades
  • Final School Tour - 9:00 am - Office - Grace
  • ARD - 10:30 am - Office - Meghan, Paula, Grace
  • 504 Meeting - 11:30 am - TBD - Corinda and/or Kellie, Robin, Grace
  • Symphony Trip! - 11:40 am - Long Center - 4th-5th Grades
  • Fire Drill - 2:00 pm - School - All
  • Film Kids Film Festival - 3:00 pm - Gym - All Invited
  • 100th Birthday Pageant Practice - 3:00 pm - Music Room - Amy

Tuesday,May 17, 2016 - B Day - Twins Day!

  • 4th Parent Maker Movement for 1st Grade
  • Parent Meeting - 8:00 am - Office - Grace
  • Tapestry Dance Performance - Cafeteria - 8:30 am - PreK-2nd Grades
  • Tapestry Dance Performance - Cafeteria - 9:30 am - 3rd-6th Grades
  • 504 Meeting - 11:30 am - Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Robin, Grace
  • ARD - 2:30 pm - Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Kristen, Grace
  • ARD - 3:00 pm - Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Kristen, Grace
  • AISD Salute! - 6:30 pm - PAC - Amy, Nicole, Grace, All Invited!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - C Day - Wacky Wednesday!

  • Math Training - 8:00-11:00 am - Library - 3rd-6th Grade Teachers
  • Tapestery Dance Workshops - During Special Areas - Gym - K-6th Grades
  • Audit Report Meeting - 10:00 am - Office - Grace
  • 504 Meeting - 11:30 am - Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Robin, Grace

Thursday, May 19, 1016 - A Day - Throw Back Thursday!

  • ARD - 8:00 am - Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Kristen, Grace
  • ARD - 8:30 am - Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Kristen, Grace
  • ARD - 9:30 am - Learning Lab 1 - Suzie, Janie, Grace
  • ARD - 11:00 am - Office - Monica, Margaret, Grace
  • 504 Meeting - 11:30 am - Counseling Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Robin, Grace
  • Assistant Principal PD - 1:00 am - Baker - Grace
  • CAC Meeting - 3:15 pm - Library - All CAC Members

Friday, May 20, 2016 - B Day - Famous Person/Cartoon Character Day!

  • School-wide Assembly - 7:45 am - Gym - All
  • Parent Meeting - 8:00 am - Office - Grace
  • Parent Meeting - 9:00 am - Office - Grace
  • End-of-Year Bowling - 9:30 am - Dart Bowl - 4th Grade
  • 504 Meeting - 11:30 am - Office - Corinda and/or Kellie, Robin, Grace
  • PALS - 12:30 pm - Cafeteria - Robin, 6th Grade

For Your Information


  • If you need something, ask.
  • If you haven't already, make sure to take the Educator's Ethics Course through AISD's HCP.
  • Follow Report Card Timelines
  • Make sure to utilize reading/writing workshop and small group instruction during core.
  • Remember to take attendance daily on TEAMS.
  • Arrive and pick up your class from special areas on time - respect each other's time.
  • Ensure 504, IEP, ELL, and Gifted Accommodations are being followed
  • Actively supervise your students - Spread out at recess to monitor each area.
  • Check our calendar for important events
  • Try something new and have fun!

Kudos: Do you know of something good? Share it with Grace to be included here or write it in the comments below!

  • To Alma for sharing this week's Website to Explore!
  • To Corinda and Kellie and the 6th grade student council for coming up with this year's Spirit Week themes!
  • To Julie for holding down the office with a smile!
  • To all for their love and support of Maria and her family!
  • To Robin for all of her assistance with the mundane task of STAAR prep and wrap-up!
  • To everyone for last week's STAAR administration week - thank you all of your support and diligence.
  • To Jennifer for a splendid Fine Arts Night!
  • To Lisa and Jimmy for a beautiful concert at Fine Arts Night!
  • To Amy and Steve for their support and help with the evening!
  • To Monica and Sicily for immediately problem-solving and splitting Angela's class on Friday!
  • To Amy, Steve, and Jennifer for working together to support each other and the students through various endeavors!
  • To Jud for agreeing to be our new Campus Innovation Coach!

Upcoming Events:

  • 1st Grade Parent Maker Movement - May 17
  • Tapestry Dance Performances - May 17
  • AISD Salute! - May 17
  • 3rd-6th Grade Math Training - May 18
  • SEL Committee Meeting - May 18
  • Preservation Austin/Clarksville Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt - May 21
  • 100th Birthday Planning Meeting - May 24
  • Staff End of Year Party - May 26
  • Staff Development Day - May 27
  • School Holiday - May 30
  • Final School-wide Assembly of the Year - June 1
  • Last Day of School and 6th Grade Graduation - June 2

Website to Explore:

http://www.cfchildren.org/mind-yeti - This site supports the practices of SEL and compliments the Second Step Curriculum. It's in beta testing right now, but you can sign up and use the mindfulness videos with your whole class or with individual students who may just need a reset. Good stuff - check it out! :)