Mindfulness and SEL for Educators

Educators’ ability to meet the heightened social and emotional needs of their pupils right now are critically dependent upon their own wellness and attention to their own needs.

Here’s a very good webinar shared recently by the Awake Network that explores what that entails and shares some good practical thoughts on how to ensure that educators are addressing these self care needs.

Coronavirus and the Money Men

The world’s stock exchanges, banks and financial institutions allegedly have at their disposal phenomenal technology power, enormous volumes of information and data and some of the smartest (certainly the most expensive!) minds.  It’s often said that share prices (indices) don’t respond to events, but are determined in advance on the basis of what is going to happen. In turn, it is frequently said that share prices will always reflect the common set of knowledge that is freely known to all.   With that said, it might seem strange to many that the stock markets of the world could be thought to have reacted so very late to the coronavirus pandemic risks.

I should mention here that in a past existence, I worked in investment markets in London, employed by the Private Banking division of a major bank for eleven years after graduation. This time period included the 1987 stock market crash. I will never forget the hours spent on phones talking with desperate, fearful investors  looking for reassurance and guidance as to what they should do. At that time, our advice was that investors shouldn’t panic and sell, but should sit tight. Most were persuaded and thankfully it paid off as the old high levels were regained over time.

This time, however, there are aspects that look mysterious to me, making me skeptical that there may be strong forces that have worked very negatively towards the small investors. First intelligence about the covid-19 virus was received in America and around the world in mid-January. The stock market didn’t waiver and continued to be buoyant right up to 20th February. Only then did it start to fall. We now know that during that period there were fairly significant sales by senior political figures in America who were privy to briefings on the situation. After falling around 12% by 28th  February, the price then recovered more than half that drop by 4th March. Only then did the market turn genuinely negative, becoming something of a rout in the speed prices dropped.

Two weeks later, the stark reality of what the world faced became apparent. I was frankly shocked to see many financial pundits suggesting that the fall in the market had basically completed the ‘fastest bear market ever,’ was now oversold and a golden buying opportunity. Until 26th March it bounced quite strongly higher (giving one of the biggest market rises in a century). Since then, as day after day horrific news emerges around the world and as the full implications on the world’s economy are still not fully fathomed prices have drifted back down.

My suspicion lies around those two rallies in particular. In recent years, certain safeguards in the financial markets have been diluted. These included very strict limits on the ability of financial services companies and banks being both investors in markets for their own sake and market makers for the public. There have also been relaxations in the rules on the levels of gearing that financial institutions are allowed to use. Gearing means that if I have $1m dollars, I might buy $10m value of shares, putting up the $1m as margin (security) for the deal. After some time, if market prices increase by 10%, then I double my money. However, if  prices drop by 20% I not only lose my $1m completely, but I’m obliged to hand over another $1m within a certain amount of time. if I don’t have another $1m I’m busted, bankrupt and the bank has a hole of $1m in its balance sheet.

Margin calls would explain the sharp drop in prices of gold and bitcoin – assets that should have been seen as safe havens in the market storm. Investors had to sell whatever they could to meet the calls. However, I’m also suspicious that those faced with horrendous margin calls played a part in pumping the market back up, even though there was no fundamental basis on which it should rise. This would have enabled them to exit their positions without, at least losing everything. However, this would amount to a fraud on unwitting smaller investors.

It’s very early in the whole scenario, but the media has contained no hints or suggestions of any financial organisation in the world hitting a crisis of liquidity. In the current scenario the last thing any government in the world would want would be panic and a run on banks because of fear over the security of people’s deposits. nevertheless, around the world, banks and financial institutions have been riding a rise in market values that has tempted them to lend very heavily. We’ve already seen banks in India have to be rearranged under the weight of bad debts.

Reports from London reveal that bankers’ annual bonuses were paid out in February and March. So, yet again the ‘fat cats’ are likely to have walked away smelling of roses while leaving the common man to pick up the pieces. The British government had to step in this week and order them not to pay out enormous amounts of money in dividends to shareholders – money that may be desperately needed in the coming months to help out small businesses and distressed borrowers.

There are many ways that the world seems to have learned little from the financial crash in 2008 at the government level or at the level of the man in the street. It’s been a time of improved prosperity for some years. Yet, data suggests that 40% of people in America, just before this virus hit, would be incapable of absorbing a $400 financial hit. And, all this time, they’ve lived in a bubble where marketers and the government encouraged them to consume and consume, as though it was their duty to keep the economy merry-go-round moving.

The reality is this is going to be massively more than a $400 hit for millions. And the financial implications are going to be stark and painful. In a separate article I’m writing I’ll share that whilst this will be painful enough for people living in prosperous economies, the knock on effects for people in developing countries will be devastating, returning millions to poverty and even causing widespread deaths (that won’t show in the coronavirus statistics)

These are dark times, made worse by the hubris and greed of a system that so many said was broken and running on borrowed time. The cause of the carnage in the system might not have been foreseeable (a matter of debate), but many warnings were there. As we hunker down in our billions, locked in our homes to escape this evil deathly disease, we need to spend some time reflecting on the diseases in our world and society that played a part in unleashing it and making its impact way worse. This, believe it or not, is also an opportunity to give thought to the sort of world we want.

For the corporate executive who assessed winning and losing in the world by how much he/ she ducked and dived, out-grafted, out-earned and out-spent his peers – how does that big house (with big mortgage), top of the range SUV, cupboards full of suits, 10 pairs of jeans, bags, shoes etc etc feel now? Are they your source of happiness today and in the future? That car can’t move (in many countries today and maybe more soon). They don’t feed your family and they won’t save the relatives and friends you may lose to this virus. Keeping up with the Joneses is judged by very different criteria today. And maybe all those baubles were simply the superficial rewards for being loyal and dutiful cogs in other people’s bigger games.

A final thought – how busy in February and March were the secretive bankers in the Bahamas, Malta, Gibraltar and the other tax havens? Because it may be that the most powerful had already cleared a lot of their chips (and those of their companies) off the table in full awareness of the imminent storm. That was, just before they issued the layoff notices to employees in thousands.

I’m no communist, or even a socialist. However, we’ve known for long enough that rampant and unchecked capitalism was destroying our world. This may be the pause needed to decide what we want instead. So that we can build a more fair, inclusive and empathic world.

Free Online Meditation Resources

Awake Network Covid

As we all deal with the issues of the covid-19 pandemic, especially with the need for social distancing and the loss of human to human interaction, the effect for many is one of considerable anxiety and disturbance. there is an awkward irony that high levels of stress and anxiety cause increased cortisol levels – reducing one’s immunity levels.

In these circumstances, attention to mindfulness and the use of meditation is enormously valuable. Whether you’re an experienced meditator or someone who has been curious to try, this resource will be useful to you. The ‘Awake Network’ has collated an extensive list of free online resources;

The Awake Network – Free Online Meditation Resources

Rethinking Enrolment Due to Covid-19

Enrolment

The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) has upended all sorts of assumptions in personal and professional life. Every industry and field is now grappling with the issues of how to redefine, how to serve customers and clients, meet needs and be viable to work towards the future.

Private/ International schools and colleges are in the same boat. There are all sorts of issues to be addressed and figured out in a very uncertain situation where not everything can be predicted. Among these issues are thoughts about how to handle enrollment of new students for the new academic year, in this new ‘virtual school’ arena. At least for the foreseeable future, all the old methods for reaching new students and their families, promoting the school and persuading them to choose your school are up in the air.

To help people work their way towards some clarity in their thinking and approaches, ‘The Enrollment Management Association’  is offering a page of links to ‘covid-19 resources’. These include a link to a free online course about rethinking enrollments in the current extraordinary scenario.

The Enrollment Management Association
(click on the link above to open the resources page on a new tab or page)

I stress, I have no association with this organisation, but do believe this could be a considerable help for schools and colleges trying to figure out their way forward.

Kindness

Kindness vs Covid.pptx

About three months ago I started to tell friends, relatives and acquaintances that I had started work on the outline for a book I wanted to write. As is common in such situations, most responded by asking me what the book was about.

‘Kindness’ I replied.

At least nine times out of ten I’d receive a puzzled, quizzical look. Most times the person would promptly ask another question in order to change the subject. It seemed that, in their eyes, I’d just said something rather foolish and they wanted to save my embarrassment by moving on quickly.

I started to conclude that others thought it a rather foolish idea, a whimsical novelty of zero interest to anybody. For a time i was downhearted. When i went home and ruminated I became concerned  – what if they were all right and I was already wasting an inordinate amount of my time on something that would be of little or no interest to anyone. I must admit, my confidence in both myself and the book idea were hit quite hard.

After a couple of weeks reflection I concluded that I still wanted to write the book. The one thing I intended to change was, until the draft was complete, I would stop telling other people about it. One of the things that influenced my decision was hearing an old adage repeated in a podcast – that you write the book you need to read most at that point in your life. So, I would continue with this book, for me, and find out later whether or not anyone else was interested.

Now, fast forward to today and the calamitous turn of world events over the last few weeks. Suddenly, everywhere I look, as the world struggles to come to terms with the  turmoil caused by the coronavirus outbreak, people are talking about kindness. This appears to be at least as much about the sort of world people want to see after this is all over, as the need of the hour now as people wrestle with issues that cause great stress, anxiety and emotional upheaval.

So, I’m glad I carried on with the book research and writing. A part of me wishes it had already been finished by now, but you can’t have it all! i can’t give an indication yet on when it will be finished, but I certainly intend to push on whilst in enforced seclusion.

Perfectionism and Procrastination

Dale-Carnegie

 

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear, action breeds confidence and courage, if you want to conquer fear do not sit home and think about it, go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

There are no end of reasons we can give ourselves for not taking action, for being immobilized and frozen. Profusion of options and possibilities, fear of failure, even fear of success (how will it change me and move me out of my comfort zone or beliefs about my own identity? Am I really worthy of success?)

Personally, in the last two years I have struggled with the fact that I look at my experiences and say – well, nobody will expect anything of me now. All will excuse me if I’m not delivering, not fulfilling my potential or delivering all that i should to the world. Often, I can actually feel it (or imagine strongly that I feel it??) when interacting with others – whether they’re people I’ve known a long time or people who i meet and who come to know of my more recent life experiences – he’s a really nice guy (i hope they’re thinking this!) and he has a great past professional record of achievements.
BUT, business is business and while he seems OK, sorted and normal on the outside, who knows how all this has impacted him. He may just not be the risk I want to take any more. But, of course, we all wish him well.

So, then, it’s no real surprise when lots of talk, lots of discussion of possibilities doesn’t really result in concrete progress and real steps forward. There have been times this has caused me to question whether ‘Professional Mark’ is basically over.

In answer to all of this;

a) I don’t believe my professional contribution to the world is anything like over and that I actually have, if anything, more to give than has been seen to date,
b) Recognising that others’ reticence and caution is perfectly understandable and fully justifiable, I know that I’m ‘still a good bet’, haven’t collapsed in to a flaky, unpredictable mess. However, in order to prove this to the world I have to back me, not wait for anyone else to have the faith in me.
c) Restarting, beginning again is challenging at any age, but they say it’s more so as you get older. That said, i don’t feel particularly old and feel my energy, enthusiasm and drive are as good as many people a good deal younger than me.
d) So, in short – I back me. As a result, in recent weeks I’ve been working on a couple of initiatives and intend to be in a position to reveal these very soon!

WATCH THIS SPACE !!!!!

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”

John A. Shedd

Updates on Some Recent Posts

I wanted to share some further materials and tyhoughts regarding a couple of earlier posts I had written this year.

Sleep

sleep tablet

The first concerns the issue of children’s sleep, particularly in relation to the reduced amounts, their relationships with media etc. The two earlier articles garnered quite a bit of feedback and discussion including some exchange of mails with readers and discussions on social media. So, the following article from The Guardian hit me very starkly. It highlights the massive increases in the numbers of children in the UK for whom medical interventions are being sought to address issues of sleep deprivation and resultant issues that are impacting the children:

The Guardian – Sharp Rise in Hospital Admissions for Children with Sleep Disorders
(Click on the link above to open the article in a new window or tab)

Whilst the article flags up issues of sleep apnea (which are frequently linked to issues of being overweight or obese) as the cause of some of this increase, a lot of the blame is also focused on media, smart phone and tablet use by children. As well as the article itself, there’s also a link on the page (just above the picture) to a case study of a seventeen year old boy, whose mother actually works in a sleep clinic.

Here are the links for the two original articles related to this issue:

Sleep and School Start times
Going to Bed

Climate Change  – Responses to Environmental Issues

Climate Solutions

Another article i wrote earlier this year looked at the issues of how we address manmade climate changes that are leading to global warming. To date, so many of the responses, especially taught in schools have been about what people should stop doing, do less of or change in their personal lives and habits in order to bring about change. In my article I acknowledged my own gradual realisation that these ‘killjoy’ approaches will never be the solutions – telling people to stop doing things, to go without things they enjoy or to refrain from aspiring to the things they see others enjoying are just not going to be realistic. Rather, we have to look at the positive steps that can be taken. These are based in science and focusing on them changes the debate. Now, our focus needs to be on ensuring that governments are creating the right environments, incentives and investment climates to support ventures in these areas. Also, there’s a need to ensure that up to date information is shared and readily available to innovators and business people so that their interest in these activities result in real change and tangible actions.

So, I was delighted to see that there have been initiatives in this direction to bring to the fore in the public domain the information about what those scientific advances are and how they can be harnessed to address the issues and reverse atmospheric warming to prevent the worst of man-made global warming. That research comes in a report from Project Drawdown.

Here are two articles that share information on the key findings from Project Drawdown:

Science Alert – 76 Solutions Available Right Now to Slow Down Climate Change
Fast Company – Project Drawdown – 76 Solutions

This was the original article I wrote, right at the tail end of last year on which I’ve received a fair bit of feedback;

Global Warming: The Way Forward

This reinforces my belief that the answers lie at least as much in the focus in science (and STEM generally) teaching, as well as building public awareness and political lobbying to ensure that these kinds of initiatives get the right support to ensure that the world’s problems get addressed effectively.

 

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