I am currently reading Rewild Yourself. This is a lovely book filled with spellbinding ways to make nature more visible. It has made me think about what my magic spell would be and why. My spell is a simple way to make a difference with people; it helps them feel more confident, and it permeates every area of our work; whether that is with children or adults. It has 3 key steps. Read on, and I shall share them with you.
Everyone wants to be heard, to feel their voice matters. It really is quite simple. A great technique is to repeat back what is said, it lets people know we heard them and we are trying to understand. It helps young people, in particular, develop their thinking as well.
When delivering staff training, it is as simple as letting the team know that I have been there and understand their pressures. I acknowledge that some people do not want to be there, and others will view this new outdoor learning focus as another flash in the pan. However, there will, of course, be others ready to embrace the outdoors.
Empathy and listening are key in building relationships. As you develop those relationships, you can then move to the next step.
Emotions and Mindset
It is so important to acknowledge and try to understand how people feel. That is part of listening. But what we can do, especially with children, is to help them understand their own emotions and mindset.
Developing the vocabulary for emotions, letting children know we all have bad days and that it is perfectly normal is important. We also need to teach them how to manage these. Simple things, like breathing and posture help.
Take 7 slow deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth; imagine you have a balloon in your tummy that you want to fill. Take your time. Consciously slow your breathing down. How do you feel? I know when I do this, it helps me feel relaxed. Now, try the opposite. For a short time, breathe fast and shallow into the chest. How do you feel? I find this a great way to give myself an energy boost when required.
Now, let’s think about posture. Take a moment and slump in your seat, drop those shoulders, look to the ground; if you are of a certain age, I want you to channel your inner Kevin or grumpy teen. Stay in that for a minute or two. How does it make you feel?
Now, sit up straight, shoulders back, eyes ahead. Again, stay like that for a minute or two. How do you feel now? Posture plays a part in our emotions.
Thinking about mindset and we often talk about the positives, but we also need to address failure; it is a part of life. Life can be hard. No matter how old we are. For children, it could be as simple as struggling to learn to tie a knot; for adults, it can be delivering a nightmare lesson where nothing goes right. Failure is how we learn and how we grow. But, we need to acknowledge it. We need to praise it and deal with the emotions that it stirs up. We need to be open and honest about it. It is, after all, just a First Attempt In Learning. Legitimise and embrace it.
Once we open and honest, we are building a rapport, a trust. This is when the real magic can begin. We can then start pushing boundaries. We can take people from their safe space, limiting them and their confidence and encouraging them to try new things.
For some people, it might be taking a lesson in a new subject outdoors. For others, trying to learn to whittle for the first time. I was recently chatting with a teacher who works in an intervention programme, and they explain that they work with their children to create a drum performance, and every child participates. For some, it is the first time they have performed in front of their parents.
It doesn’t matter how we push these boundaries; the important thing is pushing them and helping everyone understand that they can achieve. This is when confidence can develop.
Anywhere, Any Age
The important thing to realise about this magic spell is that it can work with any age group in any location. I use it when training educators, with families outdoors, with disengaged young people, with children in the woods and even with the children I tutor. It is a very adaptable spell, but it works every time.
I want you to think about what helped you develop confidence in your life or just an area of your life. Were any of these magic steps present? Or was there some other magic going on?