Thursday, March 22, 2018

Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence - RULER Training


Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence - RULER Training
“Outtakes”. A snippet of thoughts to kick off this blog post:

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is an impressive operation. The RULER approach makes so much sense and can have a positive impact on all members of a school community.

What I am looking forward to putting into practice, or continuing:
Practicing the use of “meta-moments” and picturing my best-self when I am faced with tough decisions or adversity.

Quote(s) that resonated with me this week:
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” ~ John F. Kennedy

“Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“Success is the sum of small efforts - repeated day in and day out.” ~ Robert Collier

This week began with two days of training on the “Anchors of Emotional Intelligence” with staff from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Our trainers were extremely knowledgeable, engaging, and related many/most aspects of the training to real-world situations (which is always appreciated). Including myself, there were six employees representing NCHS as we were joined by educators from across the country (CT, NY, NC, TN, IL, KS, TX, CA) and around the globe (Spain, Qatar). 

The focus of the workshop was on implementing the RULER approach at the high school level. RULER stands for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating. This has already been rolled out to the K-8 levels in New Canaan. Our team will continue planning and then be introducing it to the high school staff in the coming weeks, which is exciting. 

The training began with one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou, one that I have shared several times on Twitter as well as my blog. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” There is so much power, wisdom, and common sense in this quote. This was a terrific way to begin the workshop and set the tone for the work that we would be doing together.

Over the course of the two days, we learned about RULER, the science behind, and importance of, recognizing our emotions to be our best selves, and steps to implement this approach in our respective schools. This included thought sessions, collaborative discussions, activities that reinforce the foundation of RULER, and the four anchors of emotional intelligence: the Charter, the Mood Meter, the Meta-Moment, and the Blueprint.

Some of my biggest takeaways include:
  • Emotions matter for: attention, memory, learning, wellness, everyday effectiveness, and more...
  • The RULER approach is not an initiative, but a way of thinking/life. 
  • The elements of RULER are not just for students, but for the entire school community (and certainly applicable in our personal lives). 
  • They are all important, but I liked the “L” is RULER (“Label”) and the quote that goes along with it: “You’ve got to name it to tame it”. So true... 
  • Each quadrant on the mood meter is important and where we fall on the meter will ebb and flow depending on the situations that we are in at any given time. Quadrants are not defined by “good” or “bad” and each serves a purpose (more on this below). 
  • It is all about being aware and not necessarily expecting yourself, or anyone else, to shift or adjust. It is this awareness that allows us to respond accordingly. 
  • The meta-moment is a six-step process, in the moment (that they jokingly say will keep you away from having to follow a 12-step program). The irony here is thick… The six steps include: Something happens. Sense. Stop. See your best self. Strategize. Succeed (which does not mean “win”; act in a way that reflects your best self, that you can be proud of).
  • This is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. The introduction and roll out need to be done thoughtfully and purposefully, over an extended period of time. This may mean years for full implementation, and that is okay... 
This has been a tiny snapshot of RULER. I attempted to capture the essence of the approach and hope to share more about our introduction and implementation in the near future. We will be receiving several resources as well as research to back up the foundation of RULER to help us develop our blueprint for NCHS. In the meantime, you are welcome to check out a couple of their sites: (website)

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Have a great week!

Tags: @YaleEmotion, @RULERapproach, #EmotionsMatter, @JADHoffmann, @NCHS_CT

Please feel free to contact or follow me:
Twitter: @DavidGusitsch

Here are a few pictures from the Yale EI Training:
Our @NCHS_CT EI crew. Representing English, Math, Art, Psychological Services, District, and Admin:

One of my favorite quotes as seen in the halls of NCHS:

Working on a draft “charter”:

Defining RULER:

Some words to describe emotions in different quadrants on the Mood Meter:

Some mood congruent instruction based on the meter:
Red - persuasive writing; debating
Blue - proofing/editing; showing empathy
Yellow - creative writing; brainstorming
Green - journal writing; building consensus

We took a quick walk before Day 2 began to get ourselves in the best mindset possible to learn!

The buildings and architecture on this part of the campus are amazing and beautiful:

A quick trip to the Yale bookstore after the last day of training. It’s always fun to check out university bookstores!:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

New England Weather...


New England Weather...
“Outtakes”. A snippet of thoughts to kick off this blog post:
Not unexpectedly in our area of the country this time of year, we had some weather-related disruptions to our normally scheduled week last week.

What I am looking forward to putting into practice, or continuing:
Hopefully, a more normal schedule. And, continuing work with the BeWell Expo sub-committee (more on this in a future blog).

Quote(s) that resonated with me this week:
Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.
~ Lori Deschene

Each week I pick a topic or two to consider reflecting on when I sit down to write my blog each Sunday. I typically take pictures, jot down notes, and put some thoughts together throughout the course of the week. This week was a little different, which I can sum up in three words: New England weather. My first choice of topic was going to be a reflection on #EdCampSWCT 2018 which was scheduled for Saturday (3/10). That was canceled. Next, the NGSX Science training workshop that myself and some NCPS colleagues attended last week. We only made it through one of the two scheduled days. Even the snow day makeup date was canceled. The opening of the “Through Our Eyes” Art Show? Postponed. You get the idea…

For those who may be reading this outside Connecticut, or New England, we experienced another Nor’Easter that left us with close to 20” of heavy snow resulting in downed trees and power lines. This caused a huge amount of road closures and power outages across our region. As always, our terrific maintenance staff had our buildings ready to go, but access to the schools was just not safe, or even possible in many cases and students were out of school for three days.

So, this will be a short post this week with a few pictures below to capture some of the happenings over the course of this snowy week.

In case you are interested in checking out more details of the above-listed events, please feel free to do so here:

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Have a great week!
Tags: Snow day, NGSX, family, Safe Driving Week, Through Our Eyes Art Show, @APBedard81

Please feel free to contact or follow me:
Twitter: @DavidGusitsch

Here are a few pictures from this past week:
The CT Science Center is an impressive space. I would have loved to spend an entire day there exploring:

Learning about NGSS and science phenomena with the egg in the jar experiment:

Saxe MS AP Steve Bedard and me checking out an infrared camera during the lunch break:

My little guy Nicholas giving me a depth update on Wednesday evening. We were at about 13” at that point:

Following the storm, we got a nice family “snow hike” in on Thursday at our favorite park down the road from us, Huntington State Park:

As mentioned above, our terrific maintenance staff were back to business right away. Stan and Gary are preparing for the Safe Driving Week events at NCHS:

A look from the 3rd floor over the front of the building on Friday:

An unlucky road sign from the trip home on Friday shows how much of an impact this storm had:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

#Brainstorm Experience: Kevin Hines Story


#Brainstorm Experience: Kevin Hines Story
“Outtakes”. A snippet of thoughts to kick off this blog post:

Below is an account of my experience as I listened to Kevin Hines tell the story of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and surviving. It was nothing short of amazing to hear his story and it made me feel that we can all make a difference in someone’s life by just showing them that we care.

What I am looking forward to putting into practice, or continuing:
Continuing to find ways to spread positivity and make people feel good.

Quote(s) that resonated with me this week:
A smile and hello can make someone’s day. Showing that you care can save someone’s life.

“I’ve learned that people forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

This past week was a busy one. Between the daily routine, unexpected events that inevitably come up, the scare at Staples High School, where I worked for the last 14 years (story, here), and the class of 2022 incoming freshman transition night (which was well attended and amazing), I was able to attend another Brainstorm Experience event that was put on by The Avielle Foundation. Their mission is, “to prevent violence and build compassion through neuroscience research, community engagement, and education”. I attended their inaugural event last month where they brought in Steve Gross from the Life is Good Foundation to speak on the power of positivity and optimism. It was tremendous. Feel free to check out a blog post I wrote about it, here.

This event was titled, “An evening with Kevin Hines: I jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge, and survived.” He also has a book called, “Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After A Suicide Attempt”. Kevin gave some background on his life and the tough upbringing in a mixed, adopted family in California. Where appropriate, he infused humor throughout his talk, but the seriousness of his message was never lost. Mental health, and his mental state since he was a teenager, were a strong part of his story. Kevin was medicated and institutionalized several times during his relatively short life and still has struggles to this day.

It was incredible to hear a firsthand account of what was going through his head before, during, and after such an event. Unfortunately, leading up to his walk to the middle of the bridge, Kevin felt this was the only option, that no one cared, that him taking his life would be better off for everyone else. He shared that if someone simply asked him any of the following, “How are you today? Are you okay? Can I help you?”, he would have stopped. Instead, the only acknowledgment that he got was people staring at him and commenting on him talking to himself on the bus to the bridge. When he saw someone approaching him, and thought that he may be saved, it was a woman who asked him to take a photo of her. She never engaged in any conversation, he never even saw her eyes through the dark sunglasses that she was wearing. His next steps were over the edge of the railing. Then, he jumped. His last thought as he watched his hand leave the railing was that he did not want to die. It was too late. 200+ feet to the water. Hitting it was close to landing on concrete. Somehow he hit, was conscious, surfaced, and survived, but not without serious injury. As he lay in the water with several broken bones, he felt something bump into him. He thought it was a shark and expressed the irony that he felt from surviving a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge only to be eaten by a shark. Instead, it was a sea lion that he affectionately named Herbert (which, happens to be my father’s name). Kevin truly believes that Herbert helped keep him afloat until help arrived to pull him out of the water.

Following this nothing short of unbelievable day, Kevin continues to have many physical and mental challenges but he has made it his mission to share his story and help others hear, learn, and understand his message of living mentally healthy. I also took away the clear message that we all need to be considerate of people’s differences. We never know what someone may be going through at any given time, but we can do our part by lending a helping hand, or a smile, or simply making eye contact and saying hello.

The year after Kevin jumped, his adopted father wanted to help provide some closure. Against his will, Kevin joined his father at the exact spot that he jumped from. A rush of emotions came back to him but he knew he was there for a reason. In a symbolic manner, he dropped a flower that he had held in his hand for some time. It floated down the same distance, from the same spot, that he had jumped from a year earlier, only much slower and much more gracefully. As it hit the water, there was a series of ripples followed by a head that came up from under the water. Whether it was the same sea lion or not, Kevin believed that it was Herbert, looking up as if to say “hello” to his friend whose life he saved, physically, mentally, and emotionally…

Kevin closed with a great quote from Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda fame, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift, that's why they call it present”... There is much wisdom in this quote from a cartoon movie. Words that we can all live by and be better off for it.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Have a great week!

Tags: #BrainstormExperience, @KevinHinesStory, #BrainHealth, @AvieFoundation

Please feel free to contact or follow me:
Twitter:  @DavidGusitsch

Here are a few pictures from the Kevin Hines Brainstorm Experience event:
The program from the event:

Kevin Hines telling his story:

The Q&A session at the end of the event:

Some tweets and quotes from the event:

One of my favorite quotes of all time, which was relevant to the story that Kevin Hines shared. This quote happens to hang in the main hallway at NCHS:

Sunday, February 25, 2018

February Break - The gift of time


February Break - The gift of time
“Outtakes”. A snippet of thoughts to kick off this blog post:
The weather may not have been great over the break (except 70’s on Wednesday), but the time spent with family and friends certainly was!

What I am looking forward to putting into practice, or continuing:
Seeing the next Avielle Foundation speaker, Kevin Hines, on Tuesday (2/27). The series focuses on brain health, which is an interest of mine. Feel free to check out more information, here.

Quote(s) that resonated with me this week:
Spending time with family is priceless.

Choosing a topic to write about this week was easy for me. I decided to reflect on February break and what having a period of time that is a “change of pace”, means to me. At first, I thought it was a nice break with some extra periods of rest, and then I realized there was a lot of activity packed into the past week. Having President’s Day on Monday allowed our family to get a little extra rest and spend the morning together. That evening, my son Nicholas and I went down to NCHS to catch the Rams take on Staples. We got to see some colleagues that I spent many years working with, in my previous role in Westport and it was neat to see and chat with some student-athletes who I knew as well. The Rams kept it close, but could not close the gap in the fourth and the Wreckers came out victorious…

Over the course of the next few days, I was in the office and able to get some items checked off “the list”. Being at school “over break” has a completely different feel to it. I missed the hustle and bustle of the students and the daily operations, but it was nice to walk the building and observe things from a different pace and perspective. For example, I got to pause and really check out some of the artwork that was on display. As you will see in some of the photos below, our students are truly talented. Any interruptions that are typical on any given day were on hold and the feeling of getting caught up a little bit was nice.

Afternoons and evenings were busy as usual but allowed for some different activities. The schedule worked out that I happened to be able to speak to future education professionals at Sacred Heart University about the Benefits of Incorporating Movement into Learning during this week. This is something that I have done each semester for about four years and have always enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to share on a topic that I am passionate about. Feel free to check out the presentation/resources, here. On Thursday evening, I attended the Parent University offered through the Bethel Public Schools (where we live). It was a well run event that showcased all that Bethel schools have to offer our children. Other evenings were filled with gathering with friends, gymnastic meets, and the regular schedule of practices and events.

While we did not get to go skiing as originally planned, I believe my favorite part of the week was simply seeing each of my three kids (Ellie, Brooke, & Nicholas) off on the bus on their way to school. It was only a few minutes, but it consisted of chatting, throwing a football around, and getting to see their daily routine that I normally never get to see. Getting them off the bus in the afternoon was also great. These are little moments for some, but I appreciate each opportunity to spend time and see them, and their routines, from a different perspective.

Overall, a little time away is good for everyone. After a small adjustment period, students come back ready to work and get back to business. Building and maintenance personnel are able to accomplish work that is difficult, or not possible, when there are almost 1,500 people in the building on a daily basis. The building itself has an opportunity to literally “get a breather” and welcome students back in a renewed state. Staff are refreshed and in a positive frame of mind. Everyone has had an opportunity to spend quality time with family, friends, and loved ones. To me, this is priceless.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Have a great week!

Tags: #family, break

Please feel free to contact or follow me:
Twitter: @DavidGusitsch



Here are a few pictures from the week:
Got a few jogs in at Huntington State Park over the break:

Some of the art on display at NCHS:

Sessions from the Bethel Public Schools Parent University on incorporating movement into learning and STEM/STEAM:

Presenting to a bunch of future professionals at Sacred Heart University on the Benefits of Movement in Learning. Of course, we got them up and moving throughout…:

Nicholas getting ready for school on “hat day”:

The Rams take on Staples on Monday:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Professional Learning - February, 2018 Edition


Professional Learning - February 16, 2018 Edition

“Outtakes”. A snippet of thoughts to kick off this blog post:
Professional learning is a critical part of continuous improvement. This is a snapshot of the morning session with the Science department.

What I am looking forward to putting into practice, or continuing:
I can not wait to get together with colleagues to process the work that was done during this PL session and discuss next steps to continue the great work that has done up to this point.

Quote(s) that resonated with me this week:
We teach humans (kids), not just content. Remember to build relationships.

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”  ~ Harley Davidson

This week will consist of a look at the morning professional learning experience from Friday, 2/16. This topic is not part of a series, but I did do a reflection on our November PL Day as well, which you can check out, here. I do feel strongly that quality professional learning/development is a good way to keep staff inspired, foster growth, and continuously improve, which ultimately results in an improved experience for our students.

During the morning session, I worked with the Science department to continue the ongoing discussion of NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) and how they will influence short term and long term future planning. We began with a share-out from one of our staff members, Jenny Chieda, who recently attended a state-level workshop. Her report was a broad overview that was well received and supported the work that we would be doing that morning. Next, we viewed a couple of quick motivational science videos. They each had their own purpose to inspire as well as take a glance at what the future of science holds. Please feel free to check them out below, I believe you will be inspired as well!

STEM Motivational Video:

Science is Everywhere:

Finally, to frame the thinking of all of our staff members, we quickly ran through the agenda to see what the session would consist of.

Before beginning the intense dive into documents, resources, and discussions, we spent a few minutes sharing what each teacher was most proud of over the course of the school year up to this point. To keep it anonymous and not put anyone on the spot we used the site, Menti. Teachers were able to enter their own “celebrations” through their devices and responses were displayed on the Smartboard at the front of the room. Teachers could enter as many responses as they would like and they ranged from “coffee” to “curriculum” but the coolest part of this exercise was when a word cloud was created with all of the responses, and “students” was largely displayed in the center. This was not intentional but it could not have been scripted any better! It reinforces why our teachers do what they do on a daily basis and why they love their work (they can not be “thanked” enough, but, “thank you”!).

As teachers transitioned into their work, they had an opportunity to “think” about their discipline and review many resources that would help them formulate their thoughts before “pairing” up with course alike colleagues. Conversations were rich and the running document that staff were recording their thoughts in was populating rapidly. After a quick break, we came back and had a quick “brain boost” with the activity, “Gotcha”. The whole group participated, laughed, and had a good time while refocusing on the remainder of the session. This was also role-modeling the importance of incorporating brain boosts, or brain breaks, into their classes on a consistent basis.

After a whole group “share” to hear perspectives from the different Science sub-groups (Bio, Chem, Earth, & Physics), we transitioned to our final activity, the “Back to the Future” protocol. The goal of this activity was to “place” teachers in 2025 to consider how the program has evolved, what experiences the students are having in their classes, what the program “looked like” in 2018, and finally, how they got there. The discussions were thoughtful, provocative, and I believe solidified the foundation for the work that will need to happen as we move forward in real-time.

My favorite part of the morning happened when staff were “dismissed” for lunch. While, I would have loved more time to continue the protocol, and having run workshops and presentations many times in the past, I know to stick to an agenda timeline and never go over time, especially when it runs into lunch. As the clock wound down and representatives from each group hung their response posters along a wall, we broke for lunch. Except, no one left. They all stayed, for several minutes, and read each other’s work, almost like a gallery walk. Having worked with this group before, I was not surprised with their professionalism, but I was impressed and proud to work with them!

After lunch, we listened to a technology keynote by Bill Deery to set the tone for the afternoon sessions that staff had to choose from. My intent is not to shortchange the afternoon session, but the plan for this blog post was to focus on the a.m. experience. Overall, it was a productive afternoon, and day, all around...

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Have a great week!

Tags: #NGSS, #brainboost, #brainbreak, #Science

Please feel free to contact or follow me:
Twitter: @DavidGusitsch

Here are a few pictures from the professional learning sessions on Friday, 2/16/18:

Not surprisingly, “students” were at the center as teachers reflected on “celebrations” over the course of the school year!

A look at the outcomes that teachers were looking forward to achieving during the morning session:

Breakout groups at work with the Back to the Future activity:

Brainstorm reflections from 2025, 2018, and how we “got there”:

Caring professionals doing what caring professionals do, checking out each other's work on the gallery walk!

A few snaps from the afternoon session:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

School Culture - Choose Positive


School Culture - Choose Positive

“Outtakes”. A snippet of thoughts to kick off this blog post:
The life we live is typically impacted by the lens we choose to view it through.

Perspective: a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

What I am looking forward to putting into practice, or continuing:
Highlighting positive events, activities, or actions around NCHS.

Quote(s) that resonated with me this week:
We can write our own story, or let someone else write it for us.

Each week, I consider a topic that would best represent how the week went or highlight something exceptional that took place. This was no exception this week, except this week was chock-full of activities and events. Instead of a particular occurrence, I wanted to put a spotlight on perspective and positive school culture. In addition to the regular agenda of meetings, visiting classes, and daily business, there were extracurricular activities, concerts, an evening budget meeting, a parent informational session, and more... Our schools in NCPS have SO MUCH “good” going on, every day. People do an amazing job of sharing through newsletters, twitter, blog posts, tv shows, and more, but we all have a choice as to how we perceive these messages.

A friend of mine, who does not work in education, sent me the below message. We share similar views as to what makes a successful, positive environment and often send/share messages that include such content. I found the one below to be particularly accurate when considering how we see the world around us. Are we seeing what is most important to us, or are we seeing things from many different perspectives?

What do you see?
By, Seth Godin

A better question might be, "what do you choose to see?"
If I take four professionals to the Whitney:
The architect sees the building, the sight lines, the way the people and the light flow.
The framer notices the craftsmanship and taste in the way the paintings are framed and hung.
The lighting designer can't help but comment on the new LEDs.
And the art dealer sees the names of each artist and marvels over career arcs.
When you read a blog post, or see a successful project or read about an innovation, what do you see?
Do you see the emotions and the fear and the grit of the people behind it?
Do you see the strategy and high-level analysis that went into it?
Or do you see the execution and technique?
Some people are willingly blind to metaphor, viewing each example as a special case. Others manage to connect the dots and find what they need just about anywhere.
You might not need more exposure to the new. Instead, it might pay to re-see what's already around you.

To be realistic, it is not always roses and there are trying times to work through as well. This is when it is important to remember the big picture and each component that makes up our great NCPS system. The below parable can be dated back thousands of years. I first heard it at a conference several years ago, and it has always stuck with me. If we only consider what we see in our own particular silos, we miss the sum of all of its parts. The fact that each person is “correct” in their observation, but “incorrect” from an overall viewpoint shows the importance of perspective. We should all do our best to listen and try to truly understand where someone is coming from before making a judgment call, or even trying to help.

The blind men and the elephant:

From: wikipediaThe parable of the blind men and an elephant originated in the ancient Indian subcontinent, from where it has been widely diffused. It is a story of a group of blind men, who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their partial experience and their descriptions are in complete disagreement on what an elephant is. In some versions, they come to suspect that the other person is dishonest and they come to blows. The moral of the parable is that humans have a tendency to project their partial experiences as the whole truth, ignore other people's partial experiences, and one should consider that one may be partially right and may have partial information.

Looking ahead, this will be a topic that I will revisit. I am looking forward to attending RULER Training at Yale next month! It will focus on emotional intelligence, and ultimately overall positive school culture. Stay tuned for more positivity...

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Have a great week!

Tags: #ChoosePositive, @mrmcateer, @Hernbergler, @cveets117, NCHS Band, NCHS Orchestra, NCHS Chorus, NCHS Athletics, @ThisIsSethsBlog, @NCHS_CT, #perspective

Please feel free to contact or follow me:
Twitter: @DavidGusitsch

Here are a few pics, and a video, to support positive perspective and all the “good” that goes on around us, all the time:

Definitely one of my favorite displays at NCHS. Celebrating positivity!:

One Second Everyday (1SE) from NCHS, August - February:
Check out the youtube clip, here.

Students in action comparing evaporation rates in a lab with Mr. Hague:

Students get creative in Mr. Honohan’s Woodworking class:

Mr. McAteer’s flexible learning environment:

Ms. Martinich’s class discussing perspective by making observations from a “busy” scene:

The NCHS chorus and orchestra join forces for an amazing rendition of Carmina Burana:

The NCHS band kicks off the “All Ensemble” concert:

There is something for everyone at NCHS! Here is a nice, large group of parents attending a parent workshop on standardized testing:

It may have been a rainy/snowy morning, but Mrs. Vita caught/shared a great sunrise:

Lots of NCHS sporting events took place this week. Here are a few:

Ms. Hernberg shared some creative learning in her classes this week:

Instead of “first”, I prefer “Frequent Attempts In Learning”: