A back to school Q&A with Ellen Drolette and Alyssa Blask-Campbell

#real life #teachers voyv Aug 03, 2023

00:00:02    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. Today, I get to hang out with Ellen Drolette, and I get to be on the other side of the mic. Ellen got to ask me questions about back to school, and really, how can we support our kids? What can we do to prepare them for what's to come with a new classroom or new teachers or new school, new kids, new routine, all that jazz. There's so much that we can do now and to prepare and then also what it looks like to navigate this in the moment and beyond. I'm diving into a little bit of that here, and I wanted to let you know I have a free workshop, a live workshop coming for you next week. I'm doing two of them, one for teachers and one for parents to support you with this jazz for back to school. It is completely free for anyone who has pre-ordered my book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. Head on over to seedandsew.org/book to preorder the book, and then come join me for this workshop. Head to seedandsew.org to join me. All right, let's dive in.

00:00:02    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. Today, I get to hang out with Ellen Drolette, and I get to be on the other side of the mic. Ellen got to ask me questions about back to school, and really, how can we support our kids? What can we do to prepare them for what's to come with a new classroom or new teachers or new school, new kids, new routine, all that jazz. There's so much that we can do now and to prepare and then also what it looks like to navigate this in the moment and beyond. I'm diving into a little bit of that here, and I wanted to let you know I have a free workshop, a live workshop coming for you next week. I'm doing two of them, one for teachers and one for parents to support you with this jazz for back to school. It is completely free for anyone who has pre-ordered my book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. Head on over to seedandsew.org/book to preorder the book, and then come join me for this workshop. Head to seedandsew.org to join me. All right, let's dive in.


00:00:02    Alyssa

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today is a fun day where I get to be on the other side of the mic. I get to be interviewed by a human I adore. Ellen Drolette is 30 years in the field of Early Ed. She wrote a book on teacher burnout. She was a family childcare provider for three decades, and now she works full time for Seed because we're the luckiest humans in the world, and she supports our teachers in our Seed teacher community. And today we're going to be chatting about back to school. Now we're going to be going through the three things that we can really focus in on for Back to School to make this transition as smooth as possible for the tiny humans, but also for you. I wanted to let you know that this is a snapshot into a free live workshop that I'm going to be doing. I'm actually doing two of them, one specifically for teachers and one for parents or caregivers. They are completely free for anyone who has preordered Tiny Humans Big Emotions, my upcoming book, and you can head over to seedandsew.org/book to order it if you have not already ordered Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. And once you have, head on over to seedwebinar.com and select if you want the teacher or the family/caregiver workshop, or maybe you're both and you want to tune into both and you've preordered the book, come on in. We will be doing these workshops. The teacher one is on Tuesday, August 8th, from 1pm to 2p.m. Eastern time. And the family and caregiver one is on Wednesday, August 9, from 8pm to 9p.m. Eastern time. Both of them will be recorded. So if you cannot attend live, once you register, you will get access to the recording. You can tune in whenever works for you. You can come back and check it out for reminders and refreshers as you're navigating back to school. Whatever works for you there. 


00:02:21    Ellen

All right, let's dive in. 


00:02:24    Alyssa

Let's dive in, Ellen!


00:02:28    Ellen

I am so happy to be on this side again and talking with you and chatting with you about this. There's a few tiny humans in my life that are either changing classrooms or they're starting kindergarten or they're just moving to a new classroom. And we need this. We need this so much. I needed this when I had young children because I'm pretty sure I didn't handle it the way I should have. 


00:02:56    Alyssa

I don't know about should have, but I think we leave one of the three off the table. Usually there's a larger focus on how do we support kids through this transition, and we'll talk about that for sure. But there are two other components that I think are really crucial that I'm excited to dive into, too. 


00:03:15    Ellen

I'm excited, too. So tell me more. 


00:03:20    Alyssa

So when we're looking at these three I look at how are we supporting our tiny humans, how are we supporting ourselves as the adult and how are we creating a supportive environment. These three together set us up for success because what it does is it connects all the regulation dots and we know that regulation is a so hard during times of transition or change. When things are new, our nervous system says, yikes, this is new, that new, doesn't feel safe. And now I'm on alert, right, trying to process all this new information and take it all in and we can get easily overwhelmed. And so when we can focus on these three buckets, we can help regulate our nervous system across the board, which helps moving through this transition. 


00:04:14    Ellen

I love that so much. So many times we focus our energy on the child and we're not really giving a lot of thought to how anxious we might be feeling or nervous. And I think it projects a bit. And so I think we have definitely got to take a step back and look at it's three dimensions and I love that. 


00:04:36    Alyssa

Yeah. In fact, this was so interesting for me as a parent versus as a teacher because I put this into practice in my later teaching years and it was really helpful with back to school time. And then when Sagey was coming to you, lucky for me he got to have you for your last year in the field. And on the first day I hadn't even considered myself and I had left myself totally off the table and then I ended up sobbing, full sobbing. And he knew you already. He was in care that I really trusted and felt safe with. And upon reflection, I was like, oh, I didn't put this into practice for myself. And it was really night and day for me there. It was a really good learning experience for me as a parent. 


00:05:28    Ellen

Right. I think it's going to be so helpful for families to hop onto that webinar because as we know for sending our child off to a school for the first time, we're all going to be sobbing in the car. That makes for a tough first day of school for everyone. 


00:05:49    Alyssa

Totally. Yeah. And there's nothing wrong with crying in the car and having a plan for it makes it feel, I was crying in the car on the way to a meeting with somebody where I showed up and I was like, I'm so sorry, I miscalculated this, but let's dive into it. Let's get into some examples here. 


00:06:05    Ellen



00:06:05    Alyssa

Which one should we kick start with? 


00:06:09    Ellen

How about we start with families and setting up for success? 


00:06:15    Alyssa

Sure. So I look at this as the adult across the board. So this could apply to you as a parent or as a caregiver, as a teacher. But looking at how are we setting ourselves up for success here, what is this looking like for us? One of my favorite things to look at here is what is on our plate. This is something that I took from Brene Brown years ago. Thanks, Brene. Of really looking at we have a tendency to just pile more things on. And we know that there are times and seasons where things get busier, right? Like looking at the holidays, looking at back to school, look at when you're traveling for vacation, things like that, where you might be in seasons where things are busier and can get out of balance. And instead of looking at the whole system to say, all right, what needs to stay and what could come off of my plate, we often just pile more things on. We're like, cool, we're going to go do all the regular everyday life stuff. Nothing else is going to change. That's already usually overwhelming. And then we're going to add on holiday jazz, or we're going to add on the back to school stuff. And so I like to pause and say what can come off my plate? 


00:07:32    Ellen

I love that. 


00:07:34    Alyssa

And I really want to take inventory of like, what's everything that's on my plate, right? In order to say what's going to come off it, we have to take that inventory of what is on it in the first place. This is a tool that I learned from KC Davis, from StruggleCare. And she wrote the book How to Keep House While Drowning. And it's such a helpful framework that she created because it outlines, like, you can't look at what's going to come off without looking at what's already on it. And so when we write down here's everything I have going on, including like, yeah, we have this birthday party. We're going to I have this work event in the evening. I have all of this. And then looking at it and saying, what are we going to put back on the calendar here? So if I just took this all off, wrote it all down, what has to stay? All right, I'm going to go to work. I have to go to that work thing, but maybe we don't have to go to that birthday party. Or, you know what? We were going to meet my parents for a little weekend. I'm going to say no to that. Or we were going to start that class, that gymnastics class, or that soccer class, that swim class. Can that be deferred a season? Like, does it have to start right now, really looking at what stays? Because that mental load is going to add up for us, of trying to keep track of all the things and also knowing that our kids are already going to be in a dysregulated state as they're navigating this transition or more dysregulated than usual. And so the less we add in addition, the easier this is going to make it for us. And in the workshop, I'll dive into more strategies on what does it look like to build regulation skills for ourselves, to navigate this, to build the awareness of what are my fears or what's coming up for me, my thoughts, my narratives, because I know that those are really present. I mean, same, I dropped him off and cried for a reason. I had all these fears that were coming up for me in the moment, even though he was in care that I fully trusted, there's still going to be narratives and thoughts that are circulating for us and can spiral into anxiety if we aren't aware of them and regulating. And so in the workshop, I'll dive into that part of how to take care of ourselves. 


00:09:55    Ellen

I love that because so many times children are making these transitions and what we as parents don't think about is their nap time changing or it going away or it going down to one nap. And then nighttime can be an absolute show that just kind of ramps us all up into a really negative place. I mean, you know what it's like when your child didn't nap. 


00:10:23    Alyssa

Sure do. Sure do, sister. 


00:10:25    Ellen

And I do too. And if we think about those transitions, these tiny humans need us in the evening to be with them and just kind of hold them up. 


00:10:39    Alyssa

Yeah. And so we'll dive into how do we show up in that way in the workshop. But I think starting with what can I scale back? And as a teacher for myself when I did what can I scale back on or what needs to stay? I did the same thing as a teacher. I looked at what's happening in my life, what plans did I have outside of school, what could leave. And I actually usually built in one form of self care, even if it was like luxurious, like a massage or I was going to get a mani/pedi at some point. Or sometimes I would just build in, like, you know what? On Saturday morning, instead of going to brunch with friends, I'm going to go for a walk in nature. Because what I'm going to need is just that downtime for myself, where I'm not trying to fit things in or take in the stimulation of brunch or whatever, but like downtime. So I would look at that when I was a teacher as well. 


00:11:28    Ellen

Yeah, and I think as a teacher too, a lot of times teachers are they're excited about the new Year and they put all of the things on their schedule and are expecting that kids are going to walk in ready to do all of the activities they've really carefully planned out. And so I encourage teachers just to take a step back and don't plan anything like let them get to know each other and work on some of those social skills rather than jumping into all of the things. 


00:12:04    Alyssa

100%. In the teacher workshop, we're going to be diving into what it looks like to foster secure attachment with your kids and how to have that as your focus for the first month of school. 


00:12:14    Alyssa

I don't know about you, but when I scroll through Instagram or I'm tuning into podcasts and diving into parenting resources, resources for myself as a teacher, I can feel overwhelmed. Like, where do I start? I need a guide for what this looks like in practice. And I don't want something that's one size fits all. Because every child is different, right? And if you have multiple children, if you're a teacher, you know that it's not one size fits all. Or if you have seen what works for your sister in law or your best friend or your neighbor, and you're like, oh my gosh, my child does not respond to that. That is how I felt. And then we created the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. It is a guide for building emotional intelligence. And y'all there are five components of the CEP method. One is about how to respond to the kids and what it looks like to have adult/child interactions. The other four are about us. Because I don't know about you, but I did not grow up getting these tools. I did not grow up with them.  didn't grow up in this household. Where I was taught tools for self awareness and self regulation and how to do emotion processing work. And now, as a parent and as a teacher, I'm supposed to teach those skills to a tiny human? But we can't teach what we don't know. And so my first book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, is here to support you. You can head to www.seedandsew.org/book and snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions today. This is a game changer. It's going to build these skills with you, for you, so that you can do this work alongside building these skills for your tiny humans, so that they can grow up with a skill set for self awareness, for regulation, for empathy, for social skills, for intrinsic motivation. A skill set of emotional intelligence so that they can navigate all the things that come their way in life. Snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions at seedandsew.org/book. 


00:12:15    Ellen

Yeah, I love that. What can you tell me about preteaching, just a little, what that looks like for tiny humans and what people can expect in the webinar about preteaching. 


00:12:31    Alyssa

Sure. Yeah. So this is where we dive into how do we set kids up for success, right? And in our workshop, we'll dive into the emotion processing, how to build coping strategies and all that. And one of the biggest things we can do in terms of regulation for our kids is preteaching. So let's chat about what that means. It's literally like talking to them about it before it happens. And for every kid, this timeline is going to be different. Like, I have a child who really likes to know information in advance, and it's calming for him. I have a niece who is like this as well. She can take the information. You can tell her in June, here's your teacher in the fall. And she's like, great, cool. Tell me what I need to know now. We'll revisit it as we get closer, and she can handle that longer timeline, it works for her nervous system. Her twin brother, my nephew, if he knows too far in advance, it can be anxiety provoking. 


00:13:30    Ellen

I was going to ask you if that can be anxiety provoking for kiddos. 


00:13:34    Alyssa

Yeah. And then they start ruminating on it. Well, what's it going to be like? What's this going to be like? Really understanding. And I, parents, caregivers, you know, your tiny human best. You are the expert on your child, and so really trusting your gut here and noticing, like, how has this worked in the past? How have they responded to different things if they knew in advance what came up? I just had an anecdote that popped up for me with my nephew. He was maybe five or six, and we were at a festival, like a fall festival thing, and there was this little haunted house, we'll call it, although it was really made for kids, like, not spooky, very small. And it was a dollar to go in, and he asked about 75 questions before entering in there. He came up and he was like, okay, what's going to be around that corner? What's behind that thing? What about when I turn over there? Will anybody jump out? He's like, I want to understand this fully. And then ultimately, he peeked his head in. He's looking around. We're like, I'm sorry. And he is just like, I need to fully understand it. And then he ultimately was like, I don't think it's worth my dollar. Which was, we're like, you're not even paying for it. But it was just, like, really funny. That's how his brain worked versus my niece, his sister. Walked right up, was like, haunted house, cool. Mom, can I have a dollar? Walked right through, was like, great. And he's like, interviewing her after for questions. And so recognizing that what our kids can handle up front and how their brain works is going to be really crucial to understand. And if your child benefits from having that information sooner, I would say for me sooner, the soonest I would do it for our young kids would be like ten days in advance, most of them about a week in advanced. 


00:15:26    Ellen

What about kindergartners, ten days or more? 


00:15:30    Alyssa

It's again going to depend on the kid, but the longest time in advance maybe be like two weeks. I might mention you're going to go to a new school in a couple of months, but the timeline is still really hard for them to grasp. Whenever we can give markers, I would say when we get back from our beach vacation or right after Nana's birthday, so that there's some sort of marker. My two year old can tell you that Dada's birthday is right after Halloween. He doesn't know when Halloween is, but then when Halloween comes up, he has a marker for like, oh, now it's Dad's birthday. And as long as it isn't Halloween, it's not Dad's birthday yet. And so giving them those sorts of markers can be really helpful for them because they don't know what August 24 means, right? Like, they don't know what in two weeks or in a month means. That time concept is really hard to grasp until they get a little older. So giving them those markers, I love a visual aide for preteaching a calendar. Or you can just draw it on a piece of paper of like, here is today, here's where you're going to be going this week, like the same childcare picture or the same teacher, or whatever they do normally. And then here is the day that will be your new school. And bonus if we can get some pictures. So I even had for Sagey's new school, I asked them, can you just shoot me an email with pictures of the teachers, the classroom, and the playground? And once you get around to it, can you send me an outline of the general schedule for the day? And they sent me over pictures, and we just looked on my phone. I was like, here, buddy. Here are your teachers, here are their names. Here's what your classroom looks like. And sometimes you can even go in and visit the classroom ahead of time. It's not an option for all schools, but if you can, great, because they get to do that with you as an adult. And then I walked through with him, like, here's what to expect when you're going, he did a drop in a couple of hours recently. And so it was like, here's what to expect. We're going to show up. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm preteaching I'm letting him know what's coming next. If you think of this like an adult, if you were going to start a new job, and there was no interview process. You did not research this company. You didn't find them. Somebody just handed you, like, here, here's your new job. You're starting at. You've never been there. You've never met any of these people before. Most of these things you've never done before, and good luck. I don't know what your day to day flow will look like. Don't know when you got to get there. Don't know when you're coming home. Don't know how you're getting there, coming home. Can you imagine how bonkers that would feel? It would feel so dysregulating for us because we're like, wait, am I safe? Is somebody going to pick me up? Those are the times that you have those nighttime wake ups, and you're like, oh, my gosh. Nobody's coming to pick me up for work. I'm going to be late on my first day. I'm not going to be able to get there, right? Like, those fears and the anxiety can start to spiral when we don't have enough information about what to expect. And using visual aides and those pictures and going through kind of the schedule of the day can help them with what to expect and building familiarity. 


00:18:50    Ellen

I think back to when I was a child, and probably the same thing happened with you is our parents were very much like, don't be nervous, and our stomachs were churning, and we had to go to the bathroom five times before we left because we were nervous, and our parents were saying, don't be nervous. And that was always so difficult for me as a child. And so I think when our kiddos are nervous and they're like, I've got to go to the bathroom, go, oh, yeah, I bet you're feeling a little nervous. I think that that's something that many of us dealt with. 


00:19:29    Alyssa

Totally, well just like, never in the history of don't be or don't feel has that made somebody stop feeling right. Never. And I think really what it comes down to is habit from us. Like, a lot of us heard it. And so I wrote in the book, sometimes I open my mouth, and my mom comes out, and sometimes that's great. Sometimes totally want to pass it on. Sometimes spend a lot of time in therapy dollars to try and not pass that on. And so what do we do with that when you open your mouth and you're like, you're okay? Or I said it the other day. I said there was a bee flying near Sage, and he went to reach out and grab it. He loves animals. And I reacted, and I was like, don't grab that. Don't touch it. And he startled and jumped back, and I said, oh, you don't have to be scared. And then heard myself say it, and I was like, cool. That's not helpful. And so then I added on to it, right? Like, oh, bees are generally safe, and they feel scared when you grab them, and they might sting you if you grab them. And I just think really not beating yourself up if you are in the space of, like, don't feel or don't be, those things come out of our mouth all the time. It's what we say next that will be really helpful. Like, you don't have to worry and then going into but it also makes sense if you're feeling worried. It makes sense if that feels new and uncomfortable. Yeah. And so we'll dive deep into preteaching and ways to support them up front, both in the teacher and the family, workshops for teachers, things that you can send home to families and create for families to help them do. Some of this work in conjunction and collaboration with you at home so that they can be reading stories to their kids or talking about what's to come with their kids and have all the information they need for that. 


00:21:20    Ellen

I love that you're doing the webinar early enough so teachers can follow through and do that. 


00:21:24    Alyssa

Yeah, that was the whole point. Right. And then for families to be able to ask for what they need from their programs, just as I reached out, they didn't send it to me yet. I had reached out and was like, hey, can you send me these things? And they were super happy to do so. And often teachers are they're like, yeah, of course. Thanks for collaborating with us. And so knowing what to ask for and how to ask for it, and then when and how to support your child through that, to help them feel safe through the transition. 


00:21:55    Ellen

I think that's amazing, and never have I ever thought about sending something like that ahead of time. And I think that that is so valuable. I love that this is just a sneak peek into the webinars, because I think the webinars are going to be outstanding. 


00:22:17    Alyssa

Thanks. That's my goal. Outstanding is always my goal Ellen. 


00:22:21    Ellen

Yeah. And I just think there's just like, we all need this. And I'm thinking about the teachers that are parents, parents that are teachers, teachers that are parents, and they're transitioning to a new classroom. They're sending their children to school and oh, my gosh, it's a lot. I'm glad that you're doing this. 


00:22:42    Alyssa

Hey, thanks. And honestly, we have a section in the book about transitions in part three, and obviously the whole book supports their emotional development and regulation in Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. And I was like, okay, Harper won't let me publish this book early to give to people for Back to School, so what can I do? How can I bring parts of what's in the book to people early? And this felt like a way to do it, to deliver the information that's in the book really tailored to Back to School, and then you get that book in your hands on October 10, and that just felt like a way to be able to provide this information and support when you need it right now. 


00:23:24    Ellen

Love that. Where can people get signed up for the webinars? 


00:23:29    Alyssa

Yeah, they can head to seedwebinar.com and there'll be an option to choose the parent or teacher one there and register. And all you have to do is preorder Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. And so you basically get the webinar and a book with that one purchase and you'll just say after you preorder the book, which you can do at seedandsew.org/book, we'll also link it on the webinar page, but once you preorder it, just save your order number and that's your ticket into the webinar. And then you can register for the webinar. And there's even a spot on the platform that we use where you can pop in questions. If you can't attend live, you're like, I want to make sure my question is answered, but I won't be there live. You can pop it in ahead of time so that I can go into it when I'm on air. 


00:24:18    Ellen

So great for teachers to have that option, to be able to go back and watch it and still be able to ask the questions. I love that. 


00:24:24    Alyssa

Yeah. Thanks. And then we will be going into part three there of how to create a supportive environment. What does it look like? What can you do at home in the morning, after school? How can you create an environment in the classroom that's going to support regulation and help them through this transition? That one we will be going through in full at the webinar at the workshop. 


00:24:48    Ellen

I love that idea of just really thinking about both of the environments and how are we setting up for success at home in terms of getting out the door in the morning smoothly and vice versa, all of those things. So that is amazing. 


00:25:04    Alyssa

Yeah. Rad. So happy to be able to support our folks. Head on over to seedandsew.org/book to snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions if you've not done so already. And head on over to seedwebinar.com to sign up for the workshop. Just again, that it's totally free for folks who have preordered the book. 


00:25:27    Ellen

Thanks for hanging with me and filling us all in on all things back to school, which is going to be the name of the game for the next month of August. 


00:25:39    Alyssa

And September. Buckle up. Just like we think we think it's like, oh, they're back in school, things are going to be chill. And that's what we'll dive into into this workshop, is that it'll carry over into September and here's what to expect and how to move through it. Thanks, Ellen. Thanks for hanging with me. 


00:25:54    Ellen

Thanks for allowing me to hang out with you always. So much fun.


00:26:10    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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