Friday thoughts to staff after workshops  in school:

I was incredibly privileged to be able to sit in on workshops with Tony from Tree of Knowledge this week.

I thought that it would be useful for you to know the key messages so that we can re-inforce them. Inputs from external providers only really have impact when they are integrated in the work of a school. There is a real power in being able to make connections between the different learning experiences that pupils have.

This workshop was based on the psychological models developed by Steve Peters and ideas expressed in the book “The Chimp Paradox.” More here:

Tony talked about how pupils need to develop awareness of their motivations and emotions. He explained that, whilst we may want to show a happy side to others, it is important that we are honest with ourselves when we are feeling stressed or upset. He talked about the three types of stress that we experience:

Real stress (eg when we have a crisis or need to escape danger)

Good stress that is motivating (eg the stress that Usain Bolt feels when about to run in front of millions.)

Silly stress. The things that we get anxious about in the modern world that really don't matter - eg wrong colour lids on pens.)

He explained that stress affects the body in the same way, whether it is real or silly; cortisol increases, we cannot sleep, eat, enjoy things.

We need to learn to control our stress and to be aware of what matters and does not matter.

Tony also talked about the idea of us having a 'chimp' brain which is the impulsive emotional part of us that we need to train and keep in control. (Steve Peters idea.)

He explained that we ALL have this chimp brain but that successful, happy people have learnt to control it and keep the chimps in the cage when necessary. If we don't the likelihood is that the chimp will escape and do damage.

The answers to doing this form the acronym NEAT:

Normal- see your chimp brain as normal and do not try and deny it.

Expect - know what you are likely to feel when you experience certain triggers and then manage the feelings.

Accept when the chimp is out of the cage and recognise it.

Talk and train - ask "why am I feeling like this, what triggered it and what can I do next time?"

He explained that once we are highly emotional it is hard to calm down and be rational and that we need to work on not getting to that point by knowing our triggers.

One pupil asked "so when I am being bad, can I tell the teacher it is not my fault, it is my chimp?"

Tony said no, you ARE your chimp and need to take responsibility. Being emotional is not an excuse. Growing up is about taking responsibility and being emotionally intelligent and resilient.

Author Profile

Lena Carter

Lena Carter

Dep Head Pupil Support in Scotland.

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