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Mindfulness Practices and MORE from an Out of the Ordinary School Principal

Nov 07, 2021

Matt [00:00:35] Who remembers their school days? In fact, some of you may still be at school or studying. Out of all the things we've discovered since the conception of this podcast is that when education stops, pretty much everything else in society grinds to a halt. When children can't get to school, their parents struggle with their work, the children will fall behind, their mental health suffers as there is greater stress from social isolation, the cancelation of important school events and the loss of in-person social interactions. Now as a result of their schooling has been catapulted into the digital age in order for everyday life to continue. They have adopted different technologies to enable remote learning and thus exposing the digital divide in our communities. And not to mention, I think we'll all agree that in these times we live in, the stress our children face is unprecedented. Despite this gloomy picture, there is hope, and that hope comes through people like our guest today, Dr. Karin Jakubowski. Welcome to the Great Indoors, a podcast where we look at the lasting technological change brought about by the pandemic and how technology can potentially help solve the other challenges facing humanity. I'm your host, Matt Roberts, and joining me as ever is my copilot and producer Larisa Yee. Now our guest today is a well respected international influence on helping kids live happier, healthier lives. She has touched the lives of thousands of families across America with her ability to connect and help kids experience success from challenging behaviors and circumstances. With a doctorate in educational leadership and nearly 20 years of experience in education, as a teacher, assistant principal and principal is highly regarded as an educational game changer. She deployed the power of technology and the power of mindfulness to alleviate the problems children have faced during the pandemic and will continue to face moving forward. So I'd like to welcome our guests today, Dr. Karin Jakubowski, or as she's known in digital circles. Dr. J. Karin, how are you this morning? 


Karin [00:02:56] I'm doing awesome. It's great to see you. Great to be here. Thanks for the invitation. 


Matt [00:03:00] No problem at all. I'm as I ask all of my guests, Karen, where are you enjoying the great indoors from today? 


Karin [00:03:09] From Delaware here on the East Coast, it's a beautiful, sunny day and cool for the fall weather, but nice and sunny, wonderful start to our weekend. 


Matt [00:03:18] Wonderful, wonderful that the sun is out where I am. I think it's a bit brisk there, but it's nice to have some sunshine. It puts us in that vibe. And what have you done recently? You know, we've been locked down for a long time and people are getting back to some sort of level of normality. But what have you done that you haven't done for a while? That's giving you some joy, some something from the past. 


Karin [00:03:43] So just two weekends ago, I was invited out on a friend's sailboat, a 40 foot sailboat, and the kind of beautiful story behind this is my music teacher at school. She had met this guy and it was her second marriage and he had this sailboat. And for a couple of years, we had talked about going on the sailboat together because my husband and I just love the idea of being out on a sailboat, even though we don't have one of our own but be fun to have one day. But unfortunately, my music teacher got breast cancer for the second time around, and she retired early about a year or two ago to two and a half years ago and had the chemo and did all the work and unfortunately did pass away last November. But I brought it back to my school for the kids to find a way to remember her. And so we put a little focus together with the kids and we they created this banner for her and we got it in loving memory on the front porch of the school. And we invited her husband in and we kind of reconnected again. And he he he reached out and he was like do you want to do that sailboat ride that we've talked about for years and and we ended up doing it. It was just so invigorating and beautiful. And yeah, it was really special, like on multiple levels. And then just a reminder that every day is so precious, you never know. You know, you say you're going to do something sometimes, and there's just a reminder like, just just go and do it because you don't know when, when you might do it. So I and it was more than what you asked for, but it was a really special moment for us. 


Matt [00:05:23] It's nice. That sounds wonderful. That sounds wonderful now. Karin, we're going to talk about education today and we're going to talk about mental health and we're going to talk about mindfulness. And we have talked about education in the past on this podcast, and we took it from a student's perspective, right? And it was right in the early days of the lockdown and everything that they had to adapt to. But you're you're a principal of a school, right? So how prepared we, you know, were you prepared? What was it? What happened on the ground when you initially went into lockdown? How quickly did you have to adapt? 


Karin [00:06:03] So the the Friday of the day, we went home and didn't return, that entire week, everything had been building up to something might happen. Maybe we won't, but we'll be shut down or maybe we will go home. And you know what is so bizarre that that in the state of Delaware, the governor and or the superintendents didn't come out with that message until literally we had gone home that Friday night and got a message we wouldn't be coming back. So it was crazy. Even that day I remember looking at people going. This is so weird. It's like all of a sudden we might get the call that like, we're not going to be here. But there was no call made. And so it was just such an awkward day at the end of that week. And then to get that message and just know that everything sort of stopped for us. And it was, I think we were all just in shock, like because we hadn't been here before. And what do we do and what does this look like? And so it was a lot of like scrambling to figure out how do we stay connected with kids and not knowing what we were doing and be at such a loss. We're usually in your craft. You know exactly what you're doing. You're prepared, you know what's going on. And all of a sudden, everyone felt like a first year teacher again. And that is a really difficult feeling for experienced 20 plus year veteran teachers. 


Matt [00:07:21] Exactly. And I remember, you know, from my perspective and with my children, then on the following Monday, them trying to figure out how do we do this remote learning thing? And obviously, from the children's perspective, we've talked about that. But I remember from the teachers perspective, it was really hard. It was all of a sudden you need to come off mute. Can you go on mute, speak up? I don't know. Where did you go? Where did you go? And it was just like chaos because nobody was prepared for me to have to sort of go into this new world. So, you know, so quickly. But how did your students adapt to remote education and having to embrace the video conferencing world, the Zoom world and all the challenges that go with it? 


Karin [00:08:11] Yeah. So in that March, April, well, what was it? March? We were out for two weeks and then the two weeks turned to the month and then the six weeks. So individual teachers just sort of figured out like, OK, you know, so my fifth graders were like, OK, let's set up a meeting, you know, a Zoom meeting like every day with our kids. Awesome. Great. Well, fifth graders navigate that quite better than your kindergarten and first graders staring at a screen, not knowing who, what button. But who, where, what, what are you looking at? So we found our fourth and fifth grade teachers like getting into routine like, yeah, we can meet every day for their kids. We could even break the small groups. And I think they latched onto that much quicker and easier. And God bless my little K1 2 friends, you know, with the teachers because it was just a lot with 20 kids pictures on a screen and the mute unmute and the time of day, because then parents were trying to figure out how they're still working and having my child on a zoom, and they struggle because they they could navigate that world at the same time, either. It had never had to. And so it's like a couple of weeks in, we got to a point where some teachers had like one Zoom a week. Other teachers had like daily Zoom and and then parents were like, We don't want daily Zoom. And so we as a school had to come to an agreement like, let's create some schedules. So parents with multiple kids and only maybe one device could actually have their kids go on and access their teacher at least once. So we kind of had to pull back, which made it feel like we were doing less. But because we had just just at least establish a schedule that every class has at least one opportunity that's not crossing a grade level. So that was unique for us that we would have never thought of before. 


Matt [00:09:53] And you raised a really good point Karin. And that takes me back was, you know, when it all happened, exposed. I wouldn't call it the digital divide, but you know, for my four children that were two laptops that they could use, right? So they're fighting over these two things. The bandwidth of a people's internet connection, all of a sudden, just evaporated. And so all these technical things were getting thrown up as well. And you taught there how you coped as a as a school and how the teachers came together to work out, you know, how to do a schedule and to get into a rhythm. And I found with the second lockdown that happened because here in Ontario, the children went back to school in 2020, and then they were locked down again shortly after Christmas. But things were very different. There were Chromebooks for all the children. There were initiatives to make sure they had the right internet connections. The teachers become I.T. super beings overnight, though all other skills had certainly increased. So do you know, so everything became. It was, you know, much, much better the second time around. So do you think the overall appreciation and ability to use these new types of technology obviously improved? Did you see that improvement and did you see the benefits that that could bring as you went further into the lockdown situation? 


Karin [00:11:22] Yes. And you know, when we complained a lot at the beginning. What is this? How do I navigate that? And then someone would come up with a paradigm, and it felt like one more thing to have to learn to navigate. That could be a good system to use, you know, virtually. But over time, as the teachers adapted and as our incredible grade level teams realized, let's build a grade level website. So it's a one stop shop for a grade. We work smarter, not harder. Put all our resources as a team on there because as a teacher, you do it individually. So there was actually more of my teams I found working together smarter, not harder. Coming up with a common how are we going to educate the grade level? Not just me alone as my teacher in the grade. And then through the summer and into the beginning of the fall of 2020, we found teachers, experienced veteran teachers who were not tech savvy say things like, I have gotten more technology technologies globally advanced from this COVID shutdown than I would have ever before in such a rapid pace of time because it forced us to. So as much as we were complaining and griping and groaning that we weren't trained for this, we didn't go to school for this. Now we're expected to x y z, and that was a real struggle for us as we we slowly learned and it was slow, a slow process, and we all were on a continuum of learning different programs, parodic things like that flipped grade and all that. Over the summer and then finally into September, when every kid had their own Chromebook device, the district said, here's the amount of time you're going to use in each subject remote because we started the first six weeks of the school remote. We slowly were starting to. It was it was becoming more manageable. And it was funny because when we came back into school in November and then had a quarantine case for a grade level or class, when I would check in with the teachers, this is what they would say. Unfortunately, I really know what to do now when we go remote, like if they had to do 10 days remote. And so what? What seemed such a mountain before? And you know what? I don't even know if pre-COVID we would have made this shift in education. Who knows when we would have made some of these advances? And because of the grade level work that they created in these websites and platforms of schoology, now the teachers were saying, you know what, we come back to school in person. We're going to keep this because now we've created pockets of resources for kids to use and access when we're teaching a small group and I need them independent working on a skill X, Y and Z. So it totally advanced some things that it forced it. We needed it and we wouldn't have known to create that solution had we not faced that problem. 


Matt [00:14:07] That's such a brilliant point. It's such a brilliant point because you've come together under a crisis situation innovated and you've had this propulsion of digital adoption among your entire staff and students, right? Which is one of the if there can be any positive externalities or byproducts that's come out of this whole pandemic we've seen across so many different other industries this digital vault forward in time, right? And I think we're going to talk about it a little bit later on. But you know, that does make. Everybody more tech savvy, more open to tech innovation. And that could be positive in the future. So let's switch gears a little bit because I want to talk about mental health Karin. And I found some really interesting stats now. The first thing I'd say is when I look at and I read these stats out, so, you know, I looked at these and I was just absolutely gobsmacked when I saw this. This was a research paper here in Ontario for the Hospital for Sick Children, and it showed that during that first wave that we were referencing there when things were just completely crazy. A large majority of children and youth experience harm to their mental health. So that was great to stress from social isolation, including both the cancelation of important events and the loss of in-person social interactions. And that was strongly associated with mental health deterioration, something that we'd never seen before. And this research team surveyed more than 1000 parents of children and youth aged between two and 16 years of age and nearly 350 of sorry and another 350 between 10 and 18 years of age from April to June of 2020 and across the six domains of mental health, depression, anxiety, irritability, attention span hyperactivity and obsession compulsions. 71 percent of those children had a rapid or reported deterioration and at least one of those domains. So I spent a bit of time sort of just reading those out verbatim, but it's shocking those numbers. The effect of the pandemic on the youth, on young people's mental health. But what did you how did you did you see this? I mean, obviously you saw this, but how did this manifest itself? How do you spot this because you're working with these children every day? What was it that you saw? 


Karin [00:16:58] So when we went remote from that made a June. The evidence that we saw was little because the only thing we saw where this would indicate was kids not turning their screens on, kids having their screens on, but never saying a word, being asked a question, asked to engage and just completely mute. And when we would circle back to the parent, be like, Hey, how's it going? We notice the camera's off. They're not there or they're there, but they're not resuscitating. Those parents would be like, my kid absolutely hates Zoom. Like, they don't want to do it. They don't want to be there. I can't get anything to flip a switch to be like, hey, it's you can. You can talk like you can listen. And so that was probably the limited view that we had of kids because other than that Zoom connection, we kind of did weren't in touch with them, in a sense. And so then when we started the year remote, we had those grave concerns because of the kids who really struggled on it. And then as we went into this school year, six weeks remote, I had started a Mindfulness with Dr. J YouTube channel. And I actually over the summer before we came back to a six weeks remote. I've never done this as a principal. I created a weekly video for the kids and staff and the parents. Just, hey, how's it going? You know, I don't even remember what I would make up that day. It wasn't much, but I would always add a little mindfulness lesson or a moment of breath to just calm and take care of ourselves. And I got so much feedback and the kids, they really they loved it. They looked forward to it. Hey, when's your video coming out? And so when those six week start remote for the announcements, I create a video for the teachers to show, and families would say we would sit down as an entire family and watch Dr. J and do your your lesson with you. And so I found that something I'd never done through technology helped me connect with those kids in a way that we had never before to the point where when we came back in school, kids would say, I watched your video, I saw you on my, you know, my dad's phone and and there was actually more of an excitement and connection that I had with kids. Because of that, then I felt like I'd ever experienced as a principal. It was a very unique. Even now, kids are like, Oh, when they hear I'm coming to the classroom, the like, is she going to do mindfulness like now? I'm like, kind of like, known for that. And I think that helped kids. And then even when we started school of some Zoom in, actually, parents were reporting it worked better for them than being in person. It was less anxious than being in a class and raising your hand and not knowing the answer. And and even one third grader said to their mom, I really like Zoom. I feel like I can concentrate better and focus more. A third grader, like really eight, nine years old, can self-report that. So it was incredible that as much as you saw some kids really struggle with it, some kids actually did so much better and surprise their parents how well they were doing, organizing their work and showing up for online Zoom because parents had a choice. So in November, when you had the choice to send your kids to school in-person or remain remote. Two hundred of our kids chose remote. Four hundred were in-person. And so we had teachers, remote teachers, in-person and we navigated the whole year that way. 


Matt [00:20:24] Mm-Hmm. And I think, I mean, that is amazing and we're going to get we're going to go deep into mindfulness in a moment. But I think this is something that Larisa and I were discussing. And I think when we look at this mental health pandemic that was compounded by COVID. But I think even pre-COVID, children have it harder today than, for example, when I was growing up at school in the 1980s, right? And I had this discussion, what made me anxious. I actually enjoyed school and and everything. But what worried me when I was in the 1980s and weirdly enough, the only thing I remember that made me anxious at that age was the fear of nuclear war. You know, because there was the Cold War was going on, you always had to watch these weird educational videos about what to do with the school got hit by a nuclear bomb or something. And that terrified me for for like a year. But when you think about even pre-COVID, children have to worry about climate change. I mean, I asked my my one of my daughters, my 10 year old daughter, what's the one thing that worries her? She says climate change and the environment, they have to worry about somebody wandering into the school with a firearm. They have to worry about the division in society that, you know, social media compounds all of these things as well. So even COVID aside, I guess the point I'm getting to children have it harder is that there's more pressure and anxiety for children than there was, for example, for us when we were elementary school. 


Karin [00:22:07] Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. And so this is my 11th year as an administrator. I started as an assistant principal of the principal. And in those 11 years, literally every year, every two years, I would look at my school psychologist and say the mental health of needs of these kids is rising and increasing every year like this was pre-COVID. We were observing this and I kept thinking myself like, when is the state going to give us for family crisis therapists or school counselors or mental health professionals who are experts in this in this area? You're asking teachers who have been trained to teach academically, to be the health care provider, the mental health facilitator, the social emotional support or feel like a therapist, guidance counselor and get all your academics in to please. And then when one of our one of the things I see kids struggle with the most is the weather. So all of a sudden now Delaware and we start having tornado warnings, we added experience that and then we had to shelter in place, and now we have a practice of shelter in place. So all of a sudden now even weather related things were getting kids upset, scared, worried, frustrated, you know, thinking that, oh my gosh, what's going to happen to us if a tornado comes and the lockdown drills now that we do twice a year and the fears that came with all of that? I mean, you're right. It's it's it's it was more than we had seen and it kept rising. And then COVID hit. And now you have anybody looking for therapies these days is has a really hard time finding them like they're all maxed out. It's like slim to nothing available. If you now want your child to see outside therapists from from what I've been seeing and experiencing and noticing. 


Matt [00:23:53] No, it's it's it definitely is. Is something that, yeah, seems to get worse every year. And even, you know, social media doesn't help at all. I mean, social media again accentuates all those issues that we just discussed and even so much, the recent report about Instagram and the algorithms that were affecting the mental health of young girls were faced with the things that they see on Instagram. Do you think social media is a problem as well when it comes to young people's mental health? 


Karin [00:24:29] Yes. Now I see it more with maybe our fifth graders, and even when I started my YouTube channel, it was very interesting because I had a fifth grader actually create my YouTube channel. He was very instrumental. He would do my videotaping for me. He's the one pretty much that launched it for me. If this all came out of kids, which was, I just absolutely love that. And then it was funny because when I would talk to a fourth grader, they wouldn't be ones that would say, and this is just in my school that I can speak to could be different elsewhere. I didn't find my fourth graders as much on YouTube in the last two years, maybe even in the year. That might have changed. But about two years ago, when I started the first YouTube channel, but I found my fifth graders, they would say things like, I'm going to go home and watch my watch watching YouTube video. I'm going to go home and and and hide under the covers, and I like to sit there and watch. And it was very interesting. So I think it's some of the experiences we had with kids getting unfortunate kind of bully slash picked on through through social media. That was more a once in a while from our fifth grade population. And it's hard because it's it's easier to type something than say it to someone's face in person. It's easier to post a video or like something from the privacy of your own home where no one is in your, you know, your exact sphere. I mean, we find that as adults 9 times out of 10, when a parent emails me, I pick up the phone and call them. Why? Because when I respond in an email, it can sound so different than the heart and feeling and empathy that I'm really trying to invoke. And and sometimes it creates more work for me. But in the long run, it's an investment. I even had a parent who who had concerns emailing me, and when I picked up the phone, they let you were like, Oh, I can't believe you called me because we kind of moved away from that. And there's a lot to be said for what you're saying in person and how you say it. And I think social media creates that curtain that it's easy to just hide behind and say. And then once you bring it out in the open and that child really hears how that made them feel, what you did or said, wow, that that other child is like, Oh my, it's just so serious now because they're like, Wow, I didn't realize you would feel or think that because I said this or that. And so I think that's the disadvantage to the whole social media platform. And and I mean, I interviewed two high school schoolers on my podcast and they were like, it's the first thing we do when we wake up in the morning, we check our social media feed and and it just triggers all this emotion. Who said what was was I involved who, who did or didn't say something positive or negative about me? And and we know that's not healthy for us to live in that fight or flight zone. It eventually will cause a disease, a disease in our bodies. And so I think there's so much more talk around this to help protect kids and plan for it carefully, so you don't exhaust yourself mentally, socially, physically, emotionally, physically through what could or couldn't be out there on the social media feeds. 


Matt [00:27:39] We tend on this podcast to give social media a hard time. Right, we tend to see the bad in it. But there is good in it as well. There are things that can be harnessed and I think you've done this column with with your YouTube channel, which we're going to talk about now, which promotes mindfulness and is a platform to get to the children that need some help or just want to learn more about it. But I think the story on how you started all of this, how you became involved with this, we'll talk about now. And it was influenced by the book by Louise Hay, right? I think I am. Tell us that story, if you could, Karin and how that then led to the YouTube channel and the whole the whole thing you've got going on because it's I think it's a great story. 


Karin [00:28:26] So when I was assistant principal one of my last years with my principal before she moved to another school, she had gone to some training and came back with this idea of positive affirmations using the finger point touches with your finger like you put your first, your thumb to your first finger and then your second finger for each word, you say the affirmation. So she would teach the kids, sometimes on the loud announcements, sometimes through a read aloud like, let's just do some positive affirmations together. So I am peaceful and to have them put their fingers together, and they would say the affirmation with her. And so we got into kind of this habit of practicing these positive affirmations. And then the following year, she had moved to another school. And one of my paraprofessionals gave me a CD called 101 Positive Affirmations by Louise Hay. And I put it in my CD player driving home, and it was all these positive affirmations that you're telling yourself like, now I'm making them up because I can't remember. Whatever I'm going through today. The good is going to happen. I'm going to experience the good. I'm going to feel the good, no matter what someone is saying or doing to me. I'm going to take the message of, you know what? I am wonderful. I am in a good place. Everything is well with me. It was things like that, and she just goes through these 101 things. I would listen to it all the way home. And all of a sudden, by the time I got home, I wasn't thinking about the parent that was upset with something I did or said, the kid that's really struggling, that I'm racking my brain. How can I help them? And I don't have an answer at the moment. Maybe my teacher who is dealing with something that's really challenging and it's hard not as the principal to take the weight of that. And all of a sudden it was lifting me above all the things that just can weigh on you. And let's just say in life in general, you want to be like some owner of a company and experience this everyday life for us. And so I I realize that these affirmations were helping me. They were changing my mindset, lifting me above the situation, helping me have a positive outlook on the day where things would just like, kind of run me now. Well, then this same paraprofessional was like, look at this picture, book for kids. Louise Hay wrote, And I'm like, What is it? And if any parent is listening or anyone who knows anyone with kids, I highly recommend this book. If I could I go on to raise money to get a book for every kid in the world. It's called I think I am. And it takes ordinary situations like I always forget something and there's a picture of the kid leaving his sweater somewhere and instead say to yourself, you know what? I may I might make a mistake, but I'm going to move on. And it teaches kids, like, if someone doesn't want to play with you on the playground, stop and save yourself. I am loved. And it flips the negative thoughts that are mine traditionally goes to that just kind of take us down and it helps kids reframe the situation to actually like, take care of their self in a way mentally. And so I started reading this picture book in classrooms as a read aloud and doing these affirmations. Well, then one day when I was in a fourth grade class, at the end the kid goes, Dr J, you should really read one of those on the announcements every day. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I love that you came up with that idea and be like, totally starting that tomorrow. And so from that day on that entire year, we would start. We would do my normal announcements and then I'd say, All right, here's our positive affirmation. I am grateful. OK, let's say that together I am grateful. And for a whole year, we started that. And then we heard of a mindfulness coach at a nearby elementary school, and my school counselor was like, We totally have to get this person into our school. So we we put a grant together some of our building budget and we piloted it just in our first grade for like six weeks. And that year, and this was where I had teachers who initially were like, what is this and why are we doing it? And yeah, I'm not too into this. No worries. The coach comes in, you're just listening. You don't have to do anything at the end of those six weeks. The kids were going home, telling their parents what they were learning, which you can't even get a kid to tell you what they learned at school that day. And the teachers, especially that one was like, Karin, I'm using this for my kids now, and I'm actually using it for myself. And it's through a program called Mindful Schools, and they offer courses. And the following year, I offered the first level course to any of my teachers who wanted to take it. We had about seven of them sign up, and then we hired this coach for to teach it to all the kids. So she came in for eight weeks, once a week, 15 minutes. And she taught them lessons using their senses about noticing sound, noticing what you see, noticing your breath, teaching us some ball breath, finger breath activities. And I was just watching this. And at the end of this, this these eight weeks, she had done a pre and post survey with our second through fifth graders. 40 percent of the kids said it helped them sleep better at night. I was like, Are you serious? Get out. If I can have one kid sleep better, I'll do anything. 80 percent said this should be taught to other kids. Kids thought this should be taught to other kids. Not just is this helping you? And all of a sudden my eyes were just totally being open to this area of something that could be a proactive intervention that we could provide to kids. I had been for years waiting for the state to give us more, more supports, and they weren't coming and I just kept getting frustrated. And all of a sudden, that was the game changer for me. I was like, wait a second this, I can do this with these kids. So I ended up taking the second course for the educator course to learn the lessons, get the lessons. I started teaching it to the kids to keep the work going to the point where even a fifth grader who had been taking a test. They have learned one of the lessons, if you're taking a test and you don't know and you're frustrated and you kind of get start getting upset because you don't know the answer, take your take three deep breaths. Go back to it. And he self-reported that he was able to, like, do a great job finishing his test where he had gotten frustrated. So I started creating little videos on this YouTube channel with this fifth grader that I started Mindfulness with Dr. J because we say we do mindfulness. But what in the world does that look or mean? And so I wanted the parents to start to get a look into this. And that's right, when COVID hit, we all went home. And one of my first one of one of the next videos I had post on YouTube was me doing the announcements from my bedroom or against a wall, doing a lesson from mindfulness. Because what that was what we knew to do. And it got like some 900 use. A secondary assistant principal was like, I'm telling my kids to watch your video. Why? Because it's something to give them a tool where we had no idea what the next moment held. 


Matt [00:35:23] I think it's such an amazing story Karin. And you know, I think mindfulness for me is something and I started meditating just in the last year. It's something that's helped me, but I think the story and I make so I'm a huge advocate of it. And I think the way that you've propagated it through the school, the way that you've managed to on board the parents and other teachers and other institutions is just incredible. The results. It's not just something for a bit of fun. You're seeing tangible, meaningful results, right? So I think it just goes without saying so you've you've started your YouTube channel now, Mindfulness with Dr. J. And what other techniques of mindfulness do you deploy on that YouTube channel? 


Karin [00:36:12] So I haven't been using the YouTube channel as much anymore, because then I got into creating another YouTube channel called Educational Impact Academy, and now I've been focusing a lot of my work also creating a podcast just this past February called Magnificent because parents with kids who are struggling and have behavior challenging moments. I noticed they were coming up at a loss of what to do and feeling so alone. And it doesn't have to be that way. So, so as much as this, this mindfulness was starting to take care of like some mental health needs of kids. And I'm going to go as far as to say is it's taking care of mental health needs of our kids in our school that we didn't even know had an issue. Like this mindfulness lessons we teach that kid on the struggling test that, to my knowledge, doesn't have an anxiety issue, but this helped him. And yes, this program is supporting and helping all of our kids with anxiety or to monitor their stress and help them self-regulate, which is a powerful tool. But then so then when COVID hit and we went home and had a little more time than we normally would because we were all home, I actually started working with a company to teach me how to build a podcast, how to create maybe like a free webinar for parents to teach them a some of these strategies and some clever problem-solving strategies I've done with kids in school over the years. And so some of some of my Mindfulness with Dr. J, has gotten a little quieter because I now focus since February. So more of my time on on this podcast to bring in authors, doctors, lawyers, former heads of school students talking about mindfulness, ADHD, autism, anything to help educate a mom on the run on the go. Working full time. But give me a little piece of knowledge and wisdom that maybe I could shift something today that improves the quality of my relationship and life with my kids. And that's the whole purpose of it, and it's just exciting and inspiring. The guests that I've met and the feedback I've gotten from parents. 


Matt [00:38:25] We've talked about what happened to children and to educators and parents when we went into lockdown. We looked at the separate pandemic of mental health that did exist pre-COVID, but was accelerated and amplified by the COVID situation. And I think your story why I find it so amazing, Karen, is that you've innovated. You've found a solution that has demonstrable results and then you've used technology to propagate it promotes it. And it's a solution to the problem. And I think it's a really important solution and something that all educators all over the world should look at mandating. I really do feel that strongly about it. And it reminds me that this is the changing face of of education, I think, as a whole. And when we spoke with Randi Zuckerberg a couple of weeks ago, one of the things we discussed, we were talking about diversity and inclusion, and we both reminisced to our school years, which was around 30, 35 years ago, where, you know? Boys and girls did different things at school, the boys went into a woodwork class, the girls went into a needlework or a home economics or a cooking class, and we both remarked at how primitive that was, right? Yeah, that was only fit not now. There's a lot more equality and people have, you know, regardless of your gender, you can choose what you want to do. But here's here's another thing that I picked up on when we look at these only in the period of 35 years when I did this, I don't mean to humorous this at all or to make it lighthearted, but this is a reality when I was at school. If you got sent to the headmaster's office of the principal's office headmaster in the UK because you'd done something wrong and I'm thankful, sir, I was a good kid, I never got sent to the headmaster's office once. If my mother and father are listening, but it could be a very traumatic experience. I mean, very traumatic. Even in the 1980s, the headmaster, if you were sent out to dependent on what you could do but physically hit you with a stick. I mean, that is in my lifetime in the United Kingdom, you would be hit with a stick for misbehaving. And when you think about it, and even in those days, mental health issues or learning disabilities among children would go unnoticed. And it was those children that were more often than not sent to the headmaster's office and were then physically assaulted, which wouldn't do anybody any good. And when you think about it, how primitive is that? It's crazy. Now you're a principal Karin. People have to come to your office for various things, but you have an entirely different approach, right? That's not always possible. I'd like you to take us through that because again, I think it illustrates the dichotomy just in one generation of how education and how the educational system is advancing. 


Karin [00:41:35] Yes. So on the flip side, I was not a good kid when I was younger. 


Matt [00:41:41] I don't believe it. I don't believe it. 


Karin [00:41:43] I know nobody can believe it. I lied. I stole things. I cheated on tests. This was an elementary school. I mean, thank God I got my self together. By the time middle and high school, I know there is like, You're kidding me, I'm making that up hard. No, I'm not. This is crazy. And as a kid? I hated the feeling that would come across come inside me, the feelings that would come up when I was in trouble and adults would say and do things that would make me feel worse. I already felt bad and and the way I interpreted it was that I was bad to my core. And as I grew up, I never wanted to treat kids that way. And so when I became a teacher, I really was careful in what I said and how I treated them because I knew how that felt. And I never wanted a kid to feel that. And I really believed that when you did something wrong, even if you didn't look like you were remorseful or say something that I knew you were remorseful. As hard as that is, sometimes for adults, too, to kind of get that communication from a child. I believed they were already feeling bad, and I wasn't the one who was supposed to make them feel worse. And so I had some struggling kids in school, some with special needs, and they would react or respond in class, and I didn't know how to help them. I couldn't really like connect with them. I couldn't figure out why they were doing what they were doing. One would hide in the clothes in the little cubby. One would shut down and just wouldn't do their work. So I would have lunch with them. To try to connect with them like to figure out what makes them tick to help them get through this year and do what we have to do. And I really had a hard time, and I never felt like I really, really got to the bottom of why that kid did what they did and how I what I could do to support them as much as the behavior coach would come in and she would give me feedback and I'd be like, try it and didn't always feel successful. And then I would feel like it was my problem, you know? But then when I was a promissory child study team facilitator, they always come up with all these words, basically in two elementary schools in Delaware, in public schools. I was hired to meet with teachers who had kids who were struggling that didn't qualify for a five before didn't qualify for an IEP because usually you can create some like supports that kind of help them get through school in some specific way. So there was this pocket of kids that like maybe it was like just functioning behavior just wouldn't bring their school bag to school, they wouldn't do their homework. And we were like, what do we do with these kids? And then I went to a training with Dr. Stewart Ablan out of Harvard. He came to Delaware, met with six school districts and talked about this collaborative problem solving approach. A very positive approach with empathy, problem solving, identifying. Maybe there's a lagging skill the kid has that you have to teach them. And this whole tagline was All kids do well, if they can. And I was like, yes, I believe that and everything he said, just sing to it with what I really believed about kids as difficult as it could be in a moment of a challenging behavior for them. And so I really studied his work. The district had us do like connect calls with him. We did a little bit more training and I read a book called Lost at Schools that talks about the process in depth. And I really just just soaked it up entirely and started practicing the processes and procedures he was teaching to go through with a kid to get them to really tell you what's really going on. And a lot of times kids won't say what they're what's really going on. You look at them and you're like, why did you do that? They just shrug their shoulders or say, I don't know. And this process, as I started doing it? No, it wasn't perfect at first. And yes, it took time. Like anything, there wasn't a magic switch. It didn't just automatically happen for me, but because I didn't give up on it when I became an assistant principal and continued this process. I would have a kid who like, here's a simple example the custodian was like the kid peed on the wall and we found one kid went there. Well, how are you going to get that kid to admit that? But through this process, and I'm not saying it might work every time, but in that situation, it was a beautiful picture of using empathy and empathetic tone of voice not talking down to the kid. Not not raising my voice, not not putting them in a position of I'm me and you are you, and how could you do this? And a beautiful question that they teach you to use, which says, like, what's up with that? And you just wait this impregnable pause and you wait some more. And when they shrug their shoulders and say, I don't know you this beautiful question that they teach you that says, If you did know, what would you say and the kid just stares at you, like, who are you and where have you come from? Because no one's ever treated me like that. And I would use this process. And in that situation, that kid actually admitted to pee on the wall where when I called his mom, she was like, I don't believe that my kid would never do that. And I was like, Honey, I need you to come tell your mom what happened. And he told her, and she wouldn't even have believed me. And so time and time again, some of our kids with just really difficult moments, I would use this process and and it and because of it, I created a connection with them because I really believe in connection before you correct. And so during those years as assistant principal, I would have lunch once a week with all the kids who were the high fliers of behavior referrals and we would eat lunch together. We play, Uno, just to give a one fun time in their day because God bless you, when you go back to class for some reason, everything you do is wrong. You need to improve. You shouldn't. You had to. And I and I believe in that connection. And so I would play uno with them. And then if they ended up my office at some point, I'd be like, know, you and I both know each other by now, and I would come from that premise. I mean, sometimes I say, I know, you know, I love you, but I know some people are, like, really funny about that. But but they knew that I cared about them. And then when I had to really tell them, like, this is how it's going to be or this is your consequence because this is part of life. I saw those kids slowly make changes for the good, and I believe at the core of this process, you because of it, you can change the trajectory of a kid's life because we all unfortunately can remember when a teacher said something that really, you know, hurt us, kind of like deep down to the core. And I don't believe it has to be that way. And I've seen it completely help these kids who, you know, for the life of them, maybe they had a disability that no one had even identified yet, but we didn't have to treat them like they were the bad kid till we got through what prom need to be solved or the school that needed to be taught. 


Matt [00:48:49] Now, that's that's absolutely, absolutely amazing, and it's a beautiful story Karin and yeah, I mean, again, looking at how and some of the things that you're doing and the methodologies that you're applying, how effective they are, how humane they are, because again, talking about the education system in other countries and different points of time, it's completely, you know, completely different. So I think that as well, you know, with with the mindfulness, have you seen when, when, when going through the mindfulness practices with children? Not only obviously does it help them cope with anxiety, help them cope with stress. You've seen improvement in their performance and their results. But did their behaviors improve as well? 


Karin [00:49:40] Yeah, so here's an example of a first grader who I don't know why, but would sometimes crawl under his desk, refused to go to special the class would go to recess, come on recess. Every kid loves recess, would refuse, sit at his desk and we would just rack our brains like, what is it? And then one day we had done our mindfulness lessons in those classes. And another student was having a meltdown because it was something like the whole class got a reward. Somehow, he missed it. And he was having a hard time. And the other kid says to him, We need to go to Dr. J and do our breathing together. So the teacher brought both of them. And I look at the one kid, I'm like, do you want to do, you know, it looks like we just need a minute to kind of get calm and in control of her body? Little tagline I like to use with them. I was like, Do you want to do the ball breath together or the finger breath? No, no, no, no. Well, I had just recorded a video of me just doing both of those on YouTube. So I put my iPad in front of them and I was like, OK, well, then let's just watch this video and all of a sudden the other kid starts doing it. As I'm saying, now, put your hands together, take a deep breath, you know? And then the kid that was crying, he starts doing it. And after this, like three and a half minute video by the end, the kid's like laughing and talking and. And then we were able to talk about what happened and how he got upset and maybe what we could try differently. OK, then let's share this with the teacher. And and I actually then created a video for the YouTube channel saying this was amazing. This kid was upset. He wouldn't listen to me live in person, but he would watch the video like it. All sudden, I'm like, There's something to this. So I've actually created my mindfulness lesson videos on my Educational Impact Academy website for parents or educators to to purchase and use. Because maybe if you don't think you have the knowledge and skills to do it with your child, you could watch it and use it with them to teach them or a teacher who might be like, Oh yeah, I love you, Karin. But one more thing like, Please don't give me one more thing to try to teach and do. And they could play it and actually have kids just on their own or put it on a school or group where the kids, when they have a breakout session, they need to take a little mental break. They go in and watch one of the videos. So that's something that I'm actually turning around within my school this year to give them teachers access to it. Haven't done it yet. It's a thought and idea, and I need to act on it because sometimes. But but that's what that's what I'm thinking of next, actually. So that was just incredibly powerful for me. 


Matt [00:52:16] That's a really it's a really heartwarming, really heartwarming story Karin, and again, another example of why you've used innovation and you've used technology and you've used mindfulness techniques to break, you know, to break through the problem. And you know, something we talked about, something I'm I well, you know, we'll close out on some, some technology pieces, but I downloaded the Calm app, the mindfulness app and literally this week they unleashed or launched Calm Kids, right? And I was looking at it, and it's truly amazing. So, you know, we talk about mandating mindfulness in schools and how helpful it can be. But what what's your thought on these apps that children or their parents can download? And I think one of the things is Thomas, you can do meditation with Thomas the Tank Engine. And I might try that later on a bit of Thomas the Tank Engine meditation, but what are your thoughts on those sort of digital innovations and how they can impact children? 


Karin [00:53:25] So at first, initially, I would think, like, no, it has to be in person, like it has to be something live, like, how is that going to really help? But actually, over the last year, I've seen my teachers use the Calm app in their classroom and talk about how much they love it. My one teacher, it helps her go to sleep at night and then just show watching this shift where the kid in person wasn't going to do the breathing activity with me, but he was going to watch me do it on this device. Like, so something's shifting where it's working for people. And maybe it's that thought that it might not be the best thing for you, but I've seen it work and be beneficial for some people. And so I think that there is a whole world here to explore because my husband and I have been thinking, like, how can we take what we do and almost create a digital game for kids to go into since that's the world they live in and tap into and do? I mean, how many parents are like my kids, addicted to the computer games and I can't get them off it? Well, what if we created something that was positive and helping them, whether it was with character education becoming a good citizen mindfulness in a world that was digital with avatars. And I mean that that kind of is where all those kids are and are living these days, as much as I don't want to leave with that. And a lot of times I hear teachers still staring from even a year ago. The kids are on the devices too much. They're on technology too much. It's not good. It's not healthy. So as much as it's not healthy, it's not good, and we have to monitor it somehow. This is where a lot of us are living to the point where I interviewed Brent Franson last weekend, who created an app Most Days where adult as starting as young as 13 years old, can go in and pick one thing they want to do better at whether it's sleep, exercise, whatever and they check in. And it just is like, Yes, I did it today, or no, I did, and there's nothing wrong with not doing it today, but most days is the whole key that we're going to eventually get there. It is that online social support group that people are realizing they can't live without. So I think there's an opportunity to give them more of something healthy. Oh, where, where, where it's working for them, and I've even used them myself. So if it's working or it's something you want to explore, if it's helpful, I think that's what you have to gauge for yourself. 


Matt [00:55:52] You said something that I see this with my children and and that's good to hear. They love their principal. They love their teachers. Yeah. You know, and again, when we look at, you know, progression and the dichotomy of education for me in the 80s, you feared your headmaster. You feared him. You were scared. If he was coming down the corridor, you would get out of the way. The last thing you would ever do is attempt to say hello. I make fun of it now, but I do see this huge leap, this huge leap in and and I think you're a pioneer Karin and everything you do to create that environment to really help children, not just educate them, but like we said. This said, these are different times for children these days, there's different stresses, there's different anxieties. And I think what you're doing is absolutely inspiring, innovative and wonderful currents. So it's really, really great. So I think we're almost coming towards the end of the session, so should we finish, let's finish with like doing an affirmation if this is going to how I want to give this a shot. Like I told you, I like I'm into my mindfulness now. I do a lot of meditation. So let's give this a shot. And if all our listeners want to participate, let's do this now. 


Karin [00:57:15] OK, so I found my favorite one that really launched me into this work from Louise, and I have to give credit to Louise Hay. So it's three small phrases I am safe in the universe. 


Matt [00:57:27] I am safe in the universe. 


Karin [00:57:30] And all life loves and supports me.


Matt [00:57:33] and all life loves and supports me. 


Karin [00:57:37] Life loves me. 


Matt [00:57:38] Life loves me. Excellent. Great, thank you. That's a first. That's a first for the Great Indoors. But I really enjoyed it, and I want to say thank you for joining. And if our listeners, I'm going to strongly recommend they visit your YouTube channel, your podcast and your website Karin. But where can they find them all if you just want to make reference of that for our listeners? 


Karin [00:58:05] So a good landing pages, my website will be, or you can just search for me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Karin Jakubowski and I'd love to connect with you. And if there's one thing that is a takeaway for you today, it's why I do what I do, and it's what gets me up every morning just to help one more child, one more parent, one more educator. And thanks so much. 


Matt [00:58:36] Inspiring. Is really the word, and I say this sincerely as a father. Karen's willingness to embrace new tech and techniques, coupled with her passion for education and for children's well-being, is simply amazing. You know, we entrust our children to our respective educational authorities and with innovative pioneers like Karin, we can sleep easy knowing that our children are in the capable hands of not just great educators, but amazing, compassionate human beings that put their students happiness and well-being above everything else. Now you can find out more about Karin in the show notes and on our new and improved web page. And please subscribe to our podcast on all the usual podcast channels. Leave a review or rating if you feel so inclined, it certainly helps us. And check out two of the Amdocs podcasts that are brilliant and available now. The Future of Tech with Avishai Sharlin and Points of View with our CMO Gil Rosen. We'll be back in two weeks and remember our final episode will come live from L.A. Check out our web page for more details. So we'll see you in another two weeks for another edition of The Great Indoors. I'm Matt Roberts for Amdocs in Toronto. Have a great day wherever you are. 


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