This Holiday Season Take a Note from the “Mensch on the Bench”

mensch-wisdomEvery year it seems that from Halloween till New Years the days just fly by, I feel like I’m a teeny, tiny hamster spinning a gigantic wheel ’round and ’round with no end in sight. I suspect you may feel this way too.

With all the stressors this fall, including the travelling, present-buying, annual family get-togethers and even the post-election turmoil (I’m still in shock!), I thought this gentle reminder from our good friend, The Mensch on the Bench, was in proper form.

A mensch is a Yiddish word meaning ‘a person of integrity and honor’ – a person who does good by and for others. It’s an aspirational word and a standard I am striving to attain both personally and professionally as an example to my students, their parents, and my colleagues. I even hope to be a mensch to the person who honked at me this morning as I was getting on the 101 or the lady who jumped in line at Starbucks. Hey! No one said living life as a mensch was gonna be easy. I’m definitely still learning.

This holiday season, whether you’ve got an Elf on the Shelf or a Mensch on the Bench remember to take a moment, laugh, breathe, and be grateful for your family, your friends, your country,  your apartment, your house, your car, your metro card, the dollars in your pocket and even your chocolate stash.

And perhaps channel your inner mensch and do a good deed for others in this season of thanks, giving and gratitude.

Happy Holidays, from this joyful mensch to you and your joyous loved ones.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Executive Director of Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services.

She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic Support, Behavior Management, Special Education Advocacy and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

“Inside Out”: A Great Movie to Help with Emotional Identification

insideout Go See this Movie!

If you haven’t already done so, go see “Inside Out” because it’s a fantastic and accessible representation of how our emotions play into our everyday experiences individually and amongst each other.

Identifying Emotions Can Help Us Navigate the Emotional Health of Our Children & Families

“Inside Out” is the story of a family who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco and whose preteen daughter has a difficult time adjusting to her new school, new friends, and her new life.

Psychological research actually identifies Six Universal Emotions: Happy, Sad, Surprised, Afraid, Disgusted, Angry (although there is debate about combining some to create four recognized emotions instead). “Inside Out” does a great job making this research come to life.

This movie is funny while also being informative, and it doesn’t hold back with the hard stuff, like expressing sadness and experiencing depression.

American Culture Holds Us Back from Understanding Our Feelings

Our American Get-Up-and-Go culture really holds us back from acknowledging and talking about our underlying feelings. Even as I write that, I know some of you are rollin’ your eyes because you’re uncomfortable with just the thought of that “cheesy” word: feelings.

But it’s true!

Understanding our feelings is the backbone of navigating social, physical, and emotional trials. There are over half a million working Mental Health Professionals helping adults and children in the U.S. Someone’s keeping them in business. Maybe we’re all more open to seeking out help but just not talking about it with each other?

That’s why this movie was so eye-opening. It brought to light the fact that people of all ages struggle with how to appropriately deal with emotions and, instead, often stuff their feelings down deep inside until they burst out in unhealthy ways. It’s only when we recognize the underpinnings our emotional outburst that we can effectively deal with the real problems.

“Inside Out” is the first of its kind to showcase the importance of emotional identification. And it makes me feel pretty good to know that the kiddos I’m supporting are growing up in a generation that sees how important emotional learning is too.

Toys & Games to Help Your Child Learn to Identify Emotions

Current Emotional Response Visual Supports, Activities, and Products on the Market:

Feelings App
Expanding Expression Tool
All About Me Mirror Boards
MindWing Concepts
Social Thinking Books, Games, Posters
Feelings and Emotional Washable Dolls
How Are You Feeling Today Center

Know of any other good feelings apps or products that you like? Send ’em our way!

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them: “To be a part of a student’s ‘ah ha’ moment is the best feeling in the world because I know I’m helping that student build foundational confidence that will lead to a successful path, not just in school but throughout life!”

Emotional Academics

sad We don’t often hear a lot of discussion on how emotions play into academic success or defeat but the two go hand in hand. Children are just learning the ins and outs of how to appropriately deal with their feelings — how to self-regulate– but adults struggle with this too. For example, work productivity is directly affected by how motivated we are that day, and our motivation hinges on how good or bad we happen to feel. We’re all on a steep learning curve when it comes to understanding the causal relationship between emotions, productivity, and its direct effect on our students academic success.

Here are some Social-Emotional Learning pieces that I consider when working with my students:

  • To Serve the Whole Student, We Must Acknowledge Our Students Emotions. Then we have to go one step further to teach them how to appropriately deal with their excitement, anger, frustration, happiness, or sadness.
  • Find an Age-Appropriate Tool to Help Your Students Learn to Identify their Feelings and Self-Regulate Accordingly. A Feelings Wheel or Thought Box are two great resources that I use all the time with my students and their families.
  • A Simple “How was your day?” often does the Trick.  This seemingly innocuous question opens the door to conversation about how they are feeling. Then, make their “Feelings Baseline” your baseline for the lesson.
  • Everybody is Entitled to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And that’s ok! Even the most together adult has a horrible day once in a while. Instead of dwelling on the terribleness of it all, we have to use that time to (1) acknowledge, (2) deal appropriately, (3) gain trust through empathy, and (4) reassess your expectations for that day’s lesson.

By working with both typical and atypical developing students, I’ve learned (and am still learning on a daily basis) how to adjust my expectations based on how my students deal with their emotions. Do they bottle it up inside until it blows? Do they cry at the drop of a hat? Do they know how to recognize and identify what they are feeling?

The goal, of course, is to find that sweet spot: the point where I’m teaching a student to self-regulate through independent study while also challenging them to increase their own expectations.

Academics are about more than just working towards an A. It’s how we teach our students to appropriately deal with the myriad of emotions that come with this challenge that is of most importance.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to