All posts by Nancy Marie

Brilliant Beyond Belief

Imagine how different the world would be if all children learned that they were brilliant beyond belief and they were encouraged to discover how their mind worked the best.

We are all aware that school districts have faced repeated budget cuts. We are also aware that our teachers are required to teach more academic content, meet higher standards and at the same time have more students in their classrooms. I think we are also aware this situation creates more stress and that stress has an adverse effect on the learning environment, the student and the teacher.

Stress interferes with students’ attention, memory, and their ability to organize and integrate information. This is not new information. Educators have known for a long time that the optimal mind/body state of a student is one of relaxed alertness, but unfortunately how to generate a state of relaxed alertness, especially in stressful situations, is rarely taught in the classroom.

How did we get on this treadmill? Isn’t it time to get off?  Children still focus a high percentage of their attention in school on tasks bearing little relationship to real-life activities. Have we forgotten that our focus should be on preparing our students for life––the new ever-changing global life?  Have we forgotten the importance of developing the conscious creative and problem-solving mind in this new and changing world? And have we forgotten that to develop this part of the mind, individuals need to understand how the mind works and be encouraged to step out of reaction and discover new answers––not just repeat the answer someone else discovered?

Almost everyday I hear the stories of individuals whose faith in themselves and potential was crushed by this stress-filled treadmill we call education. What many people don’t realize is those scars don’t disappear miraculously. They can last a lifetime––or until the individual learns how to turn on his or her conscious mind at will and transform stifling inaccurate beliefs.

What if, when a student didn’t understand something, the focus was on figuring out how to get better performance from his mind, not on his feeling he was inadequate or stupid? Linear thinkers have an advantage in the traditional classroom, but now there is a greater need in the global market place for the “out of the box” thinkers. Can we rise to the occasion and find more effective ways to help our youth understand how to activate their conscious mind, maximize its performance and become “out of the box” thinkers? If we can, we can activate a wave of brilliant minds that are desperately needed to solve the world’s current problems.

Thoughts from a pilot teacher:

“…One of the best things about the I Create What I Believe! Program is what it does for the teacher.  When I began using the activities in my classroom I started to see my students differently–– a less adversarial relationship. The classroom climate changed as well when my students saw me doing the art too, because they knew this wasn’t something I was just telling them to do, it was something I used in my own life.

With all of the stress, demands and pressure teachers are under these days it is really easy to see only the defiance in a student. However, when students are given these opportunities to express themselves you get to see that under that defiance they are vulnerable and very unsure of themselves. Being able to suggest an alternative to disrupting the whole classroom leaves me feeling less like a tyrant, leaves them feeling less attacked, and ultimately is helping me become more a compassionate and effective teacher…”

For more information about the I Create What I believe! Program and Pilot Study

The Possibilities are Infinite!

We all want our children to have happy, healthy and successful lives, but I think it is obvious that more testing and more pressure is not the answer. What could be a solution in this fast paced ever-changing world we now live in?

In our complex world, it is easy to get caught up in the “more is better” mind set instead of remembering the power of “less”. It is also easy to forget that when we provide all of the bells and whistles on anything we can discourage active participation, interaction and conscious growth. In fact this approach can encourage passivity. At the same time, when we create situations that are open, flexible, and encourage creating with no right or wrong we coax the mind to engage, take risks, interact, play, communicate and problem-solve.

The “all bells and whistles” experience is similar to talking with someone who monopolizes the conversation so much that you can feel a part of yourself disappearing. Creating opened ended opportunities for the mind to explore and discover is restorative and empowering.

Can you remember playing with a refrigerator box when you were young? It was a castle, a fort, a house, a restaurant, a bed, a jail, a puppet theatre, a whale, or a bridge. We created and explored–the list was endless.

Art is not just for the “gifted”.  Art is a gift from the Universe that can help us discover and express our own unique “giftedness”. When art is approached from the “refrigerator box” perspective we invite the child or adult to explore, discover, and find his or her own way. No matter what the material, the possibilities are infinite, and that is what expands minds. In the process the child or adult can find him or her self, gain a deeper meaning of life and find a way to express their feelings in an uncensored manner.

Here is an amazing video of what can be created with just a stick and a rake. Remember the possibilities are infinite!

A Sense of Self and Balance?

When parents and teachers talk about the need for good self-esteem, they usually mean that children should have “good feelings” about themselves. For young children, this also refers to the degree they feel accepted and valued by the adults and peers who are important to them.

A child with a healthy sense of self-esteem feels accepted and loved, is not afraid of making a mistake, and knows that the important adults in their life would go out of their way to make sure they are safe and well.  On the other hand, children with low self-esteem do not feel accepted and loved, are afraid of being wrong,  and are not sure the important adults in their life would go out of their way to ensure their safety and well-being.

It is important to remember that “self-esteem” is not something that magically appears out of thin air. It grows from our early childhood experiences.  In the first six years of life we acquire our fundamental beliefs about life and ourselves merely by observing the behaviors, attitudes and reactions of our parents siblings and peers. This is not a thinking process, but rather an automatic download or an experience similar to “cut and paste”.  Once our beliefs are acquired they will color our perceptions about life and ourselves for the rest of our life, unless we actively change them in our subconscious mind.

Living with the belief that you are flawed, inadequate or undeserving can reap havoc with your ability to succeed.  On the other hand, if given opportunities to discover the faultiness of your perceptions and an opportunity to change those core beliefs can change your whole life.  Self-initiated hypnotic-like practices, like the drawing activities in the ICWIB program,  are a very effective way to change old beliefs that are stored in our subconscious, because they take the brain into a relaxed and receptive state, which allows for the easy observation and transformation of inaccurate thought patterns and beliefs.

Challenges are important, but so are activities that encourage inward reflection, and the valuing of the child’s uniqueness. Providing opportunities for children to experience a sense of balance and discover their uniqueness can help them develop a good sense of self. Unfortunately, we live in such a performance driven society that type of development is being rushed or overlooked.  The end result is similar to taking a cake out of the oven before it is fully cooked––it falls! It fails! It never reaches it full potential! I find myself concerned about the future when I see the list of beliefs that sixth graders have about themselves and life. (Today’s Pilot Update)

The good news is the teachers, and parents that are using this creative program with young children are noticing changes in behavior, attitudes and responses.  This in turn is affecting their performance both in and outside the classroom. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get tools like these into the hands of all of our children so they grew up knowing how to transform negative beliefs that are hindering their ability to thrive?

If you are interested in using some of this program with your children or students here are some free resources:

Introductory Presentation for Teachers––audio file

I Create What I Believe! Activities

Today’s Pilot Update

“…This week I had my students write in their journal about what false beliefs a sixth grader might have about himself or herself.  Here is list of beliefs that plagued them and they felt plagued other sixth graders: You are stupid. You can’t pass. You can’t play sports. You are not as good as others. You have to do what adults tell you to do. You have bad handwriting. No one likes you. You are ugly. You are not pretty. You can’t do math. You are fat. You can’t do anything right. You need to be a bully. Scary movies are real. Monsters are real. I am going to die today. Many of these beliefs were repeated many times in the journals.  The last four were only single entries…”

A lighter note from the same teacher, “…The ICWIB program is a great equalizer––especially for my special ed. students.  I usually have to tell them how to do everything to get them through a lesson, but this is something they can do as well as rest of my students!  It is nice to see changes beginning to take place in individual students and in the classroom…”

Reduce Stress with Balance

What can we do when we find ourselves getting overly stressed? The simple answer is simple– stop, look and listen. It doesn’t matter it you are a student struggling to understand a problem, a parent trying to make ends meet or a senior citizen trying to remember where they left their car keys. The answer is always the same–– You need to stop, look and listen.

If you have forgotten how to stop and reflect or no one ever taught you the importance of introspection––the art of connecting deeply with yourself here is a very simple exercise you can do:

The labyrinth is one of the basic I Create What I Believe! art activities students are being taught in the classroom and in after school programs. This simple activity can help you relax your body, you focus your mind, and move your whole system out of reactivity and into your conscious problem-solving mind.

Give it a try! Once you learn the activity on paper, you can duplicate the experience with your finger on your leg or arm to help your body regain a calm, clear and centered perspective.

Our body was designed to be balanced, though our culture with all if its striving to dominate perpetuates disconnection and imbalance.  This can leave us feeling powerless or incompetent. Having one simple tool you can use anywhere to help you stop, reflect and uncover a new solution can make a huge difference in the quality of your life and your ability to succeed.

Today’s Pilot Updates

“…I was able to devote the entire class period to ICWIB today.  We began by making a journal for their ICWIB reflections.  Our activity today was circles and lines, this time with objects to draw around and rulers.  Last week was so hurried that I wanted to extend the lesson.

When I was reviewing from last week’s reading of Out of the Box! one girl said “this feels like church.”  I have only presented the material from an art of science perspective so she is obviously experiencing a change.  Another student said, “I messed up” and a classmate said, “You can’t mess up.”  I am really pleased to see they’re getting it!

I saw many variations on my instructions.  Some put lines and circles together even though I asked for one side of each first before combining them.  Some did rubbings.  One scribbled really hard and said “I’m putting my anger on the page.”  I saw all kinds of interesting designs.  Our first journal entry will be Monday to reflect on whether they’re a line person or a circle person and how it feels to draw each…”

Art is a Language

After many years of experimentation and study I have come to realize that the creative process can have profound restorative benefits for the body, mind and spirit of an individual. I have also discovered that you don’t have to expensive art supplies, excessive art training or to be the next Leonardo Di Vinci to reap the benefits.

Art at its core is a language—a nonverbal form of communication that allows us to express ourselves in an unguarded manner. This alone can be restorative to the system. But art when approached in an exploratory manner, not worrying about the outcome, it offers even more. It can be used as a centering tool allowing students that have either focusing problems or self-controlling issues to learn how to self-regulate themselves. For students that have performance issues, it can be a simple and effective tool that allows them to de-stress and purposely move their body and mind out of fight or flight reaction and into the calm critical thinking oasis known as the conscious mind. This is where growth-promoting learning and healing takes place.

It can also give them an opportunity to discover the uniqueness of their own mind. We need original thinkers to help solve the enormous number of challenges we all face. All of the arts are important because they help the student become comfortable exploring unknown in an natural manner.

Today’s pilot story:

“We worked on the “drawing sounds” lesson today… I wrote the sounds they gave me on the board.  Some of the sounds they chose to draw were: dog crying, bird singing, wind, and mom yelling/nagging.  Each time we closed our eyes to hear the sound before they started drawing from the experience.  A number of students were willing to show their drawings and comment on the types of lines they found themselves drawing automatically whenever they felt either happy or sad. 

Many students noticed that when they were feeling angry and upset their lines tended to be harder, darker, and straighter. They also noticed that when they were feeling happy their marks tended to be softer, more circular and lighter in color. 

I encouraged them to use the activity outside of class to get out any upset feelings or simply to enjoy a good feeling more often. I definitely feel we’re making progress…”

Creativity is important in all walks of life.

How can we come up with innovative solutions if we are afraid of making a mistake? How can we make changes if we are afraid of taking risks? How can we stand up for ourselves if we are afraid that who we are is wrong?

Creativity is and needs to be an important part of all learning. It helps us personalize, and integrate what we have learned. At the same time, creativity teaches us how to trust ourselves and take calculated risks. This is important in all walks of life.

Our children face a far different world then we faced when we were their age. Reading, writing and arithmetic alone will not prepare them for the rapidly changing future. They need to know how to think for themselves, not be afraid of being different, and be well versed in the art of creative thinking and problem solving. This can be accomplished through creativity, though creativity cannot be taught in a linear manner or as an isolated separate subject. It needs to be integrated into all learning and life like breathing.

We are told there is no time for creative outlets. We need to focus on core academics and test scores. Unfortunately this kind of thinking is not taking brain development or the impact that stress has on the mind into consideration.  If we stopped—just for a moment-––and reorganized our approach so the mind was considered and ready for learning, then we could accomplish more in far less time. Creativity does require some space, but at the same time creativity can create more space and be a great time saver.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”––Albert Einstein

Innovative and Creative Approach

After many years of observing children struggling with school, losing their sense of self and being turned off to learning, I wondered why the educational system couldn’t see the viable and long-standing importance of nurturing the whole child. Indeed, Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Brain, sites that our new global economy has created an unprecedented need for a different kind of thinker—a creative, original, and out-of-the-box thinker. Is there a simple and effective way we can meet the inner needs of the student and the new needs of the marketplace at the same time? Yes!

Nancy Marie has created a simple and profound solution—the I Create What I Believe! Self-Awareness Art Program (ICWIB). This innovative approach to drawing uses activities as simple as scribbling to help students free up the mind, activate curiosity and creativity, and put their mind into an open and receptive state of calm. This allows for introspection and expansion of their emotional intelligence. It also enhances their creative problem-solving skills and allows them to deepen their understanding of their authentic nature and the interconnectedness of all life.

How can something so simple accomplish so much? As a professional artist, Nancy has always been profoundly aware of the benefits of the creative process and the art of introspection. ICWIB grew from this awareness. The heart of the program evolved from her many years of working with children and her discomfort in seeing how the current educational system eroded their sense of self and self-worth. ICWIB is rooted in solid science and is taught from that perspective. This creates a practical platform that supports and provides students with the awareness and tools for tending to their heart and spirit in any setting.

Creative Problem-Solving

Research has shown that art and music enhance the learning process. Some people stop at the notation that we need to include art and music as part of school curriculum because it enables nonlinear thinkers a place to excel. This kind of thinking discounts and indicates a lack of awareness of how and why art affects the mind. When art is taught in a non-goal oriented perspective it can bring about a calmer, more receptive state of mind. What is actually taking place is the system is moving out of automatic and/or fight or flight and moving into the conscious mind. This is where creative problem solving and innovative thinking takes place. This mind state also encourages integration of all learning information.

Today’s Pilot Story

“The labyrinth is my favorite activity to show and observe. I am interested to note whether students can and will indeed slow down. I have noticed that students with ADD have a very difficult time coordinating their breath with their movement. Yet when they DO, there is a noticeable calm that comes over them. I have also observed this practice does not come easily and really needs to be done on a daily basis for them to “Get It” into their bodies. Students have said of the labyrinth: “I felt like I wasn’t doing it right. I felt stupid”, strange, awkward, intense, mysterious, uncertain, but also relaxed, calm, sleepy…”