Joseph Kopser

SPEAKER. AUTHOR. INVESTOR. INNOVATION EXPERT

7 Grade-level specific tools to help parents at home during COVID

Grade Level parents help social emotional learning COVID

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As the Centers for Disease Control continue to extend their warnings about the spread of COVID-19, parents across the country are beginning to worry more than ever about the future of their children’s education.  There is good reason for their concern since an already strained educational system has placed an even greater burden on parents to also serve as educators.

 

There is a growing body of research that shows better success rates for children if we can tap into the correct focus of social emotional learning for each child.  I recently interviewed Andra Liemandt, founder of The Kindness Campaign, to better understand how she has pivoted her mission to better support parents in the new-normal.

 

As they say in their mission statement on their website, their focus is on emotional health: 

 

TKC knows bullying, loneliness, and isolation exist; instead of allowing these states to go unchecked, we provide positive and accessible tools that promote emotional health. TKC is on a mission to create societal change by teaching emotional awareness, empathy, community building, and most importantly, the development of a healthy self-image.

 

To raise social awareness of their efforts, they have created new on-line, grade-level specific materials for parents and educators.  The purpose of the material is to improve the social and emotional skills of the students as best we can during the disruption caused by the coronavirus.   It goes beyond their original in-person scope and has expanded to many aspects of a students life such as exercise and movement.

 

As part of my on-going Catalyst TALKS, I seek out to highlight people and organizations that continue to innovate the way they deliver goods, services and products.  We were all knocked down by the Covid-19, the question remains, who will get up first.  The story of Andra Liemandt and The Kindness Campaign is a great example of seizing the opportunity to improve the lives of other people while long term improving the overall emotional and academic achievement of the young people they reach.

 

You can watch the full interview here as well as read the full transcript below.

 

Joseph Kopser:

Okay. So we are live with another Catalyst TALKS. I’m Joseph Kopser. And today I’m joined by Andra Liemandt, who is many things, but among them is the CEO and founder of The Kindness Campaign. You can look down in her biography at all the other amazing things that she’s done, but I want to jump right into it and just ask Andra, how are you doing? How is the family, and how are you adjusting?

Andra Liemandt:

We’re doing great. Like a lot of other people, we’ve had to do a lot of pivoting during this time, but we’re doing great. You know, I think that for most families, we’ve had to really adjust to school. And, now, we are really enjoying it, just feeling a breath of fresh air. We’re really just getting out there and really trying to find these new things to do out in the open.

Joseph Kopser:

Absolutely. Well, part of the whole point of the Catalyst TALKS series is to highlight innovators, doing things that are unique. And this was even before COVID that it was important, but now, especially because of COVID. So tell us about The Kindness Campaign and what you’re doing and how you’ve innovated during this era of distance learning.

Andra Liemandt:

Thank you so much. You know, I’m so glad we’re having this conversation and it has been such a big part of what The Kindness Campaign has been very passionate about. And we’re excited that we’ve had an opportunity to be able to innovate during this time. What we’ve been able to do is take some of the tools that we were already providing to schools and adapt them. For those who aren’t familiar with The Kindness Campaign, we provide social emotional learning tools to both children and adults starting at age three. And for the last four years, we have been in schools on the ground providing these tools to over 40,000 students in over 82 schools. And, most recently, we took these tools and brought them online. What we’ve been able to do, as you can see right there, is adapt them for families. Because, as you know, Joseph, a lot of the parents were out there stepping in!

Joseph Kopser:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. As you know, I am a proud father of three daughters, but one in particular is an educator now graduated from the university of Texas. She’s seen not only the industry flipped, but she’s seen how parents are adjusting. So talk to me a little about that innovation. What are you doing uniquely to help parents and educators and students with this offering that you have?

Andra Liemandt:

Our curriculum has always been classroom-based and student-centered. For our educators, we grounded our curriculum in reading and language arts-based lessons. It’s aligned with the Texas TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards and ASCA (American School Counseling) standards.

 

During our recent digital pivot, we wanted to make it easy for our parents. So what we did was not only have it student-focused, but also make it parent-focused. We took all of our tools and we said, ‘How are parents going to be teaching right now?’ We wanted to make it as easy as possible for parents, and give them resources to connect to their kids in a real way. By repackaging our lessons for parents and putting them online, we were able to pivot accordingly.

Joseph Kopser:

And so when you say we get a little sense, because this is not just about innovation and education and what you’ve done, but this is innovation and organizations and process and flow. I understand your team was already a distance team, if you will not consolidate one space, but how were you managing this process? How difficult did you find it to be? And were there lessons learned that you think you can share with the viewers and readers? Absolutely.

Andra Liemandt:

We were already a distance team, but we met in-person once a week, because we found that that was a great way to connect. We also spent time onsite at schools, where we had big programs that we were hosting. Our fully-remote work over the past couple of months helped us deepen our communication skills and helped us further define our lanes. I always joke because I’m like, ‘Who has the ball now? And where’s the ball going? And let’s talk about where the project is.’ For our team, we really got lean and mean in those areas, and it’s been a learning experience, but I think we’re stronger now than we ever have been.

Joseph Kopser:

Well, you know, that’s a theme that has come through. A lot of these catalysts talks I’ve done over 60 of them. And what is interesting is people key on that point you just made, which was we’re getting better. So my challenge to all innovators, all business leaders, nonprofit for-profit government, and such is the things that we’re doing better. Now. Let’s actually keep those and not forget them when we go forward. But back to you and your efforts with The Kindness Campaign. Now, there was a real element in the early inspiration of this, and this is what I want to get into. Now, what inspired you to become the entrepreneur? What inspired you to take on the separate? Everybody’s got a story. Everybody’s got a backstory of it. What, what was yours? I know it’s very compelling. Having known me personally now for a few years, what got you into originally?

Andra Liemandt:

So I had a dear friend of mine. Her daughter was around the age of 12. And, at the time, my daughters were very young, but her daughter was having some bullying at her school. And it just, it just, it really was heartbreaking because she just didn’t have anywhere to turn, and she took her own life. And that was something that to this day is something that is heartbreaking for me. It was a hard time for her family and for our family. At the time, I was looking for answers. I think, as anyone does, who loses a child and who is close to someone who dies, you look for answers, ‘Why would a child do this?’

Andra Liemandt:

As I’ve grown through this process in developing The Kindness Campaign, I’ve come to find that suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens. And that statistic is on the rise, and loneliness is on the rise–especially today, more than ever with coronavirus and with all that we have going on. That human connection piece is, is something that we’re striving for. And so that continued to inspire my journey of developing tools and learning how I can help. It never was my mission to create something that was going to be you know, in every school… I wanted tools for in my home, and now developing emotional health tools for families and for the classroom is my passion.

 

Joseph Kopser:

Well, of course, everyone can only imagine the tragedy for that family, but what’s inspirational is the way that you have used that and channel that energy. And let’s go back to the product itself because as you say, it is doing real good. And for those that maybe didn’t have access to in the past, they do now thanks to Mary Ann Hotaling. Some others that are watching live, we’re starting to tag a whole lot of people that are gonna be either watching this live now, or hopefully the video later on. So let’s return back to some of those curriculums. Can you explain how you’re building that bridge, this original purpose of reducing bullying and giving that opportunity for self confidence for young kids, with enabling parents to be able to be a better part of the overall experience. Because as we know all too often, our educators across the country of all institutions have to pull

Joseph Kopser:

Put on a lot of that burden that sometimes begins when not sometimes almost always begins in the home. So talk a little bit more about that. I’d love to know more and I’ll highlight the products again.

Andra Liemandt:

We want to meet the students where they are and where they’re learning– and the way to do that is to develop tools that they want to use. A lot of the tools that we’re creating right now are aimed at making it easy for parents and students. We do a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday Morning Meet-Up + Storytime where we’re getting educators, we’re getting pediatricians, we’re having community leaders and you know, just advocates in our, in our area to come on our live show. It’s about a 15 to 20-minute storytime where kids can check in with their favorite teachers, our TKC staff, and our community partners!

Joseph Kopser:

I think that is so important. Can you just expand on what that check-in is like, and for maybe parents who haven’t done that before, what’s it like, are there experiences that you’ve heard of from parents that are finding it especially helpful or educators?

Andra Liemandt:

We’ve been doing a lot of mindfulness activities. We’re doing things where we can be creative, where we’re making Enoughie Buddy feelers… for anyone who doesn’t know who Enoughie Buddy is, he’s our main character. I’ll just hold him here. He’s with me a lot. It seems weird that I’m always with a stuffed animal, but he’s the main character that my daughters and I created to help kids go on a journey through the curriculum as well as just to identify their own emotions. So we’ll do activities or breathing exercises… to help if they’re getting frustrated, we know kids have been on a lot of Zooms with their teachers. We know that as we go into the fall, we may be in the same distance-learning scenario. So we want to continue these kinds of brain breaks for the parent, for the child. We’re creating a space for parents and kids, where they can experience educational activities that are also silly, fun, or calming.

 

Joseph Kopser:

Yeah. I love that so much. In fact, before I get to my next question Barbara Kelso, who is joining in live on Facebook asks how can we join and support your efforts? So if we don’t drop the link in now, or maybe Maggie from your team who might be tuning in, she can drop in fact yeah, there’s Maggie or herself right now dropping in some stuff. So let me go back to this idea of mindfulness, but if ever there was a time that people felt overwhelmed that there was no escape from work or school. It is certainly now you know, even Amy and I grow in you know, with our kids growing up over the years, we didn’t understand the concept of mindfulness. We didn’t understand all that. We didn’t really know what to call it, but we did have a rule in our family, which is if somebody were to declare I’m having a moment or way to just stand, let him or her me included have our moment to just deal with all the rush of feelings, but the fact that you’re using. And let me clarify the name, the Enoughie Buddy.

Andra Liemandt:

Enoughie Buddy!

Joseph Kopser:

We enough, you buddy, you gotta tell me the derivation of email through buddy. Where’d that name come from?

Andra Liemandt:

The heart and soul of our curriculum is centered around reminding kids that they are enough. Enoughie feels he’s enough, and he wants everyone to know that about themselves. TKC has four main pillars: self image, emotional awareness, empathy, and community. And as we teach the curriculum, as we go through mindfulness movements, they’re all connected to those four core pillars. We love that we’re rooted in all of these, you know, things that connect us because as we look at our community or we look at empathy, or we look at, you know, emotional awareness for the people around us, or even our self- image, we know that all of those things, there’s this one common thread is that when we wake up every day, we just want to feel like we’re enough for ourselves, for our friends around us, for our children, for the people we’re working with. To know we are enough.

Joseph Kopser:

Got it. Well, and I brought back the other screen that shows the grade level curriculum, especially for those teachers and educators and an L joining in and parents, frankly. But I see the Nefi buddy now that makes even more sense. Explain to that. So we’re getting near the end here. And what I wanted to do is make sure that I captured anything that we might’ve missed. Folks have been asking some questions and making comments that Maggie is responding to in real time. But what have I not asked you that you wish for viewers, whether they be parents, educators, or students to know about what you’re offering or even just beyond where we are in time right now.

Andra Liemandt:

At The Kindness Campaign, we create and innovate all the time. But the main thing that we want to know is what’s going to help *you*. And, currently, we have been innovating. We created new videos to help during this time to get kids moving… like an indoor recess. Also, they teach life skills and are grounded in our four pillars. Our videos are also a great tool for teachers! On our website, in our video section, we’ve linked them to a survey and the survey will help give us valuable data for what’s happening in your home emotionally and how we can help provide better new tools to continue growing what our offerings are.

Andra Liemandt:

And so for me, the most important thing we can ever do for our community for one another is continue a conversation about feedback, about data, about emotional health, about mental health, and just be able to provide not only for TKC, but also for our partners. We work with so many community partners and national partners. And so the more information we have about what’s happening in your home, the better we can help everyone. And that’s our goal.

Joseph Kopser:

Yeah. I want to thank Maggie for dropping that link, that survey down into the comments section there on the side. Well, you know, you really nailed it. I think when you talk about the innovation and the use of data, whether it’s interviews that I’ve done with people working in education, whether they’re working with innovation and transportation energy, all across the gamut, the one common thing is the need for data to be able to understand the data, make sense of the data and then to communicate it. So the last thing I’ll say, when we talk about communicating your data I understand you have a podcast that might be coming forward soon or underway. That was what stood on, on background from the green room conversation. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Andra Liemandt:

I love getting to talk to people, such as yourself! I am launching a podcast series and my aim is to talk about the ‘before and after moments’ that shape people’s lives. I’m going to be interviewing entrepreneurs to talk about the resilience that they’ve cultivated throughout their lives. And there’s more to come on that, so stay tuned! It’ll be promoted on my Instagram on @andraliemandt. My goal is to support our community partners and to help some incredible people and organizations share their stories!

Joseph Kopser:

Well. What a perfect note to end on I’ll work with Maggie to make sure we can raise the awareness of what you’re doing. I want to thank everybody that was live here, making comments as well as dropping links and sharing us with others. It’s very powerful. And most of all, Andra, thank you for what you’re doing and thanks for taking the time to be a part of capitalist talks today.

Andra Liemandt:

Thank you. And thank you for supporting our work at TKC! Take care!! 

 


Joseph Kopser of Grayline Group is host of Catalyst TALKS.  A series of live, interactive interviews with thought leaders, subject matter experts and operators with first hand experience in the skills needed to lead the workplace in a changing world.  His talks focus on the technology, agility, leadership, knowledge, and strategy needed to build teams in a changing world.  Joseph is also co-founder of the non-profit USTomorrow focused on workforce readiness.   Joseph’s focus is to work with people adapt to the changing future of work.

 

 

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