RefinED Character is an educational consulting company specializing in social emotional development for preK-12 and collegiate communities.


How Our Brains Refute the Biggest Excuse for Hazing

February 9, 2015
brain 2

RefinED Friends,

If you have not yet had the opportunity to read Simon Sinek's newest book, Leaders Eat Last, give yourself a treat and do so. While I have found countless references supporting social emotional learning within this book's pages, one of the most powerful applications I have discovered is Sinek's clear review of brain science and how it can relate to the biggest pro-hazing excuse out there--"Hazing builds brotherhood/sisterhood."

Our brain releases countless neurochemicals based on our experiences. When we are in a state of anxiety or fear, our body releases cortisol. Cortisol, in small doses, is natural and even necessary, but that is because our bodies and brains are built for sustaining that rush of cortisol and then alleviating the anxiety or fear by calming down. When too much cortisol builds up in our bodies, countless detrimental results can occur, from depression to sleeplessness to fatigue to chronic pain. Most importantly, when our brain is flooded with too much cortisol, it prevents us from empathizing with others and blocks the neurochemical oxytocin. 

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is released in our brains when we have experiences of connection. A gentle touch or a deep conversation can flood oxytocin into our systems, actually creating the feeling of "bonding" with other human beings. Oxytocin is the reason we feel love and connectedness with others. It is the reason we can empathize with others.

Place a young man or woman in a situation where there is a fear of or the actual presence of hazing behaviors, and you place that man or woman in a state of cortisol excess. In this state, according to all we know about our brains, it is impossible for a new member to create a bond with an initiated member who is hazing him/her. If anything, the only bond that may be created is a new member to a new member who is experiencing the same mistreatment and ridicule and can offer a helping hand or a listening ear. 

In this way, the excuse "hazing builds brotherhood" is misleading and false. All it takes is paying attention to our brains.


Image credit: jetheriot/flickr

A Thought Experiment That Will Make You Thankful for Your Teachers

November 27, 2014

RefinED Friends,

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Inda Schaenen's book Speaking of Fourth Grade: What Listening to Kids Tells Us About Schools in America. In it, she offers a seemingly hyperbolic but paradoxically realistic glimpse into the complexities of teaching with a simple thought experiment. It reads as follows:

A thought experiment: tie your shoe. Now teach a five-year-old how to tie her shoe. Next teach that same child how to tie someone else's shoe. Now make picture instruction...
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Consent is Not a Defense for Hazing

September 25, 2014

RefinED Friends,

As we conclude National Hazing Prevention Week, it's important that some of the most foundational aspects of hazing remain in the forefront--namely consent.

All too often, an excuse from those choosing to haze is, "We gave him/her the option to say no." OR "He/She told us he was okay with it."

Over the past few days, Clemson University's women's soccer team has been in the headlines for a hazing incident back in 2011. A former player alleges she was blindfolded with her freshmen...
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When We Force Apologies, We Remove Sincerity

May 2, 2014

RefinED Friends,

This scenario is likely all too familiar.

Child 1 says or acts in an inappropriate way toward Child 2.

Child 2 reacts with tears, anger, or retaliation.

Adult observes scene and approaches Child 1 and Child 2.

Adult discusses disagreement with children then says to Child 1, "Now tell Child 2 you're sorry." 

OK, so the adult wouldn't actually call the child "Child 2", but you see my point.

It is a natural and well-intentioned instinct to ask children to apologize. We want to teach re...
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Whether Men Haze Bison or Humans, The Explanations Are Oddly Similar

April 21, 2014

RefinED Friends,

Several days ago, while sifting through my Google Alert daily digest e-mails, I encountered an article entitled “Hazing to be Regular Event in Gardiner Basin” published April 7 in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Regular event? Seriously?

Mind you, all I saw at the time was the article name, the publication date, and the source. (Looking back, there was more included below, but at the time I think my shock at the article title blocked all else from my view)....

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"I Love Them All"- Celebrating a Student's Success

April 8, 2014

RefinED Friends:

It's important to celebrate our students' accomplishments. Although I'm no longer in the classroom, I received a heartwarming e-mail last week from a former student. A poem she wrote was chosen from among thousands of entries as a distinguished winner in the 6th Annual "Pets Add Life" Children's Poetry Contest. She sent it to me because she says I inspired her to write more. I'm beaming with teacher pride and wanted to share with you, the readers. Without further ado, here is ...
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Student PSSA Poetry

March 31, 2014

RefinED Friends,

Whether you are student or teacher, these past few weeks have been rather taxing (at least in Pennsylvania). The dreaded four-letter word. PSSA. The Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment (don't worry Keystone Exam-takers, you are included as well). 

Surprisingly, I look back fondly on this time of year when I was a classroom teacher. Standardized test time also meant our poetry unit. We studied all types of poetry forms, experimented with free verse, and even conducted a p...
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Speak With Conviction: Uh, It's Like Really Important, You Know?

March 22, 2014

“Say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it.” ~Taylor Mali

It’s sometimes, like, really difficult to, um, complete even one sentence without, like, using one of these three phrases, you know?  Imagine all Internet content written in this style. You would douse your computer with gasoline and set it aflame after the first two paragraphs.

You don’t write this way, but perhaps you speak this way. Not to worry, everyone is gu...

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I Ran Into My Third Grade Teacher the Other Day

March 13, 2014

RefinED Friends,

So there I was just last week, co-facilitating resiliency training for a group of fourth graders. I glanced across the gymnasium and noticed a familiar face. My third grade teacher! 

When I reached 99% certainty it was her, I called her name. She eventually put two-and-two together who I was, and we caught up for a few minutes during a break in the action. Needless to say, we both felt old in our own ways.

Part of feeling old is reminiscing, so today I dug...

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A Twist on Tattletales

March 3, 2014

RefinED Friends,

Several days ago, I sat in an elementary school office waiting for a meeting.  It was bus arrival, so the office hummed with teacher, parent, and student activity, all facilitated by a lone, kind administrative assistant. At one point, nearing the morning bell, two girls, likely fourth or fifth grade, came into the office looking very concerned.

"What can I do for you girls?" the administrative assistant asked.

"We have a problem on the bus," the girls replied.

"What's the proble...
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