Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning - Teachers, Parents, Children

Drifts at East Somerville Community School
As many of us return to school this week we have much to keep in mind.  From watching our steps as we traverse the icy sidewalks, to preparing our classrooms for children who have been out of school for weeks, to helping our own children get back into routines at home. 

This means slowing down, regaining that "first day of school" mindset, and approaching things anew. Some might call this "mindfulness"a way to regroup and prepare for what lies ahead, both the expected and the unexpected. 

Early childhood educators in Somerville have been practicing Mindfulness in seminars sponsored by the Evelyn G. Pitcher Curriculum Resource Lab at Tufts University. The group met at the Capuano Early Childhood Center once a week this fall to explore ways reduce the range of stresses, deepen resilience, and refine relationships with others and themselves. The seminar continues at the Capuano this winter with Tools for Recapturing the Joy: Resilience Training for Early Childhood Educators. 

Tufts alum Jeff Goding leads the group. An executive educator and researcher with years of experience teaching secular mindfulness meditation techniques, Jeff has recently begun working with Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development to bring the benefits of mindfulness to early childhood educators. 

Through a combination of meditation, yoga, breath work, self awareness techniques, participants are learning ways to strengthen their inner capacities for self-awareness, self-care, and improving the ability to bring their best selves to all that they do, both inside and outside of the classroom.  

Fall participants had powerful experiences:
  • "I learned how to be more present in my daily life. How to be more we are and how things impact and affect my time."
  • "This course taught me how to handle situations or events to help myself approach the event in a calm her more mindful way. I am hoping to be a better listener."
  • "I learned just how negative my daily thoughts really were. Now I notice that I am having many more positive thoughts and I'm aware of my negative thoughts it feels different now."
  • "This class gave me useful tips to mentally prepare myself for my classroom, be mindful, aware, be the listener I want to be." 
  • "I would love to see this workshop continue...when teachers are mindful and able to work through stressful situations in the classroom they can help children use these techniques."  
Some schools are building mindfulness into daily practices with children (How Mindfulness Could Benefit Your Teaching Practice) and using literature is one way to introduce children to this work (Children's Books on Kindness and Compassion).

Mindfulness work has a strong social emotional component.  Schools in Somerville utilize a variety of social emotional curricula such as Al's Pals and Second Step which focus on recognizing and understanding emotions, developing self-regulation, and developing empathy. Responsive Classroom is also used in many schools as a way to build community, also with a focus on self-awareness and acceptance of others. 

So take a breath - spring is right around the corner.