There's nothing like being away to learn a very good lesson. The classroom is ticking along nicely, the students are practicing their self regulation skills, and we are all learning to be more mindful.
That is really saying A LOT given where the students were when I got them. They are one of THOSE classes. But are they really? I was prepared, given some of the things I knew about last year.
I have had a wonderful year of getting to know these kids. They are one bright group of diverse learners!
So when I began my mindful learning and personal awareness teaching with them as part of their social and emotional learning this year, I was very pleased with how they responded. That's not to say that they are perfect but they have learned a lot and we practice this daily. Until.....
I was away for an inservice and professional development this week. Oh dear.
When I returned, I could feel the VIBE in the room. It was very energetic and the kids were NOT listening. It seems they were running their own show again like they did at the beginning of the year.
This was not right. This was not what we had all worked so hard for since September. I knew I needed to reflect and rethink this.
In designing programming for social and emotional learning in my classroom, my main goal is that these skills become innate and we can build on them from there. There are no points, no endless candies or rewards. The rewards are that the teacher is happy, therefore the kids are happy and that equates to a good day.
So when I was away I was a bit surprised at the feel in the room when I arrived for the afternoon session. There was a short time before the kids went to Gym and Music so I decided I would start on this the very next day as opposed to right away.
I had been away before and it was not a big deal but this time it was over a couple of days. I reflected about what was possibly to blame for this lapse in awareness. Was it just as simple as the fact that they are only 7 and 8 years old? Perhaps. But as I pondered my next steps, I realized that maybe I had missed the sign that these students were ready to move beyond themselves. I had spent a longer than usual time on the self awareness due to the nature of the kids.
The next day I started a lesson on Social Awareness. I usually move my students on to social awareness by moving from self to classroom to outside of classroom ( see info here ). This time, I had a real world NEED for students to reflect on what it means to be socially aware. I talked to them about what it felt like to walk back into the classroom and the vibe I felt. Through discussion, we came up with these 3 principles for social awareness.
Students wrote these down in the speech bubble and then got to work on writing about how OTHERS would feel if... We talked about some name calling that had happened and some behavioral things that may go on within the classroom like calling out etc. How would your friend feel...how would the teacher feel...why does this matter? I purposely used the term CLASSMATE (and I explained this) because not everyone in your classroom is necessarily your FRIEND but they are your classmate and they have feelings. I think that was an important distinction to make.
It was interesting as one student decided to take the perspective of what was happening at the present moment. He missed the intention of the lesson BUT he was listening intently and had written that he thought the kids were happy that we were learning about this and that the teacher is a good teacher so she should feel PROUD. Wow, that was coming from someone who doesn't necessarily have good days all of the time. It was an ah-ha moment for him and and for me.
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