Morning Meetings and Connecting a Classroom

Children sharing feelings with SnuggleBuddies during classroom morning meeting

When I walked into her classroom, I could tell something was different. It was 8:15 AM and all of her students were sitting on the floor in a circle. There was a palpable calmness that swept over me as I walked to the back of the room. The students sat comfortably and appeared focused on one person.

As the school counselor, the teacher had requested I come in and observe her new morning meeting format. I found a chair in the back of the room and curiously looked at the student that the others were staring at.

I noticed right away that this student was holding a SnuggleBuddies, Violet the Elephant, a tool our district was using to nurture social-emotional skills in our classrooms. The student held up the blue tear-drop shaped charm that was hanging from Violet and said, “Today, I’m feeling tired.”

The teacher responded, “Is there anything you would like the class to know that would be helpful for you today?”

The student said, “Yes, please be patient with me if I get grumpy, I get grumpy when I am tired, but it’s not about you.”

I was taken aback. This second-grader had just identified her feelings, AND calmly expressed her needs. The rest of the class responded, “Thank you for sharing. We will do our best”. The student then handed Violet Elephant to the next student. 

What did I just witness? Maybe this student was emotionally mature? I watched for the next fifteen minutes until every student responded. I continued to be amazed at the simple, yet deep, level of emotional awareness that these students were expressing.

After the activity, they all stood up and walked back to their seats to begin their day. It was 8:30 AM and these students already understood how to support each other on a deep and empathetic level.

Classroom Circle Time with Generation Mindful's SnuggleBuddies 

I had introduced the Generation Mindful SnuggleBuddies to my staff three months before I came into this classroom. Our school has a diverse population and is around 78% economically disadvantaged. Many of the teachers immediately saw the benefit and used Generation Mindful (GENM) materials and some had begun to use them in their classrooms in their own unique ways. As a school counselor, I was using SnuggleBuddies to work with students individually and in groups, but not yet in a whole group. The level of connection I witnessed when visiting a second-grade classroom inspired me to start my counseling classes with a SnuggleBuddies routine.

After this classroom of second-graders had started their independent work, I asked the teacher how she had supported her students to engage in this level of connection and sharing. “There is no big secret there,” she began, “we just practice sharing how we are feeling using the SnuggleBuddies at the start of every day.”

She went on to explain that, in the beginning, many students preferred not to share and that she, of course, never forced them to, but once they did feel safe sharing, she would invite each student to also share what, if anything, they might want in the way of support from their fellow students. She did this initially by sharing her own experience with that feeling, and over the course of six weeks, with daily morning meetings, her students began to feel comfortable identifying their feelings and asking for what they felt they needed.

As a longtime school counselor, I was inspired by what I was seeing and hearing for many reasons. Here are three tips for teaching kids about emotions that I saw put into practice that day, and I hope they inspire you as well.

The Power of Rituals

Creating a consistent routine helps students feel safe and secure. When a predictable routine is established – such as sharing feelings with the SnuggleBuddies – levels of stress, anxiety, and insecurities can be minimized, establishing a positive tone and setting students up for success throughout their school day.

The Power of Play

If you think back to lessons you learned early in your education, it’s likely that the most memorable ones have an element of play. Why? Because play is an early childhood educator’s most powerful resource, enhancing focus, memory, depth of knowledge, connection, and engagement. 

The Power of Student-Led Activities

Students have been shown to respond positively to the opportunity to take ownership of their learning experiences. Research shows that child-led learning of this nature positively affects the learner’s maturity, development, creativity, and intrinsic motivation. 

Girl holding Generation Mindful's Violet Elephant SnuggleBuddies

Before leaving the classroom that morning, I took the opportunity to ask this teacher one more question: “Why do you think that incorporating SnuggleBuddies into your morning meetings has made such a big difference for the students in your classroom?” She responded that SnuggleBuddies give her students both a comfort item to hold and a visual reminder of the four main mood groups — both of which she believes help them feel more confident sharing their feelings. She also felt that their new ritual was setting a positive tone for “cohesiveness and restoration”.

“The seeds of cohesiveness and restoration”, I thought to myself, this is what I had just witnessed. And this is why, when later that same day the student who shared she was feeling tired inevitably got grumpy with another student, the class was able to give that tired student the patience she’d asked for earlier that very same day.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

Time-in Toolkit in action

Peacemakers Card Game in action

 

 

From Classroom to Home: One Teacher’s Journey to Positive Parenting

As a school educator, I rocked it. It was like I stepped into my purpose and the days, emotions, and behaviors flowed. My classroom motto of “love, laugh and learn” became the lungs of the room, filling my students and me with life. 

“Tough kids,” no problem. “Disruptive,” I could handle it. “Big emotions,” I could connect and help regulate. I felt confident that I had the ability to unlock the code of any child and guide them through challenging moments, which would result in learning and, just as important, fun.

I felt that I had this whole teaching thing down and I simply could not wait to have a child of my own – to be that rockstar teacher, one-on-one. 

Pregnant mama in nature

I had been teaching for 5 years when I married the guy who was an instant and long-term best friend from high school. I know what you are thinking, highschool sweethearts, but that wasn’t us. 

When our love did grow past friendship, it did so with a force and we knew in our hearts that we were ready to start a family. All of our boxes felt like they were checked – we had great jobs, we were in love, we were happy. 

He was ready to be a father. I was ready to be a mother. But, what we didn’t know at the time, was that in trying to have a child, we would be the students of many big life lessons – that of time, patience and resilience. It took seven years, more failed pregnancies than I can count, seas of tears and heartbreak before our miracle came. 

Two pink lines gave us hope. It was that hope that carried us through nine months of illness and anxiety, complications and preterm labor. But, as our journey would have it, three days before a scheduled induction, our sweet ladybug carved her own day into the calendar of our hearts. We did it! She was here! 

As first-time parents often do, we became students yet again … this time of having a newborn – learning about diaper blowouts, projectile vomiting, sleepless nights/days/months, cluster feedings, a triple tongue/lip tie that led to breastfeeding issues. All of the lessons, and I wouldn’t change a thing. She was quite literally a bundle of joy. 

Bundle of Joy

After maternity leave, I decide to shift from my role as a teacher of an academic classroom to that of teaching our “one and only.” My full momma heart told me that I would nail it. I mean, how hard could it be to teach one child when I had taught so many?

Eagerly, I created a classroom in our home. We talked about feelings, we taught manners and verbal skills, and we practiced autonomy and offering choices. My husband and I quickly realized that our daughter was a remarkably brilliant child. 

Her verbal skills were shocking. Before 2 years old, she was saying words like “stethoscope” and asking me to look up the word for the ear-checker-thingy (it’s called an otoscope, by the way). My husband and I were beside ourselves with pride. Our daughter was the best thing we had created together since our high school newspaper! 

As our sweet thing approached the realm of “threedom” however, things took a turn. Her tantrums were off the charts. Our daughter would spiral from happy to screaming, kicking, hitting, and throwing herself on the floor within seconds. Tears flowed until the point of vomiting. 

The tantrums seemed to escalate despite my best efforts. Seventeen on Saturday grew to 33 on Monday. Thirty-three meltdowns in ONE day. ONE DAY! My teacher’s toolbox of tips and tricks was empty. I had tried everything I could think of … twice … but nothing was working. 

I could not cope. And I was losing my patience. I was crying every night wondering what I was missing. I mean, place me in the midst of 30 students and I thrived. But place me in front of one, my own, and I struggled. I felt like I couldn’t reach my child when I had been able to reach so many others within my classroom. It felt like a failure.

Young girl in a tutu sitting in the grass

I remember seeing something from a company called Generation Mindful (GENM) – something about a tool they created called the Time-In ToolKit. We had never used a “time-out” so, while I agreed with the mindset, I didn’t think that my family had a need for the program. 

But my momma’s intuition kept calling me back to their page. You know that little voice inside of you that says, “Listen up. I am here to help.” So I followed my inner wisdom and listened to my heart. I went back to GENM’s website and I read the line that changed it all for me: “help children calm their bodies and process their emotions.” 

That’s it. That’s all it took. I purchased the kit immediately. Two AM. Without even telling my husband. I just did it.  I knew our daughter needed our help to name and tame her emotions – to process whatever big feelings her normally verbose vocabulary wasn’t able to communicate clearly. 

Family of three

I was equal parts desperation and hope the day our Time-In-Toolkit arrived. Since we had talked about the program and watched some of the GENM videos, our daughter was very interested.

With the help of the tools, I taught our daughter about big feelings – that they are sacred, neither good nor bad – and that it is safe to feel them… all of them. And I taught her about calming strategies – how to help calm our bodies when our bodies feel out of control. 

We spent the first two days pretending to have big feelings like mad and sad, discussing new feelings like critical and anxious and practiced every single calming strategy card in the deck. 

We also purchased the entire set of SnuggleBuddies. She immediately chose where each SnuggleBuddies would “live” and with whom. There was one for mommy, daddy, the houses of all her grandparents, the car, her calming corner and one to be with her at all times. She chose Red Bear as her day to day pal. Red Bear symbolizes Power and man did she own that. 

But things in our household were shifting. Remember the 33 massive meltdowns on Monday? Well, the box came on Tuesday and by Thursday her meltdown count was down to three … for the entire three days! 

It’s so much more than the number of meltdowns in a day, week or month. It is about the connection running through my home. It is in watching my daughter put words to her big feelings and the two of us working on calming our bodies, together.

It’s like we both became students… and teachers. 

Now, when our little girl sees her daddy upset, she asks him if he can name his big feelings. And in moments that she notices my fleeting patience, she offers me a calming strategy. 

We are all learning. All growing. Connecting and communicating on a level I never knew possible. 

And while life is life and unexpected rage, sadness, frustration, joy, and excitement will always find a way, we now have the tools to work through all of our feelings together. 

Calming Corner

** This article was written by a Generation Mindful mom member who wishes to remain anonymous. Do you have a story about mindfulness and/or connection to tell? Visit here for details and submit an article to our editor for consideration.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

Time-in Toolkit in action

Waiting

You do not need to have lost a child to know what it is to question, to doubt yourself, or to hope against all odds for a miracle.

For the mamas out there whose hearts know the sharp sting and then the long deep ache of miscarriage, I see you. I feel your heart and I want you to know that you are not alone.

This is my story from the magical day I presented it live in front of hundreds in my home town of St. Louis, Missouri and, on Mother’s Day no less – our joys, our sadness and, most of all, our waiting.

I hope it speaks to your heart in some small way. More than anything, I hope my story encourages you to ask whatever it is that is on your heart, to listen, and to follow — even if (especially if) it doesn’t make “sense” to your head.

xo

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

Time-in Toolkit in action

Helping Traumatized Children Learn – Trauma-Informed Schools Act of 2019

 

open school doors

Helping Traumatized Children Learn – Trauma-Informed Schools Act of 2019

Teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn in environments void of safety, trust, and positive modeling. Unfortunately, consumed by various pressures, some districts are forgoing mentorship and opting for exclusion.

The US Education Department released a collection of data drawn from 2013-2014 surveys from the majority of the nation’s 95,000 public schools. The data showed that 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor. Meanwhile, 1.6 million (k – 12th grade) students attended a school that employed a law enforcement officer but no counselor.

School discipline rates, including suspension, expulsion, and arrests have doubled since the 1970s. The American Psychological Association has found that these disciplinary practices stifle a student’s academic achievement while increasing the chances of being held back, dropping out and/or becoming involved in the juvenile and criminal justice system.

This funneling of students out of school and into the streets and the juvenile correction system perpetuates a cycle known as the “School-to-Prison-Pipeline.” This pipeline can deprive youth of meaningful opportunities for education, future employment, and social relationships.

On July 26, 2019, Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark, along with Congressmen Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), introduced the Trauma-Informed Schools Act of 2019. This legislation will define “trauma-informed practices” for the first time in federal education law.

The focus of the bill is to promote a school-wide learning environment where all students and adults feel safe, welcomed and supported and to enable students to succeed despite their traumatic experiences. This is done through trauma-informed services, supports, and programs.

“The Trauma-Informed Schools Act will encourage positive, restorative interventions that will give every student a fair shot at success, regardless of the adversity they may have faced,” said Congresswoman Clark.

This bill will allow districts to offer teacher professional development opportunities and after-school programs to provide educators the training and resources they need to utilize trauma-informed care. 

“Providing a greater availability of training and resources to assist our teachers and principals is critical to understanding the impact of traumatic experiences on students’ ability to learn in the classroom,” said Congressman Quigley. “I am proud to support legislation to give every student the opportunity to succeed, regardless of the traumatic events they may have experienced in their lives.”

To read Congresswoman Clark’s press release, please click here.

To read the full text of the legislation, please click here.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

Time-in Toolkit in action

 

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00
ajax-loader