Supporting the Whole Child

By: Jennifer Pilarski, STAT Teacher

Weekly Experiences

Restorative Practices are a way of life at Norwood Elementary and this year we are expanding our practices to include mindfulness and social-emotional support; even our School Progress Plan includes Mindfulness. Our Behavior Interventionist, Mike Gorecki, has taken a more proactive role in becoming a weekly “special” for our students in what we call SMILE. Each week the students engage in lessons about Social thinking, Mindfulness, Imagination, Leadership, and Emotions and they are able to practice those skills in our brand new sensory room. The room is also available for any student, or teacher, who needs a sensory break or mindful moment. This week the students were developing their skills around whole body listening and then were able to visit the sensory room to practice breathing and calming strategies.

Daily Experiences

Norwood’s classroom teachers are also supporting and developing our student’ social-emotional learning through mindfulness areas, journal entries, and lessons. Mindfulness folded in seamlessly with our existing program of Restorative Practices. The daily community circles, problem solving circles, and consistent use of virtues language that we have always done has been enhanced by our new focus on mindfulness. In mindfulness, we have found a new way to support our students’ social-emotional health. Each day our students begin with a community circle where they can share their successes and challenges, both academic and personal, in a safe and secure environment. At least once a week the students also write in their journals to express their feelings, demonstrate understanding of virtues, and share mindfulness strategies. Norwood teachers come from a place of support, so we are trying to ensure that our students have the skills they need to deal with their emotions, make positive choices, and build empathy towards others.

Factories of Learning

We also completed our first round of Problem Solving Factories at each grade level and we are proud to share that we were honored at Stevenson University’s Center for Character Education for this initiative. Each grade level comes to the gym and participates in four stations; two role plays, one team building, and one focused on exploring virtues. The classes come to the gym and sit in circles to go through prompts with their homeroom teachers. This provides the class a special opportunity to get to know each other and work through potential problems when the emotions are not running high. One of my favorite prompts was about touching things that belong to others; the kindergartners talk about asking permission and the rules of sharing, but our third graders really got into a discussion about stealing. We believe that if the students have worked through some of these problems when they were not emotionally invested that when they are faced with the real situation and they are feeling intense anger, frustration, and/or sadness, they will have the language and skills developed in the role play to fall back on. The highlight of this particular round of Factories, was the compliment circle. A student was put in the center of the circle and his or her classmates took turns giving virtues based compliments; for instance, I like the way you showed perseverance on the math tests or I like the way you showed kindness when you shared materials with me. The smiles could not have been bigger on their little faces!

 

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