It is with great pleasure to have Barbara from Corner on Character here to share her expertise on helping children heal. Having read her blog for years, I know that I can trust her when it comes to educating and nurturing the whole child.
Hello from Barbara at the Corner on Character. Thank you, Sylvia, for inviting me to share some reflections on healing and hope. Children come to us in all shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds, with a variety of experiences from their formative years. Some will come to school healthy and happy, but others will be navigating sensory issues, be dealing with attachment issues, or be recovering from stress, trauma, or abuse. They all bring a story as unique as they are. As care providers, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility to help shape, nurture, support, mentor, stretch and grow alongside of the learners in our class families as we step into their stories and give them skills to soar.
The children whose stories are riddled with problems and pain, sadness and sorrow, tragedy and trauma, anxiety and angst will need a lot of our tender loving care. Yesterday alone I walked with students through the sadness of losing a pet, the heartbreak of a relative who is battling cancer, the anger of a family that is going through a divorce, the stress and pressure of high stakes testing, the worry of an impending move because dad lost his job. The list could go on and on as it becomes increasingly clear that we’ve got our work cut out for us. If we can’t reach them, then how will we teach them?
So how do we reach them? Ah, the million-dollar question. First and foremost, students have to be able to trust us. We build trust when we deliver on our promises, when we do what we say we’re going to do, when we show up and listen to understand before we respond. We build trust by showing empathy, compassion and kindness. We build trust with people of all ages and stages by letting them know that they matter, that they are important to us, that we are there for them. Always. No matter what. As caregivers, we work with intention to connect with their hearts by honoring their feelings and helping them feel that they are valued and valuable.
One super easy way to make those connections is standing at the door and greeting students as they come in to your character building. I like to stand at the entrance, hold the door opened, and give high fives. I often put my opened hand high above my head and challenge students to reach higher. They have to jump a little to connect palm to palm. I can easily get an emotional barometer from this simple activity so I know whom I might need to check on before the day is out. Our teachers stand at their classroom doors to give handshakes, high fives, or hugs. Students can choose which way they want to be greeted, another way to empower them. For those who may be recovering from a trauma or abuse, or those who have sensory issues, hugs might not be appropriate, so we give them a choice and take their lead.
Once inside the classroom, starting the day with a class meeting will be like serving breakfast to their hearts. Check out what this Trauma-Informed school in Missouri is doing to connect its students. Rose Park Elementary in Salt Lake City is also working purposefully to honor feelings and help students recognize and regulate them. Many schools use the Responsive Classroom Morning Meetingmodel, others use the R Time program, still others have created their own grass-roots version of the sensitivity circle to help reach all students.
As the minutes turn to hours, we owe it to our children to be sensitive to the social and emotional needs of all students throughout the day. This can be accomplished by being in touch with individual needs and using strategies like conflict resolution wheels like Kelso’s Choice, designating safe-place areas as suggested by Conscious Disciplineor simply by providing a calm-down corner with permission for a student to use it as needed, no questions asked. Put some fidgets, stress balls, sensory bottles, a journal, some crayons or markers and coloring sheets, maybe even a weighted blanket in there and let them choose how they’ll self-soothe. Talk about empowerment and trust!
Once relationships are in place, there’s no limit to the places you’ll be able to take our children, our future. Thank you for being the hero that you needed as a child for that next child who is fortunate enough to come into your life and share his/her story with you. Cape up and keep on crusading for good.
For additional resources on recovery and restoration, check out these posts:
I'm Mrs. Parker; a wife, mother and a lifelong learner. I am blessed to be a kindergarten teacher where I get to laugh, learn and play alongside my students. My blog is a reflection of my journey as a teacher.