With more and more states implementing Social and Emotional Learning standards (SEL), we as educators should be excited. However, many teachers I have talked to are concerned about the when and how of adding these standards to their curriculum. The report from a Nation of Risk to a Nation of Hope states, “The promotion of social, emotional, and academic learning is not a shifting educational fad: it is the substance of education itself.” (http://nationathope.org/report-from-the-nation/)
Educators adding SELs through mindfulness will not only improve their own mood and health but will add life-skills to their students’ lives as well. We can LEAD our students by example through: Love, Empathy, Appreciation and Decision-making. Studies support that a mindfulness program teaches self-awareness, social-awareness, empathy, goal setting, increased self-management, and academic achievement.
Teaching our students to love what they do and who they are with is extremely important for their success. We need to show up each day grateful to have the opportunity to reach these students. If we are excited, they’ll be excited.
Loving others starts with finding the good in each person. Show each one of your students you care every day! For a few of our kids, this may be the only time during the day they experience this. By demonstrating attentiveness to each person’s needs, we can direct praise that enables strength, courage and character to grow. In addition, love will create a safe and supportive environment where they will feel confident to try new things.
We often ask our students how they are doing, but do we model or teach active listening; stop everything and listen? There are so many demands on our day it is hard to break and focus! However, isn’t that what we ask our students to do? Learning takes our full attention. During my son’s senior year of high school, he shared it is so much easier to learn when he pays attention to the teacher! Our kids are surrounded by their friends, teammates and the pressure to fit-in. We need to remember learning may be one of the hardest things to focus on.
Empathy and active listening create social awareness and build mutual respect. We begin to understand we are all fighting our own battles, and because of this, we are never alone.
Gratitude is a healthful attitude. In order to appreciate anything, we must be present and attentive. Living in the moment and appreciating what we have is a developed habit. If we display an attitude of appreciation, especially in hard times, others take notice. Take the opportunity to acknowledge their positive attitude, perseverance, and can-do attitude. Impart pride in overcoming barriers and accomplishments. Positive self-talk is difficult for many of us but is so necessary to practice for our mental health. Set aside time to appreciate each other’s strengths and what we have every day.
Science supports repeated mindfulness allows us to re-wire our brain; the Prefrontal Cortex becomes more in control of our responses. Adding deep breathing to mindfulness triggers our brain to slow down and allows us to respond rather than quickly react to an outside stimulus. Our students benefit from thoughtful decision making instead of being impulsive. When able, problem solve together by modeling a few deep breaths as self-management.
LEAD by example and we can incorporate mindfulness into each day. Teaching and modeling social and emotional learning can give our students’ tools that will last a life-time!