By what method would we be able to fabricate the nature of care in our youngsters, our classrooms, and our schools?
The Oakland-based Mindful Schools program, of which I am a prime supporter and co-executive, shows youngsters in broad daylight and private rudimentary, center, and secondary schools how to be more aware of their musings and activities. As of the fall of 2009, Mindful Schools had acquired our five-week class care preparing to more than 7,000 youngsters in 26 schools, 22 of which serve low-wage kids. The program is common, to a great degree savvy, and uses short, intuitive activities that are customized for youngsters. Both quantitative and subjective reactions from instructors, principals, and understudies have shown that our program incredibly enhances the classroom and the general school environment.
Here are a few rules that Mindful Schools has made for instructors who need to join care into the school day, or for any individual who needs to instruct care to kids, in light of our encounters with Mindful Schools.
Because this is a tool that students can utilize throughout their life, it is important that the connotation of “mindfulness” remains accurate. Mindfulness, when applied appropriately, includes the qualities of awareness (paying attention to one’s experience through the senses and the mind); of non-judgment (not labeling things “good” or “bad” but rather observing with a neutral attitude); and of stillness in heart and mind (though the body may be moving). Although it may be tempting to use mindfulness as a disciplinary tool, mindfulness should not be used to demand a certain behavior. It inherently includes the quality of acceptance.
# Have your own mindfulness practice
This will make you more effective at teaching mindfulness. We can only offer what we have developed ourselves.
# Choose a time for mindfulness
We are creatures of habit! Try to always practice mindfulness at the same time. Many teachers find mindfulness helps their class settle down after recess or after lunch. Of course, you may do it more than once a day.
# Create the environment
Make it clear that mindfulness is a special time: clear off desks, perhaps move to the carpet, or have all chairs face the front of the room. Ask students not to take bathroom breaks and refrain from talking and moving for a little while.
# Get the students involved
The best way to make sure you remember to do mindfulness is to enlist the help of your students. Create a rotation schedule for “who gets to ring the mindfulness bell.” If you practice mindfulness at the same time every day, pretty soon you won’t have to remember—whoever’s turn it is will remind you!
# You share.
Because children respond well when we relay our own experiences, you can share with the students if, how, and when you are using mindfulness in your life. If you share a recent story of when you were overcome with emotion or used mindfulness to help you deal with an emotion, they can hear how it is applied.
# They share.
Many young students like to share what they’ve noticed or experienced during mindfulness, or maybe something that was challenging or distracting. Sharing also allows others to be aware of things to notice while practicing mindfulness that they may not have heard otherwise.
# Practice every day!
The sooner you begin integrating mindfulness exercises into your daily classroom routine, even for just a minute at a time, the quicker it will become a part of the classroom culture.
# Use the instructions and script below
for a daily mindfulness lesson; it can be done in just one or two minutes. If you like, you can get more creative and add more in-depth lessons, or practice for longer periods. You can do the same thing every day. A simple lesson to repeat daily is one minute of mindful listening and one minute of mindful breathing.
1. “Please get into your ‘mindful bodies’—still and quiet, sitting upright, eyes closed.”
2. “Now place all your attention on the sound you are about to hear. Listen until the sound is completely gone.”
3. Ring a “mindfulness bell,” or have a student ring the bell. Use a bell with a sustained sound or a rainstick to encourage mindful listening.
4. “Please raise your hand when you can no longer hear the sound.”
5. When most or all have raised their hands, you can say, “Now slowly, mindfully, move your hand to your stomach or chest, and just feel your breathing.”
6. You can help students stay focused during the breathing with reminders like, “Just breathing in … just breathing out …”
7. Ring the bell to end.
Instructors know very well indeed that educating is a ceaseless learning process. It is less recognized that change in instructing can be hugely encouraged by quality connections amongst educators and chairmen.
My own experience bore this wonder out. The way of life at my first school did not energize looking for exhortation or support, not to mention thought trade between partners. Indeed, I was made to feel like a trouble for making inquiries. When I conveyed an especially difficult circumstance to the consideration of the key, I was advised to work it out all alone. Following three years, despite everything I felt like another instructor with next to no idea about making compelling lessons or managing the steadily approaching test of classroom administration.
The following year I changed schools and was pleasantly shocked by a supportive staff and principal. I felt safe to make mistakes, ask for help, and take risks. My role as a teacher was respected and my triumphs and trials validated. As a result, I gained confidence in my ability to teach, and, most importantly, my students were showing greater academic progress than at my previous school.
Looking back, I’ve often wondered what specifically made my experiences at these schools so different. It wasn’t that I disliked the staff at the first school, but I knew there was some dynamic in the second school that helped me to learn (and hence improve) as a teacher.
Researchers call the ability to express oneself without fear of negative consequences “psychological safety.” A recent study found that positive relationships in the workplace can facilitate employee-learning by helping workers feel safe to take the risks that are an inherent part of the learning process.
In other words, the positive and supportive relationships I experienced at the second school made me feel comfortable asking for help and feedback because I knew I wasn’t going to be humiliated for doing so. Instead, the principal and other teachers welcomed my questions and offered support when I needed it, and I reciprocated in kind. As a result, I became a better teacher.
Scientists are quick to point out, though, that positive working relationships go beyond surface-level friendliness and are in fact based on deep trust and respect. Deep trust allows for the healthy expression of emotions and conflict without fear of repercussion. For example, the principal at my second school always validated my experience first, then kindly offered her advice. As a result, I began to trust my own ability to deal with the situations without needing her help.
Respect in the workplace includes a positive regard for each other as individuals and for the work each does. Everyone trusts that others will do their jobs well and support one another in learning how to do their jobs even better. My many moments of self-doubt during my first year of teaching would have been greatly alleviated by being validated in my experiences of overwhelm and uncertainty as extremely normal for a first-year teacher.
So what can administrators do to cultivate positive relationships with teachers that will contribute not only to their improvement, but also to a positive, more effective school environment for everyone?
The research is resoundingly clear on this: model, model, model. It’s the trickle-down effect. Just as teachers are expected to act as role models for students, administrators must model the kinds of behavior that create positive relationships amongst the staff. Here are a few specific tips:
1) Admit your mistakes. This sends a message to teachers that it’s okay for them to make their own once in a while, too. A study of 51 work teams illustrated that those who felt safe and supported were better able to handle and learn from failure.
2) Be open to receiving feedback. Teachers are under constant scrutiny in today’s educational landscape. Teachers and administrators need to work together to create a happy and healthy school culture. Therefore, the feedback loop needs to work both ways. Psychological safety for teachers and schools can be too easily and thoughtlessly destroyed (e.g., the recent grading of teachers in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times).
3) Validate teacher uncertainty. The complexity of teaching often makes teachers uncertain about the choices they make to best serve their students. Administrators who acknowledge their own uncertainty create a school culture where it’s safe for teachers to experiment and learn from each other. Results of a study that involved 55 interviews of leaders showed that leaders who admitted they did not have all answers validated their own followers’ uncertainty which led to a culture of experimentation and open dialogue.
Building positive relationships amongst a school staff does not happen overnight, but the effort it takes is well worth it. In the end, a school culture where everyone feels safe to express themselves and learn from each other can only lead to a better education for the students.
There are just such a large number of hours in a school day — and for a few understudies, it’s sufficiently not. Whether they’re get ready for government sanctioned testing or attempting to make up for lost time to their review level, understudies today regularly require help outside of customary classroom hours. Much of the time, remaining after school for coaching sessions simply isn’t an alternative, which brings about defenseless understudies getting left considerably assist behind.
Fortunately, new separation learning advances are evolving that. Presently, instructors can associate with understudies for all intents and purposes utilizing a group of virtual mentoring devices. For instance, educators can utilize the product application Skype to associate with understudies by means of video for web based mentoring sessions. Also, more propelled instruments like Scribblar are custom-made particularly for separation coaching and incorporate supportive elements like online tests and a virtual “whiteboard,” which makes remove learning feel fundamentally the same as the genuine article. The outcome? Understudies get the additional help they frantically require without leaving home, while numerous educators can help understudies encourage succeed while maybe getting a charge out of another income stream.
# Choosing the Right Virtual Tools for the Right Students
Certain virtual tutoring tools work best for different grade levels. For example, the easy-to-use Skype interface is ideal for all grade levels, including elementary schoolers, while the more advanced interface of Scribblr may be too complicated for younger students to utilize. Khan Academy, a free online resource that offers practice exercises and instructional videos in a wide range of subjects, has many lessons that are tailored to elementary, middle, and high schoolers. Some of the third-party apps and websites that teachers can sign up to tutor under, like Varsity Tutors, is aimed at all grade levels from kindergarten to grad school, though much of the focus is on test prep. Meanwhile, the tutor app Quickhelp, called the “Uber for tutors,” is only available for college students.
Consider the pros and cons of these common long distance tutoring tools to ensure you’re using the best tutoring methods for you and your students:
A web application that enables video and audio calls over the internet.
Pros: The app is free to use with an internet connection and a webcam, which comes built in on most laptops and desktop computers today. The video feature makes it easy for tutors to “read” students’ expressions so they can better ascertain whether a student truly understands a concept.
Cons: Skype wasn’t built for tutoring in mind, so it’s missing valuable tutoring tools like a whiteboard feature. Plus, if the student or tutor’s internet connection is slow, “buffering” problems may arise, interrupting the tutoring session.
An online collaborative tutoring platform.
Pros: Like Skype, Scribblar provides a video interface to further connect with students. As private tutor Angela Culley says, “the video and audio components allow me to read a student’s expressions and comments just as I would in person.” It also provides a whiteboard tool and powerful graph and calculation tools, making it easy to work out math problems online with students.
Cons: A paid subscription is required to access all the useful features. Inputting math symbols onto the whiteboard can also be hard, unless you’ve memorized each symbol’s keyboard code.
Called the “Uber for tutors,” it allows college students to put out a request for tutors through the app and get responses for immediate help from tutors in the area.
Pros: Doesn’t require planning a tutoring session in advance, so it’s extremely flexible. If students only need one-off tutoring, like before a big test, the app allows for that.
Cons: While it allows online and Skype-based tutoring, the emphasis is on in-person tutoring, making it less than ideal for distance learning. Plus, only graduate students can sign up to be tutors, so teachers who are not in grad school won’t be able to use the app.
# Varsity Tutors
An online platform that connects top tutors to students in need of help.
Pros: The company recently launched an app, making it easier than ever to get and give tutoring help on the go. A whiteboard and document editor are useful online tools, and students can screenshot their homework worksheets so tutors can review immediately.
Cons: Unlike the Quickhelp app, Varsity Tutors doesn’t offer on-demand tutoring — though the company says that’s in the works. Right now, tutors can only work with their regular students through the app.
# Khan Academy
A global “classroom” that offers lessons on a variety of academic subjects for a wide range of learning levels, all for free.
Pros: Teachers can monitor students’ progress through a “teacher’s dashboard,” but they don’t have to teach the lessons themselves.
Cons: Unlike the other entries on this list, Khan Academy lessons are not live and therefore are not super customizable to individual students.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! That must be magnificent for instructors, correct? To discover, I solicited some from them.
“A few years I get nothing,” says Mindy Geminder, who has educated at Washington Elementary in Berkeley, California, for over two decades. “It frequently depends how much the families can pool together, whether the PTA parent contact is sorted out or thinks about this.”
Alright, so perhaps it’s not the national week of festivity it should be. Also, however the National PTA surely implied well by making it, making Teacher Appreciation Week the main week of May won’t not have been the best decision, as per Heather Henderson, a secondary school proficiency mentor in Central Florida. She clarifies:
Given these working conditions, is a Starbucks gift card really going to make teachers feel better about their jobs and themselves?
Actually, many teachers told me they like the gift cards. “I once got $15 for a bakery and was happy every time I got to get a scone for free,” says Liz Scarboro, who also works at Washington (where my son attends fifth grade). Of course, gift cards can go horribly wrong. One Oakland teacher, for example, questions the wisdom of giving her something from Victoria’s Secret. “Like, why are you thinking of me there?” she says. “I don’t want to think of that kid and lingerie.”
Done right, though, even a little appreciation and gratitude can go a long way.
Robert Emmons, a psychologist at UC Davis, has conducted a series of studies that find exchanging gratitude and appreciation can help people to thrive during stressful periods. A 2013 surveyby the John Templeton Foundation shows that hearing “thank you” at work increased employee motivation—but it also found that the workplace is the domain of American life where people are least likely to hear and express appreciation. That’s too bad, because “thanks” is a word thatbonds people together and helps generate meaning in their lives.
Of course, people actually feel and express quite a lot of gratitude toward teachers, given the reminder and the opportunity. When the Greater Good Science Center partnered with the nonprofit GreatSchools to build a Gratitude Gallery, where people could express thanks to a teacher, principal, or another member of their school’s community, we witnessed an outpouring of appreciation. Nearly half of the households in the United States use GreatSchools to post or read reviews of their school, and when we prompted parents to add some gratitude to those reviews, we saw thousands of appreciative posts come in from around the country.
“I want to say thank you to the upper school teachers for mentoring and supporting my student during his young adult years,” wrote one parent from South Carolina, “giving him the ability to grow, take risks, and build confidence while developing a strong academic background to move on to college.”
So how can parents and students inject those feelings of gratitude into Teacher Appreciation Week—and every other week during the school year? Gift cards are nice, but what else can a community do to let teachers know we recognize their sacrifices and strengths? Here are three suggestions.
# Appreciate the person, not the position
“After feeling ill-used and beaten up, it’s so disheartening to receive a roll of Life Savers telling me I’m ‘worth a Mint!’” says Henderson. “The apple key chain emblazoned with ‘Teachers Touch the Future,’ or worse, ‘We Appreciate Our Teachers!’ doesn’t cut it. Saying it doesn’t make it true.”
The trick, it seems, is to pay attention. Teachers must give a lot of themselves on the job, providing superhuman levels of patience and understanding to students and parents alike. They are also expected and encouraged to bring their own personal strengths and passions to the job—and most do, above and beyond the call of duty.
Thus the greatest appreciations a teacher can receive are ones that recognize their individual motivations, assets, or even just hobbies and tastes.
“One of my doctoral students got me a big bowl of oranges when she graduated,” says Cindy Pury Sandstrom, who teaches psychology at Clemson University. “I love oranges and eat two, sometimes three, during the work day. It was the most thoughtful gift from a student, because she had taken the time to notice what I do and what I like.”
Teachers also seem to like gifts that reflect appreciation for what teachers put up with—which often provides an opportunity for humor. An anonymous teacher received a bottle of wine with the kid’s picture on the label, with a note that said, “My child might be the reason you drink.” One mentions that a parent used that line “before buying me a drink at a school fundraiser.”
# Write a letter or make a speech
Many teachers say the sweetest gifts they’ve received came in the form of letters.
“I had a dad sit down and write a heartfelt email about what I meant to his family and the impact I had on his child’s life,” says Renee Perez, who teaches first grade in San Jose. “Sounds corny, but it totally brought me to tears!”
Of course, you don’t need to restrict this kind of appreciation to one week out of the year. A father emailed Minnesota teacher Abbie Kaufenberg throughout the year to say “when his kid was particularly excited about something that happened in school.” This was especially important to her because most parents only send emails when they are upset about something. “Getting a positive email from time to time really helped me get through my year,” she says.
And parents and kids alike can express their appreciation in a way that is more public than letters.
“Best year was when I had three room parents who got almost all the parents to come in on the last day and surprise me, with gifts and flowers, with very kind speeches and notes, all in front of the kids,” remembers Mindy Geminder. “That, I won’t forget.”
# Volunteer in the classroom
As Henderson’s comment suggests, May can actually be a tough month for teachers—and it turns out they’re grateful for some help in the classroom.
“Seriously, Teacher Appreciation Week comes at a hectic and stressful time,” says Perez. She adds :
Our school does a brunch where they allow us 20 minutes of yard duty free time to eat together, which is actually an extension of the regular recess. Parents volunteer to do yard duty for that time. Even better is helping me with projects that need to be done in the classroom, whether they help at school or they take things home.
Volunteering also builds community at the school—and spreads gratitude and happiness like beneficent versions of the cold and flu bugs that sweep classrooms every year.
“I was and am most moved by parents who give time or other resources (books, school supplies) for kids who are not their own,” says Liz Scarboro. “There is nothing like a parent who observes kids who could use adult attention and moves toward them. I’m grateful for that every time I see it.”
Various studies show that the more empathy a child displays, the less likely they are to engage in bullying, online and in real life. Empathic children and adolescents are more likely to engage in positive social behaviors, like sharing or helping others. They’re also less likely to be antisocial and exhibit uncontrolled aggressive behaviors. That’s a big reason why educators have been devoting more attention to empathy in recent years, integrating it more deeply into schools and curricula. And as Golestan illustrates, some of these efforts are focusing on early childhood education.
Indeed, research suggests the sooner we learn to empathize, the better off we are in the long run. People exposed to empathy earlier in life have greater and longer-lasting emotional benefits than those exposed to it later, or not at all. One recent study suggests that children who are taught social and emotional skills (as opposed to purely cognitive skills) in preschool and kindergarten have better social skills and fewer behavior problems in both kindergarten and first grade, compared with kids who don’t experience that holistic classroom setting.
Should we teach empathy to even the very youngest students? Can we? The answer to both questions seems to be yes—but it’s not easy.
# Born for empathy
Our capacity for feeling empathy starts very early in life. Yes, my toddler pulls our cat’s tail and thinks it’s funny, but I also see his capacity to sense the emotions of others. If I’m having a bad day, he pulls me and his papa in for a group hug with his tiny little arms. And it’s not just toddlers: Infants as young as eight to 14 months old can show precursors to empathy, signs like displaying concern for a parent if they’re hurt or upset. The older we get, the more we can empathize. A recent study from the University of Munich in Germany found that children between the ages of five and seven increasingly anticipate feelings of concern for other people.
Teaching empathy doesn’t just make kids more emotionally and socially competent; it can also help them be more successful and functioning citizens in the future. A recent study from Duke and Penn State followed over 750 people for 20 years and found those who were able to share and help other children in kindergarten were more likely to graduate from high school and have full-time jobs. Students who weren’t as socially competent were more likely to drop out of school, go to juvenile hall, or need government assistance. Empathetic people are also more likely to help those they don’t even know—to pay it forward.
Autumn Williams works with Ashoka, an international network of social entrepreneurs that has recently devoted considerable attention to building empathy in education. As part of its work, it has identified more than 200 schools internationally that actively nurture empathy—including Golestan, the first preschool in the network. Williams says empathy plays a crucial role in creating positive change and solving deep-rooted systemic problems—a fact the organization recognized when it looked more closely at the social entrepreneurs whose work it had been supporting over the past 30 years.
“Most had an experience that made them desire to make a change before they were 20 years old,” says Williams. “We’ve recognized empathy as integral to their change-making. That’s why empathy must be as essential as math and literacy. We need a world full of individuals that have the ability to cultivate change where it’s needed, and to recognize they have the ability to do so.”
Tina Malti, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto and author of a 2016 report looking at school-based interventions to promote empathy in children, says it’s never too late to learn to empathize. Though our perspective-taking develops dramatically in the early stages of life—it helps mold who we are as adults—we’re always malleable.
“It’s not just children,” says Malti. “It’s a life issue. I think a holistic view emphasizes living a more balanced life. If you only focus on academic outcomes, or work outcomes, you are going to miss the whole being of a person. It needs to be balanced in a healthful and meaningful way. And the word ‘meaningful’ always entails the whole being.”
Malti says our education system is at a turning point: More and more experts understand and agree that our social and emotional health is important for our academic learning, our psychological well-being, and our overall success in life.
“If you keep them apart in the classroom, you are not going to reach psychological or mental functioning,” says Malti. “It goes hand in hand: a person can’t thrive academically if he or she is depressed, and in order to be a better learner, those depressive issues need to be addressed. I think any other approach—like focusing on particular groups of children, or prioritizing academics or health outcomes—is more likely to be exclusive.”
# Who let the dogs out?
At Golestan Education, Yalda Modabber tries to foster empathy in her students by bringing her dog Nika to work. They feed her, groom her, and give her water.
Research suggests people who have an attachment to a pet are more empathetic. Onerecent study by the American Humane Association shows having an animal in the classroom, even a small fish, ups students’ feelings of compassion and empathy towards one another. The report also indicates empathy is linked to improved social interactions, class participation, and less behavioral issues in the classroom.
Malti says there’s no one right way to teach empathy, but there are some wrong ways.
Take Nika. “It’s not about bringing in a dog,” says Malti. “It’s about teaching a student how to care for another. You can have a good teacher or a horrible teacher. If a student just watches a teacher taking care of the animal, and doesn’t participate, she doesn’t learn as well. But research shows if you have the child care for the animal, or even an infant, herself, it’s different. How you learn how to care for something is important.”
Malti says another way to build empathy in the classroom is to focus on the individual. She says teachers shouldn’t have a rigid ‘empathy curriculum’ for each grade level, because students won’t thrive in that environment.
“Every single classroom is a microcosm,” Malti says. “And each child in that classroom has varying capacities of mental needs. If you don’t look at the varying needs, you miss the opportunity to promote empathy in the best way possible.”
In addition to bringing her dog to school, Golestan Education’s Modabber has the students do gardening as part of their daily routine. Every Monday, they pick flowers and put them in vases around their classrooms.
“They’re nurturing seeds to grow,” Modabber says. “They’re giving it water and sunlight, they take care of it every day. Then they plant it. They don’t just pick them. They are really appreciating these plants. They see them. They’re present. They’re aware of these plants and how they’re growing.
They also grow food. Every day before lunch, they sing a song and chant and thank the earth for the food they’re about to eat. And after lunch, they sing a song thanking the chef. Modabber says empathy and gratitude go hand and hand. Research backs her up: More gratitude is linked to higher empathy and less aggression.
Empathy is also about connecting with other cultures. Modabber says she’s still affected by those two years of intense bullying she received as an Iranian immigrant in the U.S. during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. She doesn’t want her students to act like this. So every Friday the children learn about a different country or culture, so they can better relate to people with context.
“Golestan makes a big emphasis that we are a small part of this very diverse world and we’re here to respect it,” Modabber says. “It’s threaded in everything we do. It’s our foundation. It’s our benchmark.”
Wellbeing is a piece of each state funded school training. Be that as it may, what is wellbeing? It’s more than just sustenance and exercise center class.
As ahead of schedule as 1947, the World Health Organization characterized wellbeing as a condition of mental and social—not simply physical—prosperity. Today, more schools worldwide are incorporating social-passionate learning into their educational modules, showing abilities, for example, mindfulness, compassion, and dynamic tuning in.
Look into exhibits that glad individuals are fruitful over numerous life areas, including marriage, connections, wellbeing, life span, pay, and scholastic and work execution. They are better ready to multitask and persevere through exhausting undertakings, and are more imaginative, trusting, supportive and friendly.
So how would we instruct the aptitudes of prosperity to understudies?
A few years ago, working with my colleague Lucy Ryan, we developed a comprehensive Well-Being Curriculum that is now being implemented in many elementary schools and high schools in the UK, France, Japan, and Australia. The Well-Being Curriculum is based on the principles and findings of positive psychology, and can be used with students from about 9-14 years of age. Every other week, for 50 minutes, students learn about the major factors that seem to influence well-being, and they try out happiness-enhancing practices and activities.
A recent study of the program showed that it protected students against the decline in satisfaction with self, satisfaction with friends, and positive emotions—and the increase in negative emotions—that typically occurs in the first years of middle school. Other studies have shown that the schools teaching happiness skills academically outperform the schools teaching a standard health curriculum.
In other words, focusing on well-being can even contribute to the core mission of education. Here are my suggestions for teachers who want to share these lessons with their students.
# Teaching positive emotions
The “broaden-and-build” theory of positive emotions, developed by Barbara Fredrickson, shows that positive emotional experiences have long-lasting effects on our personal growth and development. Specifically, positive emotions broaden our attention and thinking, enhance resilience, and build durable personal resources, which fuel more positive emotions in the future.
During this part of the program, we teach the important adaptive functions of both positive and negative emotions, ways to cope with our tendency to focus on the bad things in life, and how to enhance positive emotions through savoring and reminiscence.
We also talk about the importance of relationships, one of the best predictors of happiness. It is well known that strong social ties are at the very core of our well-being, regardless of whether we are introverts or extraverts. Many of the valued strengths, such as kindness and forgiveness, are of an interpersonal nature. Close friendships (not the mere number, but rather their quality) have far greater influence on our happiness than an increase in income.
This part of the program focuses on the basic relationships skills, such as being able to form and maintain friendships, negotiate, listen, and, even more importantly, hear. Forgiveness, kindness, and gratitude are also included, as the main relationship strengths. The stream finishes with happiness across cultures, a lesson that highlights factors that allow countries to flourish, taking the scope of relationships to the planetary level.
# How to get started
Teachers often feel pressure to concentrate on forthcoming tests and exams, and spend significant amounts of time on “firefighting”—i.e., dealing with discipline and conflicts. These constraints often mean that it might be difficult, if not impossible, to schedule a well-being class every week.
In this situation, we advise teachers to use the Personal Well-Being Lessons (as well as many other available educational volumes) as piecemeal resources, picking up interventions and activities that can be run one at a time.
Here are a few examples of short activities that you could incorporate into a day’s lesson:
- Create a What Went Well wall (a whiteboard with colorful markers would do just fine) and ask all students to write three things that went well for them during the lesson, school day, or school week.
- Run the “Can you hear me?” exercise. Ask the class to form pairs. Instruct student A to talk to Student B for one minute about a topic that excites them, such as a holiday, a hobby, or an adventure. B is instructed to deliberately not listen, appearing uninterested and distracted, though they should not leave their seat or walk away. The teacher stops the exercise as soon as 60 seconds is up. In round two, A is instructed to continue talking for a further minute (again about a topic that excites them), and this time, B should listen, acting genuinely interested without going completely over the top. Students are asked to tell the teacher the emotional effect it had on them when they were being ignored vs. when they were being listened to, and the teacher confirms with students how important it is for us to be listened to.
- Play “Go fish” with cards from the Happiness Box that also encourage your class to participate in evidence-based positive psychology exercises.
As you begin teaching well-being, don’t be surprised if some of your fellow teachers are a bit skeptical. When we brought the Well-Being Curriculum to two schools in London, one teacher talked about facing resistance from other staff. “They think it’s just loads of clap-trap” because, she said, “it’s not real work, you are not writing stuff down, you are not being tested every week…and there is no nice little certificate that you can have at the end of five years.”
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Given their importance for the future mental health of our nations, happiness and well-being skills deserve to be taken seriously—and teachers can lead the charge, one classroom at a time.
I’ll concede that I harbored this negative perspective of center school understudies—until I read some earth shattering examination on center schoolers that made me think: We have everything incorrectly.
To begin with, research lets us know that children have profoundly instilled moral impulses that give them a feeling of decency, of good and bad, great and awful—and they for the most part incline toward the great. For example, kids as youthful as six months who were demonstrated a manikin appear in which one manikin was a “partner” and another was a “hinderer” overwhelmingly played with the assistant, showing their capacity to make complex social judgments.
So what happens to this moral instinct when they reach middle school? Does it just shut down for a while? Not at all. In fact, research on moral development suggests that middle school is acrucial developmental period for these moral instincts to take root and grow. But because of where adolescents are developmentally, we need to practice very specific strategies for translating their moral instincts into moral behavior.
Why is this?
The answer can be found in research by human development experts Larry Nucci and Elliot Turiel, who have identified two important domains that play a role in the moral development of children: moral issues and societal conventions.
Moral issues focus on the effects students’ actions have on the welfare of others (e.g., hitting another child). Societal conventions, on the other hand, focus on norms or rules (e.g., talking in class). Children as young as two-and-a-half years old have demonstrated that they understand the difference between moral issues and societal conventions.
Nucci and Turiel stress that, when dealing with student misbehavior, teachers need to take bothareas into consideration.
Research suggests that even through adolescence, kids maintain a strong emotional response to moral issues where the direct effects on another person are clear—they still know it’s wrong to hit other people or pick their pockets, for instance.
Once they hit middle school age, however, they become less bound by societal conventions. This means that when their moral decisions have only indirect effects on other people, they become less likely to do the right thing. For example, even though they wouldn’t actually pick someone else’s pocket, they’re less inclined than younger kids to return money they find on the street. In that case, the indirect nature of the dilemma doesn’t stimulate their moral instincts, and we can’t count on them to adhere to societal conventions like they did when they were younger.
Think about it this way: Middle school students have just spent the first 11 or 12 years of their lives following the rules. All of a sudden, they wake up to the fact that these rules were set by adults and are somewhat arbitrary. Developmentally, they haven’t yet understood why these rules were developed in the first place: to protect the welfare of other people. They typically won’t make that connection until they’re about 15 or 16. So their behavior often falls in a moral gap between the fidelity to the rules they showed as young kids and the more complex moral reasoning they develop in their later teens.
So what can teachers do to help middle school students bridge this gap? Here are some developmentally-appropriate suggestions.
# When a student misbehaves, tell him or her whether the misbehavior broke a societal convention or a moral issue—and then talk about it.
In other words, if a student breaks a classroom rule, ask him/her to consider how the action impacts the smooth running of the classroom. If the misbehavior is a moral transgression against another student, explore how the action impacts that other student’s welfare. Researchers have found that teachers who match their discipline to the type of infraction (moral vs. convention) are considered more knowledgeable and effective by their students.
Talking about the misbehavior helps students realize the impact of their actions on others and understand why societal conventions are necessary.
# Discuss moral transgressions as they occur—and ask how they made students feel.
Students more deeply understand the impact their actions have on others when they discuss motives and consequences with each other.
It’s also crucial to include students’ emotions in the discussion. Research has shown that children have strong emotional reactions to moral situations because they’re about care and harm to other people rather than adherence to rules. For example, moral transgressions cause children to respond with anger, sadness, or empathy for the victim, while positive moral interactions foster emotions of happiness. The breaking of societal conventions, on the other hand, brings very little emotional response from children.
By discussing how they feel—and made other people feel—in moral situations, students become better able to identify and regulate their emotions in future moral dilemmas.
# Give students the opportunity to have input on classroom rules.
In setting boundaries for middle schoolers, schools often do exactly the opposite of what’s developmentally appropriate: greater teacher control and limited opportunities for students to practice decision-making and choice. Research has demonstrated that the mismatch between students’ need for autonomy at this age and schools’ greater wielding of control causes students to lose motivation and interestin school. Allowing students to craft societal conventions for school helps them understand the need for these conventions and keeps them engaged in the learning process.
The research is clear: Instead of clamping down on middle school students when they misbehave, we need to engage them in discussion. This is critical to their moral understanding—and research suggests it can even impact their long-term academic success.
Hopefully, we can turn some of those middle school tears into smiles for students and teachers alike.
I’ve been roused by late news stories of kids why should working have any kind of effect on the planet, resolved to ventures much greater than themselves. There’s Malala Yousufzai, the youthful backer for young ladies’ training in Pakistan; Craig Kielburger, who advocates for the abolishment of tyke work; and Ryan Hreljac, who raises cash to assemble wells in creating nations. The rundown continues endlessly.
In any case, there’s a flip side to these stories. Look into recommends that some youngsters in the United States are really turning out to be more self-retained and less associated with others.
A late study that analyzed the compassion levels of very nearly 14,000 college understudies somewhere around 1979 and 2009 found that understudies have turned out to be significantly less empathic throughout the years, especially since 2000.
Also, narcissism, which corresponds contrarily with sympathy, is on the ascent among college matured understudies. Narcissists, by definition, are to a great degree self-engaged and tend to see other individuals as far as their helpfulness as opposed to genuine companionship—not precisely a formula for sympathy.
What’s more, a 2006 survey showed that 81 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds think getting rich is an important goal, and 64 percent think it’s the most important goal. Sadly, only 30 percent believe that helping others in need is important.
While these studies focused on university students and young adults, the findings suggest that somewhere in their earlier development, they weren’t cultivating the skills needed to connect with others.
So how can teachers help students avoid the joyless path of self-absorption and instead cultivate a life in which they feel part of something larger than themselves—one of the keys to a meaningful life?
There are, of course, many strong programs that have been designed to help students develop empathy and positive relationships.
But new research suggests another way: awe.
Very little is known about the experience of awe; however, several new studies, many conducted by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner, have shown awe to be a potentially powerful positive emotion that might just help our students develop empathy.
Here’s how it works:
When we see a grand vista in nature such as Victoria Falls, or experience an inspiring work of art such as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” or Michelangelo’s Pieta, or ponder the phenomenal inner strength of a great soul like Gandhi who non-violently led India to independence, we often feel two things: 1) a sense of vastness that gives us 2) a new perspective on the world and our place in it. This is awe.
Dacher’s lab has found that awe makes us feel very small and like we’re in the presence of something greater than ourselves. We also may lose awareness of our “self” and feel more connected to the world around us.
Imagine the potential of this life-changing emotion for students—and, in particular, for our hyper-self-focused teens! Since adolescence is a crucial period for identity-formation, some researchers have suggested that adolescence is a particularly important time to experience awe—it could help them see themselves as deeply connected to the world around them, not the center of it. Inducing the uplifting experience of awe could also be a positive way to keep narcissism in check.
While scientists haven’t yet examined if this temporary loss of self-focus directly impacts empathy levels, they do know that awe makes people feel less impatient and more inclined to volunteer their time to help others—strong evidence that it makes them feel more connected and committed to something bigger than themselves.
So can teachers actually create awe-inducing experiences for their students?
Absolutely! In an experiment to see if awe could be elicited, Dacher and his team had one group of university students look at a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and another group look down a long hallway. On a follow-up survey, the only difference between the groups was that members of the T-Rex group felt like they were part of a larger whole—a defining feature of awe.
It’s probably not too difficult to imagine something that might induce awe in teens, or kids of any age; I’ve named a few examples above. Stories of exceptional modern-day figures such as Nelson Mandela (consider his ability to forgive) or pictures of the universe such as the birth of a star may be engaging and effective—especially if you find the subject matter to be awe-inspiring. Many teachers already bring content like this into the classroom, and this research on awe validates that approach and suggests it should be tried with more frequency and focus.
Here are two important points to remember if you want to expose your students to awe-filled experiences:
1) Not all students will get it. Dacher has found that some people are more prone to awe than others—usually the ones who are comfortable changing how they see the world. So, if you’ve got some students who seem immovable, don’t fret. If nothing else, they’re still learning about “awesome” art, music, nature, and people.
2) Help students process what they’ve experienced. Awe requires what psychologist Jean Piaget called “accommodation”—the process of changing our mental models to incorporate something to which we’ve recently been exposed. Discussing and writing about experiences of awe will help students understand and process at a deeper level what they’ve just felt.
Awe is not a term heard very often in schools, but its potential is vast. Think of the enthusiasm and wonder and joy that awe-filled experiences could bring to our students—experiences that could not only help them out of the narcissistic funk of adolescence, but also put them on a path to a life lived in compassionate connection with others. Awesome!
I’ve invested a ton of energy blogging about how we ought to laud our children, however somebody asked me a day or two ago if there is a right approach to censure them. Great question. Here are a few thoughts, several which I gathered from A Nation of Wimps by Hara Estroff Marano (Broadway Books, 2008).
On the off chance that you feel frustrated in a tyke’s execution, approach the theme valuably. To begin with, request that they assess their execution themselves with inquiries like, “Are you content with how you did?” and “Is there anything you’ll do any other way next time?” Ask them why they feel the way they do, and what they learned. Inquire as to whether there is anything they have to achieve their objectives that they aren’t at present getting. Maybe they have a feeling that they require a coach, to have more normal family dinners, or to make an arrangement to observe less TV.
# Make it clear that you see failure as an event, not an identity. If a child is disappointed in her performance or an outcome, empathize (“I can tell you are pretty upset about this”) and then help her strategize about how she can make things go differently next time. Try to engage them in what we used to call “Failure Analysis” in the product development industry—the process of collecting and analyzing available data to figure out what happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. Failure analysis, by its very nature, is a way of embracing mistakes as a way to learn and grow. Leave the “I told you so” out of the discussion; this is the hardest thing ever for me. Just flows off the tongue for me to say things like, “I asked you a thousand times to put your homework folder in your backpack as soon as you were done instead of waiting until the morning.” Better to ask about times when things worked out well: “Yesterday you remembered your homework. What did you do then that you didn’t do today?” Teach kids that the way to do better next time is to understand which efforts pay off and which strategies work
# Never express anger when children make mistakes, or imply that you love them less. Mistakes are just mistakes; while they might need to be dealt with, they are never grounds to withdraw love.
# Accept that sometimes second best is good enough, and communicate this.
# Empathize when children make mistakes – ask them how they feel and then repeat that back to them. For example: “I can tell you are really disappointed” or “It sounds like you felt really embarrassed.” Don’t just replay how bad it feels – get to the part where having a failure doesn’t matter anymore: “It sounds like that was really hard at first but I’m glad to see that you can laugh at yourself now.”
Okay, so those five things aren’t really criticizing your kids – just constructive ways to react when you feel like criticizing. Do you think it is ever okay to out and out criticize your kids? If so, when and why?
It’s each instructor’s fantasy to have understudies who draw in profoundly with their lessons, need to learn for learning’s purpose, and perform at the highest point of their potential.
As it were, educators need their children to discover “stream,” that sentiment finish submersion in an action, where we’re engaged to the point that our stresses, feeling of time, and reluctance appear to vanish.
Since analyst Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (who initially instituted the term) began considering stream, it has been connected to sentiments of bliss and elation, and to crest execution among specialists, researchers, competitors, artists, and numerous others.
Stream is significant in school classrooms too. Look into by Csikszentmihalyi and others has found that stream extends learning and empowers long haul enthusiasm for a subject.
But how can teachers encourage flow? Although the constraints of today’s classrooms can make it challenging, here are some research-based tips for injecting more flow into education.
# Challenge kids—but not too much.
One of the central conditions for flow, according to Csikszentmihalyi, is that an activity be challenging at a level just above one’s current abilities. If a challenge is too hard, students will become anxious and give up; if it’s too easy, they’ll become bored. It’s important to find the sweet spot, where the activity is difficult enough to challenge students without overwhelming them. Students may require a lesson to be scaffolded—breaking it down into manageable pieces—in order to find the right balance.
# Make assignments feel relevant to students’ lives.
Research has shown that when students understand the relevance of a classroom activity, they are more likely to engage in it. Whenever possible, it can help for teachers to point out how an activity connects to students’ own lives, or encourage students to discover the relevance for themselves. In a 2009 study published inScience, researchers Chris Hulleman and Judith Harackiewicz found that when low-performing high school science students were instructed to write about how a lesson was relevant to their lives, these students showed greater interest in the subject—a fundamental part of flow—and got higher grades than students who didn’t participate in the writing exercise.
# Encourage choice.
When students are given an opportunity to choose their own activities and work with autonomy, they will engage more with the task. In a 2000 study led by Aaron Black of the University of Rochester, students who sensed more teacher support for autonomy felt more competent and less anxious, reported more interest and enjoyment in their work, and produced higher-quality work in their class than students who didn’t believe they had as much autonomy.
# Set clear goals (and give feedback along the way).
Csikszentmihalyi has found that a fundamental condition for flow is that an activity should have clear goals, which provides structure and direction. This has also proven to be true in the classroom, especially when students help define their goals. And as students progress toward these goals, research suggests it’s also important for them to receive ongoing feedback along the way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that teachers must interrupt a students’ process, but it does mean that students must be aware of how (or whether) their efforts are moving toward the goal. By receiving this kind of feedback, students can adjust their efforts in a way that helps them stay in flow.
# Build positive relationships.
Education researcher David Shernoff, of Northern Illinois University, has shown that positive peer and teacher-student relationships increase flow. It can sometimes take more time to build these relationships, but some subtle strategies can go a long way, such as by communicating respectfully toward students and making clear that their input is valued. For instance, Alex Angell, a history teacher at Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California, says that during class discussions, he’s careful to let students complete their thoughts and then use his own body language—eye contact, leaning toward them—to show he’s heard their views.
# Foster deep concentration.
A bedrock of flow is feeling completely absorbed by an activity, and that often requires a state of deep concentration. This may be hard to facilitate in a classroom, particularly in middle or high school, where periods are relatively short. But if it’s possible to allow, students will reap real rewards from working without interruption. Research by Kevin Rathunde of the University of Utah, conducted with Csikszentmihalyi, found that flow was higher in Montessori schools than in traditional schools because of the more flexible schedules of Montessori schools—students who are fully concentrating on a task are not interrupted as often.
# Offer hands-on exercises.
Flow research, like other education research, has shown that hands-on activities often get kids more engaged in their learning than more passive activities. Making things, solving problems, and creating artwork tend to induce more flow than lectures or videos, as long as the materials students need to complete the assignment are readily available.
#Make ‘em laugh.
Humor is a great way to engage kids in any setting, especially the classroom. It helps encourage flow not just by geting kids’ attention and keeping them engaged but by modeling enthusiasm for a subject. A teacher doesn’t have to be an actor or comedian to engage kids, but it helps to speak their language. When Shernoff and others explored what types of activities induced flow in high school classrooms, they found that teachers who used humor and showed enthusiasm for the lesson could even turn a lecture into an engaging activity.
When I was an educator, toward the begin of every school year I couldn’t endure to attempt all the classroom administration tips I’d gotten over the mid year, persuaded that now I had in my pocket the most recent strategies that would make my classroom a warm and safe place to learn.
I realized that one of the keys to a minding classroom was urging understudies to show kind, accommodating—or “prosocial”— conduct toward each other. Analysts have found that understudies who demonstrate this sort of conduct: 1) make more prominent scholarly progress, 2) have more companions, and 3) grow better associations with educators.
Some of the time my new methods succeeded; bunches of times they didn’t. In any case, as I’ve adapted more about the exploration of prosocial conduct, I’ve been charmingly amazed that it may be a great deal less demanding to empower generosity among understudies than I suspected.
For instance, in a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science, 18-month old infants were shown photos of household objects, like a tea-kettle. The photos each featured one of four backgrounds: blocks, two dolls facing each other, a single doll, or two dolls facing away from each other.
Turned out the background choice decisively influenced behavior: The infants who saw the dolls facing each other were three times more likely than the infants who saw the other background images to spontaneously help a person in need.
All it took was a gentle reminder of our human connectedness to prompt kids to reach out and help someone else.
When I read this study, I realized that I already had been doing a lot of things that encouraged positive connectedness in the classroom—just like most teachers. But this study and others have pointed me to a few simple, effective, research-based tips for consciously nurturing kindness among students—tips that teachers can start to implement on the very first day of school (if not before!). Here are four of my favorites:
# When setting up your classroom for the year, hang posters of people interacting with each other. As that study demonstrates, even a subtle image of two people looking at each other can create a sense of connectedness and foster kindness. Such visual cues also let students know that you value this kind of behavior.
# Greet students on the first day of school—and every day after that—as they enter the classroom. Students are more likely to behave with kindness if they feel a sense of belonging. Astudy of 158 tenth- and twelfth-grade students found that those who felt connected to their teachers and other students scored higher in empathy—a building block of prosocial behavior.
# From the first day of school to the last, use a positive, warm tone of voice. Forget the advice to not let them see you smile til Christmas. Students’ prosocial skills increase when they are part of a caring classroom. Modeling kind speech with students tends to have the happy effect of students speaking kindly to each other.
# To build community in your classroom, give your students chances to help each other.Giving students the opportunity to practice prosocial behavior is one of the most effective ways to promote it. For example, when having them work in cooperative learning groups—an instructional technique that allows small groups of students to work together on a task—inform students that part of their responsibility as members of the group is to help one another. Scientists have found that students who engage more in cooperative learning are more likely to treat each other with kindness.