October 16, 2014

Creating Peaceful Homes and School

Parent Jenny Herrington leading Laurie's
1st grade class in yoga
This week we had one of our best turnouts ever for a Parent Council meeting.  The theme was mindfulness and parents came to hear from teachers about the mindful practice that is happening in our classrooms.

The conversation also focused on the book Mindful Parenting by Kristen Race and we heard several ideas and suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into our homes and family’s lives.

Elementary teachers Laurie Nakauchi (1st grade), Kelly Usubillaga (Spanish) and Tyler Voorhees (3rd grade) lead an illuminating discussion and even lead our parents through a couple of mindful practices that they do with their students. Associate Head of School Mandy Stepanovsky shared in detail the mindful work that happens in our preschool classrooms.

Kristin Race, whom Friends’ School is bringing to Boulder to speak on October 27th, defines mindfulness as appreciating the present moment with kindness.

Tyler talked about mindful listening. He started our Parent Council meeting by ringing a chime. Kelly discussed how we are training our neural pathways to be positive, the importance of body breaks and she lead our parents through a “7 shakes” activity, counting in Spanish

Laurie shared that the strength of our children’s social emotional lives is critical to the way that they learn - anything. She had us consider how mindful breathing is really important, as well as yoga. In 1st grade, Laurie has her kids place a toy on their stomach so they can see their breathing and asks
them, if they breathe in different ways, how it makes them feel.

In preschool, teachers have started this mindful work in small ways with golden moments (mindful listening), listening to a friend before joining in conversation, yoga, and storytelling - incorporating mindfulness in the actions of characters in stories.

With three teachers in each preschool classroom, occasionally one will take a minute of mindfulness to step back and observe, and they have found that they are seeing so much more in their students and noticing students solve problems that the teacher might otherwise have intervened.

I was touched when Tyler shared about the changes that he has noticed outside the classroom for himself and his family, after focusing on mindfulness at work. He told how he now appreciates more the view on his bike ride to school, or the way a certain tree looks, rather than focusing solely on what he has to do that day.

Parents told several stories about how this work is coming home and into their families’ lives. One mom shared that her child said to her “You’re not focusing on helping me with my shoes right now!” It was a reminder to stay present.

Race’s book is packed full of many great ideas for us to embrace at home and at school (and on the car ride in between).  The Parent Council, perhaps pairing up with our Student Council, is looking forward to connecting with everyone in our school community about ways we can all do better in appreciating the present moment with kindness.

Kristen Race, Ph.D. delivering a Ted Talk
I know that when Kristen Race comes to talk to our parent community, she will have many more ideas for us. Her talk is entitled “Creating Peaceful Homes.”

Please note that we are using the bigger auditorium at Platt Middle School for this talk – on October 27th at 6:00 p.m. We believe that this topic is of interest to many parents in Boulder and we wanted to make sure we had enough seating for a broader audience than just our own community.  Please let your friends and neighbors know that they are more than welcome to join us, and they can register here.

I have been extremely impressed at the many authentic ways that our teachers, students, and parents have embraced mindfulness.  It is not simply the latest educational buzzword, or even simply our school theme for the year. As Kelly Usubillaga stated this week, it is giving all of us tools to weather the inevitable storms of life.  It is giving our kids a means to be successful in a world that many say will only become more stressful.  And, we hope, it is creating peace in our homes.

Please join us for the great event on October 27th.

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