We feel so strongly about taking care of onself, putting your oxygen mask on first etc. We love the artists above and hope you check out their work as being supportive and encouraging of gentle and loving mental health. We hope this month you are (especially educators!!) taking some moments to take extra care of your mental health. Here are a few things that we do to support and facilitate taking care of ourselves in our little classroom community!
1. We do our best to model good habits with our students always.
One afternoon during pick up time a father said he would send me an email later. His daughter turned to him and said, "Oh, Dad, she doesn't answer emails after 4pm, she has a life!" And although the dad had a surprised reaction, it was refreshing to see a student who had understood boundaries and was happily chatting about them. We had indeed told the students that we love them dearly, AND just like we want them to go home and enjoy their family, hobbies and life-- we do the same and it actually helps us be the best teachers we can be (we reiterate points like this throughout the year).
Along this vein, we also talk to students about work vs. home life (and their work email vs. personal emails -- see our technology post for tips on how to rollout computer use!).
2. Emotions Continuum, Naming feelings
We have an emotions continuum in the classroom that the students all made cards for at the beginning of this year. In our ideal world, we would have it hung up better (it is definitely falling down!) and we would add to it throughout the year as we learned more emotional vocabulary. In the mornings, students put their clothespin on how they are feeling (we had to remive 'tired' as it was always chosen). This is a nice non-verbal way for students to practice noticing their feelings, sharing them, and for us to see where a kid might be at.
We also often us the language, "I feel/I'm feeling … when....", when students are talking about a dilemma with a friend, or when we have circled back to a problem to practice sorting through, naming, and feeling through our feelings.
In 3rd grade, naming emotions and feelings is hard. Just noticing that a feeling is big, is a huge accomplishment and honestly, still an important life skill. We often say (as the adults, and now our students do, too), "I'm having a big feeling". Naming a feeling as big, is helpful, as a lot of the ways to work through a big feeling (sadness, anger or otherwise) can be similar.
We also use our Anger catchers, and silent signals as ways for students (or us!) to communicate our needs within a room full of other humans. Some students have personalized, more private ones, while there are also general ones (that mean things like, Water break, I'd like a fidget, or Stop, please!).
3. Books, books, books: Book clubs/ read alouds/ responses
Can you tell we would both live at a library if we could? Alas, they are so amazingly useful, though! Our read alouds are overflowingly full of opportunities to discuss how to take care of ourselves, others, or what to do when we (or someone else) doesn't feel well mentally or emotionally. Our read alouds this year that really supported our mental health work were: Out of My Mind, Rain, Reign, Save Me a Seat, and Hello Universe (among many others!). They led us to conversations about friendships, bullying, loneliness, and ultimately had us think a lot about: How we take care of ourselves? Others? What works? What doesn't?
We had written responses (this gave us time to practice our comprehension and cursive, too!) after almost every read aloud. These responses from the read aloud were just for teachers and the student, which gave it a bit of privacy and let students really reflect on connections to their own lives. Our students carry a lot on their shoulders and in their minds, and we found this time ended up being really important and supportive of their mental health.
Book clubs gave us a more intimate time to really think about ho we're feeling and how we relate to characters or messages in a text. We especially loved Alvin Ho (he has a therapist, has to practice talking out his feelings, and he reminds us it is important for dads to cry!). The book that brought up endless conversations about mental health was Every Living Thing, a somber collection of stories with tons to talk about (depression, caring for others, being lonely, anger, fear, how to heal etc..). Students blew us away in this book group, by the way they were willing to share about themselves and how they take care of themselves. It was nothing short of beautiful.
4. Unwinding-- Christie Zimmer makes great printables that we use for morning reflective work / afternoon unwinding. We also take daily breaks for wiggling or games (so many games in this classroom!), and team building. We make sure we have least some fun every single day.
5. Celebrate :).
We try to celebrate as much as possible! We celebrate our reading, our writing, how fast we did something in a timed challenge, that we found all the commas in the morning message-- it's fun to enjoy our little community. We've found that leaving the space to crack up about something that happened that was funny is such an important part of being together in a classroom... And it makes us all so happy.
Graitutudes -- Part of our celebration work, is actually the celebration of others. We give 'kudos' every day for different things others do that we appreciate or find congratulatory, and it always makes us feel good to share our appreciation of others. Morning work in our room is often a thank you card to someone and the students love volunteering to be the one delivering these to people in our building. Now that we can see the end of the year in sight, we are astounded by how much our crew has grown. And we are sincerely grateful, we get to work hard, play hard, and grow with a ton of wonderful young humans. That is something worth celebrating!
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