“The brain needs a safe place”

-Rose Wallace 

The quote above is one I have used before in my educational journey. The brain does need a safe place in order to function optimally. I am sure someone may have said this before, but the quote is from my sister, Rose.  I respect her greatly as an educator and friend. 

This past year, I have blogged about our PSB System (Positive School Behavior):Expected Behavior Model/aka Golden Ticket Program that we have implemented.  I have also referenced  both last year and this year about Carol Dweck’s writings (her book: Mindset:The New Psychology of Success on a having a Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset.)   Over the last few years, I have received dozens of articles sent to me on the topic of Mindfulness.  Reading these articles always left me with the thought that this is a topic worth looking at, however I (we) have not done anything with it ….until now.

At our faculty retreat before Easter vacation the teachers  had about 35 to 40 minutes of alone time to stop, mediate  and pray alone quietly. It was similar to reflection/prayer time the 5th, 6th, & 7th grade students had at the  Net Team Retreat.  Many of our students reflected in writing to me about this “alone time.”  After Easter, a teacher remarked to me that those minutes of alone time  where she could “hear the silence”  was appreciated. Another teacher remarked it was the first time in a long time, that she was able to have some actual  peace and quiet. It made me think how busy we are, how little time we do have (adults and children)  to stop and think, pray quietly, or experience actual peace of mind.

Upon our return to school the teachers and I  had a in-service from a presenter from the Delaware County Intermediate Unit. The in-service was on the topic of Mindfulness. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t get at least one article from professional development emails on this topic. I see its value but have not ever acted on it …well, because I am (probably like you) too busy doing everything else. Our presenter set the tone early for the need for everyone to practice this strategy . It’s not prayer, yoga or meditation, although all those things could be in form, a part of mindfulness.  

Mindfulness is the art of paying particular attention to the present moment, in a non nonjudgmental way.  It’s having an open minded awareness of the present moment experience. The benefits of mindfulness is research based and those benefits of practicing it include: 

                                            * Reducing stress
                                            * Increased work performance
                                            * Reduced blood pressure 
                                            * Improved sleep patterns
                                            * Improved concentration 
                                            * Improved relationships

  It has proven to be successful in schools. Progressive companies like Google, Intel, Apple and others have all implemented strategies and time to incorporate this practice into their daily routines. 

   I believe the key to an outstanding  learning environment is based on a number of factors but two of the most important are:
                                       *Relationship building
                                       *Culture and climate of an organization

  The social /emotional well being of an individual has a great deal to do with one’s ability to perform and learn. If a student doesn’t feel safe socially or emotionally it is hard for them to learn. Implementing programs like Mindfulness, our PSB – Golden Ticket Program, promoting a Growth Mindset are all interconnected, and help shape the daily climate of our school. They all play a part into the aforementioned social / emotional well being of every individual. These programs are far more important than any new textbooks or the technology we have in school. 

Rather than race into something quickly, we will meet as a faculty at the end of the school year and will discuss ways in which, in the classroom, and we, as a school, can implement mindfulness strategies.  This can continue to help make this school a place where students, teachers/staff, and families feel welcome, safe, and valued.  In the meantime, I have encouraged teachers to use some of the mindfulness strategies we were given at the workshop. I know that teachers have done so already.  I recognize we can always do things better and trying new strategies to make our school a better place is a part of that.  I remain proud to be a part of St. Katharine of Siena School community.  I hope your families feel the same way.

May is the month we honor our Blessed Mother. The Traveling Mary statue  is available for families to take home.  The statue has been going home to families for months and is available.  It might be nice for families to have it in May.  If interested please contact Marie Starck.   Now that we have warmer weather, a parent rosary group will start meeting outside in the grotto next week on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 am.  You could drop off the kids,  grab a cup of coffee,  and come back and spend a few minutes with Mary and some SKS friends in the grotto It’s peaceful there and we could all use a little peace. 

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena,

Take care,