Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tool Time

Today one of my elective students was late for class.  It's unusual for her - she typically skips down the hall to my room, eager to put on her tap shoes, share whatever interesting tidbit has happened during the day, and get started dancing.  So when a classmate said, "she's here, but I don't know where she is," I knew something was wrong.

Sure enough, she showed up 10 minutes into the class period with tears streaming down here face.  She'd had to complete her first reflection form (one of our options for minor behavior incidents - the student is asked to answer questions that make her reflect on the choices she's made and how she can make better choices in the future) and she was devastated.  

It could have been disastrous for our class.  We could have all fallen apart, wondering what was wrong with our friend, crowding around, and in the process making it an even more emotional experience for this distraught dancer.  5 years ago that's exactly what would have happened in my classroom.

But, you see, now I've got these tools in my back pocket.  They're not hammers, nails, or drills, but rather routines, meaningful jobs, and a script for how to help my children self regulate their emotions.  My class continued their warm-up sequence without batting an eye - they knew the routine well enough to know what to do.  My distraught friend tearfully came across the room to find me.  She was trying to explain why she was late, but she was so upset that I couldn't understand her.  We took 3 deep breaths together.  Then she mumbled, "I think I need the Safe Place."  I smiled.  "Yes, I agree.  The Safe Place is where we go when we feel out of control and want to get ourselves back under control.  You're face is all scrunched up.  Your eyes are crying.  And your heart is beating very quickly.  Go to the Safe Place to take some more deep breaths and choose one item from the basket to help get yourself under control.  When you're ready to talk I'll be right here."  

My tearful student did just that.  One classmate left the group to join her.  She explained, "I'm the Safe Place helper.  Can I sit with you and help you get yourself under control?"  Together they made it happen.  After about 2 minutes the helper went back to dance and my now much calmer student came to talk.  Our conversation went like this:

Me:  You seem upset.  Something must have happened right before you came to dance.
Her:  Yes.  I had to fill out a reflection form.  (starts crying again)
Me:  Keep breathing.  You can handle this.  (pause)  You're feeling upset because you had to fill out a reflection form.
Her:  Yes.  My mommy said she never wanted me to have to fill out a reflection form and now I did and I don't want to have to fill out another one.
Me:  I see.  So now you're scared about having to tell your mommy and you're worried that it might happen again.
Her:  Yes!
Me:  Hmmm.  Let's think about this for a minute.  Can we change what has already happened?
Her:  No.
Me:  But we can control what happens the rest of the day.  Now, you know that your mommy will find out about the reflection form.  But you also know that I see Mommy at the end of the day.  And I could tell her that you came to class upset because you had to fill out a reflection form and were too sad to dance, or I could tell her that you came to class upset because you had to fill out a reflection form but you took some deep breaths, got it together, and had a great time in tap class.  Which one works for you?
Her:  I'm going to put on my tap shoes and dance.  Tap shoes make everything better.
And she did.  Taking deep breaths and using the Safe Place and wearing her tap shoes made everything better.  And thanks to Conscious Discipline I had the tools to help it happen.

Yes, that's right.  This is just one of many stories I could tell you about the tremendous difference Conscious Discipline has made in my life as a teacher and a member of the greater world around me.  This brain research based program was developed by Dr. Becky Bailey.  It was designed to give adults the tools to help children identify their emotions, self regulate, and see the valuable role they play in their various family groups (home, school, society, etc).  In the 2 years that I've implemented Conscious Discipline in my classroom I've gone from being a very (internally) angry teacher, waiting to explode, berate and humiliate at any moment, to being one who looks for the best in my students, builds significant connections with them, and helps them learn to understand themselves and work with others.  Am I perfect?  Not by any means.  But I recognize that I'm on a journey and I'm enjoying the ride.  

Want to know more about this program that has made such a difference in my life?  I'll continue to talk about it here if for no other reason than it truly does impact my daily school life.  But it's something that excites me, especially since I'm blessed to have a school PTA that is so supportive that it is sending me and another teacher to the Conscious Discipline institute this summer in Florida.  But also, feel free to do some exploring on your own.  The CD website is a great starting point.  The CD YouTube channel is a great resource, too.  The "Becoming the Best You Can Be" webinar series is very informative, and the "Managing Emotional Mayhem - Conscious Comedy Skits" clips hit home in a way that will have you laughing while you identify your own childhood influences.  

Will you join me in the journey?

1 comment:

  1. My heart goes out to that sweet girl. She is so lucky to go to a school where conscious discipline is part of everyday life. So very proud of you Rachel. You are a wonderful teacher and a lovely human being.