Creating School Environments that Inspire Confidence, Kindness, and Mindfulness
Kranz Junior High School’s (KJHS) faculty and staff do a great job of encouraging health and wellness within the student body. As a Communities In Schools® (CIS®) of Bay Area Site Coordinator, I work with the counselors often to think of different topics to discuss in weekly lunch groups that meet on Mondays and Fridays and in my virtual character lessons.
That lunch group specifically does worksheets and problem-solving activities that focus on their social and emotional wellness. Some favorite topics include emotion regulation, communication stations, dealing with disappointments, feel wheels, and worry scales.
I use the “feel wheels” circular graph as a starting point for understanding hard emotions. The wheel has core basic emotions at the center: happiness, sadness, fear, trust, anger, etc. The outer edges give less intense variants of those core emotions, like irritation, disappointment, loneliness, etc. The graph helps the students explain the intensity of their feelings, or how feelings can blend together.
The worry scale is a way for students to rate their worry on a 5 point scale. Once they rate their scale, we can work out a solution together. I use the worry scales most when I see a student is distressed and can’t explain it. The visual graph helps form the right words for what they are feeling.
I use the feel wheel and worry scale as a way to check-in with my students. They are both useful tools for building self-awareness and it makes it easier for students to express themselves.
Each 9 weeks, I put together a character lesson video called, “Model Mindfulness.” I focus on the core competencies of social-emotional learning (SEL). I talk through crucial skills for developing emotional intelligence regarding self-expression and relationships. These virtual lessons also have Q&A’s at the end, so that students can share their experiences/opinions or struggles with CIS. It is my hope that these videos support the students in every facet of their lives, especially while they are enrolled at KJHS!
Model Mindfulness has been helpful for students to go over topics that are unique to their age and their school. The Q&A sessions are usually open-ended. Depending on the topic, I ask about situations that they have had to deal with at school. For instance, bullying, disrespecting others, social awareness, etc. Students tend to be vague, or only share small parts of their experiences, but I always want them to feel like they have the space to share, even if it’s uncomfortable!
A student I had this past semester really opened up with the Q&A’s and that helped the other students open up as well. Other questions that I’d ask include: “What are other ways we can show respect to others while at school?” or “What is the hardest thing about being bullied?”
I also turn the Q&A around and have the students ask me questions as well. Doing that gives them the space to think of hard questions that they may not know how to answer. Some students have asked questions like, “What do you do if you’re being cyberbullied?” and “What if I believe that respect is earned?” I remember those types of questions started big conversations in the group. The students loved deeper conversations!
I also have a “Take What You Need/Give What You Can” bulletin board, where students can grab an inspirational quote that can encourage them when they need positivity during their school day. I help the student identify their need, think of solutions and how to ask for what they need. Once their need is met, I challenge them to show that kindness to others at school, by giving them the same support. It helps my students understand how to ask for help with confidence and how to help others who might need a helping hand, too.
I am really enjoying working on health and wellness activities and getting to help our students at KJHS!