Yay! On February 8th, we presented at High School North, across the road from Community Middle School, to teachers from all around the district. We organized our team into six groups: mindful coloring, yoga, meditation, time management, volunteering and empathy, and relationship skills. Each of these groups is a crucial part of social-emotional health, and in each presentation, we offered tips on reducing stress.
In order to help both students and teachers to better identify and manage their emotions, as well as to have a moment of relaxation in a busy day, we led sessions on simple yoga and deep breathing. The goal of this was to momentarily calm the body and mind. Yoga puts all the other things going on in your life on “pause” and allows you to simply let go. We trained the teachers on chair yoga, as to make it easy to infuse a few moves into their classroom routine, and disused good times to do so, such as at the start of the day, or before a test. This was received with an encouragingly open mind from the teachers, many of whom said they would either try it privately or share it with their class. Students told us that these simple stretches provided a chance to move after being stuck in a desk all day. “It brings clarity”, the yoga club told us. “I can focus better after spending some time in a yoga pose”.
Journaling: In order to promote self-awareness, we led sessions on gratitude journaling for gaining perspective and meditation to care for the mind. Our group also taught others about art journaling in the classroom and to de-stress at home. Journaling is an excellent tool that reframes your mindset, gets you back into a healthy point of view, and leaves you ready to take on the world. We found that everyone experienced a calming of the mind, body, and spirit..
Volunteering: Volunteering provides perspective and helps you feel like you are contributing to your society. We watched and discussed Dr. Brene Brown’s empathy video and brainstormed ways teachers can encourage their classes to participate in community service to develop a sense of empathy. Empathy is a win-win: you feel better and the person you’re comforting feels better. Also, volunteering is fun in general! You meet new friends, develop social skills, and create bonds. The Golden Rule that we were all taught in elementary school still rings true in middle school and in life. We need treat others as we would like to be treated. Empathy is a “life ready” trait.
Time Management: Whether being distracted on our devices, suffering from priority paralysis, or simply not efficiently planning our time, we all feel overwhelmed when the deadline arrives. We presented sessions on changing our mindset to work on our projects a little each day and how can we use technology to help us stay organized. We also lead our participants through a bridge building exercise in which you list out your current situation, your ideal situation, and the actions you need to take in order to bridge the gap. This helps people focus on actionable steps toward success and can be used by students and adults. Deadlines are a reality and we are helping our peers find ways to meet them without procrastination taking over.
Relationship Skills: Friends, family, and peers. They’re everywhere in life. How we react around these people decides the type of relationship we have with them. We researched how to build and maintain good relationships. How did we do this? First, we organized drum circles for students and teachers. We also played games like UNO and Monopoly. If you don’t have the ability to organize a drum circle in your school, you can still take the time every once and a while to play a board or card game. These games exercise the mind and help build relationships. We all benefit from the release of oxytocin in the brain when bonding with others. Many middle school students lack the skill set to build strong relationships and that is why we chose to organize bonding activities.
There are more pictures of our presentations on the site, in our digital scrapbook. We hope to spread the word further by presenting to even more teachers, and try to share more tips to students and teachers alike.