Snow days, early dismissal days, late arrival days, all add up this time of year and make any sort of school routine hard to find. The boys, and their teachers, struggle to feel settled, and part of the school day can be spent reestablishing routines. Having a time in the day that feels familiar and comforting has many educational as well as psychological benefits according to the research. This has been evident to me especially during these disruptive weeks of indoor recess and arrival changes.
This week, I read an article through my Twitter network and quickly recommended it to my followers. It expressed the need for rituals and discussed how occasional and purposeful pauses can lead to better concentration. This Edutopia article is linked below.
One idea presented by the author is that, “the key to ritual is to shift attention from whatever the previous activity was to the new task at hand.” An example of this at Gilman would be our morning handshakes. Each child is greeted at the door as they enter school in the morning. They are then welcomed by their homeroom teacher with a handshake and comment before the day gets underway. This provides a transition from the comfort of the family car or the activity of the playground to the learning environment.
Many of our teachers have been trained in the methodology of the Responsive Classroom. It is too complicated to go into in this blog entry, however the philosophy behind the program is to build community through ritual and routine. Ashley Dagenais has held “morning meetings” for years in her third grade classroom. The boys learn this simple, yet sophisticated routine early in the school year. They understand the importance of positive communication, listening, and sharing. They also learn to take ownership of the process, developing leadership skills one week and compassionate teammate skills the next.
This week our pre-first boys have continued their practice of yoga techniques as a ritual to explore calmness and mindfulness. Taking a rare break from classwork and academic exploration, they found time last week to break from ritual with a session of sledding on the Alpine Tower field. This activity provide what the author calls a “ceremonial pause” that can lead to “increasing productivity in the academic sphere.” It also just looks like good fun! See the video below and follow the link to an article in The Atlantic about the advantages of teaching yoga and mindfulness in school.
The Huffington Post article below outlines some ways that parents may teach mindful habits at home. Taking time to breathe, time to reflect, or time just to “be” can make a big difference in childhood stress. Our counselor, Laura Jordan, teaches some meditation or “quietness” techniques to our boys here at school. You may find that your son is already aware of the power of “pausing”.
Dr. Webster and I were talking about this subject earlier in the day. He pointed out that finding and teaching routines is an essential part of educating a child. Teachers are hoping to build habits of mind, body, and spirit that stay with our students for a lifetime.
Enjoy the rituals and pauses that come your way this weekend. Hopefully they will provide thoughts about how these moments can become useful tools for you and your sons as you purposely include them in your family’s lives. Here at Gilman, we will be looking for more ways to build routines and rituals into our hectic days in order to help the boys remain centered on learning and focused on what makes them happy.
I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.
- If you are in Kindergarten- What did you learn this week about animals and hibernation? What have you turned your loft area into for the winter months?
- If you are in Pre-First- How much fun did you have sledding down the hill by the Alpine Tower last Friday? How did you make your “hiding bear” sculpture? What do animals do in winter?
- If you are in First Grade- Did you enjoy reading your mitten story to your classmates and their parents? Did you have a favorite story that another friend wrote?
- If you are in Second Grade- What did you write about in your story about making just one wish?
- If you are in Third Grade- How is your Native American report coming along? What was the theme of the symphony performance you attended?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- Did you enjoy the symphony performance on Friday?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- Have you finished your dissenter essay? How did you react to the story of the Holocaust survivor that came to talk this week? How was her story different from the first speaker?