At LWGMS we focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) and mindfulness – two separate processes that work great when taught and learned together. One works from the outside-in, and the other works from the inside-out. When the two come together in the mind of a girl, the effect is powerful:
- Self awareness: Students’ self-awareness deepens when enhanced by the mindfulness practices of focusing attention and self-compassion.
- Self management: Mindfulness increases students’ emotion regulation skills, which enhances their ability to resolve conflict more creatively.
- Social awareness: Mindfulness increases students’ empathy by helping them to regulate their emotions rather than get emotionally overwhelmed when faced with a difficult situation.
- Relationship skills: Mindfulness increases compassion.
- Decision-making: Mindfulness increases cognitive flexibility and creativity, which gives students a wider range of responses to challenging situations.
ROOTS of EMPATHY
In 2014/2015, LWGMS's Class of 2017 was invited to participate in a wonderful program called Roots of Empathy – the pilot of the middle school version of this program in the Pacific Northwest. Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based school program that has shown significant effect in raising social emotional competence and increasing empathy; it has been in place for more than ten years across Canada and internationally and has engaged thousands of students in the elementary grades.
Once every three weeks, one of two babies visited the seventh grade class with their mother. A trained Roots of Empathy Instructor gathered the girls and together they witnessed the growth of these babies. The girls predicted (and cheered) when their Roots of Empathy babies reached their 'developmental milestones' of the first year: “She can roll over!” “She got her first tooth!” “She can sit up!” “She can crawl!!”
The Roots of Empathy Instructors coached the girls in observing the babies and reading the cues the baby gives as to how the baby was feeling: “Is the baby happy or sad?” “How can you tell?” The group used this discussion as a lever for the girls to talk about their own emotions and to understand how their classmates feel. The Roots of Empathy Instructors visited the classrooms before and after each Family Visit to prepare and reinforce teachings, using a specialized lesson plan for each visit.
This program continues today with the Class of 2018.