Can I Be Loved?
I’ve been asked often lately, when discussing some of my favorite classroom strategies for creating a trauma-sensitive environment, “When should I do this mindfulness activity/meditation/laughter therapy?” The answer is really simple: Before you need it and at any other time you sense that students are having difficulty focusing or managing their behaviors.
Proactivity is always best -- In everything! When we have a strategy in place for home organization, diets, fitness, studying, gardening, car maintenance, etc., we will always achieve greater success. As we anticipate the future which includes the good and the problematic, we’re better able to prevent behaviors which will impede our progress. If my fridge is stocked with healthy foods and I have a plan lined our for my meals for the week, I’m much more likely to be able to resist that last-minute feeling of starvation which leads to a fast-food disaster. Just as sticking to a scheduled oil change prevents a catastrophic and expensive engine breakdown, so it goes with classroom management.
We know that we have students in our classes who have experienced trauma. We know these children need some specific interventions. Before they “have a moment” and make it obvious to the entire section that they need something from us, let’s provide that activity.
The great thing about these interventions is that most of them are really simple, quick, and fun! If this is the first post you’ve read of mine, take a look at some of the others and you’ll see that most of my interventions can be done with great efficacy in 2-3 minutes.
The best thing about the interventions I share is that they demonstrate that you value the students - which is why they are so effective.
In less that 5 minutes you can let all of your students, including the students who feel the most unloved in their home environments, know that they matter to you. Just the simple act of patting little Joey on the shoulder while you hand him a Jolly Rancher for a mindfulness activity lets him know that despite the insults hurled at him by his father, he might really be worthy of love.
In my readings this week I came across something that struck me as simple and heartbreakingly gorgeous; Ann Voskamp, in her book, Be The Gift, says, “No matter what anyone’s saying, everyone’s just asking if they can be loved.”
No matter how students appear; no matter how untidy they are, no matter how abrasive they are, no matter how confident their swagger, and no matter how withdrawn they seem, they are asking, “Can I be loved?”
By implementing specific strategies throughout the day, you are doing more than managing behaviors, preventing problems, and enlightening young minds. You are showing them that they CAN be LOVED! You are demonstrating that they are worthy of love.
Plan to start your day with a mindfulness activity. I start every class period with a strategy of some sort and I often have to pop in an additional activity 30 minutes later; with some classes I might not need an additional intervention. I usually like to wrap up a class period with a meditation or some sort of activity to get everyone centered, again, before leaving my class.
Often our lessons contain an activity which will help to center the students and nothing additional needs to be done. For example, your reading for the day might culminate with students completing an illustration of the setting of the story. If they are using finger paints, oil pastels, markers, and the like, then you’re providing them with not only a creative expression outlet but also a sensory experience which should help them to regulate.
Teachers, you are doing more than piquing curiosity and leading intellectual exploration. You are also teaching them the most valuable thing they’ll ever know; you’re helping every child you encounter to know, “I can be loved.”