As I look back at my major project, I am very happy with the learning that has taken place for myself, but more importantly, for my students. As noted in my first post, the aim of my project was to work with a group of grade 3/4 students on understanding their mental health and developing coping strategies.
One of the best parts of this project was exploring the Microsoft Teams Reflect app. Our students began each day checking in on their devices. The Reflect app gives them a visual and written description of a wide variety of emotions. Once students choose their emotions, teachers are able to see their entire class’ feelings on their dashboard. It provides a great snapshot of how everyone is feeling that day. This lets us know first thing in the morning who we need to check in with to see why they are feeling outside of the green zone.
As you can see it also shows their emotions from previous days, allowing you to track patterns. You can also see the most common emotions of the day.
This morning check in was extremely valuable. If I had one recommendation to teachers after this entire experience, it would be to use this app as a morning check in. It is extremely user friendly and only takes a minute to do. The information gained from it though, sets you up for the entire day.
One of the other main parts of my project was the development of three surveys. One for our primary students, one for our middle years students, and one for our parents. You can learn more about the surveys here. The purpose of these surveys was to gather some detailed information from our students and families, and turn that information into tangible action. I appreciated the participation and information we received as it has helped us to make decisions to better support our students. Perhaps the biggest tangible action has been implemented with our grade 6-8s. Many of them told us they did not like recess as that less supervised time was when conflict and inappropriate things were happening. They also told us we weren’t offering programs that hit the arts. So we decided to open our library at recess as a safe space for them to use their talents. It has been a hit! You can find kids drawing, playing chess, playing cards, practicing magic tricks, playing guitars, doing mathletics…at any given recess. I think this opportunity has allowed kids to grow friendships and explore their talents…which contributes to improved mental health.
The main goal of my project was for kids to learn a variety of coping strategies. Tools that they could use when they were feeling out of the green zone. The green zone is part of the Zones of Regulation, which is the first regulation technique we learned about, and became the basis of our language. When we spoke of further regulation strategies, we always used the language associated with the zones – what zone are you in right now – green, yellow, red zone. In a way I wanted to bombard them with strategies. I knew this came with a risk of overwhelming them, but I think it was laid out well enough for them to understand – you might have to try 10 things before you find one that works well for you – so we’re going to try a bunch of different things.
On that end, my students were amazing. They understood that some things were going to work for them and other things, not so much. At the same time, they knew that if something wasn’t for them, it might be just what somebody else needed. So they were always respectful and supportive of each other. Here is a quick rundown of the strategies we tried:
- Breathing strategies – counting, tracing finger, smell the flower blow out the candle, box breaths…
- Creating music playlists that calm us
- Guided muscle relaxation
As part of a school wide Wellness Day (which just happened to fit right into my project – coincidence, I think not!) students were also able to experience:
- Art therapy
- Dance therapy
- Laughter therapy
I am very happy with the wide range of strategies my students were exposed to. There is one more that we will get to in the coming weeks – working on a growth mindset. I believe this one will be very effective.
So what were the positives of my project? Well there are many. Personally, I exposed myself to a number of new resources that I will be able to use throughout my career. I don’t think mental health and emotional regulation challenges are going away any time soon. I am able to understand my students better now. I have a better idea of what makes them tick, what makes them upset and unsettled, and I have an idea of what to recommend to them to help them get refocused. Most importantly, my students have learned and grown. They have a deeper understanding of themselves and have built a toolbox of strategies to use when they are out of the green zone. When asked in a short closing survey, they overwhelmingly told me they understood their emotions more and were able to control their more than when we started a few short months ago. Success!!!
Where do I go from here? Well, there are things I still want to do with this group of students. I want to continue exploring new strategies. Particularly, I would like to explore some strategies using technology – perhaps diving further into relaxation videos and music, and exploring some mindfulness apps. From there the goal will be to move this project into other classrooms. I truly believe there is serious value in what was accomplished and more students and teachers need to be exposed to this type of work. Hopefully I can play a leadership role in that process.
Thanks for following along on my journey. Hopefully you were able to learn something along the way!