Shifting from Schools to Community – a Coach’s Perspective on Mindfulness and SEL in Action
Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, some of the people most impacted are students and children. School closures mean children are now stuck at home and required to learn through online platforms. Students are unable to see friends face-to-face or interact with teachers and caring adults from outside their homes in person. At the very least, every child’s routine has been disrupted, often leaving children unsure, anxious, and stressed. With this new learning system, all of the skills Dreamline Coaches have worked on in social-emotional learning (SEL) and mindfulness trainings are increasingly important in keeping students grounded and helping them manage stress and anxiety.
These past several weeks have been a great opportunity for The Sanneh Foundation Dreamline staff to improve their social-emotional learning and mindfulness skills in preparation for a return to classroom support in the future. These skills are vital for the students we work with, given their diverse backgrounds and experiences. Even staff have found great benefit in the skills taught during these unprecedented times.
Recently, I had the opportunity to put these new skills in action. On Monday, I helped with district-provided emergency childcare services. As I was preparing to leave the building after my shift, I came upon a young girl, clearly hiding from other staff. I approached her and asked her what was going on. She explained that she had gotten mad and left her classroom, then asked me to sit with her for a while. While we were sitting there, I asked her to explain more of why she had left her classroom, and she explained that she was feeling nervous, but the teacher or staff in her room had asked her to sit down. She felt too nervous to sit, so she chose to leave instead. As we talked, I shared some of the skills that I had recently learned through our trainings. I taught her how to breathe in for three seconds and breathe out for four seconds. I had her try this with me for a minute, then I had her try this on her own. By this time, she was smiling and seeming to feel much better. Another staff member volunteered to take her on a walk around the building before she returned to class. The girl’s behavior had completely shifted from closed off and angry to upbeat and excited in the span of several minutes.
This breathing exercise, with short inhales and long exhales activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn lowers the heart rate and calms the body. The movement of taking a walk helps to eliminate remaining stress and tension by changing the environment and moving the body.
Now more than ever, maintaining a consistent routine and practicing mindfulness and SEL skills is vital as we adjust our lives to safely manage the ongoing epidemic. Moving forward, these skills will help Dreamline staff in our interactions with students both throughout and following this epidemic. Teaching students to be in control of their stress, anxiety, and emotions is a vital tool in creating healthy adults. I am excited to see how my SEL and mindfulness skills will continue to improve my interactions with students moving forward.
Lydia- Dreamline Coach