Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Garden in My Mind – A Book Review

Have you ever had one of those school years?  You know, the kind that causes you to count down the days until summer?

Yeah, we've all had them.  This year, it’s the snow days causing a disruption in instruction, and the polar vortex forcing kids to have indoor recess rather than getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  It has not been good for my students’ physical or mental health.  Nor mine, either.

As I’m learning more about Mindfulness through a colleague who has been presenting weekly mini-workshops, I’m realizing how important it is for my own well-being, but just as important for the mental well-being of my students.

With all the interruptions this year due to the inclement weather, I’m feeling quite frustrated by the lack of practice in listening skills my students get.  Their reading and math skills are certainly important, and therefore take priority, but productive members of society need to have interpersonal skills.  They need to learn not just how to read, write and speak, but also to be able to listen

Listening is a skill that doesn't seem to come naturally to kids.  We implement Think, Pair, Share and Turn and Talk in our lessons to give our students an opportunity to share their thinking and interact with their peers.  They might pause at the appropriate time to give the other person time to verbalize their thought, but they don’t always truly listen.  They’re waiting for their turn to speak.  That’s it.  And it’s affecting their learning.  If they aren't really hearing what their classmates are saying, they’re missing out on an important part of their learning. 

My group this year has had great difficulty listening to others, as well as shutting out distractions.  The entire grade team has had the same difficulty.  We’re all in the same boat, but who has the paddle?  Well, I think I've found it!

I was recently asked to review a children’s book and teacher activity guide written by author and National Board Certified Teacher Stephie McCumbee.  Called The Garden in My Mind, Growing Through Positive Choices, the book and activity guide include lessons on social skills to help students not only recognize distractions, but learn how to ignore them through positive choices.  I jumped at the chance to integrate her ideas into my classroom!

Her books arrived at my door on the very same afternoon that I sat in my chair at the end of the day staring at the ceiling feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Coincidence?  I think not.  More like Providence.

I immediately opened them and searched for pearls of wisdom that I hadn't thought of before.  She separates by grade level, and has provided activities appropriate for kindergarten through second grade, and third through fifth grade. I love so many of Stephie’s ideas, and look forward to trying them out.  My favorite part?  With the guidance of the teacher, her lessons put the onus on students to become responsible for themselves and their behavior.

I plan on implementing her activity guide lessons this week and through state testing next week, and will post again to give an update on my success.  So check back here and at The Unique Classroom to see updates on my progress!

I’m thinking positively!


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