Time Out On Screen Time?Top of Page

Like it or not, our screens aren’t going away. They are very much a part of our world today. You’re reading one now. But unlike our children, our brains have fully developed. There’s plenty of info out there on screen time’s effects on children. With the holidays approaching, it’s as good a time as ever to stay informed!

SEL at Woodside SchoolTop of Page

SEL, or Social Emotional Learning, is woven throughout the curriculum and hence the fabric of our community’s culture at Woodside as early as preschool. As our students move through the elementary and middle school grades, the program remains an important focus in the classroom. We believe it's one of the reasons our students not only thrive but also enjoy their time at school.

Maurice Elias, a Psychology Professor at Rutgers University and Director of the university's Social-Emotional Learning Lab, describes SEL as the process through which we learn to recognize and manage emotions, care about others, make good decisions, behave ethically and responsibly, develop positive relationships and avoid negative behaviors.

Most schools refer to this definition and while most parents would gladly accept their children developing all of those skills, there are even more benefits to SEL instruction in schools including increased academic performance, fewer behavioral problems, less emotional distress, and enhanced prospects for college attendance, employment, civic participation and life-long health.

You can see why the teachers at Woodside embrace SEL throughout our campus notwithstanding the fact that teachers with SEL skills are more likely to display higher job satisfaction as well. Many of our teachers were trained at Nueva’s SEL institute.

Here are some of the many ways that SEL is woven into the curriculum throughout our school:

  • At Woodside, SEL teaches the skills students need to “know yourself”, “choose yourself”, and “give yourself”. These skills include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. These skills allow children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices. At the monthly Wednesday line-up, students in the lower grades are presented with Paw of Praise certificates recognizing how they have positively implemented SEL practices.
  • Teachers are encouraged to involve the children in creating classroom agreements and have regular “check-in’s” for identifying emotions, problem solving and conflict resolution.
  • Teachers discuss “expected and unexpected” behaviors and encourage children to use their social toolboxes to figure out how to solve problems.
  • Teachers often choose literature with social and emotional themes that encourage classroom discussions and incorporate SEL themes into their on-going lessons.
  • Mindfulness, breathing techniques, and deescalating strategies are reviewed with children regularly.
  • Middle schoolers’ Open Session focuses on SEL skills such as conflict management with peers, family, and teachers as well as appreciating differences, managing stress with prep for high school, and guided meditation.
  • Buddy benches (a place for children to sit when they need a friend) on campus encourage inclusion and open expression of emotions.

We all want our children to do their best academically in school. When emotions are brought to the forefront in classrooms, children are more at ease and better able to focus and attend to their studies. Learning how to manage emotions and solve problems are skills we all need throughout life. SEL at Woodside creates better students and better human beings today and tomorrow.  

Additional Resources:

http://www.instituteforsel.org/why-sel
https://emsofl.com/blog/four-major-benefits-socialemotional-learning/
https://www.edutopia.org/social-emotional-learning-history

If you have any questions regarding the SEL program at Woodside School, please contact SEL leads Lindsay Pierce and Bev Iverson or Tom Limbert.

Mindful Breathing Top of Page

For many parents, the holiday season can be a beyond-busy season. It brings a mixture of excitement and trepidation — so much to do, so little time. There is a good reason that “hustle and bustle” and “Christmas rush” are our culture’s December colloquialisms. An unwanted add to our stress is that our children pick up on the adult energy around them and they too can feel frazzled. Practicing mindfulness is one simple way to settle our minds and tend to our hearts as we approach the winter holidays. 
 
Mindfulness gives us a way to take a brief “time out” from the list making, worry, and the frantic state that too often goes hand in hand with holiday preparations and celebrations. While there are many definitions for mindfulness, I tend to think of it as clearing your mind of distractions and directing your attention to the here and now, without judgment. 

When we are mindful, we are more calm and can achieve clarity. Research shows that regular mindfulness practice can help to reduce stress, enhance concentration, improve memory and support overall well-being. One of the easiest ways to introduce children to mindfulness is by teaching them the power of their breath. While there are many tools we teach students related SEL, the breath is the most primary and effective way of self-regulating. Taking a deep breath, as simple as it may seem, may be one of the most valuable lessons that we can both learn and teach.

“Belly Breathing” is Key (aka Diaphragmatic breathing)
Diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing or deep breathing is breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the thoracic cavity and abdominal cavity. Air enters the lungs and the belly expands during this type of breathing.This type of breathing is crucial in order for breathing to help calm the body and mind. Belly breathing contrasts the rapid, shallow breathing we tend to do when tense or anxious. 

How to Breathe with Your Diaphragm 
Lie down on your back on a comfortable surface or on the floor with a pillow under your knees. Place a book on your abdomen, near your belly button, or place one of your hands on your belly. (For younger children, you might try using small stuffed animal in place of a book.) As you inhale, allow your stomach to push against the weight of the book. The book (or stuffed animal) should lift with the inhalation. As you exhale, allow the pressure of the book to push your stomach in. Continue to exhale and let your stomach fall until you have expired the air. Repeat for a few minutes or up ten minutes. Allow the air to flow evenly and slowly. Remember to breath slowly and if your attention drifts, bring it back to observing your breath and the movement of the abdomen. 
 
 Try This At Home
  • Hug someone tight and take 3 big belly breaths together. Notice out loud how you each felt before and after. Repeat daily! 
  • Take a mindful minute each morning and each evening as a family. 
  • Try a mindfulness or meditation app with one of your children such as Insight Timer or HeadSpace. 
     

Additional Resources

When was the last time you did nothing for 10 minutes?
Andy Puddicombe, founder of HeadSpace, gives an inspirational TED talk about the rejuvenating power of taking 10 mindful minutes each day.

Cute Sesame Street Belly Breathing Video for Young Children

How-teach-your-child-calm-breathing

Erik Peper, professor of Holistic Health at San Francisco State, is a world expert in the mind body connection. He often teaches and write about the ways in which mindful breathing can prevent and treat a variety of physiological and psychological disorders. Click here to learn more.