NYSUT's Journal of Best Practices in Education · Volume VII, Spring 2014
Considerable attention is currently focused on developing students' cognitive skills, on looking at outcomes, at products of learning, and things that can be measured. But developing the ability to understand self and others, to manage our feelings, to express emotions, and to listen well, leads to the cultivation of deeper attention and empathy while strengthening the ability to reason, understand, and interpret new information. The development of these qualities can benefit students as individuals and as members of an increasingly collaborative and diverse society. These are lifelong skills and teachers are poised to help students acquire them.
The authors in this issue examine a variety of topics and offer related classroom practices connected to social-emotional learning and physical well-being. They explore reflective writing and socially responsive media. They raise awareness about bullying, and offer advice for coping with test anxiety. They include ways to use mindfulness techniques like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation to reduce stress, increase attention, and cultivate a positive school climate. All together the articles in this volume remind us that learning can include the creation of caring classroom communities in any setting.
Learn more about Educator's Voice, NYSUT's journal of best practicies in education online at www.nysut.org/educatorsvoice.
Table of Contents
Mindfulness techniques help students and teachers focus inwardly on reducing stress, developing clear attention, and interacting more positively with others. This group of authors present a research-based discussion on the benefits of teaching deep breathing, intention setting, and yoga to build students' repertoires of mindfulness skills that support social and emotional development and physical well-being. ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Valerie Lovelace is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) doing professional development at the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center for Effective Teaching. She is also a member of the South Colonie Teachers Association. Amanda Eilenfeld is a teaching assistant at Westmere Elementary School and a member of the Capital Region BOCES Faculty Association. Mary Francese teaches special education at Scotia-Glenville Middle School and is a member of the Capital Region BOCES Faculty Association.
The Caring Majority program teaches sixth graders to be ambassadors who become helpful allies to their peers in a school- wide effort to eradicate bullying. Each cohort of trained caring majority ambassadors helps its younger counterparts to collaborate in creating a more harmonious school climate. ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Karen Siris is the principal at WS Boardman Elementary School in Oceanside, NY. She is the author of STAND UP! a children's picture book that promotes "upstanding" behaviors. Cherie Meyers teaches second grade at WS Boardman Elementary School in Oceanside, NY. She is a member of the Oceanside Federation of Teachers.
Kinesthetic learning is demystified through this author's insightful discussion on movement as a method for meaningful learning in the classroom. She explores the language of movement, provides clear examples of its use through specific activities, and draws important connections between movement and social-emotional learning. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joy Guarino is an assistant professor of dance at Buffalo State University and a member of United University Professions.
These authors present a portrait of the Ditmas News Network; a program that promotes culturally responsive media and provides students with enriching opportunities to investigate, analyze, and report real news stories to an authentic audience of peers, teachers, and school leaders. DNN anchors tackle tough stories, near and far, and always with an eye towards cultural sensitivity and an unyielding commitment to make stories relevant to the student body at IS 62. ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Rose Reissman is a member of the Literacy Support, Research and Story Ideas Guidance Team at Ditmas Intermediate School 62. Angelo Carideo is a technology specialist and social studies teacher at Ditmas Intermediate School 62. David Liotta teaches social studies and media studio at Ditmas Intermediate School 62. Michael Downes teaches 8th grade social studies and digital media at Ditmas Intermediate School 62. Danielle Schallachi is a 6th grade exploratory guidance counselor at Ditmas Intermediate School 62. Michelle Meyers is a 7th and 8th grade guidance counselor at Ditmas Intermediate School 62. June VonGizycki is an 8th grade high school articulation guidance counselor at Ditmas Intermediate School 62.
This empathy-based approach to memoir writing fosters social and emotional learning, while enhancing listening and narrative writing skills, as students learn how to convey stories of the challenges they face. It comes with a toolkit based on the simple notion of daring an imaginary "stranger/reader" to care, which is very accessible — and therefore quite replicable — in working with students for whom other approaches have failed to bring mastery or ignite a spark. ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Erika Duncan is the founder and executive and artistic director of Herstory Writer's Workshop, based in Centereach, Long Island. Felicia Cooper-Prince teaches English at Hempstead High School. A member of the Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association, Cooper-Prince has used her training to become a powerful memoir writer in her own right. Margaret O'Connell, a retired member of the United Federation of Teachers, is the principal of the Sharing and Caring Diploma Program for Pregnant and Parenting Girls of Long Beach Reach. Since 2012, she has used the dare to care approach with the homeless and gang involved teen mothers in her charge. Bonnie Thivierge is a retired high school English teacher and member of the Smithtown Teachers Association. She has worked with Herstory as a writer, observer, evaluator and co-teacher. Learn more at www.nysut.org/writingforjustice.
Positive affirmations, guided imagery, and deep breathing have been found effective at improving students' and teachers' social-emotional health and physical well-being. The authors describe their approach to teaching mindfulness through meditation combined with a values curriculum in which students are guided towards examining and exploring their own values and behaviors to build a culture reflective of 'peace, respect, cooperation, and responsibility.' ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Madeline Crocitto is a full professor in the School of Business at SUNY College at Old Westbury in Old Westbury, NY and a member of United University Professions. Naintara Vaid is an associate professor in the sociology department at SUNY College at Old Westbury in Old Westbury, NY. Donna LoPiccolo is an AP administrator at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services in New York City.
Test anxiety is sometimes an unintended consequence influencing our current school climate as states and districts rely more and more on the use of testing data to drive decision making. These authors discuss the atmosphere of testing and its impact on students' emotional well-being. They also suggest some practical ways to help students and teachers cope with anxiety that results from the pressures of mandated annual testing. ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Barry Daub is principal of P.S. M811, Mickey Mantle School. Brian Joyce, a member of the United Federation of Teachers, is a school social worker at P.S. M811.
These two authors explain how mindfulness techniques can be used to decrease test anxiety. Relaxation, deep breathing, and visualization are easy methods to master and can be used by students and adults of all ages. ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Peter Faustino is a school psychologist, member of the Bedford Teachers Association and president of the New York Association of School Psychologists. He is a graduate of Fordham University where he earned his Ph.D. in psychology. Tom Kulaga is a school psychologist at Marlboro Middle School and a member of the Marlboro Faculty Association. He holds an M.S. degree in education from Brooklyn College, national certification as a school psychologist, and diplomate status in school-neuropsychology. He is past-president of the New York Association of School Psychologists, webmaster of www.nyasp.org, and serves as adjunct instructor for the School Psychology Program at Marist College.
The reality of cyberbullying and its far-reaching effects are described in this author's cautionary review of the many ways that cyberbullies pervade the landscape in our schools. This author presents an overview of the digital footprint, explores some of the reasons for cyberbullying, and offers tips for schools on its prevention. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Sharoff is a teacher on special assignment in Ellenville, NY and a member of the Ellenville Teachers Association.