I am very interested in the student's social emotional well being. I also understand that in order to be successful in school or elsewhere a child's social and emotional health directly impacts their learning and pretty much all other areas of life. It basically sets the stage for academic, social and career growth. It is an important focus of our classroom. It is one of the things I love the most about teaching these children. SEL is the outside in approach - I teach a skill, observe them practicing/using the skill then move onto teaching another set of skills, practicing and observing.
I have learned that many adults believe the 'typical' child learns these SEL skills out of thin air. ( by observing and noticing social cues etc.) Many think my students need direct instruction in this area due to their 'disability' and difficulties with understanding social cues. My students DO need direct instruction, practice and an integrated well thought out planned approach. But, I have learned that most children benefit and many need direct instruction, practice and guidance in these areas. These skills should be taught directly, intentionally embedded and integrated through out the school day. There is so much research and growing awareness that these skills are critical for growth & positive well being of our kids. I would say it is equally, maybe, more important than academic achievement.
Now, there is also a great deal of research and evidence that points to the effectiveness of Mindfulness. It is a buzz word that has morphed into many subtle shifts in meaning, practice and understanding. It is basically the efforts and practice to become more aware and less reactive . It is the inside out work we do to build self awareness, regulation and increase our ability to respond vs react to a given situation/experience. By helping children become more aware and comfortable with the connections between their thoughts, body sensations, emotions, impulses etc. they become more able to self regulate, slow down enough to 'pause' before reacting.
SEL and Mindfulness are different areas that when combined make a powerful method for learning.
So for example, a student may know the words or strategy taught in pirate club ( SEL class) but struggle with self control or strong emotions. Or conversely a child may know how to use self calming strategies but not have the skills or understanding on how to problem solve a situation they find themselves in.
I have seen and experienced student growth in areas like compassion, kindness, social relationships, self awareness and regulation. I have witnessed children using SEL strategies right after I see them 'hook up' or do the 5 star breathing.
I saw the PAUSE and then their response.
These are children so they are learning what responses work well based on the situation. But I see the pause, their understanding grow, the conversations and discussions deepening over time, the ability to express their thoughts and feelings. I see an increase in understanding that others may have a different perspectives.
I know the time I take to integrate, practice and embed SEL & Mindfulness creates the conditions to learn the academics and much more.
Welcome to my Classroom!
I am passionate, a little bit quirky ( some may say a little bit more) and dedicated to serving children with Autism. These young people have touched me deeply and have made me a better teacher & hopefully person. I want to share what I have learned that allows these beautiful children to grow & sometimes thrive in my class.
I begin my 26th year of teaching this year! I teach in the Bay Area and live in the beautiful redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. My sanctuary, place of reflection and daily sitting practice.
My hope is that this website/blog will help others understand and see children with Autism as talented unique thinkers who can and will contribute to our world and anyone who knows them in positive ways.