Mindfulness in Warren: Linda Lantieri Speaks to Watchung Hills Staff on Social and Emotional Learning

WARREN, NJ - Keynote Speaker Linda Lantieri, co-founder and Senior Program Advisor for Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), urged teachers at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) to not only teach with a more fundamental awareness of the social and emotional influences on students’ readiness to learn, but also to blend practices into their classroom  routines that create environments more likely to stimulate student readiness to learn.

Lantieri addressed the faculty and administrators on Tuesday,Sept. 5, as WHRHS kicked off its 2017-2018 school year with two days of teacher preparation, Tuesday, Sept. 5, and Wednesday, Sept. 6. 

Guest speaker Lantieri started her talk by saying how delighted she was to have arrived at WHRHS early enough to hear some of the opening remarks by WHRHS Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, Principal George Alexis and Director of Human Resources and Professional Development Beth Scheiderman, and to attend the year-opening staff luncheon BBQ just prior to giving her remarks.

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“What a lucky group of educators you are,” she said about the WHRHS staff.  

The WHRHS team of administrators, teachers and staff impressed her as a spirited and energetic group, who are eager to start the new school year, she said. The staff appeared to her tohave high expectations and positive attitudes about giving students opportunities to learn and succeed, as well as a real sense of being on a team. All that is essential for learning to take place, she said.

She added she hoped that once the teachers heard what she had to share about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), the WHRHS teachers would find, as other teachers she has spoken to have found, that the ideas and practices espoused could without a lot of effort become a “natural part of your own pedagogy.” 

Throughout her talk, Lantieri referenced numerous leading-edge works about SEL. She highlighted in particular the 1995 New York Times best seller “Emotional Intelligence,” by Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence is about the growing understanding of the importance of emotions in student receptivity to hear and readiness to learn. She also shared concepts about the greater understanding of how stress can hinder learning and receptivity. This is a subject also discussed in the 2000 work, “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives,” by Wayne Muller, she said.

All these concepts are particularly pertinent in the education of high school students, where access to their ability to focus, to really hear, to memorize and to really grasp and integrate concepts, can be hijacked, or conversely heightened, depending upon the student’s relative SEL condition at any particular time, Lantieri said.

Students, indeed everyone including teachers, can and must train their brains to focus, Lantieri said. This is particularly challenging these days, given the fact that the average student is theorized to routinely have as many as 30,000 thoughts in a day.

Other teachers have found that one practical strategy that works, according to Lantieri, has been to create optimum conditions for student learning by adopting three relatively simple practices to each class period: Have a “Welcoming Ritual,” with activities for inclusion; employ “Engaging Practices,” including academic integration sense-making, transitions and “brain breaks;” and have an “Optimistic Closing,” including a time for reflections and for looking forward.”

“Ms. Lantieri’s presentation addressed how teachers and students can actively cultivate self-care strategies and teaching strategies that focus on improving attention, balancing emotions and building positive relationships,” Superintendent Jewett said. “She focused on practices that build inner strength and greater resiliency in both adults and students. The goal of this initial session was to provide a foundation of knowledge and skills we can utilize and build upon throughout the year. We are grateful she was able to spend so much time with WHRHS staff as we embark on the 2017-2018 school year.”

More About Linda Lantieri

Linda Lantieri is a cofounder of the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program. She is a former New York City Public Schools teacher and administrator, and she is editor of “Schools with Spirit: Nurturing the Inner Lives of Children and Teachers.” She has worked in the field of education for more than 40 years in a variety of capacities: Classroom teacher, assistant principal, director of a middle school in East Harlem, and faculty member at Hunter College in New York City. She is a Fulbright Scholar and internationally known speaker in the areas of Social and Emotional Learning, Contemplative Teaching and Learning and Mindfulness in Education. She is also core faculty of the Spirituality Mind Body Intensive M.A. Degree Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, and has been involved with designing and leading the concentration in K-12 education since its beginning in 2014.

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