Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Emotional Intelligence in The Classroom

In my most recent blog post, I wrote about my new favorite book, No Drama Discipline , the concepts presented in the book and how I apply it to to my work with children. You can read that here. Today, I am excited to share my experiences I’ve had talking with the children at the preschool house about the inner workings of their brains.

I’ll start by introducing a couple of  our characters. There’s “Alerting Allie” who lets us know if our body is in danger. Make way for “Flexible Fred” who helps us compromise with our friends. After introducing these  characters and their feelings, the kids set up the brain-house: putting the downstairs below and the upstairs on top. Alerting Allie lives downstairs to keep us safe, but Problem Solving Pete lives upstairs to make sure we are making the right choices.  I lay the basis of the storyline with the kids to help them grasp the idea of how our brain works, explaining that the downstairs folks need to send messages up the ladder to the upstairs characters so the brain is able to do what it is supposed to do when everyone is working together. 

Our brain  supports us with the ability to manage, vocalize, and identify  feelings that help us make good choices, get along with our friends and self soothe to help us get out of sticky situations. Adding conflict in the story is a great way for the children to creatively brainstorm ideas about resolution in which they feel pride and ownership, which will in turn foster more motivation about actively applying these new tools. I add in dialogue like: “Oh no! Alerting Allie spots some danger! Frightened Felix panicked and now we don't know where we are going. Boss Bootsy sounded the alarm to prepare our body for danger. He shouts ‘the downstairs are the leaders now! Our upstairs friends can work together again when we are safe!. ” 

This is Bootsy (our downstairs brain) flipping the lid on the upstairs brain. This means the stairs are no longer connected and our messages from downstairs won't make it to the upstairs, causing all kinds of commotion in our brain house. Sometimes flipping the lid is what keeps our bodies safest. Bootsy signals other parts of our body to either turn on or off; for example our downstairs brain can help warm up our muscles so we are able to run really  fast, or help keep our body super still to keep quiet. When storytelling with the children I tend to keep this part very light, using examples that won’t actually happen (so we can imagine these ideas in a playful way!). “What would Alerting Allie do if you met a dinosaur on the playground?”

We all sometimes flip our lids (even teachers!), and I’ll  remind the children of this, again in a light tone. “One time I was looking for my pen and I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE! I kept looking in the same place because my downstairs brain took over and flipped my lid so my brain wasn’t working properly”. Sometimes our downstairs brain gets it wrong, and  we flip our lids when we actually still need the upstairs gang. Although we all flip our lids, children tend to flip their lids a lot more than we do as adults. I remind them how much practice we have using Problem Solving Pete and Calming Carl and that’s why you don’t see grownups laying on the supermarket floor screaming for chocolate (hopefully),  even though grownups love chocolate just as much as children do. In addition to this reminder I use examples from my day with them when I worked with Problem Solving Pete or Calming Carl. "Earlier when I went outside I was so frustrated because I forgot my coffee. I wanted to scream, but I talked to Pete and he reminded me I could still go get it. Calming Carl then helped me breathe slower and my heart stopped pounding so fast."

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