Resilience I Spy

Finding the Circle of Courage in Action

Start the New Year with a focus on resilience by teaching your students about the Circle of Courage. Then, challenge them to eye-spy the resilience model’s components in action. 

Circle of Courage: A Model of Resilience

This resilience model is easy to teach students of all ages.

We all have four universal needs. When these needs are met, we feel our best. But we will not feel our best if even one of the four universal needs is unmet. When even one is missing, we might feel sad, frustrated, worried, or angry. Let me tell you about the four universal needs. 

The first one is Belonging – we feel good when we feel like we belong. This can be at school with friends or at home with our families. We feel connected to other people when we feel a sense of belonging. 

The next universal need is Mastery. We feel good when we can accomplish and are good at something – this can be like solving a math problem, learning a new skill while playing a sport, or drawing a picture that makes us proud. 

Independence is the third universal need. This need is met when we control our emotions and behavior. This doesn’t mean we don’t get upset – it just means if we get upset, we know what to do to help ourselves feel better, so we don’t lose our temper or misbehave. 

The last universal need is generosity. We get this need met when we feel helpful and valuable to others. 

To review, we all need to feel like we belong or are connected to others, are good at something, can stay in control of our emotions and behavior even when we are upset, and feel like we are valuable to other people.

Offer your students an I Spy Challenge

As a fun way to start the new year, I am challenging you to a game of eye-spy. In this game, I want you to try to notice your classmates and me when we are getting any one or more of our universal needs met or helping another person obtain one of their needs.  

Whenever you notice the Circle of Courage in action, you can raise your hand and say, “Eye-Spy”. Then, you can tell us what you saw. For example, when a classmate greets another student when they enter the room by saying, hello, they are making that person feel like they belong. If a student helps another student learn how to solve a tricky math problem, they demonstrate mastery. When a student asks for a break instead of yelling or getting angry, they are showing us independence. And, lastly, if I ask a student to bring something down to the office for me, they are being generous. 

Ask students to give you more examples. You can add the examples to a whiteboard, so they are easy for students to reference. Then, start the challenge. You might want to have one or two students keep track of how many universal needs in action are spotted by using a tally for each.  You can play along too. Set a goal for the class for a total number of universal needs spotted during the day. Reinforce the importance of all students getting their universal needs met to feel their best. When all students are aware of others and strive to help meet their needs, the overall classroom culture and climate will improve. 

young black girl sitting in calming corner in classroom

Calming Corners: How to Implement in your Classroom

In the bustling world of education, where students and teachers are constantly navigating through a whirlwind of learning activities, introducing a calming corner can be an effective solution for many student needs. As reported in Starr’s Resilient Schools Project whitepaper, this is paramount to learning. While trying to individualize the instruction and social emotional supports for every student, the universal approach to creating a safe space for all students to learn is easily overlooked, but is truly the essential component of a resilience focused classroom.  

The Importance of Calming Corners

The modern classroom is a dynamic space filled with diverse personalities, learning styles, and energy levels. While excitement and engagement are integral to the learning process, moments of stress, anxiety, or overstimulation can also arise; having a dedicated space where students an retreat to find peace and regain their calmness is essential. This is where ‘Calming Corners’ come into play, not just as a physical space but as a transformative approach to classroom management and student well-being. ‘Calming Corners’ serve as dedicated spaces where students can take a moment away from the day’s demands, offering a retreat to regain composure and recenter their thoughts and emotions. 

The Benefits of Calming Corners

Children process a vast amount of sensory information daily. For some, this can be overwhelming, leading to sensory overload and emotional outbursts. Calming Corners provides a sensory-friendly area that helps students filter out the chaos and focus on regaining their emotional balance. The sensory benefits are countless but include: 

  • Visual Calm: Soft lighting and muted colors can reduce visual stimulation.  
  • Auditory Relief: Quiet spaces or the use of headphones can dampen the overwhelming noise of a busy classroom.  
  • Tactile Engagement: Access to stress balls or soft textures can offer comfort and grounding.  
  • Mindfulness Activities: ‘Time-in’ time is a great opportunity for students to do some breathing or movement to return to the center.  
  • Proprioceptive Input: Cozy furniture or weighted blankets can provide pressure that is calming to many children.  

Designing an Effective Calming Corner

Creating the perfect calming corner for your classroom doesn’t require a large budget or an expansive space. One of the best starting points to planning out a Calming Corner for your students is to include them in the process! Consider adding questions about what helps them feel peaceful, what type of objects help them focus, what colors make them feel calm, etc., during your next Circle Meeting. This involvement fosters a sense of ownership and ensures that the space resonates with the unique needs of the class. Here are some additional ideas and tools to help get you started:  

  • Selecting the Right Location: Choose a quiet, low-traffic area within the classroom. Ideally, the calming corner should be easily accessible but not in the midst of the main learning space. 
  • Creating a Cozy & Private Atmosphere: Use soft cushions, blankets of different weights and texture, and rugs to make the space inviting. Consider incorporating elements of nature, such as plants or nature-themed artwork, to evoke a sense of tranquility. Using bookshelves or room dividers is helpful to provide a sense of seclusion without complete isolation.  
  • Incorporating Sensory Tools – Provide a variety of sensory tools that support the students’ sensory systems.  
    • Visual: lava lamps, liquid timers, or calming jars  
    • Tactile: such as stress balls, fidget spinners, playdough or textured items.  
    • Auditory: headphones with calming music or nature sounds or noise canceling head phones 
    • Olfactory: a diffuser with calming scents such as lavender, peppermint candies to smell or eat, essential oil-infused rice bins or pillows 
    • These tools can engage different senses and help students channel excess energy or tension. 
  • Encourage Emotional Literacy – Introduce mindfulness activities, such as guided breathing exercises, calming music, or feelings charts. These visuals help children to identify and articulate their emotions while also providing them with step-by-step guides of how to practice these new skills. All of these resources can aid in relaxation and promote mindfulness. 
  • Personalization and Student Involvement – Incorporate art supplies to encourage expression through drawing or coloring, offering books about feelings can offer both comfort and learning. 
  • Maintain the Space – Keeping the area tidy and inviting on a regular basis will ensure it stays organized, warm, and inviting. Regularly rotating out the tools and resources will help to maintain the student’s interest. 

Calming Corners are more than just a space; they are a testament to the evolving understanding of children’s emotional needs in an educational setting. In the ever-evolving education landscape, incorporating calming corners represents a thoughtful and proactive approach to student well-being. By acknowledging the diverse emotional needs of students and providing them with a dedicated space to navigate their feelings, educators can create a more holistic and supportive learning environment. As the saying goes, stressed brains can’t learn, and in the calm corners of our classrooms, students can find the balance needed to thrive academically and emotionally. 

How to Create a Trauma-Informed Resilient School | Foster Connections

Foster Connections

Students who feel connected to their school are also more likely to have better academic achievement, better school attendance, and stay in school longer.
 

How can you connect to your students?

One of the best ways to connect with your students is having classroom meetings. These meetings not only allows you to connect with students, but also allows the students to connect with each other and build community within the classroom.
 
How can you implement a classroom meeting?
 
Step 1: Form a shape (circle, square). Teacher and students discuss, decide, and practice:

  • Floor or chairs
  • Where, how do you get there?
  • Who do you sit by?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it sound like?
Step 2: Introduce a talking piece. This talking piece helps regulate communication between students. Whoever has this piece is allowed to talk. Talking pieces may be a toy, a stick, a stone, or another small object.

Step 3: Practice using various topics to create proactive classroom meetings:

  • Get to Know You and Greetings
  • Who Am I
  • Compliments and Appreciations
Below is a video of education professionals like yourself explaining the topics they talk about at their classroom meetings:
 

10 Steps Book Cover

For more implementation on how to foster connections in the classroom, check out Starr’s 
10 Steps to Create a Trauma-Informed Resilient School!

How can you Create a Trauma-Informed Resilient Classroom or School?

Step 1:  Focus on Student Resilience

What is student resilience?

Student Resilience is the ability to achieve positive outcomes—mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually despite adversity.

To focus on student resilience, start by creating a set core of values and beliefs about the children you serve.  The Circle of Courage is a model of positive youth development based on the universal principle to be emotionally healthy, all youth need a sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity.

Circle of Courage


What does this look like in a school?

Belonging at school is when every student believes they are valued, seen, heard, and cared for.

Mastery at school is when every student believes they can achieve despite their challenges.

Independence at school is when every student believes they have the power to make decisions that will impact their own lives.

Generosity at school is when every student believes they have a purpose for their lives that can positively contribute to the world.

Click here for a resilience activity to help connect more with your students.

Looking to learn more about how to do this in your classroom or across your building for all students? Reach out to Starr Commonwealth today for a personalized consultation about our training and consulting services to help ensure every child learns in an environment where they can flourish!


The Helper’s Charge to Recharge: Doing and Becoming Our Best

Recently a teenage client asked me a question that threw me, unexpectedly. (Over the years, I’ve amassed a considerable anthology of examples on what makes them famous for this gift, so it’s not an easy thing to do these days!)

I attended an engaging group session on characteristics of community and racial trauma, after which the group’s therapist allotted time for a “Q and A” between her adolescent clients and me, their guest. One member asked me, “How do you deal with trauma?”

I started to summarize the vast nature of trauma, and the equally vast approaches to treating it – then asked him for an example of the type of trauma he was referring to. He repeated his question, “No – how do you deal with trauma?”

“How do I?” I asked, taken aback.

“Yes,” he replied. “You hear about other people’s trauma every day, so how do you deal with it?”

I was struck by the sophistication of his question, especially when I realized what he was really asking. He wasn’t asking me about my trauma, or how I’m impacted by other people’s trauma. He was asking me about my resilience! I paused to evaluate why I felt so caught off guard, and was reminded: As helpers, this is something we don’t discuss often enough.

I started listing some of my self-care practices: yoga, meditation, playing in an ensemble, spending time with loved ones and reflective consulting with supervisors. (Heads nodded as they recognized some of these as the very techniques they’re encouraged to adopt.) I summed up by echoing their therapist’s message on the universal requirement for dealing with trauma: “Just like you, I don’t do it alone.”

[Re]charging toward resilience.   

The helper bears significant weight in leading this complicated, and often painful, journey with clients. Sensory-based interventions assist us with helping clients access, activate, integrate and heal their body, mind and spirit – and the therapeutic relationship navigates this path, as we work to know our client’s trauma as they know it. The interventions offered through Starr Commonwealth (Zero to Three: Trauma Interventions, SITCAP®, Mind Body Skills, Expressive Arts Therapy, etc.) provide the tools to treat the psychophysiology of child trauma with activities that are:

  • relationship-based and experiential
  • adaptive to myriad stages of child development
  • inherently designed to foster empathic attunement within the therapeutic relationship

The attunement we establish with the client can put us closer in touch with our own vulnerability, as we become proximate to theirs – while also providing the opportunity to connect with our own resiliency, as we help them build theirs. In doing so, we charge toward the horizon of resiliency, as our clients reclaim their power from a place of wholeness.

What charges the charge?

We know that self-care is essential to maintaining health and wellness, and defending against the perils of secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma. Part of maintaining personal well-being includes solitary space to reflect. Whether on our yoga mat, steeped in a hot bath, sprawled on the masseuse’s table, napping, walking, running or cycling to achieve that meditative hum in perpetual motion, physical care is essential to a healthy mind, body and spirit. But how much of our self care are we doing alone?

A barrage of solitary self-care routines do not make a complete self-care practice.

Without relationship, connection and support in spaces where reflective processing occurs, our self-care practices leave us… alone. Staying healthy, staving off symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and avoiding compassion fatigue are all critical aims, of course. But, the act of being reflective within a relationship is critical, whether through individual or group supervision/consultation. Our dear friend, Dr. Jeree Pawl, PhD, offers us a wise navigational compass toward the parallel process, in The Platinum Rule:

Do unto others as you would have others do unto others.

We draw upon on the tenets of Polyvagal and Attachment Theories to provide sensory-based, integrated approaches to healing the individual and interpersonal wounds of trauma. We engage the fields of the brain and nervous systems to help our clients heal and achieve resiliency – and how we restore our own depleted systems informs our capacity to do so. As helpers, it’s our charge to sustain and advance this capacity. We require a space where we’re held with what we hold, seen with what we see, and can be shown what has not yet been revealed while reflecting on our own. Maintaining a reflective practice in a relationship helps elevate our ability to hold that crucial space for clients through the parallel process. Thinking about self-care as a means of advancing our efficacy as helpers prompts us to consider it as a key to simultaneously putting ourselves and our clients first. When we take better care of us, we take better care of them.

Pawl, J. H., & St John, M. (1998). How You Are Is as Important as What You Do… in Making a Positive Difference for Infants, Toddlers and Their Families. Zero to Three, 734 15th Street, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005-1013