Mana Ake Kaimahi - Are you concerned about your child’s wellbeing? The kaimahi who work across the cluster schools of Russley, Westburn, Avonhead and Merrin provide programmes for children who are displaying mild to moderate mental health issues and provide support for families. If you have concerns about your child contact the school to discuss support options.
Midway through the year, senior staff review each child’s attendance patterns. It is noticeable that during the winter terms especially, some children’s attendance has slipped well below what we consider acceptable.
Russley School has an aspirational attendance rate of 95% and above. For a child to fully engage and participate in learning they must be present at school. High absenteeism has a direct impact on learning and motivation, and as a school we are concerned about some children’s level of absenteeism.
The school is accountable to the Ministry of Education for the daily attendance of all children listed on the school register. Please work with us to raise your child’s attendance.
CALM DOWN SPACES
Many of the classes this year have introduced calm down spaces. These spaces provide a safe and secure spot that students can go into to use the tools they have been given to help them regulate their emotions. All students have been taught belly breathing and practice it on a regular basis. The more they practice it, the easier it is for them to use when they are feeling stressed.
Clam down spaces have cushions, colouring-in sheets, stress balls, books, oil timers and other objects the students can use. There are also pictures to help them recognise and name their feelings.
Calm down spaces can work really well in the home too. Your child could find a cosy spot in their room and with your help put together some tools that they can use to help them calm. There are many good ideas for calming tools on the Sparklers website.https://sparklers.org.nz/
PLAY EAT LEARN
Our new timetable is well underway and a recent review of the new Play Eat Learn timetable has been overwhelmingly positive. . The adjusted morning schedule allows students two opportunities to eat — at 10.00am and 11.20am.
We continue to see improved focus from students during class learning times. Thank you for continuing to pack healthy lunches that provide complex carbohydrate foods for carb break at 10.00am and then again for lunch at 1.20pm.
Some tips to help your child manage their food choices:
- Junior children pack carb break and lunch break foods in separate labelled containers.
- Talk with your child about healthy food choices and how to manage their food breaks.
- Encourage your child to help with the school food preparation.
- If packing all food in the one lunchbox, label carb break and lunch break packages.
Schools that are using PLAY-EAT-LEARN find that their students eat better if they have played first and are more ready to learn if they have calmed after play with a quiet eating time.
Kathleen Liberty and her team from the University of Canterbury undertook a project called Juniors Settling In and Learning Strategies. This project arose following the Christchurch earthquakes and aims to assist schools to provide calm and settled environments for children to learn effectively.
It has been suggested in Kathleen Liberty’s well documented research that to help the children to ‘eat to learn’ it would be helpful to have a complex carbohydrate that can be eaten during two eating times in the morning before the lunch meal. A mid morning snack of one slice of wholemeal bread will have approximately 28g of complex carbohydrates. Adding a spread increases its nutritional value (marmite, vegemite, peanut butter).
Research has shown that children are often dehydrated, and dehydration can affect the growth of their brain, as well as negatively affect their thinking during the school day. Dehydration can contribute to poor concentration, memory and increase impulsive behaviour.
Students at Russley School are being educated on the importance of water to their health. They are given suggestions about why and when to drink water, and about how much water to drink each day. Drink bottles in the classroom ensure children have ready access to water without having to wait for a break time.
Russley School began the year with the introduction of a Wellbeing Curriculum that focuses on the use of well researched instructional tools that support student wellbeing. ‘Relationships and Resilience’ is the over-arching theme for the introduction of ‘MindUp’ a comprehensive, classroom-tested, evidence-based curriculum which is easy to use. It promotes and develops mindful attention to oneself and others, tolerance of differences and the capacity of each member of the community to grow as a human being and a learner. The children learn about their brain and how it works.
The lessons include repetition of the Core Practice - deep belly breathing and attentive listening. These skills must be repeated for a few moments every day throughout the school year. The books are levelled, include previously learned skills/tools and build on prior knowledge activities.
A second resource being used is ‘Bounce Back’. This resource teaches social-emotional learning skills that underpin wellbeing and resilience. It uses games, drama, books, activities and Circle Time as vehicles of delivery.
The activities in these two resources are being linked to ‘Sparklers’ which can be found on the ‘All Right?’ website. The focuses are on managing emotions, feeling good and being ourselves. Sparklers 50+ activities teach children things they can do to stay calm, manage worries, be kind and feel good. http://sparklers.org.nz/
Staff professional development has included research completed by Dr Kathleen Liberty and her team at the University of Canterbury with the Juniors Settling In and Learning Strategies project. This project arose following the Christchurch earthquakes and aims to assist schools to provide calm and settled environments for children to learn effectively. One of the strategies we are looking to implement is a ‘Play, Eat, Learn’ timetable. The aim of this is to decrease arousal levels prior to learning, so the quality of the learning and the ability to focus and concentrate improves. Research shows the body physiologically responds differently to the two activities – playing and eating. Play – the body response is more aroused and heightened. Eat – the body response is to natural calm.
When eating occurs after play, the body has a chance to calm and the children are better placed to be ready for learning. Arousal levels fall.
A further strategy is called Water – drink to think, think to drink. As part of the project, we encourage all students to have water bottles to use in class time, so that they stay hydrated.
Russley students were introduced to mindful breathing or tummy breathing. This type of breathing is a quick and easy way to engage the body’s natural relaxation response. It draws the child’s attention away from the present, boosts concentration and helps them turn anxiety and anger into feelings of relaxation and focus.
Younger students were introduced to this practice through a Sesame Street video that features Elmo as the main character. Elmo explains in a fun, interactive way when and how to use tummy breathing. This video can be found online at Elmo Belly Breathing. The older children viewed a video entitled Just Breathe.
We suggest parents encourage their children to tune in to their breathing whenever they feel upset or angry, or want to relax.
In addition, there are online resources at https://allright.org.nz/ that support wellbeing and mental health. You will find Elmo Belly Breathing in the “Sparklers” section and the website also has a useful “Tips for Parents” section.
A much talked about topic in educational psychology is the growth mindset. Stanford University professor Carol Dweck’s claims in her book “Mindset: The new psychology of success” that teaching children to have a growth mindset does work and can be developed. Children who have a growth mindset seem to face challenges in a more positive way. They will say things like, “I love a challenge,” instead of having negative thoughts when faced with difficulty.
When we have a growth mindset we believe that our brain can be developed and we can grow our intelligence, whereas a fixed mindset is the belief that our brain can’t be developed and it is static. Research shows time and again that if a growth mindset is encouraged by teachers and parents, children perform better and see obstacles as opportunities to improve and learn.
Children should be taught not to give up on a task just because they cannot do something immediately. Effort and perseverance are the start to training the mind, in order to achieve, learn and grow. One of the ways adults can encourage this is through the language we use when we discuss challenges with children. Dweck mentions that saying “not yet” to children instead of saying they have failed at something is a much better way to show them that even if they have difficulties overcoming a challenge, the time will come when they will succeed. The use of “you haven’t learned it yet” shows that there is a learning curve, and points to the process, not the outcome.
According to the Mindset website, “Every so often a truly ground-breaking idea comes along. This is one.” The mindset theory explains:
- Why brains and talent don’t necessarily bring success and in fact, can stand in the way of it
- Why praising/rewarding brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but rather jeopardises them
- How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity.
After decades of research on achievement and success, Carol Dweck proposed the Growth Mindset, “a simple idea that makes all the difference.”