The Five Letter Word That Saved My Life!

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Ok… so I have a flare for the dramatic! But seriously, when I began getting ready for my first year of teaching I planned lessons, decorated bulletin boards, set up the classroom furniture, and had my first day of school read aloud book all ready to go. I was prepared, so I thought.

I soon found out that the missing piece of the puzzle was a well thought out curriculum in social emotional learning (SEL) and the incorporation of a five-letter word that has since been a wonderful addition to my classroom: PEACE!

But what is peace? Why is it important to teach and include in your curriculum?

Once I discovered the value and importance in talking to my students about peace, I began starting each school year with a conversation about what the kids themselves think peace means.

“Being able to feel good about yourself!”

“Blue!”

“Soft and quiet!”

These are just some of the things they’ve come up with, and they are always surprised to learn that peace can be found in many places. It doesn’t just refer to “world peace”. They can have a hand in creating a peaceful environment wherever they are.

We then read the book Peace Week in Ms. Fox’s Class by Eileen Spinelli. After reading about all the squabbling and chaos happening in Ms. Fox’s class we share moments of difficulty we’ve had in the past and how we worked through them. I then, and with that dramatic flare previously mentioned, reveal a “peace path.” The kids “Oooo” and “Ahhhh.” Once settled down we go over the different parts of the peace path:

  1. Take a Breath
  2. Stop and Think
  3. I statements: “I felt __________ when __________ because___________.”
  4. Followed by the listener repeating the persons feeling with, “I understand you felt ___________ when ____________ because __________.”
  5. Brainstorm: One idea at a time, problem solve, take turns.
  6. Come to an agreement and make peace: Shake hands, high five or hug.”

img_20161017_142250462This is followed by some fun modeling on how to use the peace path and give respectful “I statements” as well as how we use our listening tools (“we listen with our eyes, ears and hearts!”). Each person on the peace path stands on either side of it, with another student whose classroom job is a “Peacemaker.” They then follow the steps on the path and step forward until they meet in the middle where they brainstorm ways to make amends and come to an agreement in the middle.

What has been great about the addition of the peace path in my classroom is that it has given my students a voice and builds their skills as leaders when they help their peers “walk the peace path.”

I leave the peace path in a part of the room dubbed the “Peace Area” and students are free to offer the flower to a peer and invite them to the peace path when they feel like they need to resolve an issue.

Generally, I have found asking students to use the peace path during recess, or other transition parts of the day doesn’t generally interrupt the work time as a class. I’ve also even allowed some kiddos to go to the peace path whenever they’ve needed to and have seen it help with them getting focused again when they return to working because they feel heard and have had their feelings valued.

There is so much I am still learning about social emotional learning and building a peaceful environment and culture in my classroom. I hope this one example of the use of a Peace path is helpful to you and can help you and your students work towards building these very important social emotional skills.

By Jennifer Khadir

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