Newsletter Volume 19
September 2016
In This Issue:
  • What's Up...
  • From Jackie: Circle Up!
  • Empathy: The Most Important Back-to-School Supply
  • Our Basic Workshop...
  • Who Are We?
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What's Up...

Hello Neville,

Summer is over, and a new school year is beginning again!  I hope all you teachers out there got enough R&R during your break so that you're eager and ready to start with your new group of students.  The first few weeks of the school year is the most important time to establish meaningful relationships with your students.  The short term investment of extra time at the beginning of the year will reap long-term dividends throughout the remainder of the year. 

In light of that, in her article below, Jackie shares an important tool that can help get those relationships off to a good start: Circle Time. And if you're a high school or middle school teacher and think that circle time is just for the young ones, we ask you to think again. It's an amazing tool for all ages that can be used to promote empathy and keep harmony in the classroom throughout the year, as well as help students establish deeper bonds with you and their classmates; stimulate critical and creative thinking; and reduce bullying. We encourage you to give it a try!

We've also included an article on the crucial need for empathy in our classrooms - Empathy: The Most Important Back-to-School Supply.  It speaks to the tools needed for 21st century learning and global competency. "Absent empathy, sincere kindness and unity, how useful are passing test scores for changing communities and an ailing world?"  We couldn't agree more!

Research shows that relationship building is crucial to classroom success.  And here is something to keep in mind: the one thing that almost all Teachers' of the Year have in common is great relationships with their students.  Maybe this is your year to be Teacher of the Year!

If you found anything in this newsletter useful, please feel free to forward it to anyone you know who might think that too.  We'd love to offer any assistance to those who'd like it, for yourselves or your school, or for others you know, through our personal coaching, our student curriculum, and our professional development courses.  Please contact us if you have any interest or questions.

Happy new year!
Carla Swan Gerstein, EdTrans Development Director

By the way, if you were added to this monthly newsletter and you would like to opt out, just click on Unsubscribe at the bottom.

From Our Executive Director, Jacqueline Hicks:
Start the School Year with Circle Time
I’m hoping that you are starting the new school year with excitement, energy and enthusiasm, armed with fresh ideas, confidence in your curriculum, and eagerness to meet your new students.  This is the time of year when possibilities are abundant.  How you deal with the first two to three weeks is crucial in getting off to a good start with students and establishing your classroom culture.  If you are willing to invest in building relationships amongst you and your students as the priority for those first weeks of school, you will reap the benefit throughout the school year.  For that purpose, I suggest you provide regular time and guidance practicing CIRCLE TIME with your students, starting on the first day of school.
CIRCLE TIME can be extremely effective in establishing rapport among students and teachers, while also developing a classroom culture that teaches and strengthens social-emotional skills.  Kindergarten is a good place for students to begin experiencing sitting in a circle facing each other as they get to know themselves and each other by listening and sharing their thoughts and feelings.  HOWEVER, Circle Time isn’t just for Kindergarten.  In fact, at every grade level there are important social and emotional developmental growth goals that can be addressed during CIRCLE TIME.  Parents, teachers and community members want to see children develop character, which is becoming more urgent as we see the lack of empathy, kindness, and personal responsibility occurring in our society. 
What is CIRCLE TIME?  It is special and regular time when everyone in class (students and teachers) sits together in a circle on the floor or in chairs facing each other.  The purpose initially is getting to know each other and forming a way of being together in the classroom.  Through regular time together, and deepening relationships, CIRCLE TIME becomes a space for developing self-esteem and self-awareness; building confidence and personal responsibility; and creating a place where they belong and feel special.  You will find that over time with regular sessions, students are more comfortable with each other, listen better, think more critically, creatively and collaboratively, and have more fun in the learning process.  It won’t all happen on the first day, but as the year progresses, you will be gratified by the self-management, responsibility and productivity that develop amongst your students. 
Here’s how to incorporate CIRCLE TIME into your classroom, starting on day one:
  • Begin with 20-45 minutes daily depending on grade level (less time for lower grades, for the first 1-2 weeks. Then commit to at least 20-minute sessions, once a week minimum. Circles evolve over time and lay a strong foundation for classroom management.
  • It is essential for the teacher to model kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and personal responsibility.
  • Start with icebreakers at first (fun games that allow students to get to know each other better with low risk.)
  • Find out from your students relevant things to talk about, by discovering topics of interest to them, either verbally, from their journals, classroom conflicts, etc. It is good to have suggestions ready if the students don’t have anything to talk about, to get conversations started, such as: bullying, tagging, student activities, too much homework, etc.
  • Participants must believe and trust that they are safe with the facilitator, that they can say anything at all and it will be received without judgment or criticism by the facilitator or other students.
  • Communicate authentically, using “I” statements, and no blaming.
  • Treat it as a special time to talk about what students regard as relevant.Circle time is the foundation for building a safe and supportive classroom culture.
Follow these basic guidelines:
  1. Have everyone sit in a circle of chairs (no desks if possible), or on the floor, facing each other.
  2. Set clear goals and/or topics for the circle.A first day goal example could be practicing listening to each other one at a time as they each share one hope for the school year.It is important to state the goal at the beginning of the circle time.
  3. Establish ground rules for communicating fairly, like one person speaks at a time. No one is forced to give an answer. What is shared stays in the circle.
  4. Make it a regular part of the class time.
  5. Use it additionally to address class breakdowns.
  6. As the facilitator, always sit in the circle and participate fully.
  7. Set a non-judgmental tone.Similar to brainstorming, all responses and reactions are valid.Strong reactions, such as bursting out in profanity, are an indication of something deeper bothering the student, and therefore should be explored as such.
  8. Listen empathically and communicate authentically.
  9. In a kind and supportive way, keep focus on the goal, and try to minimize any talking over one another (consider using a “talking stick”).
  10. If a specific issue is happening with a student, take time to prepare the student to share in the circle (offer to hold space in circle for them to speak their mind).
  11. If there is a conflict, talk with all students involved individually and prepare them to share in circle.
Once students see this as a regular opportunity to make their class environment better, they will want to use it to solve problems and support each other.  This can be done even in 15 minutes a day, or one class period a week, or in advisory, and expanded as needed.
There are lots of ideas online for fun icebreaker activities that work for circle time and are designed for specific grade levels. The following is one idea I found:
Food for Thought 
To get to know students and to help them get to know one another, have each student state his or her name and a favorite food that begins with the same first letter as the name. For example: "Hi, my name is Latrece, and I like liver." As each student introduces himself or herself, he or she must repeat the names and favorite foods of the students who came before. Watch out -- it gets tricky for the last person who has to recite all the names and foods!  ~Latrece Hughes
Have a great year and enjoy your students!
Warmly, Jackie
This article, from the website, discusses the value of empathy in the classroom.  "As we think about empathy in a well-functioning classroom, the physical state can serve as a metaphor for the health of the social-emotional learning setting: A classroom might look fine on the surface, doing OK on standardized tests, memorizing facts and figures, but its internal environment might remain weak. Weakness in this case is manifested where children lack the more subtle tools that build 21st century learning and global competency. Absent empathy, sincere kindness and unity, how useful are passing test scores for changing communities and an ailing world? It goes farther than that. An empathic environment is a smarter environment."

Empathy: The Most Important Back-to-School Supply
By Homa Tavangar



My most important back-to-school supply doesn't fit in a backpack, and it can't be ordered online. It's as essential as a pencil, but unlike a pencil, no technology can replace it. In a sense, like a fresh box of crayons, it can come in many colors. Better than the latest gadget, it's possible to equip every student with it, and even better, when we do, it can transform our world.

It's actually a "muscle" I've been working on all summer. It's empathy.

What's the Big Deal About Empathy?

Empathy starts with putting yourself in someone else's shoes -- a key step in understanding perspectives that differ from your own. This isn't just a nice thing to do; it's an essential, active skill. It's foundational to embracing differences, building relationships, gaining a global perspective, conducting richer and deeper analysis, and communicating more effectively. This skill is about as "21st century" as it gets. And like a muscle, empathy gets stronger and stronger with practice and can be developed by any grade school child. This is the muscle that allows you to stand up for something, not just stand by.

Also like a muscle, empathy is... 


Our Basic Workshop:
Cultivating a Person Centered Approach (PCA) in the Classroom
           ~ a Person Centered Communication Model for Student Involvement ~
This workshop for teachers identifies and models the communication and relationship tools of Dr. Carl Rogers' Person Centered Approach (PCA).  By developing and cultivating more powerful and effective relationships with students, colleagues, parents and administrators, PCA helps to:
  • develop greater self-awareness & emotional intelligence;
  • support creative and critical thinking;
  • eliminate judgment and blame; and
  • allow students to experience their ideas being valued.
In the workshop, educators share their wisdom and their concerns, as we explore such topics as:
  • Disruptive Classroom Behaviors
  • Involving Parents Effectively
  • Bullying / School Violence
  • Common Core Challenges
CEUs are available for this course. Please pass this info on to other teachers or educators you know that may be interested.

Watch this to hear what teachers who have taken this workshop have to say: 
Teacher Testimonials.


Who Are We?
Education Transformations is a nonprofit, cutting edge provider of solutions that empower teachers, counselors and administrators to transform misunderstandings and conflicts with students, parents, and colleagues into growth opportunities for academic and social-emotional learning.  
When educators encounter the normal daily pressures from students, parents, and other educators, misunderstandings can naturally arise, and conflicts ensue.  Using the Person Centered Approach, through learning and practicing in workshops and with coaches, educators step up to a greater relationship skill level, and learn to embody the ways of the Exceptional Teacher.  
Education Transformations workshops take educators through transformative life experiences, which enable them to embody their greatest selves.  Our newly minted workshop graduates can then turn classroom conflicts into opportunities to thrive - enhancing classroom harmony, increasing academic results and test scores, and cultivating a true learning community.  Additionally, through modeling of these skills by teachers, students learn for themselves new ways to communicate and relate.

Please contact us with any questions or comments.  We welcome your feedback.
              Jackie Hicks & Carla Swan Gerstein
Education Transformations
1150 Silverado Street, #207, La Jolla, CA  92037
Education Transformations is an Enterprise of Center for the Studies of the Person, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.
Copyright © 2016 Education Transformations, All rights reserved.

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