Mindful ways to create a positive environment in your parenting education classes. By Megan McQueen.
As leaders of a class, we shape the culture and feel of our environments. Whether we meet online or in person, our energy can be contagious. When I take a moment before class to energize myself and ground myself in curiosity, I learn more and focus on moments of joy.
I’ve noticed that when I plan beyond the curriculum (welcomes, transitions, environment, etc.), the classes run smoothly, and families feel more connected. As Priya Parker writes, “Gathering matters because it is through each other that we figure out what we believe.” Let’s be intentional about our time together.
I notice a difference in myself when I put more effort into creating a joyful, welcoming environment for others. It seems that the people I work with feed off of that energy. They seem more open, playful, and willing to be vulnerable.
Researchers from the CDC wrote, “Social and emotional learning can help children and adolescents develop the skills they need to recognize and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, appreciate the perspectives of others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” I would advocate that this is true with adults as well as children. I want to promote all of those qualities in my classes. Supporting connections among families and learning about our emotions in a safe place is a quick “Yes!” for me.
Brené Brown shared her practice of beginning meetings with a quick check-in. We can borrow this practice in our classes. We go around the room and say two words (only!) to describe how we’re feeling at this moment. This activity helps center everyone. We are pausing at the beginning of the class to acknowledge the transition into this space. We are checking in with ourselves to see how we’re doing.
As I’ve integrated this practice, I’ve noticed that it calls up feelings about my own needs. I’ve also listened intently to others and checked in with people after our meeting if they shared a word that made me think they needed a follow-up.
Welcoming Learning Environment
We have all heard stories of divisive politics in recent years. We know that this is counterproductive to fostering relationships. As educators, we have much influence on the trajectory of conversations. We can model listening with empathy and relating to each other as fellow family and community members.
We do not have to agree or make the same choices. We can create boundaries to lead safe conversations so people can participate with compassion. When we begin with commonalities and build a community, we can gently listen to understand and ask questions to clarify.
We are all trying to do the best we can. Much of our efforts may go unnoticed, and we can all benefit from appreciation.
Start with yourself. Pause for a moment and think about something you have done today that was meaningful. Acknowledge that YOU did that. You devoted the time and energy to making it happen.
How powerful our classes might be if we ended with gratitude for each other. Comments such as, “Thank you for sharing the story about your childhood with us today. We learned so much from you” or “Your perspective in our classes is valuable. Thank you for being here” can go a long way for our families to feel connected and respected.
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
“Have You Learned These Three Lessons Yet?” By Maria Dyslin
The Routines, Rituals, and Boundaries We Need in Stressful Times TED Talk by Esther Perel
Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, imparting a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.