He couldn’t focus. He bounced around the room engaging anyone who would pay attention. But his bouncing and words were challenging in tone and tinted with violence, not welcoming. It’s the only way he knows how to communicate.
Many children walk through the classroom door each morning as victims of neglect and violence. The levels to which they experience this range from five year olds having to heat up their own 7-Eleven burrito for dinner to actual un-welcomed and undeserved physical contact.
In many schools teachers are frontline first responders each and every morning of their lives. I retired from such a school this past year. It is heartbreaking, stressful, and exhausting work, but deep down I knew I was making a difference.
Struggling to find answers, school administration make choices that seem like the magic pill, but seldom deliver. Teachers are caught between curriculum and programs that do not come close to meeting the direct needs of the children they teach.
I stepped away from this a few months ago and into a new way of reaching children that changes how they think. As a Red Thread Guide I can now offer ways of helping children move from the fight, flee, or freeze response of the brain to the heart space where wisdom resides.
He ignored my call to sit on the floor in a circle. Most of the rest of the class eagerly gathered, minus a few who waited to see what he was going to do.
Red Thread circles offer a way to connect. It is story, something children understand deeply and love. So I told them about myself and my intentional creativity painting and my red thread circles and the little girl from their very own school who wears a red beaded bracelet from her grandmother in Poland given to her when she was born to keep her safe.
The boys settled together on the floor, half listening, half conducting their own business in an attempt to draw our attention to them.
I continued with talk about the brain and the amygdala. Something they are familiar with as part of their social/behavioral program they do to combat bullying. But then I talked about the heart and how the heart holds wisdom. It is the heart that really tells us what to do. I drew a picture of an anatomical heart on a large piece of chart paper and called it The Wisdom Keeper.
The whole class was listening. Even the boys.
We talked about how the heart leads our brain to make better decisions. Instead of hitting or arguing, the heart can give us a better way. But we need to learn how to listen to it. After all, it is the loving part of ourselves we forget to listen to.
In the Red Thread circles we weave a ball of red thread around our wrist passing it to the next person until we are all connected. In an elementary school that is not a safe option. Restroom needs, wiggly bodies, and emergencies are a priority.
Instead, I use my singing bowl. Having been trained in a mindful practice at this school where I taught, I have lots of tools in my tool box. So instead of wrapping the thread around their wrists, the students get to ring the bowl. I explain how to hold it or place it on the floor to get a nice sound. After they ring it they answer a simple inquiry question.
He LOVED ringing the bowl. So did his friends. It was enough to keep them engaged until it was time to go to lunch.
This is just the beginning of the red thread circle. We can inquire about many things: what do we love about ourselves, what do we love to do, etc. We listen to others who have similar stories to our own. We realize we are not alone and, yet, we are special, and that we are only responsible for the piece we hold. Yes. They got that part.
In this particular classroom we followed up with an Intentional Creativity® activity using the supplies they had in their room to draw our Wisdom Keeper. That voice inside our hearts that is always there to give us love and kind words.
He and his friends drew amazing Wisdom Keepers and were able to share with the group what their keeper told them about how wonderful they are and how much they are loved.
There are always tears from the adults listening.
Children are very open and honest. The are also very brave and I learn a lot from them.
~ Lexanne Leonard, Red Thread Guide
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Lexanne Leonard, What a gift to these children your wisdom keeper teaching is!
I have been using creativity with my grandchildren since they were old enough to hold a brush and not squish it down on the paper…about 3 years old…they would beg me to paint with them whenever i visited…now all of the older ones 23, 18, & 16 are too busy with the activities of their lives…the 15 year old still paints, as do the 12 & 10 year old….my son ,44 , is an art teacher…now at the high school level…he was an elementary school art teacher when his children were in elementary school ….i can hardly wait to visit him this spring to share with him and his wife and children this wisdom keeper process…what i wonder is can only wonen be red thread circle leaders…if boys are included in the classroom, can dads and brothers be, too, at their home ? The singing bowl is such a wonderful idea!
Thank you so much. I used to be an elementary school counselor as well as teacher, . As I worked with children I always loved their freshness. Their directness. They are still close up that wisdom and not buried under so many layers we get as adults. Wonderful approach and application of the Red Thread! The children are our future and you are a force for healing. With this, for good
AMAZING article….I used to be a Primary teacher too, so relate to much of what you say about the system not meeting the children where they are at ….NOW! I love your gentle, yet direct and informative approach. The singing bowl was a BRILLIANT idea!!!!! You have inspired much in me from sharing this – tears well as I write…..THank YOUUUUUUUUU for being so present to youSELF but also to these children……Xxxx