“I know when you’re smiling!” The young student eagerly offered during a class discussion. “The jewels on your cat glasses move up!”
Bernadette Street, school counselor at The School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen well-known by students for her sparkly cat-eye glasses, was asking a group of kindergarteners how they know how someone might be feeling behind their masks. They talked about how you can watch someone’s eyebrows and know if they are happy, sad, or frustrated. Or maybe you know how someone’s day is going just by looking at how they walk or the slump of their shoulders.
Or, yes, you can tell how they’re feeling just by looking at how their glasses are moving.
“Kids have amazing observations,” said Bernadette, who has been the school counselor at The School of the Cathedral for the last 26 years. “I am always amazed by what they say.”
Unpacking “masked-emotions” is something that students do every day at Cathedral — both literally and figuratively. It’s been even more important this year as the school’s faculty and students navigate COVID.
“There is a lot of what Dr. Pauline Boss calls ‘ambiguous loss’ for students,” said Bernadette. “It’s hard for them to understand. We can’t really pinpoint it and we don’t have closure. We’re searching for answers. Feelings are complicated and they are hard to identify.”
Investing in students’ social and emotional wellbeing is a community effort, including administrators, teachers, and parents. Bernadette provides weekly guidance lessons to all K-2 students, but classroom teachers play a pivotal role in equipping students with tools to navigate their emotions and the unpredictable waves of anxiety that have emerged throughout the pandemic. Sometimes that translates into teaching kids belly breathing techniques to use when they are upset or integrating yoga into instruction to help them become more self-aware. Other times that involves an emotion survey. Kindergarten students respond to the emotional check-ins with emojis. Older students reflect through journal entries. Because the school is on a hybrid schedule, sometimes these lessons take place in the classroom and other times they take place virtually.
Most importantly, teachers are empowering students to develop a growth mindset. Prior to the pandemic, Cathedral adopted and integrated the Second Step® program to help nurture students’ social-emotional competence. After all, school isn’t just a place to learn reading and writing. It’s a place to help students grow as a person. Their commitment to that program and positive behavior intervention provided the strong foundation necessary to support students throughout this tumultuous moment in history.
“Mindfulness and social-emotional learning is as integrated in our curriculum as our faith,” said Rosanna Czarnecki, assistant principal. “And we know it’s working. We’re seeing the things that we’re teaching in the classroom out on the playground. The other day I saw a student standing by themselves and I walked over to make sure the student was ok. She told me ‘I’m just belly breathing right now.”
Knowing that you can’t control what’s happening but we can control how you react is a “silver lining” that Bernadette hopes Cathedral students take with them — and remember long after the pandemic is over.
“It’s our job to look for the silver linings,” said Bernadette. “That’s what I tell students.”
Interested in learning more about Cathedral? Join them for their Virtual Open House on February 2. Learn More