- Sponsorship -

Daydream Believers Make For More Purposeful Students

Every morning after the bell rings, Godfrey Early Childhood Center students start daydreaming. They close their eyes, sit quietly and think of whatever they want.

Jair Cabanas-Landa closes his eyes to daydream
Jair Cabanas-Landa closes his eyes to daydream

In kindergarten teacher Eryn Watson’s room, the calming, reflective activity flows into the start of learning. After opening their eyes, students talk about goals for the day: listening, helping a friend, earning reward points. “Why do we do this?” Watson asked on a recent Monday morning.

“So we can calm down,” students answered. “So we can rest.”

“It’s good for our brains,” added kindergartner Axcel Deleon-Magana.

Watson agreed. “We do it so we are all happy,” she told them. “I want you to have a wonderful, wonderful day.”

Amber Kilpatrick, creator of The Mindful Classrooms project, teaches mindfulness techniques to students

Moments spent lost in thought are part of the ECC staff’s effort to create mindful classrooms. Principal Peter Geerling started daydreaming time this school year to help students develop an awareness of their thoughts and emotions. Research shows that mindfulness interventions improve attention, self-control, emotional resilience, memory and immune response.

“It’s just giving quiet self-reflection time in this noisy, noisy world,” Geerling said.

The meditative sessions are just one component of how Godfrey-Lee staff members are helping students relax, feel more present and safe and, as a result, be more successful. Students also spend 30 minutes a week learning techniques to help navigate and self-regulate emotional stress with Amber Kilpatrick, creator of The Mindful Classrooms Project, and other instructors. Congress Elementary School, in Grand Rapids Public Schools, also uses Kilpatrick’s program.

Nathaly Morgado-Padilla learns how to feel her breathing, a mindfulness technique

A More Mindful, Sensitive Place

At Godfrey Lee Public Schools, a largely Hispanic district where more than 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and many live below the poverty line, educators see mindfulness as an important part of another focus: creating a trauma-sensitive environment.

Social worker Lisa VandeWaa and Geerling have attended training on Trauma Sensitive Schools and staff is also being trained. They are learning best approaches to teach students who have faced trauma. Along with poverty, many students deal with hunger and stressful family situations. “Everybody comes to school with baggage you can’t see, even adults,” Geerling said.

It’s all about creating human connections in a society obsessed with numbers and data, where focusing on proficiency standards can’t be done without meeting basic needs Godfrey Early Childhood Center Principal Peter Geerling

Kamari’a Rogers-Brown practices mindfulness -- being aware of sounds and feelings
Kamari’a Rogers-Brown practices mindfulness — being aware of sounds and feelings

Responding to students who have faced trauma requires sensitivity. VandeWaa said traditional disciplinary practices aren’t effective and can even be counterproductive. Instead of “time out,” for example, ECC students are often given time to used their mindfulness techniques in the office until they are calm enough to talk. They aren’t isolated, because that can exacerbate the problem.

“Trauma sensitivity isn’t a curriculum; it’s just a shift in your mindset and how you approach things,” VandeWaa said. Instead of ‘What’s wrong with this kid?’ you might instead say, ‘What happened to this little peanut?’ which really changes how you would approach what’s going on.”

It’s all about creating human connections in a society obsessed with numbers and data, where focusing on proficiency standards can’t be done without meeting basic needs, Geerling said. Part of that is making sure students feel safe.

Gabriel Thompson-Brooks has learned how to be mindful
Gabriel Thompson-Brooks has learned how to be mindful

But even getting students to feel comfortable daydreaming with their eyes closed is a process, Geerling said.

“For children in poverty, to try to close your eyes for a minute creates so much anxiety because it takes so much trust to have your eyes closed and know nothing is going to happen,” he said. “If we get everybody in the building to sit there with their eyes closed for three minutes, we have passed a huge, huge hurdle…They feel safe. That’s huge.”


Trauma Sensitive Schools

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Satellite library aims to boost reading for the fun of it

The Kent District Library location opened this week, and is exclusively for East Lee Campus students and their families...

Voters approve bond request by 2-to-1 margin

The approval of the $17.79 million bond will restore and renovate Lee Middle and High School, which was badly damaged by a June 2019 roof collapse...

District bond request Nov. 3 includes upgrades, additions and community wellness & resource center

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is asking voters to approve a 30-year, $17.79 million bond proposal to fund major reconstruction, additions and improvements to Lee Middle and High School...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU