Guest Blog Post: Memories of Peace Class

As I get ready to graduate from high school this spring, I find myself reflecting on memories and moments from my childhood. I remember being in Peace Class with Ms. Ryden back when I was a student at Lafayette Elementary School. At the time, school sometimes felt too loud and busy, and some days I found myself in need of a break from all the commotion.

Luckily, I was able to go to Peace Class, which offered me a welcome reprieve from the otherwise noisy school day. Not only did the class provide a calmer atmosphere, it also offered a lot of valuable conflict resolution skills. In particular, I remember learning about “green poison darts,” a metaphor meant to illustrate how hurtful words can be (insulting someone is like throwing a poison dart at them).

Although I never got in any particularly intense spats when I was younger, I did use the concepts I was taught. During disagreements with my brother, I would think back to the tools I’d learned in class in order to keep our arguments from escalating. I think it’s a testament to how useful the class was that I actually went home and practiced these skills in real-world situations, and since leaving elementary school, I’ve kept what I’ve learned about conflict resolutions in a mental toolbox.

Another important part of my toolbox is the way I practice mindfulness. Grounding myself with breathing exercises and calming thoughts helps me when things become stressful. Every day, I sit with my cat, Socks, either in my lap or perched on my shoulder, and I notice how my breathing and her purring seem in sync. I use this as a way of reminding myself to pause and relax, whether it’s been a calm day or a busy one.

I am so happy to know that mindfulness is such an important part of the Peace of Mind curriculum.  As a seventeen-year old, I can say with absolute certainty that it is incredibly valuable for young kids to have access to these skills to help them process their feelings. I hope that someday a class like the one at Lafayette’s will be taught across the world.

-by Eli Blackwell

Gratitude & the Negativity Bias

The past few weeks in Peace Class we have been digging deeper into gratitude. We have also been learning about the brain’s Negativity Bias – the tendency of our brains to focus on and remember bad things and to let good things slide out. Our brains have evolved to do this in order to keep us safe.  If we touch a cactus and hurt ourselves once our brains will remember that and we won’t do it again. That’s great! Unfortunately our brains can’t tell the difference between something that is truly dangerous and something that is simply unpleasant – like being embarrassed. We can help override this Negativity Bias by making a point of noticing all of the big and little good things in our day-to-day lives.

To practice this, we got out cups and marbles and worked with our Kindness Pals.  We labeled one cup “good” and one cup “bad” and we told our Kindness Pal everything we could remember about the day so far. As one person talked,  the other put marbles in the good side or the bad side.  When we were done most of the kids were completely surprised by all of the good things that happened that they had barely noticed: things like waking up in a warm bed, having breakfast, having someone to bring you to school. getting to play with friends before school, reading a great book in library, having Peace Class, learning a new song in Music Class and so on.  This practice can become a habit that can make us much happier and healthier in the long run.  It’s so important not to let our Negativity Bias be in charge and to really stop and notice all of the little good things that make up our lives.  Try it with your kids and see which one of your marble cups is more full!

-Linda & the Peace of Mind team