By Natalie Hunniford (Educator, Counsellor, author of the Brain Fit Tool Kit and creator of The Brain Fit Super Powers school program)
Brain Fit Super Powers is a school wide program that I’ve created for schools to help enhance students’ mental health, overall well being, emotional and physical health, and academic achievement. The Super Power for November is Empathy to coincide with Remembrance Day. Throughout this month, students and teachers in many schools will be using and learning empathy skills to create inclusiveness, tolerance, and a sense of belong. By harnessing imagination this month, students in classes of all ages will be encouraged to put themselves into others’ shoes and understand how it feels to look through another’s lens. Classes using the Super Powers program in their class this month will be encouraged to:
- run classroom meetings in a safe environment where everyone can share and find common ground,
- explore tolerance and peace in today’s world by safely interpreting music and you-tube videos,
- learn useful active listening skills through games, and
- put empathy into practice using books or listening to shared personal stories.
As a school counsellor I feel that it is so important that schools have a common goal or “glue” that connects everyone in the building, and I believe that this program will help create a stronger sense of belonging and attachment for all students and staff. This is why I created the Super Power program. The program has 10 different Super Powers character virtues, one for each month of the school year. The lessons can be adapted for all age levels so that it is inclusive of all grades and they flow with ongoing common school wide themes and events. (Read more about the power of Heroic Qualities for learning and growing imagination.)
Celebrating the Super Power weekly can simply take 10 minutes, or by using imagination and creativity can be elaborated and extended into an art, reading, writing, or science activity for hours. The Super Power activities are meant to:
- promote social and emotional development
- teach empathy, optimism, and gratefulness
- create connectedness for our students with their adults and peers
- create a positive school experience where there is a sense of belonging
- improve well-being that includes a healthy sense of self physically and mentally
As our world evolves and changes so does our need for new ways to connect with our students and help our kids grow into strong, resilient, and happy individuals. An imperative piece to this program is connecting. I strongly believe that when schools, communities and families work together, learn together, and have shared social emotional language that the result will be improved mental health and overall happiness.
When children are feeling connected, they will feel and more hope and optimism, and be most ready to learn, create and be adventurous. My hope is that these Super Power lessons will give teachers and students an opportunity to connect and understand each other better and improve everyone’s overall wellness. A child’s connection to a caring adult at school is central to their development and to their motivation and willingness to enhance their own education. Never forget that kids want to and need to be heard! They want to know that someone is listening and is understanding them. We need to take the time to connect with each student we work with everyday. We also need to listen and understand what our students are saying and what they are feeling. And by modeling and showing empathy to our students and to each other everyday, we will also enhance our own mental heath and well being.
About the Author
My name is Natalie Hunniford. I am a passionate learner, educator, registered clinical counselor, and school counsellor who has been working for and with the school system for over 20 years. I am the author of the “Brain Fit Tool Kit” and creator of “The Brain Fit Super Powers” school program. I aspire to help children, teachers, and parents connect and attach using a common language that builds self-awareness, empathy, and compassion for self and others. I teach, and believe, that when we are mindfully aware of our “brain barometers” we can positively change our own world and the worlds of others around us.
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