It’s been a glorious Michigan summer, hasn’t it? We hope each of you had a chance to take some time to do something you loved whether it was a big trip in the car or with the camper, or “summer” just meant you didn’t have to pack lunches every day and sleep an extra ten minutes!
School began for our students two days ago but our teachers and staff have been hard at work for the past week or more getting prepared both physically and mentally for a great year.
Teachers and administrators spent three days last week in professional development beginning with a renewed connection in their respective buildings. Time was spent reflecting on summer breaks, hearing personal news, reviewing school policies, and discussions about policies that will be reviewed further this year. Elementary teachers were also given the opportunity to learn from veteran Grandville teacher, Stacey Byl, on Whole Brain Teaching. Stacey introduced this active learning technique of teaching to Jenison in February so her second visit centered around additional tips, a review of the brain functions, the value of Whole Brain Teaching, and lots of ideas for teachers to try on their own. [If your child knows what “mirrors up” means and responds to “Class?” with a prompt, “Yes?”, their teacher is using Whole Brain Teaching!]
Teachers also focused on legal updates, literacy, and had opportunities to meet at both the grade and building levels for brainstorming and implementation of all they were learning.
Elementary teachers also had the chance to hear from Dr. Stephanie Grant from Development Enhancements in Holland. Dr. Grant is a clinical psychologist specializing in childhood trauma. Teachers learned a great deal about the ways that trauma affects a child’s developing brain and how that might translate to behaviors or difficulty learning in school.
For the final session, Tom asked teachers to take a deep breath and told them he wanted to help them begin the year with helping teachers learn how to take care of themselves. “You have a stressful, physically demanding job and I want to encourage you to take care of yourself and each other.” School Board President, Bill Waalkes, reminded teachers that “We hire you to do the job and we’re here to support you.”
To this end, teachers heard from Jen Rapanos, former School Social Worker, and current owner of Well Bean Yoga and Mindfulness. Jen led the teachers in various mindful practices such as mindful eating, diaphragmatic breathing, and simple yoga. Mindfulness is being taught in many Jenison classrooms as a means to help students become more aware of their surroundings, feelings, bodies, and minds. Many of our students have already been practicing mindfulness in their classrooms, but what is it? Mindfulness creates a moment between a situation and our reaction to it. Jen shared this quote from Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
We hope that our entire staff was able to take a deep breath as school began this week and that they continue to find ways to care for themselves throughout the year, making them even more incredible teachers for our kids! With the theme of “In the Pursuit of Excellence” in mind, we know that teachers will set the bar high and students will rise to it! Congratulations on the beginning of another great year at Jenison! Go Cats!