Summer CPD Review: Creating a Positive Environment for Learning
One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to do more CPD courses. I was delighted when I was asked to do the Friends for Life anti-anxiety course alongside another teacher in my school. We are now trained Friends for Life facilitators. The course was taught over two days. We are starting the programme in school after Easter. I also did a few courses in the education centre, including the RSE one. Over the past few weeks I have completed the Child Protection course with Hibernia College, and Creating a Positive Environment for Learning, also with Hibernia College. I was slightly indulgent in my choice of courses this Spring. I decided to take a break from the pedagogical led courses and opted instead for theory based ones because I wanted to learn something completely new.
I am going to review Creating a Positive Environment for Learning as it was the course I found to be most enjoyable.
The learning objectives of this course were to:
- Examine health psychology and its application in dealing with stress
- Discuss the link between stress and illness
- Introduce the principles of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
- Discuss creating and maintaining personal and professional boundaries
- Examine some simple relaxation and stress reduction techniques that can be used both in the classroom and at home.
Through meeting the above objectives, I discovered many practical tips which could really benefit and add to my classroom environment. I have always said that the rapport I build with children is most important to me in teaching, without a rapport with their teacher, children will not learn as effectively. Positive relationships are an integral part of the teaching and learning process.
The first lesson was all about stress, coping strategies and illness. The tutor talked about health psychology, coping with stress (emotional, cognitive and behavioural) and how stress can lead to illness. (stop stressing fellow teachers!) As teachers, we do tend to be always thinking about what we have to do next, what event is coming up next, will we get the maths chapter finished, and so on. Even though we don’t verbalise these thoughts, they could still have a negative impact on the teaching and learning in our classrooms. The course touches on appraising stressors. Basically, if you see desired outcomes are attainable or likely, they are more in control and these outcomes are more likely to occur. If you see desired outcomes as unlikely to occur, chances are they won’t. So a positive mental attitude all the way! Really, is stressing going to change anything? No, it will just make the situation worse.
Lesson two focuses more on the children in the class- The Child’s Relationship with Self, Others and the World, Fostering Emotional Health. This lesson covered creating and nourishing a positive and emotionally safe learning environment, equipping teachers with specific skills to nurture self-esteem and confidence in the classroom, empowering teachers to model and teach healthy relationship skills, and it introduces basic counselling skills for teachers.
Lesson three then focused on examining the principles of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) ,exploring the origins of mindfulness in a therapeutic context, defining mindfulness, introducing the usual format of teaching mindfulness,looking at the relationship between mindfulness and the breath, discussing some of the benefits that have been attributed to the practice of mindfulness and most enjoyably of all, linking poetry and mindfulness.
Lesson four was all about creating and maintaining personal and professional boundaries. The lesson focuses on discussing the issues of personal boundaries and self esteem, comparing passive, aggressive and assertive styles of behaviour, examining the establishment and maintenance of boundaries in relation to assertive behaviour ,discussing the difficulties with saying ‘no’ and offer some suggestions for facilitating this and examining boundaries in relation to children.
Lesson five was about relaxation and stress reduction. The course encourages you to reflect on how you allocate time and how to build in more leisure and relaxation time, to introduce some of the tools and techniques that can be used to assist in reducing or alleviating the effects of the stress you may be experiencing both in your work life and in your personal life , and to categorise these tools and techniques into four categories:
- Medical model techniques
- Simple techniques that cost nothing
- Techniques and interests that may require a degree of change
- Treatments and therapies
So there you have it! Out of all the CPD courses I have done over the past two years, this was the heaviest, theory wise! It was tough going, but a good one to do. This course, along with the Friends for Life programme, have helped me to relax my teaching mind set slightly. Some say the hidden curriculum is as important as the real one, and these courses prove that theory, I think. A child cannot learn until they are happy and relaxed and a teacher cannot teach until she/he are happy and relaxed, so get your mindfulness CD out and bring it to school after Easter!
If you wish to find out more about this course, go to https://hiberniacollege.com/hiberniacollege/creating-positive-environment-learning/