Report from the Field – Jen Schongalla – 2

[ed. note: this post picks up on the previous post, part 1 of jen’s report from the field here, where she was talking about the question “But how are you preparing them for college?”]


…by creating a space where students can relax and be themselves, a space where a very wound up hard driving valedictorian student who takes all honors classes and has does drama and plays sports and is on student council…and is the one in her household that takes her 2 year old nephew to the hospital at 2 a.m. and doesn’t get much sleep and was diagnosed with severe anxiety…we create a space for this student to be with others in community, to learn to enjoy each other, to laugh and create stories and have fun. The Spanish was a by-product. This girl was going to succeed no matter what she did in Spanish class. So I cannot take credit for her testing out of the college curriculum. The big ‘Aha’ for her was the relaxing part:  “chime time” and “el circulo de amor” and “se amable” and laughing about giraffes and stuff….




7 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Jen Schongalla – 2”

  1. I love that we can be about providing a space that is more about connection, tranquility, and (hopefully) balance than a lot of other classes. All the stress, pressure, and competition that is rampant in our society and schools is sooooo damaging to ourselves and our students.

    Do you think you could expand a bit upon “chime time” and “el circulo de amor” and “se amable”? (Or point me to somewhere where it was explained?)

    Merci !

  2. Agreed with Bryan. This society ia crazy. I work at a honors middle school where it is all about competition and pressure. Please expand on your chime time and other activities.

  3. I start every class with “chime time.” It’s a silent time where we don’t interact. I’m guiding a mindfulness experience but I just call it “chime time” or “attention practice.” This year I’m focusing on one specific tool each week. First week I had them focus on one sound they could hear outside the room. After a few seconds I’d ask them to let go of that one and find a different one. We’d rotate through 3-4 sounds and then I ring the chime and they follow that sound until they can’t hear it.

    This week I’m doing 3-2-1. I ring the chime, and with eyes open they glance around and find 3 things they see, then close eyes (or gaze at a fixed point) and find 2 things they feel, then 1 thing they hear. Then the chime. I know that people who have experienced trauma can be triggered by breathing exercises so I try to focus on a very concrete exercise that involves being in the moment and connecting with the body.

    It’s a nice way to start together. I tell them that on any given day they may not “like” the practice we do, but my hope is that they will find one that they’ll use when they need it. They always have a choice whether to participate in the exercise. If they choose not to do it, I ask that they sit quietly so others can try it if they like. I have a couple girls in block 4 who are super squirrelly with any of this. One or both usually can do about half the time. They know to tiptoe quietly out and sit in the stairwell. So far this is working.

    Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I do “deluxe chime time.” That is when they get to use a blanket or mat and lie down if they want (or they can be in a chair). This is a longer guided relaxation…maybe 15 min. (oh my! instructional time!). I plan on doing this weekly, probably on Wed. but will let the group decide on which day makes more sense depending on how the week flows.

    Yesterday we had “deluxe chime time” followed immediately by a quiet and very focused TPR session. It was crazy engagement, even in the block 4 group, with everyone gesturing and “throwing apples out the window” and “passing the pizza to Caleb” and “reading an interesting book” and “watching Netflix on their phones.” Very high engagement bc I’d randomly ask someone “What is your interesting book?” or “What show are you watching?” Lots of hands flying up to talk about what they were “reading” or “watching.”

    “El circulo de amor” is “Circle time” where we do a quick check in with the group…”who is tired, who has a test, a game, saw a moose on the way to school, “….etc. Right now it is half English but over time will evolve into more Spanish as they are comfortable. It’s more group time. Sometimes (not always) we use a ball or some other thing to toss around, and go around asking “como estas?” Not yet on this though. I typically have a poster with emotion words so they can answer in spanish if they want / as they are ready. Some answer in English and that is fine. I ask in Spanish and usually recast or do something like “estas cansado o super cansado?” One group started calling it “circulo de amor” and that stuck. Another group thought that was a sketchy name and preferred circulo de confianza (circle of trust). Depends on what the group’s collective personality is.

    “Se amable” means “be kind.” It’s front and center and my main “learning objective.” Skip Crosby in Maine has an awesome poster in his room that I plan on recreating or maybe having the kids do it. The quote is “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Always be kind.”

    Not sure if I quoted it exactly right, but that is the message I like to weave in everywhere. All my kids from last year can use “se amable” very fluently in the appropriate situations!

    1. Thanks for the details! It’s great to hear how other teachers are working to improve the lives of their students. Merci!

    2. Thank you for sharing, jen! I don’t know if I’m ready to do chime time, but circle of love, yes! And I want to post on my wall this quote too, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Always be kind.” Thanks Skip and jen!

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