‘Tiny Teachers’ Help Kilternan Kids Understand Emotions
It is often said that we can learn a lot from children and Kilternan Parish has been putting that into practice with their Tiny Teachers programme which ran during Mental Health Awareness week. Tiny Teachers was developed as part of Kilternan All Minds Matter (KAMM) to promote positive mental health, which is run in association with MindMattersCOI, the Church of Ireland’s mental health project.
Tiny Teachers sees a new–born baby and his or her parent being brought into contact with a primary school class to facilitate a conversation to encourage the development and practice of empathy skills.
Through observation and guided conversation, children are encouraged to consider what emotion the baby might be feeling and how we know that, especially if they are not able to use words. The students take time getting to know the baby and are encouraged to ask any question they might have.
Research shows that practicing empathetic behaviour improves our ability to effectively manage and respond to our own emotions and be more equipped to handle stressful or emotionally challenging situations.
The participating class was met outside Kilternan’s Gathering Grounds to prepare them for their meeting with the selected mum and new–born. Children were encouraged to think about what they could do to put the baby at ease when walking into the room – for example, using quiet voices, moving slowly, smile with their face and eyes, sitting down at a low level with the baby.
“We found the students were immediately engaged with the baby, attentive and curious to what the baby was doing. Discussion was started based on what the given baby was doing at the time; sleeping, calm, hungry/feeding, upset, etc. Discussion of each session followed lead of the baby’s behaviour. But ultimately, the goal was to brainstorm as many feelings and emotions as possible and discuss how we know the baby is feeling these things without being able to use words to tell us,” Julie Clements, who runs Gathering Grounds, explained.
The connection was also encouraged to be made with friends and classmates, with the children learning that people don’t always verbalise their feelings and emotions. They were encouraged to think of how they could look out and care for each other.
“We ran a trial of Tiny Teachers last year with great feedback,” the Revd Rob Clements, Rector of Kilternan, added. “ Four classes (first, second, third and fourth class) participated. Everyone seemed to fully engage with and enjoy the experience. Not only was it a great experience for the children but hopefully also a positive experience for the mum and babes. We were delighted to be able to offer the mum a small gift of appreciation.”