Letter from our School Counselor, Tammy Parrish

Dear Parents,
The school year is in full swing and the hallways and classrooms are filled with an excitement to be together, a love for learning, and an anticipation for all that this new year will bring.
I am amazed by your children’s desire to learn, not only in the classroom but as they maneuver socially and emotionally through the elementary and middle school years.
As the school counselor, I have the privilege to work with each of your children focusing on their social and emotional learning. There are abundant opportunities throughout the day to teach and model these skills, whether it is in the classroom, in the hallways, or out at recess.
Akiva has implemented the practice of mindfulness schoolwide this year. Please ask your child how they are practicing mindfulness throughout the day and have them share what it means to them personally. When I say schoolwide, that means faculty as well. It is important for the students to know that their teachers are practicing mindfulness at the same time, so they can see that this practice is beneficial for all of us at Akiva. Our hope is it will make a difference in your children’s daily lives and create a school culture that believes in the importance of taking a pause to bring awareness and self reflection, without judgement. Mindfulness provides our children a space to calm the mind and body so that a thoughtful choice can be made about how to move forward in their day.
Mindfulness has been shown to decrease stress, help with working memory, increase focus and attention, help with emotional self regulation, and increase compassion for the self and others. We are excited to incorporate mindfulness into our curriculum and we welcome your feedback.
Social Thinking™ is also a term that you will be hearing more about this year. It is a methodology that was developed by Michelle Garcia Winner, to help individuals dive deeper into social behavior. The purpose is to increase awareness of self and others, to guide perspective taking, and to improve conflict resolution skills. Thinking socially helps students realize that their choices in behavior and words affect others around them; this also means that their peers have thoughts and feelings about the words and behavior choices that their friends make. We will be using the terms “unexpected” and “expected” behaviors this year to help bring a deeper understanding of how our behavior impacts others in different settings. For example, it would be unexpected behavior to throw a pencil across the room during Language Arts, (unless instructed to do so) and other students in the class would have thoughts and feelings about that behavior, which in turn affects them. Whole Body Listening, The Zones of Regulation, Social Mapping, The 5 Point Scale are all resources that we will be utilizing to teach Social Thinking in our classrooms. You will be hearing more about this as the year progresses.
Peer Mentoring training will begin next quarter for 5th/6th graders interested in taking on a leadership role in helping their younger peers resolve conflict, while growing and learning themselves. We are excited about providing this opportunity for our middle school students and we will share more details soon.
I look forward to providing a 3-week Social/Emotional Learning Series for parents in January, with more information forthcoming. I am not only passionate about being a support for your children but passionate that supporting our children means supporting our parents. Do not hesitate to reach out as the Akiva community is truly a team effort. I look forward to getting to know each of you this year!
There will be ongoing Social Connections Groups throughout the year. Please emailTammy Parrish for more information.
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