Compositive: Anansi Charter School – teachers’ perspective

Alan Gottlieb, Compositive Staff

How does Anansi Charter School embody whole child education? Two veteran teachers shared their thoughts.

Kelley Farewell, fourth-grade teacher:

“The mind-heart connection here is strong.”

“The whole child approach started out as a classroom management tool, a way to create a quiet, engaged, respectful environment. It’s great at rapport building.”

“Helping students understand their brains is really important. When someone kind of loses it, we all say they’ve been hijacked by their amygdala.” (a term coined by researcher Daniel Goleman to describe an overreaction. There’s a good video about amygdala hijack here.)

Anansi helps overcome amygdala hijack by teaching students mindfulness techniques, Farewell said. “Just pause, be quiet, make space in the mind. Ten seconds of breathing. Focus on colors. After just three or four breaths, and foof! You can feel the whole class calm down into a brain state that is better for learning.”

“It’s all about getting the brain state ready for learning. It’s tied to the heart – where each kid is that day.”

Elsbeth Atencio, sixth-grade teacher:

“We have a daily morning check-in to see how everyone is doing, if anyone has anything they need to discuss. Something that happened at home, online, anywhere. These kids have been together since kindergarten, many of them, and so they are comfortable taking risks in front of each other. And they’re such a kind group.”

“Service and connection to the community is so important here. One of our students is from the Taos Pueblo, and he and his family went to the Standing Rock protest over Thanksgiving. It was deeply meaningful to him and he was able to bring that back and share that with his classmates.”

“This group has a strong sense of justice, and they have written letters to Obama about Standing Rock.”

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