Interview with Lorrie Heard, Teaching From the Heart Participant
Second-grade teacher Lorrie Heard recently participated in the UMaine Hutchinson Center’s Teaching From the Heart: Nonviolent Communication in the Classroom program, with Gina Simm. Learn about Heard’s experience in the program and how what she learned helped to build community in her classroom and empower her students to express their feelings and needs.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I work in the Amherst Public Schools as a second-grade teacher.
What program did you participate in?
Teaching From the Heart with Gina Simm.
Of all the things you learned during the program, what stuck with you the most?
There were two things that stuck with me about this program. The first is the Nonviolent Communication focus for kids that gives them tools to think about and express their feelings and their needs. The empathy cards and all of the kid-friendly books really drive the vocabulary and skills home in an approachable and accessible way. The other thing is the wheel of choice—giving students options for dealing with conflict in different ways, which allows them to develop skills and find ways to manage challenges on their own.
How did taking the course impact you?
I am a teacher and recently we returned to in-person learning (after over a year of learning on screens). At home, the kids have been in environments away from other kids, at screens all day, around their parents and family members significantly more. I expected some regression and discomfort for the school environment.
Right away I began introducing kids to the basics of the program. We made feelings cards and talked about how “feelings come and go” and shortly after that we made our needs cards and began talking about how “needs are universal.”
I already notice how my students have adopted the language of the program and are trying it out as they talk about their feelings and needs at uncomfortable or challenging moments, or when they apply the practice with their peers. It has been so surprising and exciting to see how my students have quickly and easily adopted the language. Witnessing my seven and eight-year-old students manage their conflicts amongst each other makes me feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about taking this course or a professional development program at the Hutchinson Center?
I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to build community in their classroom, especially, after all of the disruptions to students’ lives and learning this past year. A lot of feelings are coming up and many students lack the skills to talk about them and express their truest feelings and needs. They need a program like this that teaches them the language and communication skills to deal with conflict and allow them to feel comfortable and safe in their learning community.
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