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Lower School Counselor Rebecca Schiff Presents at EARCOS Teacher's Conference 2024

Lower School Counselor Rebecca Schiff Presents at EARCOS Teacher's Conference 2024

Rebecca Schiff, one of our amazing Lower School Counselors, recently showcased her expertise at the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) Teacher's Conference held earlier this March in Bangkok. Her presentation, titled "Brainwise Teaching: Fostering Emotional Well-Being in Students," highlighted innovative strategies for nurturing students' emotional and mental health within the general education framework. 

EARCOS Teachers Conference, a highly regarded annual conference, focuses on sharing cutting-edge strategies, tools, and best practices to engage and empower educators across the region. This year, the conference's theme, "Awareness, Agency, and Action," emphasized the importance of proactive and informed educational practices. The conference offered a variety of curriculum strands, including Math, Science, Technology, Global Issues, Service Learning, and Global Citizenship, with a special focus on Middle School education. Educators from international schools around the world gathered to participate in keynote sessions, pre-conference workshops, and numerous teacher-led presentations. 

Schiff's workshop, designed to support the emotional well-being of students, attracted attending educators with its neuroscience-informed approach. Attendees explored the intricate connections between the brain, body, and emotions, and learned about the "hand model" of the brain, a practical tool for understanding emotional responses. The session also provided hands-on experience with mindfulness techniques, equipping educators with everyday tools to foster emotional resilience in the classroom. 

"Understanding that humans are fundamentally 'feeling machines who also think' is crucial," said Schiff during her presentation. "By integrating emotion regulation into our teaching practices, we can create environments that support the holistic development of our students."

Can you share a personal anecdote that illustrates the importance of emotional well-being in education? 

"Working with young students provides opportunities for prevention and early intervention. The more we practice mindfulness skills, the easier it is for us to integrate self-regulation into our everyday lives. The younger we start practicing, the easier it becomes, just like any other tangible skill."

Can you explain the "hand model" of the brain and how it helps in understanding students' emotional responses? 

"The hand model of the brain, developed by Dr. Dan Seigel, is a simple way of understanding neurobiology for educators and children. The brain is split into three parts, with the wrist representing the brain stem (automatic functions like breathing and heart beating), the thumb representing the limbic system (memory, relationships, and instincts) and the fingers curled over the thumb as the prefrontal cortex (executive functioning, problem solving, self-control). By understanding the different parts of the brain and their functions, we can better direct our attention to the brain regions responsible for our reactions. This makes it easier to choose an appropriate strategy to help us self-regulate and thoughtfully respond to emotionally charged stimuli."

What practical tools and techniques did you introduce to the educators attending your workshop? 

"Participants were led through grounding techniques using the 5 senses, experienced a mindfulness exercise that focused on meta-awareness, and were given ideas on how to integrate emotion recognition and management skills into the classroom. One fun way is by having students create feelings creatures. Using playdough or colored clays, students choose the colors that represent different emotions, and create a 'creature' using those colors and where those feelings might be more prominent. By creating and talking about their creature with teachers and parents, students build self-awareness and communication skills."

How was your overall experience at the EARCOS Teacher's Conference 2024 in Bangkok? What were some of the key takeaways for you from the conference, both as a presenter and a participant? 

"There are so many talented educators all over the world, and there is always going to be something new to learn." 

What advice would you give to other educators looking to foster emotional well-being in their students? 

"What matters most are the relationships you build with your students. By creating a nurturing environment where students feel a sense of belonging, the kids are more likely to thrive not only emotionally, but academically as well!" 

As a Lower School counselor, Schiff also shared her insight about the importance of fostering independence and resilience in students. She emphasized that "believing in students’ ability to work through their own struggles is crucial. As educators, we sometimes tend to be "fixers" because we want all our students to feel happy. However, sometimes validating a student's struggle is just what they need. Showing students that you have faith in their ability to figure things out on their own empowers them to make their own choices and fosters resilience." 

This approach not only supports their emotional development but also prepares them to handle challenges independently in the future, building a strong foundation for lifelong learning and personal growth. 

Schiff’s contribution to the EARCOS conference underscores the critical role of emotional well-being in education and highlights the innovative approaches being adopted by educators to support the holistic development of students. As the educational landscape continues to evolve, her insights and practical strategies offer valuable guidance for educators striving to nurture the minds and hearts of our Lower School students in TAS.