Time Out for Wellness

Amy Baisley’s eighth grade ELA classroom is completely silent. The students are not reading, discussing or writing, as usual, but sitting with their eyes closed, each ripping a sheet of paper into the shape of an animal. They follow their progress with their fingertips while holding the image of the animal they are making in their mind.

The students are flexing their mindfulness muscles. “Mindfulness does not necessarily mean relaxing,” said Dr. Sarah Fryd, psychologist at John Jay Middle School. “It’s focusing on one thing in the present moment.” This activity was part of Wellness Week, an all-school initiative led by the Counseling Center focusing on mental health and resilience.

Each day, March 15 – 19, students tuned in to a twenty-minute session on simple ways to take care of themselves led by school social worker Ray DiStephan and psychologists Dr. Fryd and Dr. Madison Lee. The sessions were relaxed and fun - full of feel-good music and hands-on activities that nurtured self-awareness and brought classes together.

Dr. Lee reminded students that they already knew what to do when they felt stressed. She helped them bring these tools into the foreground. Classes created Word Art by naming what works for them. Students also shared their go-to, feel-good activities with others on Schoology.

At the end of the week, the Counseling Center introduced a powerful concept to the students called Cope Ahead—a mental prep process used by professional athletes.

Dr. Lee reminded the students that after break, many students would be returning to school full time and some places would be opening after a year of being shut down. “Anticipate these situations and brainstorm coping strategies including the skills and people that can support you,” she said. “Imagine yourself in the situation, coping effectively.”

Back in Mrs. Baisley’s eighth grade English class, students were sharing their self-care techniques with each other. “The power comes in talking about it,” she reminded the students. Declan and Nolan swapped top 10 lists of things that got them through the quarantine—both included cookies! Logan’s playlist included “All I Need,” the song he listens to when he plays basketball. Wesley created a collage of things that make him happy including the cover of “The Wild Robot,” his favorite book, and a painting of a sailboat because he loves the water. Tammy created a vivid portrait on her iPad using the art app Procreate. “Drawing makes me feel calm.”