The Peace of Mind Curriculum has been developed since 2003 at Lafayette Elementary School , the largest public elementary school in DC. Each week over 800 children in PreK through Grade 5 attend a 45-minute Peace of Mind class as one of their year-long specials, taught by curriculum author Linda Ryden, the school’s full-time Peace teacher, and Counselor Jillian Diesner. Children in this racially diverse school come from varied socioeconomic backgrounds and a range of nationalities.
The Peace of Mind program gives Lafayette students the skills to calm themselves, to focus and pay attention, to empathize with others, and to solve conflicts peacefully.
Peace of Mind works at Lafayette! An April 2016 survey by Minds, Inc. found:
Linda Ryden teaches “Peace Class” to the 1st through 5th grades at Lafayette. School Counselor Jillian Diesner has adapted the Peace of Mind curriculum for Pre-K and Kindergarten students and teaches their classes.
The Peace of Mind program at Lafayette goes beyond the classroom with Peace Club and links to Lafayette’s Behavior Management program.
Peace Club is a lunch and recess program at Lafayette for students who need a smaller alternative to the cafeteria and the playground. Peace Club requires all students who come to make a promise to treat everyone else with kindness and respect and to make sure that conflicts are worked out peacefully and everyone is included.
Peace Club is a mixed-age group of anywhere from 20-50 students. Peace Club is meant to be a comfortable option for kids who sometimes struggle with their social skills or with being in a large group. At Lafayette, for example, children on the autism spectrum and with other diagnoses often have Peace Club specifically written into their IEP’s and 504 plans because Peace Club provides some structured play as well as informal group counseling during the hour.
Peace Club is also popular among kids who like to make a difference and who make a commitment to making everyone feel welcome and respected. Fourth and fifth graders might serve as special helpers. These are kids who make an extra commitment to seek out those who have a harder time jumping in and include them in games, and who help others work out conflicts peacefully.
Linkage to Behavior Management Program
The concepts underlying the Peace of Mind program have been adapted to work with Lafayette’s classroom management program, Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) or Responsive Classroom. Lafayette’s school-wide expectations are expressed in “mindful” language: “Speak Mindfully, Act Mindfully, Move Mindfully.” Most of the things that we are expecting the children to do at school fall into these three categories. Children can be encouraged to “move mindfully” in the hallways, instead of saying “No running!” or to “speak mindfully” instead of “don’t blurt out”, or to “act mindfully” instead of “be responsible.” This subtle shift in language helps children understand the reasons for the school rules and makes them more likely to follow them.
Sources of support for Peace of Mind at lafayette
The goal of Peace of Mind is to create a more positive and inclusive school climate. Achieving this end starts with the students, but for maximum impact must be supported by faculty, staff, and parents.
Administration support for Peace of Mind has been critical to its success at Lafayette. In this testing-focused culture, it takes courage to set aside time during the school day for mindfulness and social-emotional learning. Thanks to the leadership of Principal Carrie Broquard and the early support of former principal Lynn Main, Peace of Mind has grown into an effective model program.
Peace of Mind owes a huge debt of gratitude to the wonderful teachers at Lafayette Elementary School who have welcomed and supported the Peace of Mind Program and given the very precious gift of classroom time. Retired Assistant Principal Jackie Snowden and School Counselor Rashida Mosby have been a constant source of support and encouragement throughout the years.
Peace of Mind is funded through the generous financial support of the Lafayette Home and School Association. The support of HSA members, past and present, has been critical to making students’ social-emotional development a priority at Lafayette Elementary School.