Education with a Heart

Our children spend half of their waking hours in school and our educators play an enormous role in shaping our children’s lives academically, socially, and emotionally. I had the honor of interviewing Professor Edward Mooney this week on my podcast. Dr. Mooney shared his story of how he went from possibly being a teenage drop out to being the passionate educator, author, father and grandfather that he is today. His father was an alcoholic and was repeatedly physically abusive to him as a teen. He described arriving at school one day without his homework, after a violent morning at home. He was on the verge of just giving up. He was heading to the office to officially call it quits and drop out! A compassionate teacher reached out to young Ed with such grace and care that left him with a feeling of safety and love which has shaped and inspired the rest of his life.

Can you stop and think about a teacher who showed you this type of care and compassion?

I remember a very kind teacher that kept me after class in fifth grade and with the greatest love and concern asked, “How are you?” She noticed that I was not raising my hand as much in class and that I was overall disinterested in school. She knew this was out of character for me and she took the time in a very thoughtful way to check in with me. I remember crying and sharing that a family member was hospitalized and was in critical condition. Her listening ear helped at a crucial time when I needed it the most. I felt loved and cared for in school and it made a lasting impression.

Our teachers and school administrators can provide an environment for children to receive education coupled with compassion.

“To reach a child’s mind, first reach a child’s heart.” – Dr. Edward Mooney,Jr.

A holistic “integrative wellbeing” focus in OUR schools creates a foundation for learning, socializing and embracing one’s unique way of processing the world. Dr. Mooney is passionate about instilling values of compassion and kindness in his classroom, or what he calls “Schroeder values,” after Lowell Schroeder, his childhood education superhero that changed his life. Dr. Mooney shared his specific “P.S. card- personal situation card” system that is in place in his classroom. This is a way his students can write on a notecard to let him know when they are dealing with a home life or personal matter. The message being sent is, “I am here for you and I want to help you get through this situation.” I applaud Ed for this tangible solution and really believe that our kids need to feel that they are cared for in their educational environment. He and I discussed that sometimes an extra day to turn an assignment in, or a listening ear, can make a world of difference for children who are dealing with a family or personal emergency. It can be the difference between graduating from high school or dropping out!

Dr. Mooney discussed his dissertation on school violence, and we discussed the various ways in which schools can handle the trauma of living through a shooting, specifically environmental and emotional strategies. These help deal with the immediate and the aftermath of a tragic event for the teachers, students and families. He discussed a “bad result” vs. a “good result” protocol after a traumatic event, with specific situations discussed in his thesis. The “trauma train” does not need to continue forever if there are built in “Wellness Protocols”, which we discussed on the show. To listen to the show this week: Dr. Edward Mooney Podcast on the Dr. Denise Show

I shared with Professor Mooney that at our Manhattan Beach elementary school, there is a weekly “spirit” assembly that includes awarding students for strong character and awarding classrooms for environmental awareness. Each week kindergarteners through 5th graders wear their school colors and selected children are chosen to receive acts of kindness awards known as “AOK” awards. Parents stay to watch, sing the school song, and recite the pledge of allegiance each Wednesday. Dr. Mooney was impressed, and as a parent and a child psychiatrist I concur that this type of “integrated wellbeing” assembly creates a foundation for safety, unity, and compassion in our schools.

I have gratitude for all of the educators, school administrators and families that create a safe and loving environment for our children. Dr. Mooney’s approach and dedication to what I call, “Education with a Heart” is to be commended as his philosophy creates a “ripple effect” of wellbeing for society.

Thank you Professor Mooney!

Dr. Denise