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Creating Connection through Sharing Our Stories

Using Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, & Storytelling to Build Connection

Photo of Kïrsten Blake
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I am a.....

  • Organization
  • Facilitator & Coach

Tell us about your idea

Our society rewards "busy," and it is socially acceptable to put your whole being into your work and school. Yet, this often results in an imbalance in your life and values. How do you ensure that you are first living from the space that you want to BE in, and then act from there?  I proposes that you flip the narrative to: First BE, then do.  

What would it look like if we created spaces for educators and students to just BE? A space where they could share their stories, practice mindfulness, and build their emotional intelligence skills. 

"Toward Transformative Social and Emotional Learning: Using an Equity Lens" (2018) describes Transformative SEL as "a process where students and teachers build strong, respectful relationships founded on an appreciation of similarities and differences; learn to critically examine root causes of inequity; and develop collaborative solutions to community and social problems." 

I believe this starts with students and educators - the school community - sharing their stories and values to build empathy, connection, and understanding. Grounding this in both mindfulness and emotional intelligence skills allows for both a human change process to occur and forward movement toward an equitable community. It creates a community that is not us vs. them, but "we." It moves away from "othering" toward belonging. Growth and change happens when we allow time and space for quiet, empty spaces of reflection, renewal, and rest. 

I believe that we have created a system that is centered and focused on compliance. Those who can comply with the system succeed, and those who do not, don't. The system is focused on outward successes and not about what it means to BE human in this world. The process in the education system is a linear one, and the reality is that life is not linear. Humans are complex beings with a multitude to emotions, beliefs, etc. So while I do feel that students are able to show one side of themselves at schools, they are not always able to show all sides. Additionally, they are at a developmental stage where they are actually trying to figure who they are - so schools should be a space where they can try on different things, test, and experiment with who they want to BE - not be pigeonholed into one way of being. This is why, we get out of traditional schooling and experience identity crises, depression, anxieties, etc. We don't know who we are when we are not in a system telling us who we should BE.

I feel equally strong that most educators want to create a new environment where they can be connected with students in a real way that also honors their stories and motivations for becoming an educator. We have taken the love out of teaching as much as we have taken the love out of learning. Educators are burnt-out and need supports for them to tap into their whole BEings, as well.

In working with students, they have told me that they feel more connected to their educational experience when they see their teacher as a whole person - not just the person delivering information to them. They want to know their teachers' stories. They want to feel that connection. What would it look like if we created these spaces and time during the school day for this type of connection to happen? To really allow educators and students to take a pause and really SEE one another? We are in need of environments and cultures that allow humans to bring their whole BEings into that space - and I believe schools are a perfect place to model what this looks like. 

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

1) Educators and students feeling "time-poor." We are over-scheduled as a society, with a imbalanced focus on attainment. We need more spaces for non-attainment work of being and rest. 2) National & State standardized testing. 3) A system that best serves one learning style. 4) Lack of student choice in their learning experience. 5) Educator burn-out. 6) Hierarchical structure.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am the creator and founder of Chapter BE and work as a brain-based narrative coach and facilitator to help individuals reframe their personal narratives and (re)connect with their internal BEing. I believe that stories are a powerful way to create connection – both to self and to others.

In 2011, I took a step back from my position in the public education reform sector in pursuit of reframing my own story. The process was one of relearning how to connect to my heart-center, and unlearning many of the things that had become so ingrained in me while in the traditional workforce. 

Since then, I've interviewed nearly 600 people highlighting and sharing their stories in hopes to inspire and help others (re)connect with their own BEing and find connections to our common humanity. 

I have a B.A. from The College of Wooster, an M.A. in Education from Columbia University, and am a Certified Brain-Based Success Coach, Certified Narrative Coach, and Search Inside Yourself Teacher-in-Training.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

I am located in Denver, CO - but spent a lot of my adult life in New York City - so consider my communities spread between both!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sarah Nethan

Hi @Kïrsten Blake
Loved reading through your idea!

With the deadline for the Ideas submissions approaching quickly on May 26, I would love for you to update your submission with any additional information (eg. reflections, feedback received, questions answered, etc here in the comments), to ensure that all of your insights are well captured for our evaluators. You can edit your post by hitting the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post.

Thank you and good luck!

Photo of Kïrsten Blake

Thanks, Sarah! I added some text to the "Tell us about your idea" section based on the conversations in this comment section.

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