At the end of February I spoke at the first Bay Area Womanspeak Gathering in Livermore. I have been attending a Womanspeak group in Livermore since it first began in January 2017. Each month we explore a different topic such as "the heroine's journey" or "how to give a toast". I have noticed how it has given me a greater sense of presence and ability to play with and hone my message. At our gathering at the end of February I spoke about how I believe that healthy compassionate touch is vital to the social emotional well-being of our children in our schools, families and communities. I was encouraged by the level of enthusiasm and passion people shared with me afterwards. We always give each other a standing ovation at the end of our talks and that felt good too!
Another highlight of the month for me was holding a focus group for high school students, educators and parents. The topic we discussed was "How do we have healthy compassionate touch in our high schools?" Everybody had something to share across the whole spectrum of this topic. The primary issue for the students was the need to connect first and then bring in touch. They described the intense academic pressure they are under with a coinciding decrease in opportunities to connect with their teachers and peers. For those involved in sport they found that this gave them an opportunity to get to know their peers on a deeper level. Touch in sport between the athletes tends to happen spontaneously whether it is to celebrate or commiserate. For most sports, touch that takes place between the coach and the athlete is defined very clearly in their codes of conduct.
One of the High School teachers described how shaking the hands of her students as they entered the classroom was a really great way of establishing a level of trust and rapport with her students. She could more easily establish a deeper connection and be more likely to be able to tell if there was anything affecting her students. There was agreement within the whole group that this would be a good idea to bring into all classrooms.
We were fortunate to have a very well loved Spanish teacher attend along with 5 of her students who were in her Latino group. Maria grew up in El Salvador where the teachers take on the role of being the second mother. She brings that to her students and her students were clearly thriving and deeply grateful for the relationship they have with her.
And not all touch is healthy and compassionate as one of the students shared. Emphasizing the importance of the deeper levels of trust and connection the students were so clearly describing the need for.
We all came out of the room feeling like we all got to know each other a little better and recognized the need to have more of these brave conversations.
I was fortunate to have the support of 2 talented Seniors from one of the local High Schools filming the meeting so that we have audio of it all and footage that we can use to create the High School segment of Healthy Compassionate Touch in High School for the Jesse Lewis Choose Love extension program. I am looking forward to developing the next part of this program. Stay tuned!