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In Kindergarten, Feelings Take Center Stage


Since Chapin’s Distance-Learning Program launched last month, Lower School Counselor Kristen Piering has been a familiar presence in many of the remote classrooms, offering reassurance and sharing strategies with our youngest students.

Recently, Dr. Piering stopped by Alana Cimillo and Veronica Sanabani’s Morning Meeting to talk about something very important: the letter L.

In previous weeks, Dr. Piering had introduced three age-appropriate tools to help all the Kindergartners “DEAL” with the current situation: D for “Do something,” E for “Emotions” and A for “Acceptance.” The students in K-22 were curious to find out what the last letter stood for!

First, Dr. Piering’s friend needed their help. “Rocky was feeling upset that he couldn’t go to school,” she told the class. “So, he wrote me a letter.”

With a simple click, a handwritten note appeared on the screen. “Dear Dr. Piering, I have been working on accepting distance learning and doing things to change my emotions, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. I’m just not good at making things better.”

The letter went on to say, “I’m having no fun, and I’m not very good at anything these days. Can you help?”

After reading along with Dr. Piering, the students looked up from their digital boxes. “What did you notice about Rocky’s letter?” she asked.

“He’s having a hard time,” said one student. Her classmates nodded in agreement. “He’s trying to accept things but it’s hard. It’s like his first time at school,” another offered.

Continuing the discussion, Dr. Piering welcomed comments and observations. “Would you say Rocky is being nice to himself?” she asked. “No!” a student responded emphatically. “He’s telling himself he’s not good. He wants to go back to regular school.”

Dr. Piering encouraged the students to consider Rocky’s state of mind – and how his feelings may be similar to ones they have experienced recently. “Raise your hand if you think it’s important to be kind to yourself,” she instructed. In a flash, everyone’s hand shot up.

Then she readied for the big reveal. “Do you want to find out what the L in DEAL means?” Cheers filled the Zoom room.

"The L stands for….” she began, pausing for dramatic effect. “Love!” Then, adding a crucial hyphenate, Dr. Piering further enhanced the term. “We’re going to call it ‘self-Love,” she declared.

“What does self-love mean?” she asked. “To love yourself and be nice to yourself,” said one student.

Dr. Piering also reminded the class that “the way you talk to yourself matters.” To illustrate this concept, she showed the students pairs of statements. They were asked to decide which conveyed self-love by adding an electronic thumbs-up symbol to the chosen one. For example, “I am a really hard worker and I try my best at math.” vs. “I am not good at math and won’t get better.”

To show how they might help themselves maintain confidence and positivity, Dr. Piering demonstrated the “catch it and change it” trick. If a negative thought emerges like “I cannot do a good job on this project,” the students practiced adjusting their feelings to a more compassionate statement such as “I will try my best on this project.” These sentiments would certainly be useful for their challenge of the week, which was to write a thoughtful response to Rocky.

“I love the idea of self-love,” remarked Ms. Cimillo at the end of Dr. Piering’s uplifting presentation. “You are all working so hard and we are so proud of you,” she told her class. After taking a quick “wiggle break,” K-22 pivoted to Reading Workshop, where they explored more feelings through the delightful book “Not Norman,” about a boy, his pet fish and a host of mixed emotions.