One on One: Jean Lawler
For 15 years, Jean Lawler, Ed.M.’84 worked in the classroom, teaching kids ranging from preschool to high school. She also worked for several years in educational publishing, developing nonprint learning products on CD and video, and working as a consultant to Scholastic. She thought she knew what kids needed to succeed in life. But it was actually a move to the North Shore of Boston, where she started spending time at a local farm, doing yoga in her yard, and walking on the beach, that made her realize that what kids really needed was more exposure to things that soothed their souls. Lawler spoke to Ed. about her discovery and how that led to a four-part book series geared toward helping pre-K to third graders slow down and consider how different experiences make them feel.
HOW DID THE ACTIVITIES THAT YOU WERE DOING MAKE YOU REALIZE THEY’D ALSO BE GOOD FOR KIDS? A I started feeling better. Less stress, happier. I thought, what if kids had more exposure to these things, too? Simple things like taking a walk or quieting your mind. What if kids could better learn to self-regulate and be comfortable in silence. I started building these activities into my schedule, but these are things that aren’t always present in our lives or in school. There just isn’t time.
THE BOOKS FOCUS ON FOUR DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES FOR KIDS TO THINK ABOUT. WHAT ARE THEY? How time outside makes them feel, how the food they eat makes them feel, how quiet time makes them feel, and how media choices make them feel. Each one of these alone is powerful, but the combination of the four is really healthy for kids.
A LOT OF THIS FOCUSES ON HELPING KIDS BE MORE AWARE. Yes, being aware of your thoughts and realizing they are valuable. That isn’t easy for most people but it’s important. It means slowing down for moments in your life. I’ve heard teachers talk about having kids close their eyes for a moment and think about something they enjoy, like the playground or their kitty. It’s calms everyone down, and it’s a really good tool for transitions in the classroom.
DID YOU EXPECT YOU’D ONE DAY BE AN AUTHOR? I figured I’d always write a children’s book. It was a goal I had, even back in college, to write the Great American Novel. When those four topics solidified for me as a real set of power tools, I thought, “Let me get these things out in print.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE SERIES? I’m considering putting together a project that includes curriculum and a lecture series for PTOs and other parent and school groups. I’m also thinking about doing books for older kids and families, along the same topics. Learning to self-regulate our emotions and behaviors is a valuable skill that can benefit people of all ages at home, in school, and at work.