At Cane Run Elementary School, ringing bells mark more than the start of the school day.
For teachers Meghann Clem and Christine “Shay” Johnson, the sound of a chime begins another 50-minute lesson to teach students compassion, empathy, mindfulness, and resilience. These so-called soft skills, research suggests and educators believe, will translate into success inside and outside of school.
It’s all part of the Compassionate Schools Project (CSP), an ambitious $11 million, six-year experiment in social and emotional learning in Kentucky’s Jefferson County Public Schools.
“We’re going to really try to keep our brains focused on the sound of the bell,” says Ms. Clem to a room of kindergartners sitting cross-legged on mats. “And when you can’t hear the bell anymore, I want you to look up and show me those beautiful smiles.”
Clem strikes a small wooden mallet against a metal chime and waits. Seconds pass in silence as, one by one, students look up, grinning.
Except for Jeremiah, whose forehead was touching the floor. He was fast asleep.
Clem guided his classmates to the next exercise – stomping around the room as if they were climbing up a mountain – and then stopped by Jeremiah’s mat.
She jostled his shoulder gently. Did he want to climb the mountain? He shook his head. Clem steered him to a mat in the corner, where he slept soundly for the rest of the class.