Launching: ‘From Lockdown to Listening and Learning’ Online Staff Training Package

It has been nerve-wracking … but, finally, we have launched ‘From Lockdown to Listening and Learning; an Online Training Package for Home and School’. In between big patches of brain-fog I would read heartfelt emails coming in from people asking for help – they wanted ideas for education staff to work on at home and resources to help support children and each other when they are back in school. As many of you know, after all these years – 48 – in education, I am still fiercely and energetically passionate about Quality Circle Time and how it has the potential to foster active listening, empathy and kindness. Truly, the three qualities I feel we most need, not just to ‘get through’ but to learn from in this unprecedented time. I want to hope that this period will lead us to a higher level of meaning than just surviving it. Being forced to Stop, Endure and Reflect could lead us to a greater understanding – not just for what the planet needs – but what the human beings living on it need for their own fleeting, fragile dot of time. Our poor children need us to be the very best we can be now which means that we will have to draw deep within ourselves to truly give our wisest self to them. I have written clearly in the package a foreword looking at what this means in practice. It means that you need to be kind to yourself first so that you have the inner resources to support children. I am going to link you now to the foreword where I discuss all of this in more depth. (Read Foreword Here) I am really hoping that in this recovery time, Circle Time for adults and children will embed properly. It won’t just be something we turn to when we are worried or anxious and then discard as soon as life is calm and normalcy is re-established. Circle-Time is unique. It has the power to create a small community who learn to know, help and support each other. It deals with the ‘NOW’ of emotions, feelings and fragility of human nature. It focuses on each individual and allows the group’s needs to shine through. There is no pushing children through preset objectives and curriculum agendas. Just a sense of being in the moment, engaging with each other with warmth and sensitivity. Circle Time, guided as it is by individuals’ immediate needs, is a celebration of our humanity in all its thriving imperfections and capacities for great depth and great fun. Many years ago, I used to teach Circle Time as part of a Masters in Education at Bristol University. The action research projects and dissertations from my teachers regularly testified to the power of how weekly circles can build a sense of agency, inner locus of control and self-esteem in individuals – and therefore the ability to make better life choices. However, the emotional health of the Circle Time facilitator / teacher / leader is key to unlocking these positive benefits in others. Let me link you to another piece of writing which explains this in more depth. (Read Brief Hello document here). So, kind readers, we need to do what my Gold Award schools do – have regular Circle Times for staff. I think one of the things we have learnt from our lockdown experience is that life in our schools runs too fast, too many meetings, too many changes, all together too many demands. Let us stop and, in circles of calm, say, ‘I matter, these people matter, being the best we can be matters – life is impermanent and fragile and our spiritual selves matter’. So, dear reader, here we are, near the end of this big launch blog. I feel very blessed – most teachers are unsung heroes and often people’s efforts aren’t recognised or appreciated. We have sent various key features of the package and, most importantly, lesson plans to a range of experienced teachers and health promoting staff and they have all been very encouraging. Here are just two comments.

“I think the plans are beautiful, they will be so useful as a guide to teachers as children arrive back in schools.  We just do not know how the children will come back and with what feelings and baggage so as a teacher having this will give them some confidence.  Circle time will be more important than ever (however we have to do it) and we are so lucky that you have done this thinking for us.” Emma Wayper, Assistant Headteacher, Watercliffe Meadow School

“Circle time is such a valuable resource for children and teachers. It promotes wellbeing for all those who are involved in this approach. It helps children’s lifelong skills with listening, learning about their own and others’ emotions, and helping develop problem solving skills.  I have worked as a Mental Health nurse for many years in a variety of settings and know how useful this approach can be for adults – staff and clients. Circle time has such a positive and healthy foundation and solid core to work from I feel this whole system approach should be available not just in education but health, social care and any other organisations with the needs of people at the heart of them. It’s so good to now have this resource online.” Sarah Bates, Registered Mental Health Nurse.


I wish you all the best of luck. Please, please try and weave weekly circle times into your Recovery Curriculum. Please look after each other in circles of loving kindness and understanding and most ‘healingly’ – have FUN!   Website Editor’s Notes To view the package details, click on the image / link to the left. If you would like to download or circulate a flyer to colleagues, please CLICK HERE FOR UK FLYER CLICK HERE FOR AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND FLYER CLICK HERE FOR EUROPE FLYER