Checking in with Taming the Dragon

For our January newsletter, we asked Bethany Gordon - Porchlight's Social-Emotional Learning Educator - to provide the community with an update on how the Taming the Dragon program is going during the 2023-24 school year. It might be cold outside, but we know the warm relationships we're building across Waterloo Region classrooms are making a difference in student's emotional wellbeing. Congrats to all the students who have completed the program so far, we are so thankful to be a part of your mental health journey!

An Update from Bethany Gordon:

By mid-February, 880 students in 16 schools will have completed our Taming the Dragon Program. Being able to interact with students in-person has been such a fun experience. The program engages students from grades 1 to 8 in schools across the Waterloo Region District School Board. I have been impressed at every school that I visit, how the teachers are going above and beyond to meet the needs of their students. They see the need for more socio-emotional learning in the classroom and appreciate that it is being presented in a relatable and age-appropriate way. The response from teachers has been very positive and there have been requests for further classroom resources to help keep the conversations going throughout the year around anxiety, emotions, thoughts, self-acceptance, and belonging.

Here are some comments from students this past week:

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘anxiety’?

“My mom when she tries to make our house perfect for her friends coming over”
“The dentist”
“Worrying what my friends think of what I say”
“Lookout because the rage monster is coming”
“Worry and just feeling scared”
“It sucks”
“Getting in the car when we are super late for karate”
“Hiding under my covers, not wanting to go to school”

The program reminds students that we all worry and encourages students to get curious about how they cope with their own Worry Dragon. What strategies work best for them with the tools we learn? Some younger students talk about pizza breathing or whale breaths while older students appreciate the relief from knowing they aren’t alone in their feelings.

I am inspired to be a detective this winter, getting curious about how I cope with my own feelings of anxiety, my Worry Dragon. Learning to recognize the signals our body is sending us takes time. What happens in your body when you are worried? What does it feel like? What message is your Worry Dragon sending you? So much to be curious about!

When we explore what worry feels like in their bodies, here are some comments from students:

“Like a volcano in my stomach”
“Like I’ll throw up”
“My arms shake”
“My heart beats like 100 drums”
“Weights on my shoulders”
“My fists and teeth get all clenched”

We talk during week three of the program about how our thoughts influence our feelings. We talk about recognizing unhelpful thoughts and re-framing them. We all have a soundtrack playing in our minds – can you recognize which thoughts are helpful or unhelpful? What thoughts play on repeat on your soundtrack?

Students are provided with a worksheet with a variety of helpful thoughts to try out and here are some additional helpful thoughts that students came up with a few weeks ago:

“I can get through hard things”
“I get to go home after and feel loved”
“It is okay to make mistakes”
“I can take a break”

Our online feedback form is available for teachers and families to provide feedback at the end of the program. One class took it further and created a google slide presentation for me in January. It was a very kind gesture! I’ve included a few of the students’ comments below:

“Thank you for teaching us. I learned a lot. I really liked when you gave us tools. I learned that feelings are okay. Thank you for being kind and for coming to our class. I will miss you a lot.”

“Thank you Mrs.G. for all your help and teaching us about anxiety. I am able to recognize my feeling because of your work. We appreciate you coming to our class. You always brought presents!”

“You can always feel any feelings you have. It’s okay to feel feelings.”

“You teach me and my class about so many stuff and when I get nervous and scared I use the breaths that you taught us.”

“It’s okay you don’t like ketchup at all Mrs G. It’s good to pick helpful thoughts when worry feels big. Thank you for the play doh.”

“I appreciate you a lot because you bought us items like play doh, gems and more. I learned a lot while you were here and some things I learned were that anxiety is normal and everyone has it and another thing I learned was that everyone has good times and bad times.”

I feel incredibly grateful for the great reputation built by so many of my co-workers. I always get a very positive response when I say I am from Porchlight!

- Bethany

Porchlight's moving!

Our office at 18 Walnut St. will be closing for the final time on June 19th.

Our new office, located at 203-1315 Bishop St. N., will be opening for its first day of operations on June 24th.

All programs currently based out of our Walnut St. office will be moved to this new location. No other programs or operations at other facilities will be impacted. If you are unsure how you'll be impacted, please ask your counsellor or contact our reception desk at (519) 621-5090.

Please consider joining us for a drop in open house at our new office on June 26th from 3:00pm to 4:30pm.

Details and registration are available here.