Editor’s Note: Based on the book Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky, Mind in the Making training modules draw on brain development research to inform practices that lead to better outcomes for children through the promotion of the seven essential life skills. Each workshop provides participants the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences and practices, learn what researchers have discovered about how children learn best, and discuss how to apply this research in their role as a parent, caregiver, or educator.
Recently, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) hosted two virtual Coffee Chats to reach out and check-in with its Mind in the Making (MITM) facilitators. Covid-19 has altered our lives in many ways and checking in affirmed the importance of keeping in touch.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Patterson Foundation has embraced 5 Cs; Caring, Connecting, Contributing, Collaborating, and Creating. We added two more by calling our virtual meetings Coffee Chats. Facilitators were invited to join the Coffee Chats via Zoom. In the past, our physical meetings with the MITM facilitators had a structured agenda with a specific training message. During the Coffee Chats, the plan was to check-in and offer a space for connection and a demonstration of caring. The vibrant conversations in both Coffee Chats were free-flowing and inspiring.
The MITM workshops, offered by SCGLR through the generosity of The Patterson Foundation, help parents, caregivers, grandparents, and educators to strengthen executive function skills in themselves and the children in their lives. The workshops are about connection and include interactive exercises to encourage learning and growth. When we first offered the Coffee Chat virtual experience, I wasn’t sure how an interaction using Zoom would give us a deep feeling of connection or allow for the open sharing of perspectives and ideas. My concerns quickly abated during the first few minutes.
It all started with Caring. Everyone participating in the Coffee Chats was very interested in hearing how everyone experienced the past few weeks. Many expressed appreciation to us for caring enough to check-in, offer support, and understand how they are dealing with challenges and even finding opportunities to thrive. These Coffee Chats offered us a space to care for each other, and we were enriched by all the stories from hardships to silver linings.
Connecting was vital for all to feel some normalcy. Several facilitators said they joined the chat to see someone, connect with the group, and even get good vibes.
Contributing was the heart of the call. Everyone shared stories of how they’re connecting with others, being productive, and practicing self-care. The stories provided a wealth of possibilities for growth and nurturing. Some facilitators send greeting cards to people they care about. Others are gardening, walking in nature, taking tap lessons virtually, and arranging take-out dinners in parking lots so they can have a meal with their friends from a safe distance. We heard how being in isolation gave one of the facilitators the time to embark on a soul-searching journey, and many talked about hosting everything virtual from birthday parties to trivia nights.
This sense of connection led to Collaborating. In the short term, how can we use virtual platforms to maintain a sense of community until we can physically gather? How can we incorporate the ease of virtual connecting platforms into Mind in the Making workshops? Would a combination of in-person and virtual workshops make it easier for busy parents and professionals? Where will our newfound knowledge lead us when we can get together again? What will work best for different communities? How can we make it convenient without losing its richness and depth? What will become of our new normal? There are so many ideas to build on.
We closed out the Coffee Chats with each participant sharing just a few words about how we were feeling. While hearing the words, I was certain we had created important moments for everyone. The responses included: blissful, inspired, refreshing, empowered, connected, happy, energized, and the list goes on. Our Coffee Chats had created stronger friendships, and everybody can appreciate that right now!