The Connection Practice in Education

Cultivating empathy and insight can have a profound impact on every measure of school success.

For example, a Harvard study found that cultivating empathy among students is linked to positive peer relationships, better communication skills, and fewer interpersonal conflicts.

In addition, “Threat Assessment in Schools,” a guide by the US Secret Service and Department of Education, calls connection the “critical emotional glue” and “a central component of a culture of safety and respect.”

Teaching empathy and creating connection is at the core of the Connection Practice. While integrating the Connection Practice into the school day takes 10 to 15 minutes, it makes teachers’ jobs easier by improving behavior, preparing children for learning, creating more cooperation and teaching children how to handle conflict themselves.

Rita Marie exhibiting at the California Student Mental Wellness Conference

Dr. Laurie Porter of St. Rita School in Fort Worth, Texas, evaluated the results of implementing the Connection Practice in 2012. The curriculum was known as BePeace when it was tested.

“Overall, based on my interview with the principal and the teachers’ written responses, the Connection Practice methodology was  an effective tool for counseling  students, creating a harmonious classroom atmosphere and helping  students to feel calm and focused before tests, as well as giving the students themselves tools to help understand and take charge of their emotions.”

Annual evaluations revealed that bullying, intolerance, conflicts, violence and misconduct reports decreased after the Connection Practice training.  The results in this graph have been seen over and over in Costa Rica, where the Connection Practice has been taught to almost 1,500 teachers, impacting more than 40,000 students.

The Connection Practice:

  • meets American School Counselor Standards
  • has been approved for college credit and for continuing education credit for educators in many states in the U.S.

See the Research and Articles page for abstracts of the cited research. For more information, send an email to info@rasurinternational.org.

Heart-Brain Coherence

Heart-brain coherence, which plays a major role in the effectiveness of the Connection Practice, has been thoroughly researched by the Institute of HeartMath®. At least three HeartMath studies have been recognized by the National Registry of Effective Prevention Programs (NREPP) for having met their criteria as evidence-based research. For example, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Education showed a statistically significant connection between reduced test anxiety and improved test performance. Some of the results were:

  • Seventy-five percent of the students experienced lower levels of anxiety during tests.
  • The test scores improved on average by 10 to 25 points.
  • Students experienced less fear and frustration, and made fewer rash decisions.  They participated more in class activities and demonstrated emotional connection, humor, persistence and empathic listening.

In addition to K-12 classrooms, the Connection Practice is an effective tool for after school programs, day and overnight camps, and university courses.

This is Anabel, a “Connection Practice pro” at age 12. The evening before midterms. she did feelings and needs on her own, then insight twice. She fell sound asleep on the second insight. 

Tools for Learning the Connection Practice

Guidance counselor demonstrates teaching Feelings & Needs Cards at Oakley Elementary School:

Years of experience have shown that the use of tactile tools enhances the power of the Connection Practice. The most powerful and comprehensive tool is the Connection Practice Boards. Other tools include Feelings & Needs cards and GROK cards, which use pictures in addition to words for children who cannot read.

Other tools include Feelings & Needs cards and GROK cards, which use pictures in addition to words for children who cannot read.

Biofeedback software, such as the emWave and Inner Balance,  makes it easy to learn heart-brain coherence. 

Rita Marie’s book, “Completely Connected,” and the Connection Practice Workbook make it possible to learn on your own.

The Connection Practice has inspired two children’s books, which make it especially easy for children to learn the practice. Corey’s Peaceful Heart teaches children how to become coherent. Alma and Atman tells the story of a young girl resolving issues around the divorce of her parents after she learns the Connection Practice from a draft horse.

In addition, a music CD by Sam Guarnaccia and Rita Marie Johnson has songs for each step of the Connection Practice. The CD is called “BePeace in Song” since it was made prior to the name change to the Connection Practice. See a video of the children’s choir performing these songs.

There is also a Connection Practice app that is available in the Apple store. 

The Connection Practice K-12 Curriculum

Video describes the first Connection Practice pilot in a US school (The Connection Practice used to be called BePeace)

“I felt like all the worries that I’ve had have just been lifted.”

- Student at Oakley Elementary
after experiencing the Connection Practice

The Connection Practice Curriculum Kit gives educators the training and materials they need to create greater harmony in their classrooms and to help students succeed academically.

Teachers, administrators and school counselors – as well as parents – can learn the core of the Connection Practice through in-service training or video instruction using magnetic boards. In this training, you will:

  • Experience the powerful combination of empathy and insight.
  • Understand the concept of heart-brain coherence and the neuroscience behind it.
  • Learn the value of identifying and connecting with feelings and needs.

The Connection Practice Curriculum includes six 30-minute lessons for use by teachers or guidance counselors.  Instructors can also use the “BePeace in Song” CD, which has songs for each step of the Connection Practice.  The songs were composed by Sam Guarnaccia and Rita Marie Johnson when the practice was known as BePeace.

Using the practice daily ensures that each student feels heard and is connected to peers and the teacher

This self-empowerment skill clears away emotional turmoil and excessive excitement so that students are ready to learn.

As a result, the teacher will not spend as much classroom time on managing behavior problems. But most importantly, this practice ensures that, every day, students know they matter. (Many students reported that they used the Connection Practice at home to resolve conflicts, to the great surprise of their parents.)

Maria, a second grade teacher, said,

“The Connection Practice has helped me a lot, especially when it comes to quieting the students without shouting or threats. The Quick Coherence Technique has become standard practice in my class; the students themselves ask to do it when I forget. I was so surprised to see the effect this tool had on one student. He was aggressive and stirred up trouble continually with his classmates. By becoming coherent, his impulsivity has been dramatically reduced while his attention in class has improved. His progress has been so amazing that he now asks permission to lead the technique in front of the class.”

The Connection Practice can also be used:

  • Throughout the day to manage tensions or conflict in the classroom
  • Just prior to exams
  • By guidance counselors when counseling students and parents. The practice meets American School Counselor Standards.

For information about bringing the Connection Practice to your school, contact a certified curriculum instructor or send an email to info@connectionpractice.org.

Girls practicing heart-brain coherence
Costa Rican teachers doing the Connection Practice in 2007

After-School Programs and Camps

The Connection Practice can easily be incorporated into an after-school program, day camp or overnight camp.

It will help to improve behavior, prepare the children for learning, and create more cooperation, it will give children skills they can use for life:

  • naming their feelings and understanding the needs that underlie their feelings
  • self-regulating their reactions to feelings, a key component of emotional intelligence
  • knowing that they can look to themselves for answers to challenges or conflicts

Here’s what one teacher had to say:

 “I used it with a student who was quite distressed, sad, isolated, frustrated, and upset, and he was transformed to peace and clarity in about five minutes using your steps.  It was GREAT!!!!  He was super relieved.  As well as being able to identify his feelings and unmet need, he went inside and got near instant insight about how to move forward from here.  What a gift!!!”

These programs can incorporate the use of a Connection Practice Daily Workbook. It will help them continue the practice, which reinforces empathy for themselves and others and improves their ability to access insights for problem-solving.

To integrate the Connection Practice into an after-school program or camp, contact a certified curriculum instructor or send an email to info@connectionpractice.org.

Students at a summer camp when the Connection Practice was known as BePeace.

The Connection Practice for Families

Taking a Connection Practice Course is a great way to support your children who are learning the methodology at school or in an after-school program or camp.

It’s also a great way to learn how to model emotional self-regulation and self-care to your children. Integrating the practice into your family life will help your children grow up with more confidence, deal effectively with conflicts, and have greater access to helpful insights.

While your children will certainly benefit, so will you. You will gain the same benefits of more confidence, less stress and enhanced ability to deal with conflicts, and they will extend to your other relationships, your productivity at work and your overall well-being.

Part 1 of the Connection Practice course can be learned in a variety of ways, such as in-person, self-study, practice groups or Connection Practice Boards with video instruction.

The Connection Practice can also be used to mediate conflicts between teachers, staff and parents.

Find a Course Here

Practice Groups

Parents learning the Connection Practice.

For more information about a Connection Practice course at your school or conflict mediation using the Connection Practice, contact a certified trainer or send an email to info@connectionpractice.org.

Connection Practice Curriculum Instructor

Connection Practice coaches and trainers can be certified as Curriculum Instructors.  They can provide in-service training and coaching for teachers, guidance counselors, and other leaders who work with students.  Contact a certified curriculum instructor or send an email to info@connectionpractice.org.

The Connection Practice in Higher Education

The Connection Practice can be incorporated into higher education classes or curricula.  It can also be taught for credit as a week-long course.  Programs that would benefit from the inclusion of a Connection Practice course include communications, elementary or secondary education, psychology, leadership, management and many more.

For several years, Rita Marie taught the Connection Practice as a 40-hour intensive for graduate credit at the United Nations University for Peace (UPeace), which is a graduate school for international leaders.  The course was one of the most highly rated by UPeace students.

Rita Marie also presented the Connection Practice to rectors from thirty Latin American universities at INCAE (Instituto Centroamericano de Administración de Empresas), the “Harvard” of Latin America.

It has been offered to faculty at Collin College in Texas for three years.  All reported that they “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” that they had a better understanding of feelings and needs and were better equipped to acknowledge feelings and needs.  One professor reported, “The workshop helped me better understand how to unpack student’s emotions and to understand how to empathize.”

It has been offered for credit at Edgewood College and Vitterbo University in Wisconsin and Park College in Missouri.

The Connection Practice can also be used to mediate conflicts between staff, teachers, students, student groups/clubs and faculty associations.

All Connection Practice courses are approved worldwide for continuing education credits (Professional Education Development Units) through the University of the Pacific at $70 per credit hour.

  • Part 1, 2, and 3 Training Courses (1 CEU/course)
  • Part 1, 2, and 3 Certification Courses (2 CEUs/course)
  • Curriculum Certification Course (1 CEU)

For more information about a Connection Practice course, send an email to info@connectionpractice.org.

Rita Marie presents graduation certificates to UPeace students
Rita Marie hugging a UPeace student

The purpose of Rasur Foundation International is to spread the Connection Practice globally.

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