The MISP is a ‘peer massage’ program, meaning that children ONLY pair with children. The Instructors teaching the program will demonstrate on another willing adult, or find some other way to demonstrate the movements if another adult is not available. The only exception is when a student has special needs, cannot physically take part in the program unaided and a parent/caregiver has given permission for an adult to be involved.
MISP can be introduced anywhere there are groups of children (aged 4 – 12). Other settings may include before or after school care, Girl Guides or Scouts … and the list goes on. The program can also be used with family groups where parents or other family members pair with children from their own family (but not with those from other families). This can be a wonderful way to open up new methods of communication between family members.
The strokes are performed on the back, head, arms and hands. It can be done while seated on a chair or on the floor. No clothing is removed (with the exception of coats or heavy jumpers if appropriate).
No, the strokes are performed over the clothes, so oil is not used.
The MISP routine is introduced to the school by a trained MISP Instructor. The actual implementation will vary from school to school, and depends on whether the Instructor is a teacher or other staff member, or an external consultant employed by the school to introduce the program. Some schools may have just one or a few classes involved, while others may wish to provide a whole school focus and have all classes participating. The Instructor will conduct information sessions with staff and parents before teaching the routine to the students, to ensure the philosophy and ethos of the program are understood. It is important that everyone involved understands these, as well as the protocols that are incorporated: asking permission before touching someone, respecting their requests for changes in pressure, saying thank you at the end of the massage. The routine, which consists of a series of carefully selected strokes or movements, is taught a little at time so the students are not overwhelmed by too much information at once. The Instructor will ensure that all students (and staff) are comfortable with each segment before including more strokes at each session. Once the class/es are comfortable with the routine the class teacher incorporates the massage into the class’s daily activities and the Instructor only needs to return to the class/es for occasional follow-up or to introduce the program to new students/classes. Once the students have learned the routine, the ideal is for it to be carried out each day in the classroom. It becomes a part of the daily routine that the students really look forward to, and helps to settle the students so they are ready to learn. When students and staff are comfortable with the MISP routine and the protocols for massaging, the teacher is able to then incorporate other touch based activities across the curriculum areas. For example, a class may create their own routine in response to an activity such as a trip to the zoo, or learning about the weather. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the teacher and the students!
Schools that have a whole school focus and include the MISP in every class have found that subtle (or even not so subtle) changes occur after a while – students develop more empathy and respect for each other and for staff, there is less aggression and bullying behaviour, classrooms are calmer, and students are better able to learn. Research on the way the brain works when a person is stressed clearly shows that the part of the brain involved in ‘higher order thinking’ is not functioning effectively in a stressed person, so creating an environment of calm is actually enhancing children’s learning potential. You can read about the experiences of some Australian schools here.
Interestingly, the term ‘bullying’ isn’t even mentioned to children when they are learning the program. What happens is that by learning positive, respectful ways of relating to each other (as they do with the massage), children are certainly much less inclined to behave in anti-social ways. As one person so aptly put it, “children who massage each other don’t fight!”. The fact that the children are learning by DOING rather than being talked at makes this program a very powerful tool for enhancing those positive behaviours that then become ’embodied’ by the children as they take part each day: asking permission before touching their partner, respecting their partner’s wishes about pressure and speed of the movements, and saying ‘thank you for letting me massage you’ on completion.
There are 2 options: 1. Go to the Member Directory on this site and locate a MISP Instructor near you. The school can then contact that person directly and communicate with them re availability and costs. 2. If there is no MISP Instructor near you, or the school wishes to have a staff member train as an Instructor, click on the link for Training to find details of courses being held in Australia.
Instructors are qualified to teach the program to children – but not to other adults to do the same. This ensures that the person teaching the children has had the full training, which involves a sound understanding of the history, philosophy and underpinning theories. If you become an Instructor you may then teach the program to the students in your class and any other classes in the school (or subsequent schools you may be employed in). The other staff will of course be present when you are teaching their students, and will learn to use the program as part of their daily routine too, but they may not then teach it in other (new) classes. Only trained Instructors may teach the program to new classes.
Initially the MISP requires about 30 minutes or so per session while the teacher and students are learning the routine, but once everyone’s familiar with it, it generally takes no more than 12-14 minutes per day (with both partners in each pair both giving and receiving the massage). The students are then in a calm state and ready to move into the learning activities. Many teachers have remarked that they actually save time during the day once they start including the MISP routine, as the students settle much more quickly when they come into the classroom if the MISP is done first (either first thing in the morning or after the recess or lunch break).
The MISP is based on respect, and that includes respect for the students AND the parents. If a child does not wish to take part for some reason, they will still be included by remaining in the classroom and observing the rest of the group, and may take part on their own by performing the actions in the air on a ‘pretend’ partner or find another way to be involved without pairing with another student. If a parent objects to their child being involved, that wish will also be respected. However, parents are always welcome to visit the classroom to observe the program being taught and to ask questions if there are any concerns. Once they see the program in action and the children behaving respectfully to each other, parents are usually very happy that their children are involved – especially when they themselves are the recipients of ‘practice’ massages at home! In many cases, children who have initial reservations about taking part ask to be included once they are familiar with the program and see what it involves.
Click on the Member Directory link to see if there is a trained MISP Instructor in your area. If there is, contact them to ask if they might be able to run an information session at the school, or to send you some information you can pass on. If not, either contact any Instructor or one of the Trainers who will be able to give you the information you need.