As a school social worker and counselor over a 15 year period covering the needs of three diverse inner city schools, I witnessed a lot of resiliency and strengths, as well as a lot of burnout among school staff and among parents, and I was struggling with burnout and compassion fatigue myself. It was then that I realized that I needed something to help sustain me in my professional and personal life. I had already trained in mindfulness as part of a mindfulness-based stress reduction corporate wellness program, as well as mindfulness for adolescents through Learning to Breathe, and I decided to deepen my training through a year-long mindful educator certification program with Mindful Schools. Not only did I find that this provided me with a practice to help sustain me, but it motivated me to begin to teach mindfulness to and share mindfulness with school staff, parents, and students, as well as with individuals, groups, and families I began to teach mindfulness to and coach mindfulness with, helping other to begin to establish their own mindfulness practice.
The following excerpt from the Mindful Schools website effectively explains the need for mindfulness in education:
“Why Is Mindfulness Needed in Education?
Today’s educators and students carry so much on their shoulders. Meeting academic and social expectations – and simply growing up and developing a sense of self and belonging – can be tough. Yet the pressures in today’s educational environment reach far beyond these basics. Our world is moving and changing faster than ever.
We need a response that addresses the overall health and sustainability of learning environments and supports the well-being of every educator, student, and member of the school community.
Students Face New Challenges
Anxiety—Nearly 1 in 3 adolescents will meet criteria for an anxiety disorder by the age of 18.
Trauma—46% of all children in the U.S. have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE).
Distraction—On average, U.S. teens spend 9 hours a day on digital entertainment, excluding school work.
Isolation—Nearly 40% of high school seniors report that they often feel lonely and left out.
An increasing number of today’s students face challenges that affect their ability to focus attention, regulate difficult emotions, build inner resilience, and form healthy and supportive relationships.
In response, we need to learn effective ways to help calm our students’ anxious nervous systems while providing them with supportive relationships, nurturing experiences, and positive learning environments.
Educators Are Burning Out
Stress—61% of teachers report being stressed out.
Mental Health—58% of teachers say their mental health is “not good.”
Burnout—Public school educators are quitting their jobs at the highest rate on record.
Educators are tasked with teaching the next generation of leaders; yet their working conditions lack the support needed to ensure their success. Unsustainable conditions can manifest through decreased productivity and creativity, and escalate to more serious symptoms like anxiety, dissociation, frustration, and, eventually, burnout.
In response, we need to provide more support and investment in educators’ development and well-being.”
My own trait level of mindfulness was first cultivated as a child growing up hiking and spending time in nature in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York State. Then when I was battling cancer in my late twenties while working in the inner city of Philadelphia as a social worker, I began a more formal mindfulness practice to support me through the five months of treatment. In 2016 I completed Mindful Schools Yearlong Mindful Educator Training as a way of supporting my own well-being and my work in schools and helping to avoid burnout. Since then, I have taught schoolwide mindfulness in pre-k through 8th grade (including in classrooms, and professional development for teachers/staff and workshops for parents) at E.M. Crouthamel Elementary school in Souderton from 2015-2019; a junior class at Central High School in Philadelphia in the fall of 2019; Gwynned Mercy Academy Elementary School (assemblies, professional development for teachers/staff, parent presentation and in all classes of grades 5-8) 2017-2019; Saint Martin of Tours Elementary School schoolwide in preK-8th, from 2015 to 2018, including classrooms, professional development for teachers/staff, and parent workshops; as well as professional development for teachers/staff in the following schools: Boy’s Latin Charter School in Philadelphia, Houston Elementary in Mt. Airy, Maritime Academy Charter School in Philadelphia, St. Aloysius Academy in Bryn Mawr (included Sacred Heart Academy staff also), St. Katherine of Siena Elementary School in Philadelphia, and Unitarian Society of Germantown pre-school.
How I Collaborate with Educators:
Having completed Mindful School’s Yearlong Mindful Educator Training, I have been trained in and have access to the curriculum and resources of Mindful Schools for teaching mindfulness in grades K-12. The curriculum consists of 16 lessons, some of which include the following topics: mindfulness of the body (awareness, grounding, calm), mindful breathing practices (awareness, focus, and calm), mindful listening (awareness, focus and attention), heartfulness: kind thoughts toward self and others (empathy, community, classroom culture, compassion, strengthening social and emotional skills), gratitude (paying attention to the good and balancing out the “negativity bias’ human beings are wired with for survival), mindfulness of emotions (cultivating the ability to observe emotions as they come and go like waves and not getting hijacked by them), mindfulness of thoughts (learning to be more aware of/observe thoughts as they come and go and recognize whether they are helpful, unhelpful, or not necessarily true), mindful seeing (attention, focus, awareness), mindful movement, mindful eating, mindful test-taking and others. Lessons may be offered ideally twice a week for 20 minutes or once a week for 40 minutes over an 8 week period. Programs can also be tailored to the specific needs of schools and classrooms. There is a four classroom minimum for a school to receive the Program and mindfulness classes must be held back to back with no more than 10 minutes between sessions to maximize the opportunity for other schools to be serviced. Fee is $1,200 per classroom, which tends to average around $60 per child.If you are interested in discussing how mindfulness can be brought to your classroom or your school please reach out to me at [email protected] or 215-680-1944. Programs can be customized to best meet the needs of your classroom, students, parents, staff, and school community. I look forward to hearing from you and working together.
Tags: Educators, Schools, Students