How can schools support students who are growing up in an incredibly complex, rapidly changing, and interconnected world? Learning content and skills are certainly important, but what about the role schools can play in fostering students' social and emotional development as well?
A wealth of studies have illustrated how stress impairs our health, ability to learn and maintain healthy relationships. Mindfulness exercises practiced in real-time can help students develop grit, empathy, self-awareness and the ability to befriend one's self without taking time away from curriculum content that needs to be covered.
I've noticed how teachers can leap into teaching mindfulness practices without fully understanding them. Having been a classroom teacher, I know what it's like to immerse myself in a subject before teaching it, but mindfulness cannot be learned from content alone. It's an experiential practice that takes time to develop. I've seen teachers with the best of intentions tell an upset student to, "Take a deep breath and let it go." If only it was that simple! I've worked with students who disliked meditation because their teacher instructed them to keep their eyes shut and sit in a particular way, which made them feel uncomfortable. Other students have shirked away from mindfulness exercises because their teachers insisted they would feel more relaxed afterwards, but they didn't. Mindfulness is not goal oriented, and yet it's unfortunately being marketed to students (and adults!) as a magical panacea.
Mindfulness is not about excluding or getting rid of certain feelings (anxiety, anger, stress, worry, doubt...), but cultivating the ability to be with the full range of our experiences and the feelings that come with them. So, how can we be with our thoughts and feelings without fearing them or feeling flooded by them? How does doing so foster a growth mindset or reinforce a fixed mindset? What does this actually look like in a classroom? What are some developmentally appropriate practices, lessons and activities teachers can do with their students? These are just some of the guiding questions I use in my presentations.
I have led K-12 experiential workshops for students and faculty on the Mighty Ms and what the research has to say in support of these practices. When working with fellow teachers and administrators, I also offer practices to help support us in our personal lives as we work to support the needs of our students. Over the years, I've adapted mindfulness practices to the developmental needs of students and...made them more playful! Mindfulness can be much more fun than observing one's breath! Together, we untangle any areas of confusion, and I provide a greater conceptual understanding of why and how to teach these practices as well as what pitfalls to avoid. I'd welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you and customize a workshop to meet your school's needs and concerns.