Teaching youth mindfulness is a way to create a more mindful future for our society and communities, with special emphasis on the youth.
THE BACKGROUND STORY
In 2016, I started exploring meditation/visualizations with my English classes. It was a way for me to inspire my students in creative writing while at the same time teach them meditation techniques that would help them relax.
In 2017, my school experienced 3 suicides in the span of 6 months. This, compounded by having reread some key childhood diaries in which teenage angst figured prominently, triggered PTSD symptoms that lead to depression. At the same time, the staff at the school was grieving and instead of focussing on our needs, we targeted students without “putting our own oxygen masks on”. Through EMDR therapy, I discovered that what I needed was to resurrect my meditation practice and that maybe this would also benefit my students. I got an app (calm.com) on my iPhone and started by exploring the free content. Eventually, I subscribed to the full version because I realized the benefit of meditation for me and my students. One of my high school students told me her mom had downloaded the app and they were using it at home…
In March 2017 I attended my first Heart of Teaching (HOT) mindfulness workshop for educators at the Zen Mountain Meditation Center in Santa Fe, NM. I realized just how powerful mindfulness could be in the classroom. As a result of this exploration and networking at the workshop, I decided to take an online course through Mindful Schools (Mindful Essentials) that would provide me with the curriculum for middle & high school. Furthermore, I got a scholarship to attend an educator’s meditation retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Refuge which deepened my resolve to embed mindfulness practice in the classroom. All of this showed me there was a movement afoot for incorporating mindfulness in the classroom and that it was the opportune time for me to join in.
The 2017-18 school year proved especially empowering as I attended 2 more HOT workshops and was invited to present my classroom model and experiences to the New Mexico Mindfulness Leaders Conference in a break-out session on Mindfulness in the Classroom.
Also, in the 2017-18 school year, I was invited to be part of our school-wide EQ/staff leadership development project using “Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” We used the book and workbook to create a staff team-building initiative. As I was one of 4 members of our staff EQ committee, I became a leader in the program, leading many of the meetings and organizing as well as supporting staff in the development of the team-building program. Often, the staff meetings would start with a mindfulness practice which I led; staff members have expressed their appreciation of how this helped them relax at the end of a busy day.
I also have experimented with new discipline management procedures that incorporate some mindfulness skills (STOP card) as well as a stress-management mindfulness activity for staff.
Looking forward to the 2018-19 school year, I plan to continue leading the team-building program while incorporating more mindfulness practice into staff meetings as well as student gathering (such as morning announcements “mindful minute”). The possibility of using my STOP card and stress-reduction activity with students at the all-school level is in the idea stage.