Saving Our Students, Saving Our Schools, Part 2: Could Semantics Kill A Proven Program?

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When I started teaching mindfulness based stress reduction with my 3rd graders, I worried there would be push-back from my parents thinking I would be teaching meditation, although the word was not used in the curriculum.

However, within the first week of practice, students would use the word meditation from their own background knowledge of the word.

Students practicing breathing techniques.

Students practicing breathing techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing this could be cause for concern, I briefly taught the students the difference between practicing breathing techniques to calm the brain and Meditation. Since then, in the nine years of teaching Mindfulness, I’ve only had one incident where a parent discontinued their child in the activities, due to religious choice.

The program I implemented was called The MindUp Curriculum by the Hawn Foundation.  I chose this program, because it is non-secular in its teaching of mindfulness using brain-based research in the 15 activities.

Students were taught in the first three lessons how their body responds to stress and how to regulate the stress through mindful breathing techniques called Core Practice.  For the rest of the twelve lessons in the program, the students learned how to be Mindful, practice Empathy, and to self regulate during stressful or excitable situations.

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Saving our Students, Saving our Schools- Part 1

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“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” ~ Buddha

I had the privilege this year to teach over 175 eighth graders the art of mindfulness once a week for over 10 weeks.  It was  a profound experience for them and completely eye-opening for me.  Although I had taught hundreds of elementary aged children mindfulness, I did not realize how desperate our teenagers were for this practice in their life.

It wasn’t instant buy-in at first.mindfulness

I recall the first time the students walked into their Science class that Friday to see me sitting at the side of the room.  They immediately went into ‘substitute teacher’ mode. I smiled and walked to the front of the room and stood quietly, ignoring their comments and rambunctiousness.  I had forewarned their Science teacher, sitting in the back of the room, to let them just be themselves and not correct their behavior.  She was visibly nervous.

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