Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We feel more alive. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.~Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
These files are strategies that have been practiced in class or ones that can be explored with your students.
- Finger Breathing
- Letting Go Painful Emotions
- Mindfulness When we are Really Missing Someone
- STOP and Mindfulness
- Mindfulness Affirmations for Healthy Inner Dialogue
- A Students Heartful Hand Book with Mindfulness
Mindfulness in the words of Ashmont school students
...As if they were describing Mindfulness to someone who has never heard of it and explaining how it feels to rest in the Still Quiet Place. Here are some student responses, in their own words:
Mindfulness and how it become part of education
Mindfulness is awareness. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention, on purpose, in the moment, non-judgmentally with kindness and curiosity.
An in-class Mindfulness program supports and exercises Personal Health and Wellness Choices that parallel Alberta Education. Mindfulness is practiced by exploring the 5 senses, thoughts, and emotions using focused attention and noticing our experience as it is felt in the moment without judging the experience.
Mindfulness creates a pause - a break where we slow down. This slowing down makes space for impulsive reactions to become thoughtful responses increasing focus, learning, emotional regulation, compassion, and resilience.
Introduced into medicine thirty years ago by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, mindfulness has become a successful mainstream influence in medicine, psychology, corporate environments, and now educationMindful Schools.
Beginning in 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn pioneered Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. After decades of research and brain science, there is growing evidence that supports mindfulness in education. The application of mindfulness by students and educators has the potential to improve academic achievement, mental health and relationships.
I feel it is of value to note that mindfulness-based treatments are practiced as a form of complementary medicine in over 250 hospitals and Universities around the world, some of which are assisting loved ones in local cancer clinics such as Edmonton and Calgary. Mindfulness treatments are practiced with war veterans and trauma victims. Psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists are all known to use mindfulness as a treatment to handle stress, pain, grief, depression and other difficult life situations. In terms of education, there are many studies that have shown that mindfulness is a powerful tool for combating multiple mental and physical problems and disorders, such as, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Mood and Anxiety Disorders.
Mindfulness in Education Program
Mindfulness as a program in schools came through the overwhelming population of students who were experiencing debilitating stress in Oakland, California.
An educator by the name of Laurie Grossman was at the helm of the project.
The inner city schools had many issues affecting their students: extreme poverty causing high school dropout rates that exceeded 50%; education pressure to increase test scores; extreme competition for admittance to college; student inability to focus; impulsiveness and disruptive classroom behavior; the lack of a sense of belonging; stress causing turmoil for students throughout the country.
In other words, stress impaired the effectiveness of the educational system.
Science shows that stress inhibits significant parts of the brain necessary for effective learning. There is a need to prepare the students to be able to learn. If students can find a way to lessen their stress, handle the stress and focus, there is greater potential for success in school.
Mindfulness became a method to enable students to manage their own personal wellness.
How the curriculum came to be
The beginnings of mindfulness in the classroom came out of the very real need to find a way for the students to maintain health and find their way to handle stress, life itself, nurture and maximize their learning potential.
Realizing this need, Laurie Grossman and her colleague Richard Shankman, responded to the need, creating a program to bring mindfulness training to the children and their teachers at Park Day School, Oakland California. After a 5-week pilot project the results were so positive that mindfulness was initiated in another local school. From here Community Partnership for Mindfulness in Education (now Mindful Schools) was established. The program eventually grew large enough to become an independent non-profit organization in October 2010.
In 2008 I was hired on with support staff at Ashmont Elementary as the Relaxation Coach. There were many similar issues in the school as what we might hear about with inner city schools. In my graduate studies, my research project was on Mindfulness in schools. I studied how mindfulness could be implemented in the classroom to assist student wellness. I was given opportunity to engage Mindfulness with the students of Ashmont School. In time it was apparent that the practice of mindfulness (along with a very caring and devoted school staff) assisted students towards their wellness and good choices.
I had the good fortune of meeting Laurie Grossman at one of the training sessions I attended in United States some years ago. I spoke with her about the work I was doing in Ashmont Elementary School. Showing trust in my ability to facilitate Mindfulness in a manner that honoured the program she had created, Laurie allowed me to receive the 14-session curriculum she and her colleague developed so I could continue my work with the school in a way that, by that time, was tried and true, with research showing very positive results. To this day I am heartfully grateful for the gift Laurie gave me in sharing the curriculum.
I have adapted the curriculum to respect and honour the Mindful Schools work as well as recognize the work I have done. Even so, I would encourage educators to take the on-line course that is offered through Mindful Schools as they are on the cutting edge of researching their program as they go - something that takes a lot of resources both of people and of expense.
The content of the Mindfulness program initially came from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction research done by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
It needed to become a simple, do-able, non-invasive exercises that promoted focus, relaxation and healthy relationships (self esteem and kindness with others). The 14-session curriculum is 15-minutes per lesson and ideally is offered 2 or 3 times per week.
The following are examples of what the session content might look like:
- Awareness of sound
- Awareness of breath
- Breathing purposefully
- Relaxing the body by awareness of breath
- Awareness of seeing
- Identifying emotions and how to be with the emotions in a healthy manner
- Making healthy choices: body, attitude, actions
- Self care
- Self esteem