Mindfulness at SMCDS

Mindfulness at SMCDS

What is Mindfulness?

This summer, some the SMCDS faculty and staff took part in a Mindfulness Fundamentals training through Mindful Schools, an organization that brings mindful meditation into the classroom.  Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment with openness and curiosity.  We know that we are never going to be without thoughts, after all we need to be thinking beings to make decisions and take part in our lives!  However, when those thoughts start to infiltrate our routine and turn into stress and anxiety we need to take a pause and ask "what can I do for myself in this moment?"

 www.mindfulschools.org

www.mindfulschools.org

How Does Stress Affect Us?

“Healthy stress is a natural part of life, including childhood. Children and adults alike need to be challenged in order to grow and develop. However, in the modern education system, healthy stress is frequently displaced by toxic stress. Toxic stress occurs when life’s demands consistently outpace our ability to cope with those demands.”
— Mindful Schools

Tangible Benefits of Mindfulness

Before bringing the program into the classroom, the work started with our faculty and staff's own experience with mindfulness.  The Mindfulness Fundamentals program is a 6-week online course designed to help participants establish their own practice before sharing with our community.  Think about when you are on an airplane, the safety video instructs us to put on our oxygen mask before assisting those we are traveling with.  Mindfulness is similar, we need to understand and have our own process in place before attending to the needs of others.

The National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) recently published an article on this subject matter with High School Counselor Juan-Diego Estrada asking the question "Do you have five minutes?"  Five minutes to breathe, close your eyes, and become still.  What would you notice, what would you hear?  Can we take these five minutes before class begins to let ourselves settle into our surroundings and allow for those surroundings to integrate into our experience?  READ THE ARTICLE >>

“It is indeed a radical act of love just to sit down and be quiet for a time by yourself.”
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

SMCDS Faculty & Staff share their experience

 Kate Joubert, Gr 4

Kate Joubert, Gr 4

In the past couple of years, I have noticed a great amount of students dealing with a variety of issues:  anxiety, too many after school responsibilities, too much tech time,  and impatience to name a few. Because the nature of our society, these are real issues for them but they do not have any strategies to help them manage the everyday stressors these issues bring. Many students also do not possess the ability to pause and reflect before they respond. This is obviously a learned behavior and will grow as they mature but that pause is taking longer to become part of their mindset. 

They also are not familiar with down time. Mindfulness is an way to teach them how to become more aware of their feelings, acknowledge them, pause and reflect upon them and then react to a situations. It also helps them quiet their mind rather than becoming overwhelmed from the incredible amount of stimuli and input they encounter each day.

My biggest take away was learning how to deal with my own emotions and anxiety. I became more mindful about my triggers and began to pause and reflect more consistently. I also learned that down time and being fully aware in that particular moment is all important. Another takeaway is being non-judgemental of myself or others if there isn't a pause before response.  This enables you to take the time to reflect upon what stopped the pause from happening. Using heartfulness (kindness) towards myself or others can make the pause more pronounced the next time. 

I am taking the second part of this course right now to become certified to teach it in the classroom. As part of the course, they ask you to use what you have learned in the class. I try to do so at least 3 times per week.  I find teaching the students to take the time to stop and notice how they are feeling has made my classroom a more calm environment. The students become aware of what they are feeling, acknowledge it and the send the emotion on its way rather than dwelling upon it which can make the emotion feel less manageable. They also learn to notice the small things and the beauty of simple kind acts. We are still developing the use of mindfulness in the class but I have definitely seen a change in our daily "vibration" 

20171027_124301.jpg

Grade 4 took time after recess to calm their minds and bodies before completing an intricate design project. It enabled them to listen and comprehend directions and work slowly so that their designs could be created correctly. 


 Megan Buchanan, School Nurse

Megan Buchanan, School Nurse

I wanted to bring mindfulness into my office to use with students experiencing anxiety.  It is not uncommon for anxiety to present as regular stomach aches and headaches which do not have a physical etiology, but rather an emotional cause. 

Mindfulness can provide life skills that allow us to RESPOND rather than REACT to stimulus, both negative and positive.  With practice mindfulness can help us to find access to space, and quiet within our minds at any given time, even amongst chaos or overload.

I have used it one on one in my office with a couple of students this year.  However, for mindfulness to be most accessible and useful as a tool, it needs regular practice, like studying, practicing a musical instrument, or learning skills for sports.  I have begun bringing mindfulness to the Middle School in mini 10 to 15 minute lessons once per week with each grade in grade level homeroom meetings and I am hoping to increase the number of times per week that I am able to work with MS students.  I will also be starting a once per week mindful lesson with 2nd grade this week.

Through Mindful Schools we are utilizing a curriculum that allows for new ideas and methods of being mindful to be presented in bite sized pieces...and accumulate, offering students various methods for accessing mindful practice. 


 Linda Spinney, Gr 2

Linda Spinney, Gr 2

My initial interest in bringing mindfulness practice to my classroom was to help students ‘stay in the moment’ rather than rush ahead in anticipation of what was coming in the next five minutes. I was hoping to cultivate a ‘present time’ awareness and the ability to pause their active minds even if for a moment or two.  After talking with other lower school faculty who completed the initial training with Mindful Schools, I decided it was time I checked it out for myself.  My journey began by learning mindfulness techniques and strategies applicable to my own life.  Much to my surprise, we didn’t jump right into the ‘how to’ lessons for my classroom.  The initial course is all about my own personal mindful practice, which initially, seemed a bit frightening.  I’m currently in week three of the course and already have experienced some of the benefits of mindful practice.  The second course focuses directly on classroom practice and application.  Mrs. Andrade is also enrolled in the class and we often compare notes on the weekly assignments and remind each other to do our ‘mindfulness of breath’ exercises!  Going forward, we hope to use a common mindful language with the students in lower school. 

My biggest take away so far has been how challenging it is to quiet the mind and turn off the brain while simply focusing on your breath.  With practice, I’m learning mindful breathing can help restore a sense of calm to a very busy, hectic day.  Gradually, this exercise has gotten easier and the focus, less of a struggle.  We are so accustomed to ‘doing and fixing and solving’  so to simply be in the moment goes against our natural tendencies for action.

I haven’t yet taught the children specific mindful strategies but I’m hoping my own sense of calm will have a positive effect on my students.  When confronted with challenging or stressful situations, focusing on the breath allows for time to pause which results in a more mindful response.  I’m not exactly sure where this mindfulness journey will take me, but it’s been well worth the time invested thus far.  However, I have so much more to learn! 

Like working out a muscle in the body, mindfulness strengthens areas in our brain that allow us to have better focus and respond to the events of our lives with greater skill and flexibility.
— Mindful Schools

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coding in Grade 1

Coding in Grade 1

State Presentations - Rhode Island

State Presentations - Rhode Island