By Guest Blogger Gina Biegel, Stressed Teens
An Interview with Laurie Grossman
I have had the privilege and honor of knowing Laurie for about a decade now. I met Laurie when she was just
starting her first venture with mindfulness as co-founder of Mindful Schools. We would meet for tea and talk about the mindfulness practices and the efficacy and utility of bringing mindfulness to schools. These beginning seeds of mindfulness have taken root. There is now a large movement of mindfulness for all youth. Laurie wants to see, "mindfulness in every classroom from preschool to grad school." If you know Laurie like I do, then you know she will probably make this happen. Laurie is donating all of her profits from the book to form a college fund for the 5th grade authors.
The Origins of Master of Mindfulness
Twenty-five children in Mr. Musumeci's 5th grade class in East Oakland, California were working on a unit on superheroes and one of the students, Isaac said we should have a mindfulness superhero and it should be called Master of Mindfulness 'MOMS'. Laurie learned that Isaac thought, "mothers would want you to know how to do this." Further, he explained that "moms want you to be well and do your best." So a mindfulness superhero was born. This superhero can be your own mindful superhero. It can be like Isaac's or it can be your own. All of the scenarios in the book come directly from the kids. Every student in the class contributed to the book whether through a drawing or text.
Laurie says, "there isn't a kid in the universe that doesn't need this whether he is affluent or poor; from a very supportive family or one that is not." I agree with Laurie, pain, suffering and stress know no boundaries. Everyone is affected and everyone can use mindfulness to help. Given the climate of children's books today and the lack of children of color represented, it is great to see a book written by children of color that teaches all kids about the importance of mindfulness.
Mindfulness Helps You to Make Wise Choices and Manage Your Feelings
Laurie thinks that often "what gets people into trouble are impulsive decisions that aren't wise choices that are made from emotion by reacting rather than thinking and responding." Mindfulness helps children learn that they have "the power to make wise choices."
The practices in this book can help kids, parents, and teachers to, "calm down, pay attention to the world, and cope with distractions to improve concentration." The scripts in the back of the book are written by the students in this class and can serve as a "how-to" guide to practicing mindfulness.
Stress and Superheroes
I have learned through this book and interview that when you are a mindful superhero you are being the best person you can be inside and out. Laurie explained that when kids, parents and teachers aren't being nice they are probably having a hard time in their own life. It is the stress that "makes us not that nice." Therefore, if we practice mindfulness and are more present we are in turn kinder and nicer!
Laurie believes that if we can get students and teachers practicing daily, schools will be much more successful. All curricula will be more effective when kids know how to pay attention.
Gina M. Biegel, MA, LMFT is a psychotherapist practicing in Campbell, CA. She has worked for over a decade specializing in therapeutic work with teens and their families. Her area of interest and passion focuses on using a mindfulness-based approach with teens whom need help with managing stressors due to high-school demands, anxiety, depression, problems with relationships, and difficulties with paying attention and focusing. She is an expert in the field of mindfulness and psychology for teens. She developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Teens Program that is evidence-based and has been written about in the popular press. She is the founder and creator of Stressed Teens, a mindfulness-based program for adolescents and professionals. You can learn more at www.stressedteens.com. She recently published a deck of cards for teens Be Mindful Card Deck for Teens. Her first book, The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens and audio CD are currently available on-line.
You can read an interview with two afterschool leaders on how they promoted mindfulness in afterschool by clicking here. For information on training and resources to promote mindfulness in afterschool, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sam Piha
The Wallace Foundation has been a longtime supporter of the afterschool movement. The Foundation is currently conducting market research to better understand Policymaker, K-12 Public School Leader and Afterschool Leader opinions about trends relating to desired outcomes of K-12 education and afterschool programs. They are especially interested in the importance of social emotional learning.
We urge you to take the time to complete this survey. It is important that those who understand the work of afterschool and summer programs provide their unique perspectives on this work. This survey will take about 15 minutes to complete. Your responses will be strictly confidential and not be attributed to you or your organization. To begin the survey, please click here.
Over the last five years, we have sponsored an annual How Kids Learn conference. This year, we are sponsoring a number of How Kids Learn Speaker’s Forums.
Temescal Associates is proud to announce that we have created a new non-profit entitled, the How Kids Learn Foundation. This was done to expand our reach and the effectiveness of our educational efforts. This will also allow us to diversify our funders.
The HKL Foundation is dedicated to improving the effectiveness of settings that support the education and healthy development of youth. This includes schools and out-of-school time programs. The Foundation will provide educational activities such as Speaker's Forums, trainings, and conferences for organizations that promote the healthy development of youth.
We have assembled a prestigious board to help guide our activities and will provide an update as we go forward.
By Sam Piha
There is a growing body of research that suggests that the practice of mindfulness techniques by youth promote social emotional learning, character building, and "grit" - specifically, self-awareness, self-management, the development of empathy, and perseverance. Mindfulness is increasingly being taught in school-based settings but few have translated this into afterschool programs.
Temescal Associates and Mindful Impact have developed a 16-week mindfulness curriculum for afterschool workers and a two-day training – one day for the use of mindfulness techniques for the self-care of adult staff, and one day for staff who will lead young people in mindfulness activities.
We wanted to understand more about the use of mindfulness techniques in the afterschool setting. We posed a number of questions to leaders who are putting this to use on the ground: an afterschool leader for the Riverside County Office of Education (Allison Haynes) and a middle school teacher and former Director of Afterschool Programs for Delano Union School District (Ken Dyar). Both sponsored mindfulness in afterschool trainings for program leaders. Below are some of their responses.
Q: WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU BELIEVE MINDFULNESS BRINGS TO YOUNG PEOPLE?
Allison: I am sure that the research lays out many benefits. Through the lens of Allison, I say the best benefit is that students become more aware of self. I believe self-awareness builds confidence. Confident youth are likely to reach their potential. I need all youth to reach their potential.
Ken: Stress management, regulating behavior, lowering blood pressure, increasing positiveness, increasing hopefulness, empowering youth to feel that they are in control of themselves - these are all benefits that come from mindfulness activities. Mindfulness develops a growth mindset in kids. "I am not stuck forever in my current situation. I can control my thoughts, attitudes, and reactions to the events I encounter." It gives them a tool to move them forward emotionally and therefore academically.
Q: WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU BELIEVE MINDFULNESS BRINGS TO ADULT STAFF?
Allison: Mindfulness provides immediate feedback to adult staff. Taking a breath while letting the thought pass is indeed helpful when your inner voice is shouting doom and gloom. Interrupting the critical voices in one’s head allows a pathway for creative thinking (which is always necessary for afterschool programs adult staff). But engaging in a practice before arriving to engage youth is most valuable because it is during that time that intentions can be set, loving kindness administered, and a stronger connection to compassion forged. Mindfulness is a good way to start any day.
Ken: Teaching in an after school setting is very stressful. These are 3.75 hour positions with relatively low pay and no medical benefits. For most of my staff, this was the first "real" job they held. And what do we ask them to do? Be alone with 20 students from 2:15 until 6 pm. Five days a week. The staff had to learn curriculum, class management, instructional strategies, and grant compliance in a very short period of time.
However, we also knew that staff could not bring that emotional baggage in front of the kids. So how do we help them be in the moment, manage their stress, and improve their overall outlook professionally? I thought mindfulness was the answer. I still think it is a game changer in after school programs.
Q: DO YOU BELIEVE THAT MINDFULNESS IS APPROPRIATE FOR INTRODUCING TO ALL AGE YOUTH? IF SO, WHY?
Allison: YES. Why not? Why would we arbitrarily choose a number and determine that until one reaches that age they are restricted from engaging in a practice that includes benefits such as relaxation, self-regulation of emotions, self-awareness, and compassion for others? If we taught mindfulness to youth of all ages…what a wonderful world it would be.
Ken: I do believe that mindfulness is appropriate. I have introduced it to my eighth graders this year. The adolescent brain goes through huge changes. It begins to prune back connections that are no longer used or needed, and it grows new connections as it matures and learns new things.
This is a huge leap forward toward adulthood. Students in middle school are truly "stuck in the middle." Anyone who has worked with middle school students will tell you that these kids are both babies and adults. They will chase and scream and giggle like little kids. Meanwhile, they push adults away, while at the same time longing for meaningful relationships and guidance with those same adults. They need a tool like mindfulness to manage the swings in mood and emotion. They need a way to manage the stress that comes from "fighting the bear". I believe that educators who use mindfulness with their students will enhance the relationships they have with their kids. Sharing mindfulness with my students has certainly proven to them how much I care about them.
Q: WOULD YOU RECOMMEND MINDFULNESS TO OTHER AFTERSCHOOL LEADERS? IF SO, WHY?
Allison: YES. I’d recommend mindfulness to other afterschool leaders because this practice is good self-care. Additionally, I know afterschool leaders are role models who can’t give what they don’t have. I say, give them what they need and watch it spread.
Ken: When I share mindfulness with my kids, one comment I always hear at the beginning is that it is "weird." It's weird because no other teacher they've had has ever shared this with them. Taking a moment to do a body scan, be grateful, be in the moment, etc., is completely foreign to them.
It is my wish that mindfulness become such a regular part of education that it is never considered "weird" anymore. I wish every teacher on my site spent time using mindfulness with their students. I would certainly recommend the practice to any leaders involved in educating our youth.
Allison Haynes is the Administrator of Pupil and Administrative Services at the Riverside County Office of Education. She has worked in the field of Education for 25 years with the last five focused on Expanded Learning Programs. Her experience ranges from working with elementary, middle school, and high school students as a school counselor and/or a site administrator. Allison remains steadfast in removing barriers to learning via social emotional support; youth advocacy; and social equity. In recent years Allison has turned her actions toward influencing those working directly with youth.
Ken Dyar was named a California Teacher of the Year in 2006. He is currently a Physical Educator at the Delano Union School District. Prior to this assignment, he was Director of Physical Education and After School Programs, including DUESD's after school program - POWER. Ken has taught for over 18 years, teaching 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades (13 of those years as a physical educator and department chair at Cecil Avenue Middle School in Delano).
Mindfulness in Afterschool is a training and curriculum offered by Temescal Associates, in partnership with Mindful Impact. For more information, write to email@example.com.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.