To begin, I am a teacher. I teach middle school and my primary subject is Spanish. I absolutely love my job and feel privileged every day that I get to work with youth.
I got involved in yoga and mindfulness when I was a new mother. I realized that I could not control what was happening around me and that brought anxiety and confusion. I went through yoga teacher training at Ethos Yoga Studio in Holly, MI and my instructor Kathryn mentioned that she had attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat. I was so intrigued. So my first intense experience was a 10-day Vipassana retreat. I am not sure that I would recommend that to everyone but this was my experience. During that retreat I realized how impermanent things are, how much control I don’t have, and what really mattered in life. I also learned how the techniques were helping me handle my own emotional landscape.
From then on I had a pretty consistent mediation practice because I felt the benefits in my daily life. Then about 4 or 5 years ago, I attended a webinar that MC4ME and the Genesee ISD had put on that talked about mindfulness in schools. My two worlds collided… Teaching in Public Schools and Mindfulness. This practice that had helped me so much was starting to be taught in schools… Amazing. Of course I wanted my students to learn mindfulness but I was afraid of the stigma attached to meditation or mindfulness. What would the community think? Would parents boycott? Would I get in trouble?
Trice Berlinski from MC4ME directed me to take some classes with Mindful Schools. I started right away and was humbled about what I was learning. I took every class that was available and eventually completed course work to become a Certified Mindful Schools Instructor.
I am now teaching two push in hours of mindfulness at my middle school. When this year is over I will have visited 34 classrooms for mindfulness. I still teach Spanish and this year have one section of math. I am also very excited to be starting an after school mindfulness program for our teachers in the district. -Jennifer Casper
Six years ago, I was asked by the mother of a friend to contact her daughter, Kristin Ervin, who was offering mindfulness training in the classroom. I was able to secure several classes where she could initiate mindfulness training for students in the 5th and 6th grades. The following year we presented mindfulness to our grade level mentoring group called Sister 2 Sister. I had the opportunity to be a co-facilitator and witness mindfulness strategies and mindfulness discussions with females in grades 6th-8th for multiple weeks.
At the same time, I completed a Mindfulness 9-week course offered by Rita Benn through Oakland Schools. I then enrolled in the 6 week Mindful Schools online course, attended Daniel Rechtschaffen’s training offered by MC4ME last March and began a yearlong national fellowship sponsored by Daniel Rechtschaffen and other mindfulness leaders, entitled, “Transformative Educational Leadership”. Each one of these opportunities has helped me increase my personal practice and gave me multiple techniques to share with my staff and students.
In my school, I’ve now integrated mindfulness during building wide announcements in the AM and PM, using the acronym S.T.O.P. Staff meetings begin with a mindfulness strategy from deep breathing to figure 8 movements and tapping, led now by several staff members who are embracing the benefits of mindfulness with their students. We have acquired a lifetime membership with Inner Explorer which is typically used with K-5 students after recess or during transitional times.
I ‘ve collected over 100 glass water jars to make “Calming Jars” which gives adults and students a physical item to serve as a calming trigger. They are used during meetings and throughout the building for students who request or need ways to self-regulate.
This past summer 14 teachers and administrators throughout the district completed a 6 week Mindfulness Fundamental course. This experience gave me pause and I now see the fruits of our labor. This year, our mission is to send letters home to our families introducing mindfulness formally, offer training to a new cohort and offer the next level course to the first cohort.
Support from the district had been given through the approval of funds for the online course and my partial scholarship for the TEL fellowship. I’ve also been able to write Mindfulness Education in our school improvement plan. -Paula Lightsey
I am a school counselor for Mt. Pleasant Public Schools. I was trained through Mindful Schools to offer Mindfulness Lessons and am beginning my 4th year of doing what I like to call “Proactive Counseling”. My district has allowed me to use my car as my office and I travel to 5 different elementary buildings, offering the Mindful Schools curriculum to students grades K-5. Last year I was able to provide the series of 16 mindfulness lesson to 983 students. We are working towards building a common vocabulary for staff and students regarding what it means and how it feels to have a mindful body and a curious mind. We are working slowly to influence the culture of our buildings in hopes that we can nurture a more calm inner and outer experience for everyone, staff and students alike.
This year, I was asked to do a short introduction to Mindfulness for our entire district at the back to school professional development day. This included 260 teachers and support staff, including the superintendent.
For the first time, I am offering an after school Mindfulness Sitting Practice for K-12 staff and all employees of our district. I will be at Central Office each Tuesday from 4:00-5:00 p.m. for anyone who wants to come and explore mindfulness practices. I will offer a guided sitting practice from 4:15-4:30 and then be available for Q and A. No reservations needed. Drop in any time. I plan to do this all year and see what happens in an effort to grow a Mindfulness community among the staff in our district. -Laura Gourlay