Introducing the Certified Instructors Directory

The past few years have seen significant growth in the demand for mindfulness programs in U.S. schools. The intention at Mindful Schools has always been to balance responding to the increasing demand with maintaining integrity and authenticity. That means we want to support educators, administrators, and mental health providers with ways to integrate mindfulness into their work, but we want to make sure the instructors who are delivering programs are skilled and well-trained.

For many years, we have dreamed of having a community of people trained by us who could be resources for the many inquiries we receive for programming.

  • The Year-Long Certification is our solution. By spending a year with people, seeing them teach and getting to know them, we can create a community of people we feel confident can represent our particular method of mindfulness education.
  • In order to make the referral process easy, we are establishing a Certified Instructors Directory. Two mock-ups of this directory are provided here to give you a feel for it (please note that the final design may differ from these).
  • The directory will provide schools and organizations with a comprehensive view of who is in their area. The directory will also be searchable by other criteria as well (age of youth worked with, focus on specific youth populations, etc.).
  • The directory will give Certified Instructors a personal profile page on the Mindful Schools website. They will be able to describe their professional background, populations served, education, and other relevant training. They will also be able to link to their personal websites and social media accounts.

The Directory will be launched in September 2014.

For more information

If you’d like to learn more, please see our Year-Long Certification page.

Scholarships for Training School Staff in Mindfulness

School ScholarshipsGreat news! We’ve got a few SF Bay Area foundations who are interested in partnering with us to offer mindfulness training scholarships to several schools serving at-risk youth!

We need your help to get the word out to schools, particularly in East Palo Alto, Redwood City, Menlo Park, Alameda County, and West Contra Costa County. We just need a school representative to complete the short form below to share their interest in adopting mindfulness:

http://jotformpro.com/form/33494645776974

These scholarships would cover a number of Mindfulness Fundamentals and Curriculum Training spots for each school.

Thank you so much for your help!

A Typical Week in the Year-Long Certification

On our Year-Long Certification page, we try to be as clear and succinct as we can about the structure and content of the course. However, with all the various program components, it’s still a lot to take in. Here we offer a different lens for understanding the course: what is my average week like as a participant?

Here’s a typical Certification week-at-a-glance. All weekly content is emailed out to participants (as shown below) and stored in a learning management system.

In-depth conversation, group mentorship and coaching via webinar. Each week, you have the opportunity to receive mentorship on any aspect of your practice, teaching or program development from the year-long faculty. There is also time for informal networking and resource-sharing. Sessions are recorded with notes for later viewing.

1-3 video modules (5-20 minutes in length). Modules are designed to be short, practical, and specific (each video is 5-20 minutes long). Examples from the course:

  • Practice: Working with Tranquility, Unification and Absorption
  • Curriculum: Simple Movement Exercises
  • Skills: Charging Money for Your Programs
  • Science: Understanding the “Freeze” Response in the Nervous System

Weekly written teachings. Typically participants receive two written teachings a week that are designed to be usable in one of two contexts:

  • Professional development in education or mental health. (example: understanding the physiology of stress)
  • Teaching youth mindfulness. (example: the samurai sword: a metaphor for mental training)

Generally, weekly teachings fall into three focus areas:

  • Science-focused – they address scientific concepts applicable to teaching and explaining mindfulness.
  • Storytelling-focused – they provide myths, metaphors, poems and other material relevant to explaining mindfulness in culturally relevant and interesting ways.
  • Exercise-focused – they provide short games and exercises that can support teaching mindfulness to youth.

For more information

If you’d like to learn more, please see our Year-Long Certification page.

 

Online Curriculum Training – Upgrades & Improvements

CT Screen ShotAs we kick off our 2014 course offerings, we wanted to announce several significant changes to the online version of our Curriculum Training (CT). These improvements – detailed below – are the result of feedback from roughly 1,000 educators, parents and mental health professionals who have been through the course.

The key online CT improvements fall into five areas:

    • Access to Materials After the Course Ends. Participants will now be able to access all course content (modules, lesson demos and supporting materials) on an on-going basis after the course closing date.
    • The Addition of a Guiding Teacher. In each online CT course, there will be one Mindful Schools faculty member that plays the role of Guiding Teacher. This person will respond in writing in the online learning management system to participant questions and comments.
    • The Use of Cohort Groups. We will be dividing CT participants into cohorts based on location, professional affiliation and other criteria. The cohort structure will enable more detailed discussion of weekly course content.

Grad Community Photo - Small

  • The Addition of Small-Group Coaching Sessions. There will be two opportunities for live, webinar-based coaching: Week 3 (mid-course) and Week 6 (course closing). Week 1 will also be a 90-minute live orientation to the course.
  • Access to the Mindful Schools Graduate Community. After successful completion of the CT, graduates will have access to our Facebook graduate community where they can discuss curriculum-related issues and network with others using the MS curriculum around the world.

We want everyone in the MS community to know that we are always working to improve how we are delivering training content online. We will keep you posted on other improvements as we complete them.

Mindful Schools Featured in TIME Cover Story

TIME - Cover - 2014-01-23-Small

TIME magazine just published a cover story on mindfulness, the science behind it, and how it’s making inroads in various parts of society. The story will reach a vast number of people, many of whom have likely not been exposed in any significant way to the mindfulness movement.

We are honored to have been included in the article as the representative of mindfulness & education. Reading though it, we reflected on how far the Mindful Schools Community has come in the last seven years: with people in almost all 50 states and 43 countries, our shared community is weaving an incredibly important piece of the mindfulness tapestry. We offer our deep thanks to you all for joining us on this journey.

We are especially grateful to our graduates for the amazing work they are doing to bring mindfulness to youth of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds around the world. It is truly inspiring to see such a heartfelt, widespread impact that underscores the deep commitment Mindful Schools has to making secular mindfulness increasingly accessible to the world’s diverse population of educators, children, and adolescents (below are a few images from the Mindful Schools community).

Photos from Schools

Finally, here is the excerpt from the TIME article talking about Mindful Schools:

“Educators are turning to mindfulness with increasing frequency–perhaps a good thing, considering how digital technology is splitting kids’ attention spans too. (The average American teen sends and receives more than 3,000 text messages a month.) A Bay Area-based program called Mindful Schools offers online mindfulness training to teachers, instructing them in how to equip children to concentrate in classrooms and deal with stress. Launched in 2010, the group has reached more than 300,000 pupils, and educators in 43 countries and 48 states have taken its courses online.”

You can read the full piece online (subscription required) or in the Feb. 3 printed issue.

Ways to Help

Our challenge now is to turn this opportunity into action. If you’re as excited as we are, there are three easy ways to help:

  1. Share this post with educators, mental health professionals, and parents who may be interested in mindfulness in education.
  2. Spread the word about Mindful Schools to establish a network of mindful educators.
  3. Check out our courses, which may be of interest to you or people you know.

All of us at Mindful Schools thank you for your passionate support. We are incredibly grateful, and we look forward to contributing to the next phase of this vital movement together with you!

Warmly,
Randima (Randy) Fernando
Executive Director, Mindful Schools

Help Us Establish a Network of Mindful Educators

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Available in PDF, JPG, and PNG format

Click to Share on:

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Each year hundreds of parents, teachers, mental health professionals, administrators and mindfulness enthusiasts ask us what they can do to support our work – usually after being involved in it themselves or seeing it in action in their communities.

Our answer is one simple phrase: get the word out.

Despite its rapid growth, mindfulness & education is still essentially a grassroots movement. On a national level, the education discussion is mired in debates about testing, mandated standards and teacher evaluation. The rise of mindfulness & education has essentially been a “bottom up” movement of teachers and school staff seeing that the development of self-care and self-awareness are critical to the health of schools, youth and communities.

What this means is that this work is going to grow most strongly through networks of parents, teachers, administrators, and school-based mental health professionals. It is going to grow because people are excited – because their practice is restoring meaning, presence and a deep emotional connection to their work with youth. It is going to grow because people like you share it with others who you think would resonate with it.

If you do feel drawn to share our work with others, here are some helpful suggestions:

  • You can share our work in anyway that you see fit (different people require different explanations). Sharing your personal experience with us is always helpful, as is linking to www.mindfulschools.org.
  • As an aid, here’s a new flyer that introduces what we do, and how new people can plug in.
  • You can share it on social media and list serves who you think might not know about us.
  • You can print out hard copies and put them up at meditation centers, yoga studios, schools, youth mental health agencies, and community centers. If you’d like larger numbers of printed sheets, please email info@mindfulschools.org with your need and mailing address, and we’ll get them to you.

HELPFUL LINKS

Together, we can add an incredible amount of fuel to this powerful movement. If you have any questions, please let us know at info@mindfulschools.org.

Thank you as always for your support. We are so grateful for your help!

Graduate Interviews – Mindfulness in a Continuation High School

As a Clinical Social Worker in Los Angeles schools with a 40-year personal mindfulness practice, Helen knew that the students in the continuation high school she worked at would benefit from learning mindfulness. Luckily for Helen, the principal had already been introduced to the concept of mindfulness through a class offered through her Catholic church. So the principal agreed that the school could benefit from learning some techniques in focus, attention and especially stress-reduction for both students and teachers.

With the principal’s support, Helen spoke with one of the teachers at the school who felt like he needed all the support he could get in his classroom. The teacher agreed to have Helen teach a short mindfulness program in his class.

While she was a long time mindfulness practitioner, Helen wanted guidance on how to teach mindfulness and use a pre-established curriculum before going into the classroom.

After taking the in-person Mindful Schools Curriculum Training course, Helen was excited to start teaching mindfulness right away.
“For young people who’ve experienced trauma and disruption, I understand that

quieting their minds and bodies can be
a really uncomfortable experience.”

Sensitive to the teacher’s time constraints, Helen chose to stick with the light structure that Mindful Schools suggests: 15-minute lessons twice a week over 8 weeks.

The school’s demographic was mostly African American and Latino males from low-income backgrounds—some freshly out of imprisonment due to gang-related offenses. “My students did not have a reference for mindfulness,” Helen shared when speaking about how the program was initially received. “So when I first came in, there was a lot of rolling eyes and heads on the desks. I’ve seen Room to Breathe and there was a similar sort of lack of respect in the beginning.”

“The first 4 weeks, there was a real sort of discomfort with it. These are kids who have had a lot of disruption, violence and suffering in their lives. For young people who’ve experienced trauma and disruption, I understand that quieting their minds and bodies can be a really uncomfortable experience.”
However, after the 6-week mark, when the curriculum starts to delve into mindfulness of emotions, Helen noticed a shift in the room. “There seemed to be a progress of really moving towards that space where everyone was connected to the practice.”Helen’s trust in mindfulness (drawn from her own experience) allowed her to be patient with the students who continued to struggle. She accepted that some students just might not respond to mindfulness right away, or perhaps it would just take them some time to unlearn old thought patterns and habits.To Helen’s delight, she noticed mindfulness resonating powerfully with some of her students. “There was one young man who was 16 years old and a football player. At first, he just wasn’t going to have it. He kept getting up out of his chair and being disruptive. The teacher told him, ‘If this is uncomfortable to you, you can go into another room.’ Because it was ultimately the teacher’s room, I let that happen, but I wanted to check in with him personally. Since I am the school therapist, I did a one-on-one session with him. I just wanted to get to know him so he felt comfortable with me. After that, he stayed in the class and participated during the mindfulness lessons and then kept seeing me to talk thereafter. He really opened up to me and the mindfulness practice. He could finally see the benefit and make it real for himself.”

“He could finally see the benefit and make it real for himself.”
The teacher enjoyed the program and saw an emotional shift in his classroom, asking Helen to repeat the program with the same students because he didn’t want to lose the momentum gained. Helen shared, “the teacher is one of the best students in the class! He sits down and participates as a student. He’s getting a lot out of but recognized that he didn’t feel ready to teach it himself until he got more practice.”
“After teaching one full 8-week session and coming back in to teach more, I’ve gotten 100% positive response from the students!” Helen enthusiastically stated in closing. “The principal said that just me being there on campus helped the whole school environment in a positive way.” Helen will continue teaching at this school and hopes to bring the Mindful Schools Curriculum to the other schools she works with.
*In the interest of protecting the identity of her students, Helen is a pseudonym.

Chris McKenna: Reflections on Joining the Mindful Schools Team

Over the past few years, Megan, Randy, Vinny and I have all inquired as individuals into how we can best contribute to the Mindfulness & Education field as it continues its exponential growth around the U.S. and the world. What’s the best way to deploy our time and resources over the coming period? What matters most in the field right now? What is not being done? What lasting effects to we want to have?

All of us have spent a considerable amount of time on the ground, providing direct services to schools, organizations, and institutions. In this process, we’ve found it difficult to focus both on developing a robust direct service program and on meeting the demand for in-depth, comprehensive training from educators and youth service providers.

Recently, we made a choice. We decided that, while we would all keep teaching youth individually, the majority of our attention and resources as an organization should go to training, mentorship and the larger effort to replicate mindfulness programs in geographically diverse environments. The effort to create a completely online version of the Mindful Schools Curriculum Training, as well as the soon-to-be-announced Mindful Schools Certification Program, are early efforts in this realm. There will be many more, including (we hope) publications, online resources and a complete catalogue of trainings that provide a well-rounded, in-depth, real-world sense of how mindfulness can be integrated into one’s work with children & adolescents in a variety of environments.

At its base, mindfulness & education is a fundamentally grassroots movement that is expanding because human beings are realizing (in increasing numbers it seems) that the quality of our attention and our presence is as least as important as the so-called “content” we are trying to teach children. With this intention, we look forward to continuing this journey with all of you.

Sincerely,
Chris McKenna

Why I’m Here: An Open Letter from Vinny Ferraro

I wanted to take this opportunity to let folks know what I’m up to these days. And as I began writing this it was hard to figure out where to begin. So in an attempt to keep this short & interesting, we’ll pick up the saga when I was 20 years old.

A week off of crack, 110 lbs, ready to die, it was 1987. I find myself talking in front of a room of junkies, about my life… and something happened. I’m not sure what to call it, but as I walked out of that room, a thought crossed my mind that maybe I had something to offer, that maybe I could still do something good with this life. This was the first moment I felt value as a human being.

They told me it was called service, so I did groups inside jails and prisons, schools, rehabs, hospice—wherever they would let somebody like me talk to people.

I was a Union Drywall foreman by day, and a volunteer by night. I think my motivation was just to feel human, to feel connected, to listen.

Jump to 1999 and I came into contact with Challenge Day, a phenomenal group of people that were going into schools and blowing the minds of a hundred teenagers every day. I learned so much from them that my debt of gratitude continues to this day.

After 10 years with them, the last 8 as their Training Director, I decided it was time to return to the incarcerated population. I have a personal connection to these folks, not only because I’d spent some time on the inside, but because my father had done a lot of time, so I knew firsthand how deeply that effects everyone involved.

Some friends of mine had started the Mind Body Awareness Project and had been going inside. They hired me as their Training Director, and I loved what we were doing. The courage of incarcerated youth is nothing short of revolutionary. The experiences I had there in the last few years fundamentally changed my view of what I thought was possible.

I have a deep desire to feel like I am making a difference. As I offered what I can, in whatever ways I could, my view began to broaden. As I surveyed the landscape of the various systems in which these offerings were made, it became clear to me that to really have an impact on the system, I’d have to water the roots… Ironically, I was literally taking what I had learned from the youth, and helping the people that actually worked in those systems.

This was a difficult realization, because I love the direct service side of being with the youth. But a lot like leaving Challenge Day I knew the work of the Mind Body Awareness Project would continue and prosper with people in those organizations that are following their own deepest knowing.

As for me, I found my next step. It came in the form of 2 people, my former Executive Director at MBA, Chris McKenna and a dear friend from Mindful Schools, Megan Cowan. Together with the rest of the Mindful Schools team, we share a vision of creating an offering for the guardians of our children: the Teachers, Corrections Officers, Parents, Social Workers, etc., anyone that is in constant contact with youth. We know the toxic levels of stress and burnout can be overwhelming.

We believe mindfulness and social-emotional learning could transform the face of education, incarceration, and what it means to really be with the youth. So with this vision we are helping to expand the training offerings of Mindful Schools to reach adolescents as well as children.

If you’re interested, check us out at http://www.mindfulschools.org

If not, thanks for your time and attention. They are precious gifts and I hope I haven’t wasted them.

In Service,
Vinny Ferraro

The Role of Stillness in Mindfulness

Below is a Q&A with one of our Curriculum Graduates about stillness.

Hi Megan-

I know in the first lesson, stillness is taught to be a trait of a mindful body.
In one of my most recent classes of teaching mindfulness, we really focused on the aspect of stillness during mindful breathing. I could not believe the difference in the room, even with second graders. Have you ever considered creating a lesson specifically around stillness?
The potential really excites me.

Thanks,

Kristin
Michigan

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Kristin,

Stillness is included in the first lesson as one aspect of a “Mindful Body.” The purpose of this is multi-fold.

Scaffolding
The whole curriculum is designed for each lesson to build on the previous and for each skill to be applied in subsequent lessons. The first lesson is critical to this scaffolding. If mindful bodies and the mindful environment are set up well, students can be quickly directed to those qualities each day. The stillness achieved in that first lesson should be encouraged in every lesson.

Still Body, Still Mind?
For most people, a still body affects our mind. This doesn’t mean our minds will automatically get still. Often when we get still and go inward the chaos of our mind can be more pronounced. However, continued stillness allows a settling to occur. This happens because we are not reacting to every impulse and habit in our mind and body. This is a fantastic skill to develop. When we can recognize our physical impulses and decide whether to act on them, we can begin to do the same with our mental impulses. I actually see this most evidently with students who have attention problems!

Team Work
When a room of people are collectively not reacting to every mental and physical impulse, the calm and stillness in the room can be palpable. The gained calm and stillness of the room can further support the calm and stillness in the individual. They may still have an active mind, or even a restless body, but they are simply noticing and “being” with it rather than reacting to it. Pointing out how they are helping each other with their stillness can be helpful.

Kids Are Supposed To Move
Correct! Kids are active animals. They often learn best through engaged learning and movement. Their bodies need to move to expend and release energy. Many schools have cut recess and movement minutes to get more academic time. So it might seem counter-intuitive for us to be training kids in stillness. The truth is kids are not being still in the classroom or on the playground. So, they’re not getting enough play time, AND they’re not learning how to self-regulate and have composure when it’s appropriate. The stillness in mindfulness for K5 is in very short increments. The purpose is to support focus, self-awareness, and impulse control. When young people (or us adults for that matter) deliberately sit in stillness and don’t respond to every urge to move, they are actually building a critical skill: bodily regulation, and choice around when to act and when not to.

Keep Trying
Even if the class becomes quite still on day-one or subsequent days, they will likely need regular reminders or encouragement about stillness and its value. Sometimes they don’t even know they are moving. Games are good for this. “Please put your mindful bodies on… and take them off… and put them on,” etc. Often I will say, “Please notice if your toes are moving, or your fingers, or your leg.” Suddenly, all those small, restless movements stop… they just brought their attention to their body, noticed it was moving, and then either naturally stopped or made the choice to stop. As the teacher, you can always take your time establishing the guidelines before moving on to more lessons. If stillness was hard one day, you can either simply point it out (“wow, you all had a lot of energy today and stillness was hard”), and move on, or happily start over and try again.

Don’t be too Rigid
Keep in mind, stillness and all other instructions are just tools. Mindfulness is available whether we are moving, still, talking, eyes open, eyes closed, etc. If you have some movers and shakers, sometimes you can just let it be (as long as they are not disrupting the whole class). And then be mindful of that ☺.