‘Stand Up!’ with Pete Dominick on SiriusXM

Pete Dominick interviews Megan Cowan our Co-Founder and Program Director on mindfulness.
Listen now and hear why Pete started picking up his dirty laundry … 

Meet Joanie: Educator at PS 126, Chinatown, NY

We’re excited to introduce a new blog series featuring our Mindful Schools community members. This week we spoke to Joanie Terrizzi. Joanie is an educator at a low-income school in Chinatown, NY. She reaches 840 students, pre-K through 8th grade, each week.

She is part of our first Year-Long Certification class, where she is receiving in-depth training in bringing mindfulness to youth. The program includes retreat practice, online instruction, and small group mentorship over a 12 month period.

For practitioners like Joanie, Mindful Schools is proud to offer scholarships to applicants who work in public schools, agency environments, or serve high-risk populations. We’re currently accepting applications for the 2014-15 Year-Long Certification program. Learn more.

April 2014
Mindful Schools Interview with Joanie Terrizzi
School Librarian, PS 126/Manhattan Academy of Technology
Chinatown – New York, NY

Year-Long Certification 2013-14 images courtesy of Joanie Terrizzi

MS: Tell us a little bit about your experience with the Year-Long Certification training. What has it been like for you?

JT: It has been the most incredible opportunity of my teaching career. Through this experience it feels like everything has changed but there’s nothing about my life that’s changed externally – everything is as fast-paced and challenging as ever… My life hasn’t changed, I have changed. The difference is internal, and I know it’s because of the work and the support of Mindful Schools.

MS: Were there specific moments in your training that stand out for you?

JT: I think it’s really been a combination of everything … one thing that’s been the most meaningful to me is the genuine connection with other participants – all over the country and the world – and other people doing this work in general, finding meaning with others in what I find meaningful. Somehow even when I get behind in my training homework I feel really connected with the community and the work that everyone’s doing. It’s been really rewarding to build relationships around bringing mindfulness to our youth.  I’ve been inspired, cheered on, and lifted up by these colleagues-turned-friends, and have had the opportunity to be supportive to others in their deeply human moments.

Year-Long Certification 2013-14 images courtesy of Joanie Terrizzi

MS: You mentioned: ‘It’s you who has changed.’ Can you talk about that a little more?

JT: Just sticking with this work and really going in and embodying the practice, day after day after day; it’s one of these aggregate things. My whole mind is a different place than it used to be and based on feedback from many others in my life, this fact is truly noticeable. My whole approach is really different in a very good way – the way I see, the way I respond, how much less reactive I am… I’m a very different person than I was a year ago and I know I owe it to all of the mindfulness I’ve been doing. It’s my ability to REALLY go with whatever moment is happening. I work with 840 kids and 82 staff members. There is a lot that comes at me in a given day. There are a lot of challenges in education in general: a lot of non-stop, shifting gears. I can see that my skill level in so many areas has totally transformed.  Here’s how I recently described it:

When mindfulness takes over your teaching: It’s that moment, with that child who knows just how to wriggle his way under your skin, the one who can derail your entire lesson, the one so dis-regulated that she spins into a torrential tantrum over the seemingly-nothing … and you’re up there in front of twenty-some-odd young pairs of eyes trusting you to “fix” things, and you’re feeling so triggered. You feel that familiar prickly-hot feeling rising, and you open your mouth (the one that sometimes betrays you and lets the words out too harshly, the one that gets so FRUSTRATED by the things beyond your control in children’s lives, the one that just wants to finish your sentence) … and out pours soft words and sweetness, compassion you can almost taste … and you look around, almost wondering where it came from, and you find yourself smiling at a child you thought of mostly as a challenge, mirroring her look of surprise that you didn’t just reprimand her. Instead, you managed to make a light thing of his behavior, a thing that made them all smile – you navigated a tricky moment, and swooped the attention of the class back around to you, like a dance almost – and it all comes out so genuine, so natural, with no ‘trying’ – and sure it doesn’t happen all the time, but like a good friend you haven’t seen in a while, it comes to visit more and more and more often. That’s what it feels like: like opening your mouth and your best self shows up to talk.

That’s really how it feels. There are still moments when I’m quite triggered, but there are so many moments where I open my mouth and something unexpected and delightful comes out. Lately, it just comes out right. It’s quite natural.

“Let Shawn, one of my 1st graders, teach you about the parts of the brain. I taught this lesson once, and Shawn got up immediately and taught it back to his class – I was SO proud and SO delighted. At this point, most of my 1st-5th graders have this languaging down, and it has had dramatic results on our interactions. Grateful, Grateful to Mindful Schools.”

Year-Long Certification 2013-14 video courtesy of Joanie Terrizzi

MS: We’ve talked about your personal practice and how much of an impact that’s had on your approach to teaching. If we can shift now and talk about implementing the lessons and how that’s going …

JT: I’ve been lucky to be very supported by my administration in this. I’ve fully integrated it into the library curriculum. I’m in a pre-K through 8 school in a very low-income neighborhood in New York City’s Chinatown. Grades 1-5 receive the Mindful Schools curriculum on a weekly basis. I do some mindful games but not the full curriculum with PreK and Kindergarten; I have one class of 7th graders and some individual students that I have also recently started offering mindfulness to. I am delivering the curriculum and also trying to bring it to other teachers. It’s been going really well and has transformed the climate and language in the library completely. I was pleasantly surprised how, from the beginning, it landed really well with the kids.

MS: You’ve sent us a video clip [above] of one of your first grade students, Shawn, giving a lesson back to the class. Tell us about that.

JT: That morning I watched a video of Megan [Mindful Schools Co- founder and Program Director] giving the same lesson and I decided I was going to teach it. I taught it and then I pointed to our brain picture and I asked the first graders, ‘Can anyone teach this back to us?’ I didn’t expect first graders would be able to, but I was curious and open-minded about it. Then Shawn just got up and taught it flawlessly. You can hear the other kids in the background getting excited and being supportive. Shawn’s mom is really proud and was so happy to give additional support and share the video with others. And Shawn loves it. He loves talking about the brain. And the kids really remember it. I have a drawing of it now that I keep to the side and I try to reference it with each class every time they come. I’ll point to it and say something like ‘Is that your amygdala taking over right now?’ or ‘You might use your hippocampus to remember when we…’ They get it, they love it, and are really empowered by it.

MS: Any other breakthrough moments that come to mind with the students and the MS curriculum?

JT: There have been moments when I’ve had second graders cry tears of happiness during the mindful breathing which just blows my mind. I’ve been able to talk kids down from pretty activated or angered states. I had a student try to leave the room and another student said ‘Hey, that’s your amygdala telling you to leave; don’t listen to it!’ I have another student who every time he gets frustrated he gets up and tries to leave the situation and I tell him the same thing – he’s starting to get it. A second grader just told me today:

“Yesterday when I was sleeping, I looked on top of my bed for my mom, it’s a bunk bed, and my mom wasn’t there and little tears came out of my eyes, and I used my mindful breathing and I knew my mom would say that I’m a Big Girl.  And so then I fell asleep.  I’m going to rub my eyes now.” I said: “It’s okay, you can rub your eyes.”  She continued: “I’m just rubbing my eyes.  I’m not crying.  Stop it, water!”

The last thing, and the most important thing that I want to say is that I’m just so tremendously grateful.

Year-Long Certification 2013-14 images courtesy of Joanie Terrizzi

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:


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!

Randima (Randy) Fernando
Executive Director, Mindful Schools

Help Us Establish a Network of Mindful Educators

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.


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.

Chris McKenna