Graciella Romero

Assistant Principal, Passaic High School, NJ
Mindful Schools Graduate

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Graciella. We will share more of her school’s story at our December LIVE Practice – join us!

We started our first cohort of 101: Mindfulness Foundations just months before we went into a pandemic. If you can imagine, folks are at home dealing with their own anxiety, with the world changing just minute by minute.

What ended up happening was, not only did the individuals who took 101 want more, they wanted to share and practice what they were learning. Every Monday and Friday morning, we practiced mindfulness together online, as a school community. We didn’t force anyone to come, it’s was volunteer-based, and it grew super organically. It wasn’t a huge commitment. It wasn’t a great deal of time–and the benefit that you felt was instantaneous.

There was a great deal of loss in our school community due to COVID-19. Our mindfulness practice gave us the ability to show up very honestly, candidly. Although we were sad or even a little depressed, we were able to sit with those feelings and share them as a community.

These meetings were a mix of adults and students. The roles—whether someone was a teacher, an administrator, a student, a parent—that all fell away. We were just a community of people coming together to be mindful, and sometimes to grieve, and sometimes to find joy in those moments; and Mindful Schools gave us the tools to do that.

Before the pandemic, before we integrated Mindful Schools’ training, some folks wouldn’t stop by my office to share concerns, or to share good news, but that’s changed now. As someone that’s in charge of the social-emotional learning in the school, as someone that’s in charge of climate and culture, this program has paid dividends. It has shifted our relationships. It’s shifted the culture of the school. For me as an administrator, the idea of community and that everyone is valued and needed–I’ve tried to always message that, but there’s a difference between saying it and then knowing that people believe it and see it. I have felt it. Mindful Schools’ programs created that for our school.

I was an English teacher for a long time. I live and work in a community that is low on resources, that is low on beautiful spaces. Everyone doesn’t have a backyard. When I was a young teacher, my dream was that every child had a backyard, that everyone had a space to play, a beautiful space. I feel like mindfulness has allowed me to give that to our kids. We’re not going to change the lives of our children–the physical space that they exist in. But we’re going to help them find their breath. We’re going to help them find that space within themselves so that they can deal with whatever life throws their way–and that’s greater than any playground.

Mindful Schools is inspired by the resilience and promise of our communities. You can help bring our programs to schools most impacted by toxic stress and trauma by making a donation today. Thank you.

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