In Memphis TN, mindfulness is part of many K-12 classes at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School. Suzanne Martin, the religion teacher, expanded her role after taking three courses with Mindful Schools, and now teaches mindfulness in many arenas of the K-12 midtown school. With the support of her principal, Karen Gephart, Suzanne began by offering a 5-minute breathing practice in each of her religion classes. Interest grew as classroom teachers began asking Suzanne for resources on dealing with emotions. The seventh grade then expanded the practice and started a year-long service project called Random Acts of Kindness.
Growing Mindfulness with Creativity
Looking for ways to expand, Suzanne started a mindfulness club at lunchtime for interested students. This was a chance for students to escape the busy cafeteria and provide them with a creative space to develop mindful activities. This past year they published their own book, “18 Fun Ways to Practice Mindfulness” and created a sense-exploration card for mindful touch and observation. They created games for mindful focus. While Suzanne wondered if some parents might be concerned about mindfulness, she has received only positive responses from families, who see mindfulness training as a valuable tool.
Moving from away from a detention model, and incorporating mindfulness to reframe student behavior, took more time. Once a week, Suzanne’s classroom becomes a “Resources for Self-Control” center. Suzanne shows videos to the students; they play games for focus and self-calming, and they do seated mindfulness practices. Students share why they’ve been asked to attend. Modeling curiosity, Suzanne has watched students move from being defensive and blaming to being more readily responsible for their actions, openly able to discuss where reactive behavior comes from.
This year, she gave a presentation to all the high school students, and she’ll continue with them in the fall. As mindfulness practices grow in her school, Suzanne is reaching out to other educators in her area to network and grow the movement.