My Breakthrough with a Struggling Student

A heartwarming story from a mentor in Mindful Schools’ School-Wide Mindfulness Program.

When I first met Andrew, a second grader at a San Francisco Bay Area School, he was sitting on the floor, arms wrapped protectively around his knees, his head tucked down in anger. The many immediate needs of other students had left Andrew unattended. I approached him and asked how he was doing. He glared at me and then looked quickly away, tucking his head more deeply between his knees.

In that moment I decided the best intervention was to give Andrew the space he needed. He remained there until I left a few minutes later. As I headed for the door, I turned back to see Andrew looking my direction. I smiled and his eyes softened.

The next week I arrived in the classroom during a period of silent reading. Andrew asked if I would read with him. We sat together for some time as he struggled to sound out even the simplest words. His teacher had told me that Andrew struggled academically, and as a result, had trouble engaging with other students and his learning. I used mindful listening to attune to Andrew, empathetically noticing what emotions he was experiencing, and giving him warm, non-judgmental attention. 

On my next visit, Andrew asked if he could help lead the class in our mindfulness practice. I was delighted. Andrew sat next to me and took care to sit up tall and straight, demonstrating great restraint and self-regulation.

On a later visit to second grade, I shared a kid-friendly lesson on how mindfulness positively impacts our neurobiology and how we can turn positive experiences into healthy neural structure. Students were invited to name a few things that make them happy. Andrew named mindfulness and his mindfulness teacher.

Mindful Schools’ School-Wide Implementation Program serves Andrew’s school and five other under-resourced schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through this work, our team has observed how mindfulness can cultivate qualities such as resilience, focus, and emotional regulation—both  enhancing teacher efficacy and student learning-readiness. We’ve seen how school cultures can shift, creating positive, long-term, and sustainable change. 

Today, Andrew is taking pride in himself, having experienced the opportunity to feel cared for and supported. The little boy who I found curled up on the floor in anger, is now engaging in his academics with greater interest,  and leading his class in mindfulness activities that help generate lasting mental health and well-being. Andrew also went on to win a school achievement award! 

I share this story as a reminder to our community of educators about the positive impact mindfulness can have in schools. Because of this program and our generous supporters, children like Andrew will have the opportunity to shine.

* The student’s name has been changed in this story to maintain confidentiality.

Chelsea True is a Mindfulness Mentor for Mindful Schools’ School-Wide Mindfulness Program, which provides five under-resourced San Francisco Bay Area schools with mindfulness training and support. If you would like to support more students, like Andrew, in receiving mindfulness intervention, please consider a donation to Mindful Schools.

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