Mindfulness in High School: 5 Teachers Share Their Story

In schools, our work can be difficult and complex. Five teachers share how mindfulness has been foundational in supporting their students with anxiety and stress while creating a positive schoolwide culture.

Every year, educators at San Francisco’s June Jordan School for Equity were seeing their ninth grade classes come in with more anxiety, and more stress. They saw an opportunity to engage in mindfulness, and also a natural resistance. “We’re so used to not being… we’re so used to going,” said educator Giulio Sorro. He explains that it can actually be very painful for a lot of students, and even for a lot of staff, to pause and just be in an experience, with full attention and awareness.

A brave group of five teachers signed up for Mindful Schools trainings, thanks to a grant from the LIGHT Awards program. They reflect on how their own experience of mindfulness is foundational in cultivating positive schoolwide cultures:

“In schools, our work is difficult and complex. I think really good teaching is really hard. And we’re always searching––what are the tools and the ways to be effective in the classroom with your students?” educator Erin Hughes explained, “If you just tell teachers, ‘Sit in your room, have your students close their eyes and take deep breaths,’ some things might happen… but if you don’t as the individual leading the mindfulness practice, have a genuine, authentic connection to the work, that’s going to be felt in how you do it with your students.”

“When I actually started to practice mindfulness myself is when it started to come together, to be honest,” shared educator Tony Escandon. He explained that at first, it felt like just a tool, like a hammer and a nail––I’m going to get you guys to be calm so we can learn! But when he actually started to practice it for himself and modeled it––that’s when the students started to notice the benefits of mindfulness.

“If we are working directly with students who see the benefits of mindfulness, they will take that knowledge and value with them to other classes,” said educator Rene Pena-Govea. “I’ve seen other students actually asking, ‘Can we do mindfulness?’”

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About Mindful Schools

Mindful Schools’ vision is for all children to learn in “mindful schools” that nurture a new generation of leaders to create a more equitable and thriving world. The mission of Mindful Schools is to empower educators to spark change from the inside out by cultivating awareness, resilience, and compassionate action.

The Mindful Schools program began in 2007, when a small, passionate team began teaching mindfulness in Oakland, California public schools. Within three years, the program expanded to fifty schools in the Bay Area and was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Today, Mindful Schools supports schoolwide implementation of mindfulness programs nationally and provides professional development and K-12 curriculum training for educators.

Developed by educators, for educators, the Mindful Schools approach provides an accessible pathway for adults to be grounded in mindfulness practice while developing competencies that support classroom and schoolwide implementation for their specific community and context. Recent program innovations include alignment of a new K-12 Mindfulness Curriculum with The Domains of Mindful Teaching, an intentional inquiry-based process for teachers to foster inclusive, trauma-sensitive, and engaging learning environments, and the Mindful Schools Rubric for Assessing Schoolwide Mindfulness to help school teams determine and implement the best approach for supporting the well-being of the communities they serve. 

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