We live in a busy and complicated world. We can easily become stressed and overwhelmed by the pace and rate of change. This stress can creep into our school days, resulting in anxiety and frustration for students and reduced productivity for adults. It is important that we occasionally stop, relax, and focus our minds in the present. At TPS, our teachers are developing their mindfulness skills through training by Jenny Mills of Roots & Wings, LLC.
The benefits of mindfulness in schools have been well documented. Studies have shown that having a mindful educator in a classroom results in academic and behavioral gains — even if teacher doesn't teach mindfulness to students. Teachers participating in the TPS mindfulness training have reported both personal and professional gains. Here a few examples.
Elizabeth Zack, a kindergarten teacher, says, "Mindful not mind-full is how we like to think of life for kindergartners and kindergarten teachers. It is a gift to have some mindfulness training as it aligns with much of what many K teachers have learned in other parts of our lives: yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness programs. We have implemented much of what we have learned into our kindergarten day. We teach children how to take calming breaths to focus our minds and bodies, how to focus our attention and be aware of when it wanes and how to refocus. We spend time silently observing how we feel without judgment and noticing how it feels to do so. Kindergartners spend at least a few minutes every day engaging in an activity specifically around helping children to calm their bodies and minds. Students often report feeling relaxed and ready to focus as we complete our mindfulness activities."
Shannon Coulter, a music teacher, reports, "Jenny is masterful at teaching teachers to quiet our minds. I loved collaborating with the other teachers to introduce Mindfulness concepts to students. When I finished the first semester of Mindfulness, I experienced that I was not in the narratives in my brain or even my emotions. Not that thoughts and feelings aren't important. Mindfulness practice helped me learn to prioritize the moment itself (the "Now"), and separate from thoughts and feelings that formerly appeared to be "destiny" or someone else's power over me. Many teachers are using Mindfulness techniques during the day, from the "circle breath" to belly breathing. Kids recognize how to use their "flashlight of attention." Last year, with a particularly wiggly class, I taught them about their brains, the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the frontal lobe, as it related to their experience of music. The first-graders ate it up, and were able to shift from high energy dancing to more reserved, thoughtful work with self-knowledge."
TPS is excited to be able to offer this mindfulness training through Jenny Mills. Jenny received a master's degree in special education and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Rutgers University. She has practiced meditation since 2005; she has received extensive training in mindfulness and currently partners with Drs. Elizabeth Mackenzie and Suzanne Fegley of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania to study the effects of the Roots & Wings Everyday Mindfulness for Schools teacher training. She also co-teaches with the Penn Program for Mindfulness and the Penn Literacy Network.