By Sabrina Bartels – I have a routine when it comes to reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday mornings. It’s always the sports page first, so I can catch up on my Packers/Brewers/Golden Eagles news. Then I usually drift to Jim Stingl’s column, since he writes some of the best human interest stories I have ever read. Finally, before I go through the ads and clip coupons (I live an exciting life,) I read Alan Borsuk’s column. He writes about education, and I’m always interested in his opinions and thoughts on various things, from the Common Core to standardized testing. This past Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the district I work for was featured in his column.
Borsuk’s article was entitled “West Milwaukee School finds a mindful minute goes a long way.” One of the intermediate schools in our district was named a “pilot school” for us to integrate mindfulness into the daily curriculum. West Milwaukee has not only trained their entire staff on how to use mindfulness, they have also taught all of their students to use different mindfulness strategies when they are stressed, frustrated, or upset. They start each week with Mindful Mondays, and many classes start with a “mindful minute.”
I can definitely see the benefits of mindfulness. It calls on people to live in the moment, and be aware of their emotions. While it does focus on breathing, it also incorporates imagery and training your mind to slow down and be more positive. This is huge for intermediate students, who often revert to thinking about only the negative aspects of situations. In addition, I think mindfulness could potentially get students to disengage from drama and live more in the moment, instead of living through their technology. By encouraging students to take a mindful minute whenever they are about to engage in some sort of conflict through text message/Instagram/Snapchat, I imagine there could be a decrease in drama.
If you would like to join in on learning to be more mindful, or would like to have your students do what West Milwaukee is doing, I have a few suggestions:
- Take a class. My district works a lot with the group Growing Minds. I took the Growing Minds class for educators two summers ago, and it had an impact on the way I live my life. I would strongly recommend doing a session, since it will teach you the importance of mindfulness, as well as several techniques you can use to kick-start your own mindfulness growth. My district also did a session with Patricia Jennings who is an education professor on the East Coast. If you can work with her, it’s definitely worth it.
- If taking a class is not something you can fit into your busy schedule (which I can definitely understand!) check out a few books on mindfulness. The two I have read are “Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, and “Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom” by Patricia A. Jennings. If you use Jennings’s book, she also has pages on other books, websites, and classes you can take.
- Get “App-y.” Load up your iPad or iPhone with some mindfulness apps. Headspace is one that I used when flying overseas when I really needed to stop stressing about the long flight I was on (and the screaming child a few rows back.) It is definitely an app for an older crowd; if you are looking for something a little younger, apps such as Smiling Mind are focused towards elementary kids.
Enjoy your mindfulness journey! To read more about West Milwaukee Intermediate School, check out Borsuk’s article here.