2018 AMLE Middle Grades Summit

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About this event:

Created by Susie Wolbe

Presenting Strategies to Increase Success and School Culture in Honolulu, Hawaii

Mindfulness, a simple, secular, and scientifically supported practice, is a special way of paying attention in the present time and without judgment. Yet, it takes time, determination, and commitment to do this with consistency. The truth is, it’s hard to turn off technology and spend quiet time with, and on, yourself. No matter who you are or what you do, it’s difficult to simply pay attention to how you are feeling and what you are thinking, and then notice the impact of those thoughts and feelings on yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Mindfulness strategies provide an opportunity for us to learn how to manage life’s sometimes overwhelming situations and demands. Rather than resorting to the knee-jerk reactions of yelling, hitting, or lashing out in some other way, we gain an understanding and acceptance of ourselves and are able to respond with more carefully chosen words and actions. Mindfulness was first brought to U Mass in the late 1970s by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn and is now used in many fields, some of which are medicine, corporations, sports, schools, and government. Because records were kept from the initial use of mindfulness strategies in these settings, a large body of research is available. It is easy to conclude that using simple-to-practice mindfulness strategies can result in benefits that would be appreciated by both students and educators. Teachers often tell students to pay attention, but seldom does an instructor actually teach a child how to keep the mind from wandering; mindfulness does this!

The benefits of mindfulness, including increased focus and attention, increased empathy for self and others, decreased stress and anxiety, and reduced impulsivity and emotional reactivity, can positively impact school settings with improved relationships, behavior in classrooms and hallways, academics, athletic performance, and high-stakes-testing. Educators, often overwhelmed and consumed by stressful expectations and situations, have the possible benefits of reduced blood pressure and heart and brain problems while also experiencing increases in the immune system, energy, breathing, heart rate, and longevity. To quote Dr. Dan Siegal, “If the drug companies were offering a pill that promised these benefits, that drug would be flying off the shelves.”

The benefits for educators are especially important during this time when masses of teachers are leaving the profession due to the extraordinary demands placed upon them. Simple-to-practice mindfulness strategies, when used consistently, can improve relationships, professional lives, and self-acceptance. Therefore, this practice is a real opportunity to improve the social emotional skills that can positively impact individuals throughout their lives, while also reducing the sleepless nights and the negative thinking that are so common today.

During this presentation, participants will learn what mindfulness is, and very basic brain science that explains how mindfulness impacts the body physically and emotionally. They will also learn how the brain can be positively impacted by consistent practice, as has been proven by more recent brain science. When you know better you can do better. Understanding how the brain is impacted by our thoughts and emotions will empower individuals, whether students, educators, or parents, to establish practices that can positively impact their lives. Participants will learn about, and how to practice, mindful listening, mindful breathing, and body scans. Additionally, they will learn how heartfulness, generosity, appreciation, and gratitude, can be practiced within school settings. Essentially, they will understand that self-care isn’t selfish. In order for adults to care for their colleagues, students, and parents of students, they will have to first take care of themselves. And only when adults begin to take care of themselves will they begin to model this basic understanding, and the necessary social-emotional life skills, for the children.

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