Being a Move Mindfully Champion

You want to bring Move Mindfully® to your school. How do you get started?

What is more intimidating; teaching mindful strategies to a class of 35 high school students or teaching mindful strategies to a room of 110 high school staff members?

My first personal lesson in implementing mindfulness to a suburban high school of over 1,800 students was rooted in my own fear. My amygdala was in full alarm when it was proposed that our mindfulness training would occur last two hours, of the last day, of the back to school teacher workshop week.

So to answer my opening question, I was far more intimidated to teach mindful strategies to high school staff. As an educator I have worn many hats including that of an elementary teacher, a school psychologist, a special education coordinator, a school board member and a coach. In each position I have watched educators tirelessly tear apart standards and infuse the latest ‘best practice’ into their teaching. What I haven’t seen are significant increases in test scores, consistent reductions in our achievement gaps, or more socially emotionally intact children leaving the educational system. Secondly, and equally important, I have watched educators put their own self-care aside. I have seen educators take mental health leaves, enroll in treatment programs, divorce, and move from a place of compassion to one of survival.

No matter how loud my amygdala was screaming, I believed that bringing mindfulness into the high school I worked at was important. I took a few deep belly breaths, replaced my amygdala’s blown cap, and responded to the second email,  “Of course I would be willing to fit the two hours of mindfulness into the last two hours of our inservice week.”

I reached out to 1000 Petals and scheduled a Move Mindfully® Workshop. I was acutely aware that in order to create buy-in, the two hours needed to be research based, had to stand firm on the backbone of brain science, had to be simple enough and adaptable enough to work across all settings, and needed to pull at the hearts of each educator.

After the workshop, staff were already asking for more Move Mindfully training. Over the next year I worked with a team of colleagues to capture the excitement and move us beyond awareness and into the depths of practice. In the upcoming blogs I will openly and honestly share some of the struggles and successes we encountered as a high school that had just begun embracing the possibility that teaching kids to live in the present moment could change children and change our lives in the process.

The 5 Tips to becoming a Move Mindfully® Champion

1. Surround yourself with good people

You can not do it alone. No matter how respected you are in your building, you must first build buy-in. My team consisted of a staff member from two additional secondary buildings in our district. One was a school counselor and one was a social worker. Along with a district level special education supervisor and a grant writer that also had a background in health.

2. Find something inspiring

It is important to believe in what you are sharing and to find the inspiration within. My inspiration began with Kathy Flaminio and carried into my everyday experiences working with staff members and students that were exhausted. I was exhausted too. I experience a lot of secondary trauma and at the end of each year I am angry and tired of the systems at play for children. This is not a good place to be and I was inspired by the idea that i could do something that helps my students, the staff, myself and my own family.

3. Take your time

Implementing something new is a marathon and not a 5k. I have witnessed many well intended administrators move too quickly when implementing something new. Staff believe, and often rightfully so, that this new idea is yet another unthought out initiative that will be gone six months from now. Take your time to talk to people, to try some things on a small scale and to learn from others.

4. Find a funding source

This is important. Most schools do not have an excess of funds and something like mindfulness is not often the priority of the district. In my case we wrote a grant for private funding through a mental health agency and later wrote an additional grant with our county health department. Neither grant was for a lot of money, but enough to get us started and to get staff excited.

5. Discover your teacher leaders

Find your courageous leaders and begin planting seeds about what is coming up. A teacher’s influence can be felt among a whole building. The feedback they can provide about how practical something is and how kids and families may respond is priceless. Your teacher leaders will share and model new ideas, and when they find success, others will be willing to take the same risk.

Written By, Tanya Holub

Tanya has been an educator for 17 years. While serving as an elementary teacher she worked with student’s that came to school with various hurdles that made learning hard. This sparked her desire to continue her education and pursue a degree in School Psychology. As a school psychologist Tanya primarily worked at the secondary level and continued to work with students that had challenging behavior and social emotional needs. Two years ago she began working as a special education coordinator and brought mindfulness to her high school. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and family, coaching and serving her community as a school board member.

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