Authors: Elizabeth R. Mackenzie, PhD, Suzanne Fegley, PhD, Alexandra Smith, M.S.Ed., M.Phil.Ed., Ali Volpe, M.S.Ed., Jenny Mills, M.Ed.
Everyday Mindfulness for Schools is a training designed for groups of teachers, counselors, and school personnel that takes place twice a month for 90-minutes for a total of 8 classes in one semester. The course includes traditional mindfulness practices (sitting and walking meditation, body scan) and practical in-the-moment strategies that streamline into everyday life. Participants gain insight into their own habitual thoughts and behavioral patterns, and ways in which mindfulness practices rewire the brain to support new neural pathways.
We used a mixed methods approach to assess the impact of Everyday Mindfulness for Schools on the professional development experience and quality of life of 27 teachers at three schools (one private and two public). Our findings suggest that a relatively short duration mindfulness-based teacher training program can have a significant impact on the lived experience of teachers which appears to ripple out into their personal and professional lives in prosocial ways. Most intriguing, is the possibility that mindfulness-based professional development training for teachers could significantly transform classroom culture, without imposing new rules from above or requiring teachers to follow externally sourced guidelines. More research is needed to explore exactly how and in what circumstances mindfulness training can help teachers cultivate social-emotional competence, thereby improving classroom culture, but the preliminary indications are promising.
Jenny Mills, M.Ed. is the founder of Roots & Wings, LLC whose mission is to make mindfulness accessible to teachers, youth, and families. She has a Masters in Special Education and a BA in Psychology from Rutgers University and is dually certified in special and general education. Before opening Roots & Wings, Jenny served as a mindfulness instructor and literacy specialist at Arise Academy High School, a unique inner-city charter school designed for 14-21 year olds served by the Department of Human Services. Jenny has presented at international, national, and local conferences on the topics of literacy, formative assessment, and mindfulness. She has practiced meditation since 2005, and has received extensive training in mindfulness under many teachers including Ahn Huong, Thu Nguyen, Michael Baime, Tish Jennings, and more. Jenny co-teaches in the Penn Literacy Network, a University of Pennsylvania initiative that serves local K-12 teachers. In 2015 Jenny published her first children’s book, Mindful Moments: Trevor’s Tale and in 2013 produced her first guided meditation CD, Roots & Wings Mindfulness Meditations. For more information, visit: www.rootsandwingsonline.org.
Alexandra Smith, M.S.Ed., M.Phil.Ed. is a recent graduate of the Professional Counseling Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She interned at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia where she was able to use her mindfulness-based skills to support clients with eating disorders. Alex is a long-time student of yoga and meditation, with a keen interest in how to integrate these practices into psychotherapy as she pursues licensure.