August flew by so fast I nearly missed our fourth birthday! Now that my business has to compete with my child for a birthday month, Wise Minds. is getting a little bit of the shaft. Every year, I like to take this time to reflect back. What were my projects from this last year? How have things shifted and evolved? How can this understanding help me move forward?
One of the most present experiences for me is that I wrapped up this year connecting with educators who I had worked with three and four years ago. I don’t often get to know the ways mindfulness has impacted the lives of those I’ve worked with. I don’t usually get to see how they incorporate it into their classrooms and make it their own. I heard from one woman whose daughter’s chronic stress abated after sharing a compassion practice with her. Two teachers who took my course three years ago showed up at a weekly sit I attend, determined to continue on their personal journey. Two others who I was with years ago are now deep into their yearlong certification training with Mindful Schools. Having the opportunity to share stories with these teachers is a tremendous gift, and a reminder of the incredible ripple effect of this practice.
So what happened during the 2018-2019 school year for Wise Minds?
I had the privilege of spending my fourth year at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, this year teaching an integrated yoga and mindfulness elective. I just love the depth that we can find when practicing together for an entire semester. These students are thoughtful, reflective, and fun! One of my biggest takeaways from them this year is that they crave interaction and play! We incorporated a lot of discussions and partner poses in each semester to keep practice alive.
At the other end of the spectrum, I also got to spend some time in November and December with Yarmouth Elementary School’s second, third, and fourth graders. By the end of our six weeks together, there was a palpable shift in some of the rooms where you could tell teachers had continued practicing with their students in my absence. This built on work I had down at their K-1 school the year prior and a workshop I would later do in their high school. Yarmouth has been so committed that I got to lead the superintendent and all the principals and vice principals together in two summer workshops, and the instructional strategists in the spring. It’s impressive to see district-wide initiatives like this that really address the social-emotional needs of the community.
I also continued my work partnered with LincolnHealth, both offering a reboot and recharge session in the fall and spring, and a 6-week course for teachers new to practice. In my third year in this partnership, it is amazing to think of the network that is growing in Lincoln County as more teachers explore this work in their own practice. I have also been able to go directly to teachers and parents, offering introductory workshops around ways of approaching difficult student behaviors and mindful technology use. The organic and continuous nature of the introduction of mindfulness to this county means it has the potential to seep into the cultures of these schools, gradually creating change that make for more easeful classrooms.
I also had the opportunity to spend 6-weeks with Deering High School teachers on, “Teaching Mindfully, Teaching Mindfulness,” as well as other short workshops for 21st Century Learning Initiatives, Deering High School Wellness Days, Wanyflete, AOS 93, Boothbay, Kennebec Montessori, and Westbrook Camp Counselors.
Finally, i was able to partner with the incredible Phoenix Soleil and Katie Byrnes for the fourth annual TIME retreat at Bowdoin College, bringing together educators from across New England to explore mindfulness in their practice. I am always in awe of the connections you can make from a full day together.
Two big writing projects also grew from this year:
Daily Mindful Minis: Tiny Mindfulness Practices for the Fourth Trimester a book in which I documented how mindfulness supported me through the first 12 weeks of my daughter’s life
180 Days of Teaching Mindfully: a series of shorts about how mindfulness supports my teaching a blog in which I documented how mindfulness supported my teaching practice
Backing up out the weeds of the moment has been a tremendous gift to consider how many districts in Maine have really embraced taking a more intentional, care-based approach to their work of serving students. We are not alone in our work. We are all deeply interconnected, helping to create shifts and transformations in one another.
May we all find peace.
May we all create peace.