Stories from the Field are small moments about how mindfulness is impacting the students I am working with, in hopes of capturing what it means to learn and use mindfulness. This story comes from an alternative learning program just outside of Portland, Maine:
After leading a "Smartifier" for the REAL School in December, I came back this month to start working with the students. There is always an adjustment period when you walk into a new room, and I was definitely feeling some new kid feelings. The first day I was in recruitment mode and tried to convince the crowds in 10 minutes or less that it's worth trying this weird thing (the teachers for one of the classrooms ended up volunteering the whole class, so I sold it well enough to hook the staff, anyway). The other group of four or five students literally ran away from me as I approached (the gym is a challenging space to recruit). One refused because I disrespected him when I asked them to sit by not saying please. I only got to speak to one or two students who stuck around.
On Day 2, I offended one of the more vocal students by calling him by the wrong name, and the name of his apparent nemesis (big oops). Even though he was disruptive, when I pulled him afterwards to check in, I made sure to make it about my error and asking him for his participation. Downstairs students were in and out of the room as allied staff members coaxed them into trying it out.
After another week of small blunders, I found myself also making some headway. I started to notice barely perceptible signs of acceptance. Today, when I asked Sam to help me set up the projector screen, though the first request was met with denial, the second was with acquiescence. When we went through the body scan, every student but one had technology away, and not a single student spoke during that time. They even voluntarily read parts of the Portia Nelson poem we use called "Autobiography in Five Short Chapters." The downstairs group, which comes on a voluntary basis, has started to solidify with some regulars who are genuinely interested and curious about the practice. They readily offer their discomforts and comfort as we have gone through sound and breath as anchor. In both groups, the mood of the room perceptibly shifted after sitting together. In that way, we build trust.