One of my personal birthday traditions is to think about the past year and take stock of highlights and accomplishments. So Happy Birthday, Wise Minds! Let's take a moment to look at what we've been up to this past year.
Two years ago I moved to Portland, Maine and decided to dedicate myself full time to sharing mindfulness with educators and students across New England. This grew out of my personal experience with developing my practice and sharing these tools while teaching middle school English in Washington, D.C. While not a business savvy individual (they don't teach that to education majors and Masters candidates), I took the plunge into the world of small business ownership to do the work I wanted. The amazing people I've met, and the impact I see firsthand, is well-worth the effort.
Offering direct mindfulness services to students has been incredibly valuable, and I am so grateful for my time with LearningWorks Afterschool students (South Portland), Lots to Gardens Youth Leaders (Lewiston), Chewonki campers (Wiscasset), Harrison Middle School Yogis (Yarmouth), and my Baxter Academy Students (Portland).
There are so many amazing moments of connection through this work. I loved when I finished my workshop with the Lots to Gardens Teen Leaders, and they asked me to write down the kind wishes we practiced sending to people who frustrated us, so they could do it on their own. I adored sitting around the fire ring with North Yarmouth Academy middle school boys at Chewonki and talking about how mindfulness contributed to Alex Hannold's 3,000 foot free solo climb of El Capitan. I still flush with pride when reflecting on the presentation my five Baxter Academy students gave to a room full of educators at the 2017 Creating Positive Youth Climate Conference.
BUILDING CAPACITY IN EDUCATORS
This year was also about building capacity in educators around New England, to ensure they themselves have access to this deep well of knowledge and resources. We ran courses for Newburyport Public Schools, Cascade Brook School in Farmington, ME, two Portland-based trainings, Falmouth Middle and High School, and Boothbay elementary schools. Further, the pre- and post- data we collected on teachers' perceived stress and healthy regulation demonstrated that teachers saw a significant drop in perceived stress and increase in healthy self regulation.
Just as I had found when I was teaching full time and practicing mindfulness, these teachers felt profoundly grateful not to just have tools to offer their students, but to help themselves live in a more present, mindful way. In their own words:
"I looked forward to class each week. I always came with some residual stress from the day, but I left feeling relieved, relaxed, and ready to tackle my night-time tasks."
"The class time was incredibly valuable. This is where I got to see mindfulness in action, led by an instructor who really knew what she was doing. I also got to discuss how mindfulness was being used with fellow teachers that I may not have the chance to talk with otherwise."
"Thank you. This is an experience that will shape me and my work with students for the rest of my life!"
I also did quite a bit of personal/professional development this year (in a field like this, the two are intricately intertwined). I had the pleasure of learning more about the specifics of Mindfulness and Difficult Emotions and Mindful Communication from Mindful Schools excellent faculty. Additionally, I took a Trauma-informed Care for Professionals course through the Center for Adolescent Studies. I attended workshops and conferences on Mindfulness and Civic Engagement at Harvard and Antioch University. And, most importantly, I attended retreats in the fall and spring, to continue to develop my own personal practice, and committed to Insight Timer's 365 days of meditation challenge (I have yet to skip a day!)
SUSTAINABLE PARTNERSHIPS AND COLLABORATION
Wise Minds. second year has also been about building sustainable partnerships and collaborative efforts. This year, Wise Minds. started the Maine Mindfulness in Education Network, a group of educators from the Portland area who meet monthly and discuss what mindfulness looks like in their setting, and ask questions of other practitioners. I have found this an invaluable resource and a great way to build community. Through my work with The Collaborative for Perpetual Innovation, I presented a workshop on Mindfulness for Educators and then had the unique pleasure of presenting alongside my students at their Creating Positive Climates for Youth conference. I also worked with a local professor and social worker to develop curriculum around screen dependency and mindful technology use. Finally, I collaborated with a fabulous intern, developed a teen institute with a fellow Mindful Schools grad, and am currently collaborating with peer to create a mindfulness and social-emotional learning program!
While Wise Minds. is my first baby, my life is about to shift with the arrival of my first (human) child. I will be taking the month of September completely off to focus on her needs, and then gradually return to Wise Minds. in early October. I am partnering with the Couloumbe Center with Lincoln Health and Maine Health to offer workshops on Mindfulness for Children. I am also excited that I will be working alongside Julie Campilio, owner of Radiant Beginnings Yoga, to offer a 6-week course in Mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning! Finally, I will be supporting Memorial Middle School in South Portland develop their own capacity through a unique mentoring program that will combine in person workshops with email support.
I feel tremendous gratitude for the opportunities I've had this past year and those who have worked alongside me to share mindfulness with others. I look forward to continuing to cultivate in our communities around New England.
BE IN TOUCH!
Are you interested in bringing mindfulness programming to your school? Would you like to attend one of our workshops? Are your parents interested in learning more about how to support their children in developing healthy technology habits? Please be in touch about how we can support you!