Creating a School Culture of Mindfulness

Mindfulness offers educators and students an opportunity to cultivate the capacity to be present, to be less reactive in the moment, to stop, breath and listen, and to make choices in the face of challenges.

When I cofounded the Children’s Community School four years ago,  I wanted to infuse our school with mindfulness. I wanted young children to learn the tools I discovered late in life. I wanted our educators to have the support of a mindful perspective on their teaching lives. What I discovered as I shared tools, is that in order for Mindfulness to be deeply transformative it must be embedded in a culture that seeks to be mindful.

Mindfulness tools, without a lens and a culture of mindfulness may be valuable, but they are  much less transformative when they exist outside of a larger culture. Ringing a bell and demanding silence, for example, is not the same as ringing a bell and inviting silence. A demand and an invitation come out of different perspectives/ different cultures. One might use the same tools, the same words, but the desired outcome is different. A demand for silence asks for submission, for compliance. An invitation asks for cooperation, exploration, community. In my opinion, only the second, really teaches mindfulness.

So how can a culture of mindfulness be cultivated in an institution? Here are my suggestions after 4 years of exploration in our school. Please note that all of these practices must be engaged in at the student level and also at the teacher and administrative level and that they are most deeply transformative when trust and confidentiality are invoked in the processes:

  1.  By inviting and creating a space and a regular time for discussion,  exploration, and questioning of the practices, principles and concepts of mindfulness
  2. By regularly and actively engaging in gatherings that ask everyone to reflect on their practices, their perspectives, their experiences.
  3. By inviting members of a community to share their experiences without comment or commentary from others, and by asking that members listen without commenting and /or trying to fix or change one another
  4. By working with the above practices with the intention of becoming and building a community that establishes practices together and integrating everyone’s experiences. And by coming together with the intention of cultivating community.

© Traci Childress, 2014

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