An Experiment With Mindfulness

Recently, I graduated with my Ed.M in Education Leadership from Columbia University.  When researching various leadership programs, one aspect (among many) that drew me to Columbia’s program was the intentional infusion of emotional intelligence and self-awareness (also known as mindfulness) training into the 14 month program. There is a large amount of research and publicity circulating the corporate world and the education spheres about the impact of mindfulness and emotional intelligence in cultivating highly effective leaders and creative thinkers. I was excited to discover that students in the program participate in 30-40 minutes of self-awareness training every day beginning at 8:00 a.m., and in the first summer block of classes, students take an Emotional Intelligence course taught by Dr. Robin Stern and Dr. Marc Brackett from The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Although I was excited this was a part of the program, and I was eager to learn, I was somewhat skeptical about practicing it daily.  It seemed a bit cheesy to me, if we’re being honest.  Learning about it all day is one thing.  Actually doing it requires a new level of trust.   I decided to commit to being open minded about the practices, and embrace the ambiguity in order to fully allow myself the opportunity to learn something new.  After all, isn’t this what we ask our students to do?

That new learning has manifested itself into a newfound passion for self awareness and emotional intelligence in schools.  I am now more aware of my current emotions and thoughts than ever before, and this awareness has had a profound impact on my management of stressful situations and times of frustration.  Our faculty and staff need this, and more importantly, our students need it as they navigate life’s changes and continuous pressures.   This year, I’ve decided to implement mindfulness training (happening now) and emotional intelligence check-ins (these will begin in January) in my classroom.   To begin, I’ve started with small breathing routines.  These take less than five minutes, and we do them at different times in a class period. They have become so popular that students are now asking “are we going to breathe today?” when they walk in for class.  They also are telling me they are doing the routines at home when they feel anxious.  I’m thrilled to hear this, and I believe that these simple actions can have a meaningful impact on our students and colleagues.  If you would like more information about the specific routines we are doing in my classroom, please contact me and I’ll be happy to share.  It would be best to do this over the phone or in a SKYPE session as they are difficult to describe in writing.  It’s better if you can watch me do it-or better yet, I can SKYPE you in for a session with my class!

Want to see an example of this in practice?  Click Here! to learn about a school in Harlem putting mindfulness and social emotional intelligence to use!

Published by Alex Bragg

Alex is the Upper School Teaching and Learning Specialist at Woodward Academy in College Park, Georgia. She is passionate about student driven learning, the art of giving and receiving authentic feedback and coaching, innovation in the classroom, balanced and authentic assessment mapping, and school redesign.

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