Welcome to our fourth year of Mindfulness at Summit Schools! It seems like a flash since I was approached by Larisa to share mindfulness and meditation with the Summit community - practices that I am so passionate about and continue to learn and implement in my own life.
Here is a recap of where we started and where we are now:
· We began Fall 2015 with the “MindUp” curriculum from the Hawn Foundation. “MindUp” is a terrific curriculum that incorporates a lot of brain science along with mindfulness tools for students of every age. I also began working with the staff and helping them to incorporate self-care and stress relief practices into their own lives. Happy teachers transcend our classrooms!
· In the Fall of 2016 we incorporated “Mindful Moment” into the school day. The entire building continues to begin each day sitting quietly, eyes closed and focused on the breath. When our nervous systems are calm and our attention is focused on the present moment, we learn better (and it has a positive impact on our brains!). The breath is the perfect vehicle for both calming ourselves and being present. “The Way of Mindful Education” by Daniel Rechtschaffen was our guide for Mindfulness lessons for both students and staff during this school year.
· Last year we incorporated “Happy Teachers Change the World” by Thich Nhat Hanh along with incites from the lessons of “MindUp” and “The Way of Mindful Education.” Staff lessons on professional development days revolved around the theme of Mindful Communication and learning practices that help us communicate compassionately.
· This year we will be incorporating curriculum from an Australian company called, “Smiling Mind.” I encourage you to look at Smiling Mind’s website. I love all the collateral material that it offers especially their Smiling Mind App. You can listen to their pre-recorded meditations to help you practice mindfulness at home.
Our overall goal is to create a mindful culture at Summit Schools. A mindful culture feels peaceful and safe. It focuses on the here and the now instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future. It fosters kindness, resilience, positivity, and a growth mindset. It teaches us that we can understand the emotions that we feel, be more responsive to them (instead of reactive), and change our brains! The more places and people in our students’ lives who practice mindfulness, the more it is reinforced as a natural way of “being.”
-- Summit mindfulness coach Jane Hutchins
Summit Schools begins each day with Mindful Moment (M&M) from 8:30-8:40 a.m. Each class will practice mindfulness for 3-12 minutes depending on the age of the students (4-5 minutes for PreK-K, 6-7 minutes for 1/2 grade, etc.). This involves the student sitting (older students) or laying down (younger students) with eyes closed, mindfully listening for the bells to ring, then focusing on the breath until the bells ring again. Research has shown that starting the school day this way relaxes the student's nervous system, helps them to focus on the present moment and creates a positive learning environment. All of which enhance higher level learning.
To respect and honor this important way of starting the school day, please be advised that during 8:30-8:40 a.m. the staff and children will be involved in Mindful Moment. Please be sure your child(ren) are at school on time. During this time, the teachers will facilitate a quiet time for students to participate in mindfulness practice. So as not to disturb our students and staff, we kindly ask that students who arrive between 8:30-8:40 a.m. first quietly check in at the front office and then wait quietly in our multi-purpose room, where they will be supervised by a teacher and will experience some quiet time as well. At 8:40, they will join their classrooms.
Jane Hutchins, Summit's mindfulness coach
After experiencing the life changing benefits of an established meditation practice, Jane Hutchins is passionate about sharing the practice of meditation with others. She is a graduate of the Meditation Teacher Academy at the McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, AZ. Jane is currently teaching mindfulness and meditation at Summit Schools in Cedar Rapids, IA and works with sports teams to add mindfulness, meditation, positivity and yoga to their routines. Prior to that, Jane trained with author and meditation teacher, Sarah Wood Vallely, to become a certified child meditation facilitator and mindfulness instructor.
As a conscientious observer of our educational system over the past years, Jane has seen that more and more of our kids (and their teachers) are under great stress. Pressures from school and learning, high expectations in competitive sports and family challenges have affected the learning process and the overall “happiness” level of our kids. Teachers are burdened with more responsibilities while given less money. Our kids and our teachers are burning out. Jane sees teaching meditation to both groups as a positive way to alleviate stress and transcend the classroom. Grounded teachers create a positive environment for our students to excel. Calm, centered kids are happier and learn at a higher level. Both affect the future of our world.
Stress is universal. Many parallels can be drawn between what our children and teachers are experiencing with what many of us are feeling. Meditation and mindfulness practices are transformative to our culture and the stresses societal norms have created within it. Jane is passionate about sharing her knowledge with children, athletes, teachers and anyone who is wanting to live a happier more fulfilling life.
Jane Hutchins has been a multimedia graphic designer for 29 years, a mom for 19 years, an organizer of spiritual enrichment classes for 14 years, a school volunteer for 14 years and a perpetual student all her life.