I have really seen the benefits of using mindfulness techniques with students. I have a calm down corner in my room, and have taught all my groups coping strategies using mindfulness. I’m always on the lookout for new strategies and programs that will compliment what I already do. I am pleased to share today’s guest post by Nellie Springston from Calma.
Hello school counselors, educators, parents and everyone else who follows Carol’s blog! I am very excited to be guest blogging on Carol’s page to let you know about Calma: Calm & Loving Minds Achieve. First, let me ask you a question… (and be honest!) How many of you have said to a student “You JUST need to calm down?!” or “Why can’t you just follow directions?!” Me too! We ALL have! Just being able to calm down, or simply being able to hear directions and carry out a task are actually skills that can, and should, be taught in schools. It wasn’t until I began teaching these skills that I had any luck with my most behaviorally challenged little friends while working as a behavior interventionist at an inner-city charter school. Just as we teach children to add, subtract, read and write, we must equip them with skills of self-regulation, focused attention and metacognition if we expect them to learn.
Skills of self-regulation (being able to calm d own once emotions take over) and executive function (being able to listen to directions, absorb and comprehend the information, then carry out the task) require a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But, unfortunately, this part of the brain isn’t fully developed until early adulthood. And, what’s worse, it doesn’t just develop in positive ways on its own but is almost completely dependent on a child being raised in a nurturing home environment. Therefore, children growing up in stressful homes due to the busyness of everyday life, overscheduling, constant stimulation and especially poverty, often see a negative development of this part of the brain, which means these students lack the ability to control their impulses, carry out tasks and, most importantly, absorb information.
Fortunately, the same type of cognitive research shows us there’s a way to build this part of the brain through mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the focus and clarity that develops through intentional moment to moment awareness. It is an exercise for the mind. It’s like doing a bicep curl for the brain, specifically for the prefrontal cortex. Practicing mindfulness helps increase skills like self-regulation, executive function and focused attention while decreasing disruptive behaviors by equipping students with the skills of mental awareness and emotional control.
Together with student-centered focus groups, teacher feedback and the scientific oversight of Dr. Bira, we wrote three (K-2nd, 3rd-5th, and 6-12th) five lesson research-based mindfulness curricula complete with step-by-step instructions for classroom implementation and guided mindfulness audio. The 5 modules include a body scan for present awareness, mindful breathing for emotional and behavioral regulation, mindful listening for focused attention, gratitude toward opportunity and others, and empathy: perspective-taking. We also offer a two-hour staff training, mindfulness audio for parents and supplemental resources for curricula implementation such as our Calma Mindfulness Journal.
I am so grateful to Carol for allowing me to share Calma: Calm & Loving Minds Achieve with you. Please check out our Website: www.calmakids.org, read our blog that covers topics ranging from “mindfulness in schools” to “how to use Psychology language in the classroom” and “parenting tips and tricks”. Also enjoy our library page full of books and some articles covering the work of the best psychologists, doctors, economists, and educators of our time who are currently developing research-based approaches that enable kids to learn and flourish, academically, socially and emotionally. And, of course, contact us if you have any questions, comments or feedback – it’s the only way we can ensure our program is working most effectively.