Helping High Schoolers with Mindfulness

by | Jul 9, 2016 | Mindfulness, Stress

high school hallway How do you remember your high school years?

If you’re like most, your memories are mixed. Some may be beautiful. Others? Not so good. Accomplishments. Hurt. Fun times. Feeling like an outsider. Pride. Pressure.

Even in best cases, teenage years are hard. And today’s high schoolers face even greater challenges.

“You have to be able to perform at a much higher level than in the past, when I was in high school,” said Dave Forrester, a counselor at Olympia High School in Olympia, Wash. “We have so many choices for kids. They need to grow up a little faster about what they want to do and how they’re going to do it.”

An increased emphasis on make-or-break school testing and sharp focus as early as middle school on future college or career plans can be intense for some kids. Others find that the ordinary struggles of adolescence — friendship, romance, fitting in — are magnified by social media that doesn’t end when classes are over.

“It follows them home,” said Tim Conway, who directs the counseling department at Lakeland Regional High School in Wanaque, N.J. “There is no escape anymore.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that kids today report being more stressed out than adults.

That stress and its effect are a big part of why more and more teachers and schools are turning to mindfulness – to help kids meet these challenges, supporting both their personal (social/emotional) and academic success.

Bringing Mindfulness to the High School Classroom

Recently, we teamed up with Peace in Schools, a Portland-based high school mindfulness program, to help teens and those who work with them.

Peace in SchoolsIt all started several years ago when certified Yoga Calm Instructor Allyson Copacino partnered with mindfulness teacher Caverly Morgan to create an afterschool program at Wilson High. In 2014, the program expanded to become the first “for credit” semester-long mindfulness class in a U.S. high school.

Fast forward to 2016. Caverly’s nonprofit Peace in Schools will be offering this Mindful Studies class at seven Portland high schools this fall — with the intention to be district-wide by 2018.

So unique is this model and their work that Caverly has just been featured on the cover of Mindful, the country’s leading publication on mindfulness. She describes its essence in an interview with the magazine.

In our classroom, teens can do mindful walking, eating, and sitting meditation, and body scans, learning how to direct their attention. All of this happens within an environment of “CARE” – confidentiality, acceptance, respect, and empathy. A container of trust is created, and its out of that environment of trust and care that we deepen the experience of observing negative self-talk, discovering what it means to access self-compassion, and unpacking how we get stuck in good-bad thinking.

Of course, it’s not just students who can benefit from mindfulness training. So can their teachers and parents. So can counselors, therapists, and other helping professionals who may work with them.

Recognizing this great need, Yoga Calm is working with Peace in Schools to provide additional training to our growing cadre of instructors, teachers, and others interested in bringing mindfulness to their local high schools.

Mindfulness & The Brain: Embodying Mindfulness in Education

In fact, we now have a brand new graduate level online course taught by Caverly Morgan, along with and Christine Downs, who has taught Interpersonal Neurobiology at Portland State University.

Through this 12-hour online course, you’ll learn the practice of mindfulness Peace in Schools-style, as well as the basics of Interpersonal Neurobiology, Dr. Dan Siegel’s pioneering field of study. We cover basic brain anatomy, development, and function. We share the latest scientific research on mindfulness practices. And you’ll be introduced to foundational mindfulness practices, experiencing directly how they can transform your life and your work with youth.

PSU graduate credit, CEUs, and clock hours are available for this self-paced course. Work at your own speed. Review what you need, when you need.

Learn more about the course now.

Hallway image by Michael Gilliam, via Flickr

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