On Thursday I walked into the Toddler 2s to see how the new school year was going. A table with five artists caught my eye, so I sat down for a closer view. Each toddler/artist had a paint brush and container filled with a different color of paint. Already there were beautiful splotches of paint on the paper and several of the children had shifted to painting their hands and arms. It was mesmerizing to sit with them and experience their deep engagement with their work. It was presence at its finest and continued for quite some time. It took me back to our staff prep week, which this year focused on mindfulness.
Each day of the week before school started, our staff spent time talking about mindfulness. Described by John Kabat-Zin as a process for “cultivating self-awareness and greater awareness of others and the world,” (from the foreword to Sitting Like A Frog) and another expert as a “technology for happiness” (http://wakeupschools.org/wake-up-schools-india-movie/), we explored how we currently practice mindfulness in our Seed lives and how we can expand it. We experienced firsthand several practices we could use in our classrooms and in our personal lives. We talked about an organization called wakeupschools.org that is working worldwide to establish mindfulness in schools using the idea that “happy teachers will change the world.” Our staff has taken this idea to heart and already there is evidence in the classrooms.
Jenny, the same teacher who set up the toddler painting table, wrote in her blog to parents this week: “As a teacher, [mindfulness] means that we will strive to always be aware of each child’s needs. We will plan activities with specific goals and definitive steps along the way. We will take each moment and try to elevate it with their development and happiness in mind.” She continued with: “We also want to teach the children to be more mindful. This week during circle time we took a couple minutes each day to sit quietly, close our eyes, and practice listening. Not only did they participate, but they embraced our quiet time. We are constantly in awe of what these toddlers are capable of. Many even asked to do it again. We’re learning that taking a quiet moment can calm a child and help them to re-focus.”
Bill and I have experienced rain on many of the significant days of our lives together. If the downpour on our first day of school year is any indication of what’s ahead, 2015-2016 may be quite a year. With a foundation of mindfulness setting the stage for the Seed’s 39th year, I have confidence it will be an extraordinary time for all of us.