Research led by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Daniel Siegel, as well as anecdotal evidence, makes clear that mindfulness works, and we expect that it will not only enhance learning, engagement and relationships at Burke’s, it will transcend school and be a “tool” that students and adults carry into their lives beyond Burke’s.
Most faculty and staff began to explore mindfulness during the summer of 2011 when they read The Mindful Child
as part of their summer professional work. In late October of 2011, Burke’s began working with Mindful Schools
, who lead the training of all students, teachers, and staff. This training involved four sessions for faculty and staff, and fifteen sessions with students that were fifteen minutes in length.
For the past three school years, Burke’s faculty and staff began their opening meetings with more, and deeper, mindfulness training. This year, we partnered with Kate Janke from the Heart-Mind Education Project
to work on new ways to bring mindfulness to our students. Burke’s has shown a deep commitment to integrating mindfulness at every grade level, in every classroom.
Students at every grade level use mindfulness in and out of the classroom. Upper School students report using mindfulness before they begin homework in the evening, in the middle of a test to help them focus, as an aid to getting to sleep at night and during athletic competitions.
Burke’s 7th- and 8th-grade science teacher relates that as a scientist she appreciates that neuroscience research is extolling the virtues of a mindfulness practice. She has found that by practicing mindfulness with her students before they take on a challenging lab or assessment, they are better able to move through the obstacles and barriers they may face as part of scientific inquiry. The students’ anxiety is diminishing and their learning environment has clearly been enhanced.
Lower School students are also readily employing mindfulness in and out of the classroom, and it has been exciting to watch even our kindergartners move into their mindful bodies, place their hands on their bellies, close their eyes and take mindful breaths. It’s clear that mindfulness is already making a tremendous difference in our community.
Susan Kaiser Greenland
, Burke’s 2013 Symposium Speaker and the author of The Mindful Child,
writes, “Breathing is the most natural thing in the world, the foundation of our lives. We do it without thinking about it, but by tapping into the power of this simple act, we can better manage stress and live happier lives.” This is our intention, for each and every member of the Burke’s community—to tap into this power and live even richer lives than we do today. Mindfulness is allowing this already tremendous community to become even better in its second century of existence. The lives of everyone at Burke’s are being touched in profound and subtle ways, and it is clear that this ancient practice is an essential 21st-century skill.