The practice – which provides an escape from the school day – goes deeper than simply taking a deep breath.
On the surface, it might just look like students are taking some simple breathing exercises before they dive into their school day. In truth, mindfulness – a practice emerging in many Denver Public Schools – goes much deeper than that.
“I think mindfulness is magical,” said Grant Beacon Middle School Principal Michelle Saab. “It opens up to rest and relaxation, but it also opens up to multiple perspectives, ways of looking at the world and general joy.”
Simply put, mindfulness is about finding your best self. It can look like a casual (or rigorous) hike on a trail, a bike ride, a walk with the puppy or an hour in a cooking class.
At school, it can also look like guided breathing practices, which Saab provides for educators before every Friday meeting.
“We’ve been doing mindful practices for quite some time. This year, it’s a strand of our professional development,” she said.
Educators take that “mindful minute” back into their classrooms, where they participate in a school-wide moment of relaxation before taking on the rest of the school day. The exercises touch on Personal Success Factors – such as gratitude, perseverance, grit and self-control – that many school communities embrace as part of their social emotional development.
“We have a lot of students with major trauma, and a lot of staff members taking that on,” Saab said. “It’s not an easy job. It becomes more sustainable when you have these practices.”
Denver Public Schools is expanding mindfulness opportunities during the coming school year, identifying it as a key part of supporting the well-being of both its educators and students.
“Slowing down and taking time for yourself ends up being beneficial for the kids,” said Abbey Drake, an educator at Grant Beacon Middle School. “They need teachers who are centered and calm. They can sense that calm, and often respond by feeling more calm themselves.”