When I was asked to pilot the MindUP program four years ago, I did so with some reservation. Knowing little about mindfulness education, I wondered what the impact of taking a few moments a day could have on a child’s social, emotional, and academic well-being. Armed with my chime, and my MindUP manual, I dove into the world of MindUP and never looked back.
The MindUP program is a comprehensive, evidence-based curriculum structured around 15 lessons that focus the mind, sharpen the senses, and introduce concepts such as perspective taking, choosing optimism, expressing gratitude, and performing acts of kindness. Meant to be integrated into classroom life, research has shown that the MindUP program has had an integral part in developing the overall social and emotional competencies of children. Children who participated in MindUP exhibited improved optimism and self-confidence, learned to focus their attention, developed a more positive outlook on school, and decreased levels of aggression and anti-social behaviour. In addition, teachers who used MindUP felt better about teaching as a profession and their jobs.
Using MindUP in the classroom, it doesn’t take long to see the benefits first hand. I was able to fully experience the power of MindUP when I completed my masters’ thesis on the impact of mindfulness on focus and attention in elementary students. While I had previously witnessed the greater level of calm in the room, had felt community flourish in the classroom, and had seen the overwhelmingly responsive approach these kids had to taking a few quiet moments a day to be together and breathe, really studying the impact of mindfulness on my classroom allowed me to have deep, meaningful conversations with my students.
Above all, I wanted to know how they perceived MindUP, and I wanted to have a better understanding of how they used MindUP strategies. To my surprise, the impact of MindUP far surpassed the daily benefits I was already seeing. I had students talk about how they used their breathing techniques to help calm them before a test, to get ready for a sports competition, to control their anger at home, and even to help them sleep. Many of the ways they incorporated mindful breathing into their lives was nothing discussed in class but was based on their own recognition that they now had tools to help them in times of stress or trouble. I listened to them explain that they felt a greater level of control over their emotions and their ability to manage their feelings, and I heard supporting stories from parents.
The stories were abundant, varied and, in some cases, deeply personal. I will always remember one student, who was going through a particularly difficult time at home, describe the importance of MindUP. “When I sit down with my class to breathe,” he said, “it is the one chance in my day to make all the bad things in my life go away. When I open my eyes, I feel ready to try my best again.”
While I am in a new administrative role, MindUp continues to be a big part of my daily routine as I watch and learn from the teachers around me who use the program each day. I am also fortunate enough to have one solid teaching day a week where I can put new ideas into practice. It is my hope that as new ideas emerge, or as I remember old ones, I will post them here in the hopes that they will be found useful or at least spark an idea of your own.