By Dr. Kimberly Leverette
Recently, I completed a six-week-long professional development course through the Crim Fitness Foundation with 25 other educators on self-care and mindfulness. Throughout the program, I learned techniques such as mindful eating, journaling and how to set myself up to be present in meetings. I also learned that you don’t have to be an expert to practice mindfulness. You just have to make the commitment and try every day. It’s something I now use with my daughter when there are situations where we need to be brought back to a calm state.
Mindfulness is a community effort. Through the Crim Fitness Foundation, mindfulness has been integrated into day school at Flint Community Schools and International Academy of Flint. And it is something that YouthQuest instills after school, as well. When students have the tools to be mindful, they can set themselves up to be better positioned to learn.
Through YouthQuest, our site team leaders and learning guides ensure that students are both learning and practicing mindfulness through activities such as meditation, yoga and daily or weekly check-ins where students can express their thoughts and feelings in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
Our students are also guided through social and emotional learning which – according to CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning – is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
Social and emotional learning prepares our students for the future by helping develop self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, healthy relationships and responsible decision making. Learning these key skills, especially at a young age, can help form students into responsible citizens as they enter adulthood.
Some of the ways in which we do this is by encouraging students to express themselves through art, allowing them to take on responsibilities and leadership roles and by providing space for students to be their authentic selves.
Additionally, parents and guardians can help expand upon the work of mindfulness and social and emotional learning at home. Be sure to talk to your student about what they are learning. Ask them to teach you how to practice some of the mindfulness activities they’ve learned and do it with them. Check in with your students by asking about their day and help them explore their emotions. Make sure to validate their feelings and find out if they may need additional help. Communication is key to instilling social and emotional learning.
When students feel that they are loved and cared for, they can thrive both academically and personally. At Flint & Genesee Education & Talent, our aim is to help support a person from cradle to career, and one way we do that is by setting them up with the tools to become successful adults.