Compassionate Schools: The Heart of Learning and Teaching
The Compassionate Schools Initiative within Learning and Teaching Support provides training, guidance, referral, and technical assistance to schools wishing to adopt a Compassionate Schools Infrastructure. Compassionate Schools benefit all students who attend but focus on students chronically exposed to stress and trauma in their lives. These schools create compassionate classrooms and foster compassionate attitudes of their school staff. The goal is to keep students engaged and learning by creating and supporting a healthy climate and culture within the school where all students can learn. It is not a program; it is a process and as such is not “one size fits all.” Each school and community will develop their own unique compassionate “personality.”
"I had a proud moment the other day in a staff meeting. We were talking about our school purpose which is, "Grow Every Child Every Day," and the principal asked teachers how we do this at our school. Teacher after teacher commented that social and emotional skills, plus mental health are as important as academic growth, because kids can't learn when they don't feel calm and safe. The fact that teachers see the priority of emotions changes the way they teach students." -Katie Wolford. School Counselor Fairview
What might you see in Buncombe Schools classrooms?
Staff trained in chronic stress/trauma (ACE Study) and its impact in individuals and communities
Connected to Buncombe County ACEs Learning Collaborative
Video Explaining Adverse Childhood Experiences
Calm Spots located in classrooms and other student spaces. These are areas reserved for students to take a break in when needed to calm down and get back on track.
Calming Strategies are based on brain science and helping students get back their best comfort and learning zone. Growth Mindset is being taught in classrooms.
“In a fixed mindset, students believe that their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think that everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they that believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.” – Carol Dweck founding psychologist
Dan Siegel Brain Model
Second Step Curriculum
Brain Gym, Brain Breaks and Energizers
The social and emotional skills assignments encourage me to initiate conversations with my children about things that truly benefit our entire family. They bridge a gap between my fifth grader and my second grader because most of their homework assignments require independent work, and it’s a nice treat when the entire family can be involved and learn together. It’s a great program that benefits everyone, and it’s wonderful to know my children are developing both academic and social-emotional skills, every day. -Fairview Elementary Parent
"Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” - Jon Kabat Zinn
“Noticing what is happening right now.” -Buncombe County Student Definition
Buncombe County Schools trained 18 elementary and intermediate schools' counselors in the Mindful Schools curriculum as of the Spring of 2017. Seven middle school and high school counselors will also be taking the training in the Spring/Summer of 2017. Training consists of 32 hours of online courses including Mindfulness Fundamentals and Mindful Educator Essentials. In addition to the classes, Asheville Mindful Living was contracted to supervise a Community of Practice where counselors further demonstrated their knowledge and practice of the Mindful Schools curricula. Some schools have implemented Mindful Schools with teacher groups and focus on wellness skills, while other counselors integrated 15-minute lessons from the Mindful Schools Program into their social emotional curriculum to deliver these skills. www.mindfulschools.org
History of Mindful Schools:
Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have nearly 35 years of research and development behind them. In fact, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) started at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970s. It has spread to over 200 hospitals, clinics and universities worldwide. In the 1990s, mindfulness was integrated into the mental health field for clients experiencing anxiety, stress and chronic pain. By the early 2000s, formalized mindfulness and education interventions were developed mainly as a wellness and resiliency tool for teachers. A growing body of research in school-based contexts reveals the core benefits:
Better focus and concentration
Increased sense of calm
Decreased Stress and Anxiety
Improved Self Awareness
Skillful Responses to Difficult Emotions
Increased Empathy and Understanding of Others
Development of Natural Conflict Resolution Skills
“Through classroom guidance I have been introducing activities that help with self-regulation and focusing since the beginning of the school year, approximately twice a month. We set aside time every day to do breathing techniques (volcano breath, square breathing), positive self-talk, quiet visualization, or other self-regulation activities such as 'push-pull-dangle'. I also began introducing more extended Mindful Schools practices with this classroom. We have worked on mindful breathing, mindful body scans, mindful listening, and being mindful of our thoughts. Her latest report is she has been practicing mindful breathing, listening and being mindful of thoughts at home. Her teacher is aware of a noticeable difference in B's attitude and her behavior in the classroom. She is so proud of herself and reports that she is feeling much calmer and happier, both at home and at school.” Amanda Herbert: Counselor. Avery’s Creek Elementary
Please see the Mindful Schools website for additional research and neuroscience
Mindfulness in Schools Project in the UK - Oxford University and others are running a $10 Million, 7-Year longitudinal study of 7000 middle school students and the effects of mindfulness training.
"Willem Kuyken, a professor of clinical psychology at Oxford University, who is leading the study, said the spread of mindfulness among children could do for the British population’s mental health what fluoride in the water did for its teeth. He said the trial was focusing on children partly because of evidence that half of all mental health disorders begin before the age of 15. He wants to test whether mindfulness can increase resilience to “a core vulnerability” displayed by teens: difficulty sustaining attention in the face of thoughts and impulses that can become overwhelming." - From a Guardian article about the study.
Community Resiliency Model (CRM)
“Oops, I got bumped out of my resiliency zone!” - Anonymous Student It isn’t uncommon to hear elementary students in Buncombe County Schools talk about their “resiliency zones.” In 2016, Buncombe County Schools trained 15 staff members to train our schools in the Community Resiliency Model by the Trauma Resource Institute.
CRM is a set of six wellness skills that builds resiliency in youth and adults when they encounter stress. CRM helps individuals understand the biological basis of chronic stress/trauma and the impact on the nervous system. We currently have trained over 800 participants including High School Principals, SRO Officers, Beginning Teachers, Erwin Middle School (overview), Bell Elementary, Enka Intermediate and Community High School. Counselors have also integrated CRM into their social emotional curriculum. Buncombe County trainers include:
Michelle Butler, PBIS Coordinator
Deborah Luckett, Grant Coordinator
Shannon Martin, Day Treatment Coordinator
Michelle Smith, Behavioral Specialist
Colleen McKay, Bell Elementary
Laura Cleveland, Woodfin and Candler Elementary
Katrina Oliver, North Windy Ridge Intermediate
Jody Montrie, Enka Intermediate
Megan Gallagher, Eblen Intermediate
Tiffany Kinnaird, Eblen Intermediate
David Craig, Community High School
Wesley Davis, AC Reynolds High School
Catherine House, Erwin High School