Friday gave me the unique opportunity to listen to and experience Jon Kabat-Zinn first-hand. For those that don’t know who he is, his Wikipedia page gives a quick summary here. As a Board member of Mindful Schools, I had the privilege to attend this fundraiser for the organization and listen to Kabat-Zinn speak about mindfulness and its role in elementary education.
Stress is part and parcel of modern-day life. This post does not intend to wax eloquent on meditation and its benefits on stress reduction. That is something for each of us to experience and believe. Mindfulness as a term is a more appropriate term for the practice of being present, without any of the spiritual or religious connotations that accompany a word like meditation. What I found striking in his presentation, was how sensitive a teacher needs to be, to act as a true enabler of education in a classroom full of children waiting to soak in information and learn. As Jon says, before an orchestra all the instruments get tuned for a short while, and exactly like that, it makes sense to tune the different minds that came from different contexts so they can focus on the symphony of learning that they need to participate in.
Mindful Schools is accomplishing this symphony in a unique and commendable way across the Bay area, in schools in Oakland and Richmond and other local school districts. They also have adult training programs and travel outside of the region to train others. This talk was attended by educators associated with the organization, parents and students.
Another discovery for me that night, was the poem “Lost” by David Wagoner. In a few beautiful lines of verse, he throws into question conventional wisdom on what it means to be Lost. I got the same sense of connection to nature from his words as I did when I first encountered Dickinson 16 yeas ago, though their styles are so vastly different.
I came back from the event making mental notes to read more about mindfulness and its impact, as well as to read more verse by Wagoner.