What skills have you focused on teaching this year?
Self-regulation and stress relief through guided relaxations and breathing exercises.
Working in a high school is busy and it seems there's a never ending to do list of standards to meet, tests and work/college to prep for and constant activities, assemblies and events. How is there time to teach these skills to ALL student at West Seattle High School?
As a high school counselor, you have to make time. I’ll usually start a classroom lesson with a few minutes of deep breathing, before we get into the content. We’ve also built lessons into our school-wide advisory curriculum, so even though I’m not personally delivering the lessons the students are learning about the benefits of mindfulness. Finally, I’ll work with departments who already understand the need for SEL and mindfulness (PE and World Language at the moment) to deliver lessons to their classes. It may be a small segment of the entire school population, but you have to start somewhere!
Have students used these breathing techniques before testing?
In March, we administered the SAT to our entire junior class in the gym. This is a brand-new setting for most of these students, and the stakes are high, so this test can be anxiety-inducing to say the least. I wanted to give students a chance to relieve some of those feelings, while also clearing their heads before the exam, so we started the morning off with a few minutes of deep breathing and relaxation. This was my first time doing a breathing exercise with such a large group! Some of the teachers commented this was the most focused, quiet group they ever tested.
What is Equity Day and how did you incorporate mindfulness into Equity Day this year?
Equity Day is an event West Seattle High hosts every year where students spend their day rotating through presentations of their choice. We host speakers on a wide variety of topics including homelessness, education, immigration, public health, and many others. I co-hosted a session on Mindfulness and Restorative Justice, the theme being “Connecting with Ourselves/Connecting with Others”. The idea behind our presentation is that mindfulness skills are available to everyone, and regular practice can help teens better handle what life throws at them. We believe Equity Day gives students an opportunity to explore current issues, grow, and connect in a different way with their peers and teachers.
What are the results from teaching mindfulness practices?
Students are asking for more! Data from a needs assessment we completed this spring shows mindfulness as one of the top activities students requested for advisory (tutoring and high school & beyond planning being others).
What advice do you have for teachers, counselors or principals who wish to teach these skills?
Just start, anywhere! Don’t overthink introducing these skills to your students. Breathing is something we do all day, every day, and teaching people how to breathe doesn’t have to be complicated. Try introducing a few minutes of mindfulness to the beginning of class here and there, and watch as students ask for more of it.
(short response, first thing that comes to mind)
"Mallory Neuman, you are a true Wellness Warrior, helping students develop the tools to thrive in school and in life! Thanks for sharing your story."