No. Sanpete elementary students
learn to tune in to themselves
By Doug Lowe
Thanks to the efforts of Elise Hanson, the counselor serving all five elementary schools in the North Sanpete School District—Fountain Green, Moroni, Mt. Pleasant, Spring City and Fairview— young students there are learning to use mindfulness techniques in order to build a positive attitude, calm themselves, remain focused and stay on task.
With Feb. 3–7 designated as National School Counseling Week by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), giving some attention to the helpful new program being taught by Hanson may be especially appropriate. In order to prepare herself to teach mindfulness, Hansen invested a big part of time last summer taking two online courses at http://www.mindfulschools.org: first a six-week introductory course in “Mindfulness Fundamentals,” and then another six weeks studying “Mindfulness Educator Essentials.”
Hanson readily admits she had some initial difficulties with the training last summer. “When I first started trying to sit and still my body and mind, I was telling myself, ‘I can’t do this,’ but then I saw it making some positive changes in me.” Becoming more mindful involves learning how to become still and quiet enough to tune in to one’s own body, mind and emotions in order to be less reactive, gain more awareness of the present moment, and consciously choose what actions to take, if any.
Early last September Hanson introduced area parents to the mindfulness program she was already teaching their children. Since then she had heard from “parents who are thrilled” with the positive effects mindfulness is having both at school and in the home. One parent’s success story is particularly striking. When her young daughter started to throw a tantrum at bed time, the mother was on the verge of escalating the conflict, “making things worse,” when her daughter said, “Oh, mommy we need to do some mindfulness breathing right now.”
While both of them sat still and breathed deeply, the daughter said, “I am sending you loving feelings right now, mommy.” In response, the mother told her daughter she was returning the favor. Following their quiet time together, the daughter jumped into bed with no further problem—leaving the mother both amazed and pleased.
When Elise conducted an informal survey among students and teachers the results could hardly have been better: 93-percent of the students reported that mindfulness was helpful to them; and 100-percent of the teachers reported “seeing a positive difference in the classroom.”
Comments from those approving teachers include: “All I have to do is remind them to be mindful and they listen better and are more attentive. I have even stopped a lesson to have them close their eyes and breathe. It works!” And, also “Love that I can tell the class to use mindfulness breathing to calm them and also to focus them on accomplishing a task.” As well as, “It gave all of us a chance to reflect on the present and stop borrowing trouble.”
Scientific studies bear out such comments with a body of research documenting the benefits of mindfulness. Taking note the positive results Hansen is getting, school district leaders have started looking into how they can expanded mindfulness training to include middle school and high school students. Hansen has put them in touch with the nearest out-of-town expert, certified in school-based mindfulness training, so plans can be developed for a professional development seminar, in August, to be taught by that trainer.
Parents wanting to meet and talk with Hanson will have a few opportunities in the next few months of the school year. As part of its parent-teacher conference days, Moroni Elementary has scheduled two presentations by Hansen: one Wednesday, Feb. 5, the other on Thursday Feb. 6, both from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Parents of Fountain Green Elementary students will have a similar opportunity on Thursday Feb. 12, from 4:30 to 5 p.m., and again from 5 to 5:30 p.m.
In addition, Hansen will be holding two more of her “Cookies with the Counselor” open house meetings for parents—coming from any and all elementary schools—on March 4 and May 6, from 2-2:30 p.m., at Mt. Pleasant Elementary. Since those two events won’t be focused exactly on mindfulness, Hansen wants parents to know they can find more information about mindfulness on the districts website https://www.nsanpete.org and then choosing the “Parent” tab, followed by the “Counselor’s Corner,” “Mindfulness Parent Video Series,” where they can view an excellent presentation on Mindfulness produced by the Davis School District.