OCDE mindfulness training project prepares teachers to be role models of stress management

Imagine a classroom where students are not only taught the academic curriculum, but one in which students are taught social and emotional learning skills, like breathing exercises to decrease stress, that will also prepare them for college and career success.

OCDE’s Resilient Mindful Learner Project aims to create more of those classrooms, by starting where classrooms begin — with teachers.

Supporting an embodiment approach that will prepare teachers to be healthy role models of stress management for their students, the no-cost project recently opened four spaces for the spring cohort, and Orange County public, private and charter teachers are eligible to apply.

[Updated, 3 p.m. on Jan. 17: KPCC Southern California Public Radio aired a report on mindfulness in the classroom this morning, referencing the work of the Orange County Department of Education.]

Beginning Feb. 9 and spanning 11 weeks, the training will help teachers gain the knowledge and skills to develop mind-body health and wellness through stress management, resiliency promotion and mindful awareness practice. In turn, according to OCDE Coordinator of Student Mental Health and Social-Emotional Learning Dr. Lucy Vezzuto, these skills will enable teachers to integrate stress-reduction and self-regulation practices into students’ classroom routines.

“This training provides a foundation for educating the whole child,” Vezzuto said. “We know that just developing the intellect is not enough, not for work or for college and career, and it’s really not enough for human development.”

Since learning is a social and emotional experience, according to Vezzuto, the ability to accurately identify and manage emotions is critical for student success in school and in life — and teachers are the first point of contact.

“We’re not trying to turn teachers into therapists,” said Vezzuto. “However, teachers see students every day and they know when a student is isolated on the playground, for example, or when they act out, or react before thinking, and we want to help teachers become trained in how to teach stress-reduction and mindfulness to kids to better cope or even eliminate these behaviors.”

The project will not only provide weekly after-school training, but it will also include a mindfulness retreat, in-classroom support, a stipend and a certificate of completion.

“Our work is not only about preventing stressful situations,” she said, “but it’s about creating a supportive, safe school environment for kids.”

The deadline to apply for the four available spots is Jan. 25. For more information about the Resilient Mindful Learner Project visit ocde.us/healthyminds. You can also view the flyer here.