“I was so impressed with Michael’s abilities to teach the students the techniques of being mindful while keeping them completely engaged. He authenticated the application of the techniques and the students related to him as well as appreciated the stories he shared telling of the times he used the process to bring peace and serenity to calamity. Michael taught me as well as the students the importance of responding and not reacting to the events in our lives, especially disturbing events. We learned from Michael how to develop personal awareness of our inner thought processes to control our outward responses.”
– Teresa Clark, Teacher Community United Elementary School, Oakland
for Teachers and Students
After more than 20 years of telling stories, and teaching the art of storytelling, I’ve become aware that at the core of it all is the art of listening. When people say to me, “I’m so glad you tell stories Michael, it’s a dying art.” I think to myself, “Storytellling will never die, it’s part of being human. But the art of listening, now that is the important and precious skill that we all need to be reminded of.” At the core of all learning is listening.
Over the years, I began to see that students on the whole were having a harder and harder time concentrating, and that teachers were having increased challenges in keeping student focus. I wanted to learn how to give students and teachers the skills to practice to become better listeners and thus better learners.
One of the groundbreaking innovations in education is the teaching of mIndfulness to students and teachers. People ask me, “What do you mean by mindfulness?” Other words for mindfulness might be: concentration, focus, thoughtfulness, attention, compassion, and awareness. When I heard about the work of Mindful Schools based in Oakland, that they were teaching and placing teachers in schools, I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I’ve taught teachers and students at a variety of schools in California.
In these programs I’ve taught, I’ve seen students learn how to stop throughout the day, re-foucs, concentrate, and become aware of their actions. Teachers are blown away by how these skills have helped students with class attention, conflict resolution, test taking anxiety, self compassion, empathy and so much more.
The programs I offer can be configured into any amount of days. The design most commonly used goes for 15 days, spread out however the school would like. During the 15-day program, I go from class to class on a weekly basis. Each class starts with the ringing of a “mindfulness” bell. This simple bell becomes a tool for re-focusing, that the teacher can use throughout the day and for the entire year. I visit each classroom for 5-7 weeks, 15 minutes each visit, with a wide array of fun exercises looking at focusing on: sound, thoughts, eating, feelings ..... all with the intent of giving the students skills to use in and out of the classroom. Every classroom in the school takes part! It becomes a shared language. The teachers are each given a bell, and trained on how to use these skills throughout the year. 15 minutes may sound short, but as an educator, I can say that what happens in those 15 minutes is profound and extremely effective.