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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Keep Breathing: An Update on A Mindfulness-Based Initiative in Schools

In an earlier blog, I wrote about a mindfulness-based program, where k-12 students learn and practice four breathing techniques in 40 days. I caught up with ABC Breathe director, Maria Andrade, to see how the initiative was going during the pandemic and a time when schools, teachers, and children are shifting between remote learning and in-person classes and having to maintain social distancing and other safety measures.   

Q: How is the initiative going? How many schools and setting are you working with during 2021? Any big changes or news to report?

We are moving right along, virtually. Bibb Co Schools have requested to train teachers and staff on the 4 Breathes for 40 day initiative. We are working with 10 new schools. Additionally, ABC Breathe continues to work with the schools from last year. 13 total as of today.  Big changes- we would like to expand to other counties since we have now found our "virtual" rhythm.

We have also started working with Community Partnership and Resilient Georgia to bring more trauma informed practices to our community.  We have also started teaching virtual yoga classes in schools.

I’ve also have a few organizations reach out to ask if I would lead a brief mediation before they start their team meetings.

We are also expanding into homeless shelters and youth at risk programs.

Q: How do you think the current socio-political climate/pandemic is impacting k-12 students? How do you think this relates to your program?

The impact has been huge. The stress and anxiety levels of teachers and students is high. Common problems we are seeing are lack of connection, and fear of the unknown. My program is a tool, what I like to say, if our bodies and minds are our “house”, then my program is a tool to building a complete house. While not THE solution, perhaps a part of the bigger solution. ABC Breathe teaches awareness and ownership of emotions. Once we become aware of how we feel then we can manage how we deal with those feeling. We teach focus and love of self. While we can solve or change the problems and events happening around us, we can perhaps change how we respond to them. My program teaches that you don’t need to be in therapy to discuss your feeling, in fact all feeling are good and necessary but if your feeling are getting in your way of being kind and productive, then we teach kids how to reset (flip the switch).

Q: What can we do to expand these types of mindfulness-based programs? Do you think it's feasible that students in every public school might practice some form of breathing/mindfulness/mediation/yoga activity for a part of the day? Or am I being too idealistic?

Not idealistic! I love this. I would love to see this spread to all elementary schools. I hear the word mindfulness, meditation more often now. There are apps and stories in magazines as popular as Real Simple. My program is designed to be user friendly. Four Breathes for Four minutes, 40 days. Because All Bodies Can Breathe (ABC Breathe) Once the student practices the breaths, they can teach them to others. I would love for the program to spread because they are sharing the information with each other! 

Many schools have started putting them on morning announcements. 

To expand these activities, we need to increase awareness. The more we promote the concept, the more people will normalize it. I have a Facebook and IG account, and website but we need to figure out a way to get ABC Breathe in front of more School Administration. Why not, Maybe even take it to Miguel Cardona, the new department of education secretary.

Q: What keeps you going? How do you stay energized with conducting classes, workshops, etc.?

The kids keep me going. The program keeps me going. The more people I can connect with and the more people  accept the belief that we need to have love, kindness and compassion for ourself, hopefully we can find those things in each other. I firmly believe that we find true joy in kindness. I also firmly believe in the power of our minds. Why else would the top of our head be called a “crown”, or the bottom of our feet the “sole-soul”, and our liver, the only organ that regenerates, have the word “live” in it.

We have the power to change and to be beautiful. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so the more people talk about perhaps the more people we can reach.  Just last week, Amanda Gorman spoke in her poem for the inauguration, “ there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”

What keeps me going is hope. Is the hope, the belief that I am providing tools for children to be brave enough to see and BE their own light. And, what a would we could live in, if the next values of the next generations are rooted in these beliefs?

Q: Where can teachers, principals, and others find more information about your program?

They can call me directly or reach out to me through email with questions. If people want make financial contributions, we can take tax- deductible donations through our website.

Maria Andrade

[email protected]