A parent was describing how best child’s school was so proud that they had added 20 minutes of mindfulness during the school week. I had this feeling that I was listening to a late night infomercial. The infomercial in my head went something like this:
“With just 20 minutes a week, you too can have your class real the benefits of mindfulness. Reap the benefits of mindfulness and have your children become less stressed and more relaxed. This sort infusion of training will will have benefits that last the whole week!”
“And that’s not all! Act now and we’ll throw in a free minute of grit, the skill you’ve been dying to get your students to adopt! For just the low, low price of $19.99, plus shipping and handling.”
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It almost sounds like we’re seeking snake oil. But that’s how we seem to be approaching important skills like mindfulness, grit, and growth mindsets. We even act that way about character education and other important social-emotional skills. If we can squeeze in a few minutes here and there, we’ll address social-emotional learning and be done with it.
Except, it doesn’t work that way.
When I first began my career as a school psychologist, I was trained to coach schools as they developed their implementation plans for Positive Behaviors, Interventions, and Supports (PBIS). It’s a strategy designed to promote pro-social behaviors and reduce discipline referrals. Key to the program was making sure that it was embedded everywhere from the classroom to the cafeteria to the bathroom. I was working to get the school to live, breathe, and eat PBIS.
Implicit in this wide ranging approach to PBIS was that interventions need to be generalized. In other words, just because it happens in one place doesn’t guarantee that it will happen in another place. Training a student to be mindful for twenty minutes isn’t bad, but it just isn’t going to stick unless it appears in a lot of other places.
How to do that? Embed it in your instruction. Adopt the language and practices throughout your school day. Reference it whenever possible. Call it out when you see. By making it feel like it is everywhere, your students will actually learn to use these skills.
So don’t go the infomercial route. Look to deeply embed. It takes more effort, but the payoff is higher.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some Ginsu knives to order.