Future Ready Alliance kicks off with session on social and emotional learning

Schools across the country have been finding that mindfulness and meditation can help educators more easily cope with classroom stresses and help kids better handle the anxieties and struggles of adolescence.

So when Stephanie Romero saw that the practices hadn’t gained enough traction in the Pittsburgh region, she founded Awaken Pittsburgh. The nonprofit provides mindfulness and meditation training for schools and other clients.

A former classroom teacher whose doctoral dissertation focused on mindfulness, Romero brought tips for using meditation to teams in our Future Ready Alliance in early October when she keynoted their first meeting of the 2019-2020 school year.

By activating the calming, parasympathetic responses of the human nervous system, practicing meditation has been found to help educators expand empathy, reduce burnout and increase job satisfaction.

Among benefits for students, it enhances self-regulation, decreases aggressive behavior and reduces anxiety, Romero said.

“Even for students with ADHD, meditation increases attention,” she added.

Romero said that educators practicing meditation are able to improve their classroom environments by modeling better interactions. Getting students into the practice helps improve their social and emotional competence.

“Social and emotional development is critical to helping students become future ready, which is what our teams are working on” said Consortium Program Director Christy Kuehn, PhD, who helps organize the Alliance. “It’s at the heart of so many of the soft skills students need for success in post-secondary education and careers. It has bearing on adaptability, communications, teamwork, self-discipline—you name it.”

Teams from 18 districts are participating in the Alliance this year. All will be working on projects aimed at helping students achieve the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s standards for career learning and future readiness.

As is typical, the projects teams are planning range widely—from Operation Outreach in South Park School District, which wants to enlist more community partners to enhance career learning for students in 5th-8th grades; to Digital Freshmen in McKeesport Area School District, which is aiming to support 9th graders with web-based career readiness portfolios.