Opening a brand-new school has many challenges. Outside of the overwhelming number of details needing to be considered and decisions to be made – one of the big challenges facing the leadership team was – How will we best prepare our children’s brains for learning?
Creating an environment where all students would have the best chance at learning was a key goal in the development of the school’s culture. For this goal to be realised, Ormiston Junior College knew they needed to focus on student wellbeing / hauora.
Ormiston Junior College (OJC) opened its doors to 171 new students on Tuesday 7th February 2017. This south-east Auckland school is one of four, built as part of a contract between the Ministry of Education and Future Schools Partners. Their vision is to guarantee every learner engages in innovative, personalised world class learning.
The leadership team, steered by Vivienne Mallabar and Kat B. Liu-Asomua, began researching mindfulness opportunities in term one of 2016 - the year before the school opened. Both teachers knew a small amount about mindfulness in their personal lives but didn’t know how that looked in a school environment. They didn’t want to just do it. They wanted to do it well.
A strong interest in the brain and neuroscience led to a research tour around New Zealand and then North America. They also worked with Nathan Mikaere Wallis, who has been influential in describing how the brain works in the middle years. Before finding Pause Breathe Smile, they went to another course, which didn’t meet their expectations. Finally, they did a simple Google search and found New Zealand’s evidence-based Pause, Breathe, Smile programme.
"Our school values include an approach to hauora (holistic wellbeing), which is integrated across everything we do. We had done some initial investigation into mindfulness and ‘flourishing’ as well as neuroscience-based thinking around how best to support the development of a well person. To us, the evidence was clear that we needed to, at a bare minimum, investigate mindfulness as a pathway to this. Pause, Breathe, Smile was the only programme we could find that had local research, an Aotearoa / New Zealand context, and experienced practitioners and trainers – as well as an ethos of development and ongoing practice-based learning and research. In other words, unquestionably HIGH QUALITY!” explains Kat B. Liu-Asomua.
Why OJC chose Pause, Breathe, Smile
1) Easy to adopt
Pause, Breathe, Smile (PBS) was easy to adopt. Vivienne and Kat enrolled in the teacher training workshop, held in Hamilton during term four in 2016. They left impressed with the pedagogy, fully resourced and skilled to implement PBS in their school environment.
Adapting the programme to suit reluctant learners was simple and effective. Practical examples of mindfulness dotted each session via 'hook-ins’. Showing videos of professional athletes, such as NBA star Kobe Bryant on the free throw line and rugby player, Dan Carter kicking goals helped children relate and engage with the principles and join into the exercises. They discussed what might have been going on in each person’s mind in that environment and observed their body language for signs: deep breathing etc.
Some OJC students are deaf or hard of hearing. Both Kat and Vivienne were able to include these students in the PBS lessons. During guided mindfulness practices, the deaf focused on their breathing only. Or they could keep their eyes open and absorb the guided mindfulness practice via an interpreter. They also made great use of sound bowls. The deaf were able to experiment with feeling the vibration of the singing bowl, which was good for focus and calming. Support teachers of the deaf used PBS to help calm upset or frustrated students.
4) Well-resourced and well researched
Kat liked the high-quality lesson plans, activities, and supplementary resources available Vivienne liked that PBS is well researched in New Zealand and published in respected education and psychology journals in both New Zealand and internationally.
For Vivienne and Kat, mindfulness doesn’t only take place in a circle in a classroom. For
added value, they ran entire PBS sessions outdoors, in their courtyard and the library. Students experienced mindful walking, connecting with nature and moving mindfully. They kept to similar key messages, for example, starting with mindful breathing.
How it works at OJC
From 2018 all new Year 7 students plus all new students that missed out on Pause, Breathe, Smile in 2017 will go through the programme. OJC view it as an integral part of the induction process. PBS will be part of all mentoring and advising times. It is being embedded into their restorative practice language.
OJC has woven four main viewpoints into their holistic practice. Hauora, self-directed learning, restorative justice and mindfulness. OJC is an Innovative Learning Environment (ILE). ILE's can evolve and adapt as educational research and practices evolve and change.
Examples of activities PBS Mindfulness has inspired at OJC
Pause, Breathe, Smile mindfulness has become a key component in the OJC Hauora curriculum and a part of life for OJC students. Students have benefited from this programme in many ways. The PBS programme and the students’ extended studies in mindfulness and the neuroscience behind the programme has inspired students to develop creative ways of exploring the topic and sharing their insights with the wider community.
Emotion and cultural identity dance impresses at Lifehack Symposium
Four Year 10 girls explored the brain and neuroscience as part an authentic inquiry presentation. They drew on key information learned, in part, from their PBS sessions and mindfulness research. They put together a performance dance piece to express the way teenagers deal with emotions and cultural identity. A backing slideshow showed the underlying neuroscience. They performed to the community, their peers and parents. A member of Lifehack HQ supported the development of the performance and asked them to present at a National Co-design for Youth Wellbeing Symposium.
Restorative practice strengthened by PBS
How do we deal with disharmony when it occurs? How do we build foundations for relationships? Part of the way OJC run the school is based on restorative practice. Restorative practice helps to set the culture and tone at a school. It is a deliberate act of relationship building through common language and common practice. Vivienne and Kat have observed the aftermath of social media bullying at OJC. It happens outside of school but affects class time.
To help with restorative practices, Kat makes regular use of the guided mindfulness practices that are part of the suite of premium resources for PBS member schools. One example is the 90 second rule. Take 90 seconds to focus on your breathing and allow that big thing to pass. Kat has used this with 11-year-old boys through to seniors.
OJC has taken the Pause, Breathe, Smile mindfulness programme as a starting point for weaving kindness, gratitude, emotional awareness and talking about feelings into the daily life of students at their school. Taking steps to upskill and deliver structured lessons around the emotional wellbeing and hauora of these students demonstrates the degree of commitment the school takes in the holistic education of children.
About Pause, Breathe, Smile
Pause, Breathe, Smile (PBS) is New Zealand’s locally-developed and evidence-based school-based mindfulness hauora programme. It aligns with the New Zealand Curriculum and incorporates Te Whare Tapa Whā as a key element of the eight-lesson programme. It is taught by school teachers who have completed the PBS Educator professional development training with the Mindfulness Education Group, which includes a focus on teacher wellbeing. A different topic grounded in the science of positive mental wellbeing is taught in each PBS classroom lesson, supported by experiential mindfulness practices such as guided mindful breathing practices, mindful eating and mindful movements. PBS has been shown to significantly increase wellbeing for students, giving them skills that will help them to thrive now and in the future.
Pause, Breathe, Smile trainings are held in-schools or throughout New Zealand with upcoming events listed here. Individual teacher training costs $495 incl GST for the full professional development pathway. Special rates apply for in-school training.
Mindfulness Education Group have developed a supporting online course BREATHE to improve parent and teacher wellbeing. BREATHE is available to anyone as an online course. It provides a robust introduction to mindfulness and helps reduce stress and teacher burnout. This personal development course is eight sessions and costs $89.00 incl GST.
“We are delivering PBS as part of our physical and mental wellbeing focus that students do each day. Students have four days on physical and compliment with one day on mindfulness each week as we move through the PBS lessons. We have linked PBS into our badging system which is our graduate profile to meet the achievement objectives of the NZC.” VIVIENNE MALLABAR, LEADER OF LEARNING, ORMISTON JUNIOR COLLEGE
"When we went into the tests we did, I calmed myself with my breathing and focusing.”YEAR 7 STUDENT
“It was really effective. These girls had a chance to engage in something relevant for their daily lives.” VIVIENNE MALLABAR
“When I had a fight with my parents or brother I used my breathing, I paused and thought of good things YEAR 9 STUDENT