Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Helen Maffini, who is the founder of the MindBe education curriculum. Check it out here:

           Please tell us a little about yourself, what drew you to active fitness education, and the Happiness in Classrooms and MindBe Education missions. 

I have always been involved in education. My mother was a preschool teacher so I was in the classroom and I realized how important social emotional learning is. When I was a teacher in Hong Kong I started reading more books from people like Daniel Goleman and Dan Siegel and my interest grew. I started going to meditation and other courses in Bahrain and my interest development from that. Since I have seen first hand the impact on my own life and my students I became passionate about it!

           Why do you think it is so important to teach kids mindfulness in schools? Your Kids Can Thrive program is really cool. What is the most important thing that kids need to learn early in order to thrive?

I think it is such an important life skill to have. If we can teach children to be present in the moment, to be aware and accept their emotions and learn how to manage them well, we can create a peaceful world.

My Kids Can Thrive program focuses on different areas of Positive Psychology and helps kids feel more calm, confident, emotionally intelligent and passionate. I love to help kids learn to manage their emotions and really enjoy life and go after any goals they have!

          How do you suggest we scale up and get more programs like this, which focus on health and wellness and mindfulness, into every school in the country?

Good question and an important one! I think we need to work with the teacher training colleges and education departments so this is part of teachers initial training and they can then develop their own practice and share it with others. The more of us who talk about it, share programs and tools the better!

          Part of your curriculum is teaching empathy, which is so important, and not easy to teach. What’s the secret to getting kids to learn empathy? If you had to pick one mental exercise for kids to learn empathy in elementary school, middle school, and high school, to help positively shape their future behavior and health, what would it be? What exercise would you suggest for the parents and teachers to do to stay calm?

Yes I agree empathy is a key skill we need now and will need even more in the future. It is important because once you have empathy embedded in classrooms and schools you can eradicate bullying, prejudice and discrimination.

I like to do an exercise called -in your shoes- where whenever we read a story we imagine what is like to be the character, we go deep into the exploration of how that character might feel, see and do things and the reasons why, we try to understand their feelings and then do a writing or drawing exercise about what we learned.

Another exercise I love is based on perspectives, we have situation cards and we look at them from different perspectives and see how the same situation might be viewed in different ways by people all at the same event. This helps everyone to realize that sometime, noone is wrong, it is just how they witnessed certain things, we work from there to discuss and see how we can be empathetic to others.

One more thing I always encourage is to volunteer and if possible for classes to do so. Working in a food kitchen, or handing out packages to homeless individuals can help us develop empathy and understanding.

          What advice do you have for teachers, administrators, healthcare practitioners, kids, and especially parents as it relates to teaching mindfulness to the kids and helping them to thrive?

I would say, develop your own practice first and you will naturally start sharing that with your students. Start small and don’t think you need to do anything big or complicated to practice mindfulness. Just start by noticing your breath, learn some breathing exercises from the internet or an app like Headspace. Take time perhaps brushing your teeth or in the shower to start your practice and develop habits and routines that incorporate it! Enjoy, it will change your life!

Thank you Ms. Helen Maffini for speaking with me. I am looking forward to your next summit. Everyone check it out and sign up because the future of the next generation may depend on it.  

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