Interview with Wynne Kinder , of Wellness Works in Schools
Hi everyone, today I got to speak with Ms. Wynne Kinder from Wellness Works in Schools, which is a program that teaches mindfulness in public schools. She spends a lot of time training the teachers so that they can share these tools with more kids, and she even wrote some books for teachers to use which describes these practices. You can learn more about her at this website: http://www.wynnekinder.com/
Please tell us a little about yourself, what drew you to mindful education, and the Wellness Works in Schools mission.
I’m a teacher. And most recently in the last 14 years, your lifetime I’m sure, I’ve been teaching mindfulness and some other approaches in schools that are helpful for students and are also helpful to their teachers. I’m a teacher by trade and training, and taught about 16 years in my classrooms kindergarten, fourth grade, and sixth grade. But I also have been in the last 14 years spending a lot of time in other teachers’ classes, supporting their students as a whole group. I was working predominantly in special education and alternative education at all grade levels, and in the last couple of years, have been shifting into more of the teacher training. I got into it as a teacher, needing a way to manage my own stress and settle myself before I tried helping other people like other teachers or my students. Managing my stress became my impetus for getting into mindful practices. But then I truly found that that was the teachable moment. That was the piece that my students in my academics focused classroom, was missing. So it was about 15 years ago that I retired from classroom teaching and moved dove into co-creating Wellness Works in Schools. It’s about wellness and doing the work that we need to do as human beings to feel well. We are mostly in schools, some community organizations, some parent based work. Essentially, in schools during the instructional time of the school day. To give you a little more background, we are funded by the school districts, by Title 1, and by state funding, anything that will support the district to bring in this therapeutic behavior intervention mental health approach that’s based on practices, not just theory or philosophy.
Why are the programs that Wellness Works in Schools offer so important right now, with everything that is going on in the world?
We can’t learn if we fear and we can’t learn if we don’t feel safe, and safety has become a huge issue in schools. Security is the job of the policy makers, the administrators, and the decision makers, community enforcement around schools. Safety is about what teachers and students can create for themselves in a small community setting, the classroom or a skills group or meeting with a counselor. That’s where safety comes from in schools. People do need to feel safe. In the connection they have with themselves and with the people they have around them. I do think that this idea of safe schools is becoming more and more of an opportunity to just say you’ve got to have safety on the inside before you try to secure the locks and think that people would be able to learn and grow and do the things that they need to do. I have spent some time teaching about and talking about the difference between security and safety.
Do you believe it is important for organizations with similar missions to work together to get programs about Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness into every school in the country? How else can we scale up to get these programs in all schools?
I do think connections are critical. They’re what makes life successful and helps us to thrive, is our connection with others. Connections with other people, similar minded, similar hearted, makes total sense. It gets more challenging when we start to say that our organizations or groups or companies need to work together. I would say those two first words that you put in your series of this question, yoga and meditation, mindfulness is the only one I can truly adhere to. I’m not trained in yoga. I’m actually not even really comfortable with saying meditation in the schools I teach in, because that terminology hasn’t been reclaimed by the mainstream. So it’s still, for many of the people I would work with, would bring up a non-secular foundation in meditation. It’s not worth it to me to be that descriptive.
I use, mindfulness, attention training and mindful movement, that of course is yoga-ish, but also Ikedo, karate and energy based and stretching so it’s physical therapy like when it was used in the military. So I’m very comfortable with the word mindfulness, but I’m not comfortable with the word yoga or meditation in my populations where I take my program.
So I love working with others and being inspired by others in their work. I just want to keep growing this. I think it’s an emerging field. It’s long overdue in so many ways but I don’t know that it belongs in every school in the world the way I teach it, maybe the way other people teach it. Pieces can fit as long as it fits and as long as it’s helpful, it should be in schools.
Your books Peace Work and Mindful Moods are super interesting. If you had to pick one mental or physical exercise for kids 3-10 years-old to do to help positively shape their future behavior and health, what would it be?
I would say attention to the breath, and the second part of that would be matching movement with breath so that our attention is on ourselves. It’s not selfishness, it’s self-care. So whatever movement, whether rainbow breath, whether it’s lifting, some movement to energize, the arms coming up and coming down, that’s energizing. Settling is more of the hands on the belly feeling for breath. So I would say those two would be invaluable to impact behavior and health. Attention to self and breath and how we move with recognition.
What advice do you have for teachers, administrators, healthcare practitioners, athletes and especially parents as it relates to mindful learning?
I would say to the adults, model what you hope will spread and become routine for children, so you have to model it. YOu have to speak of it. Talk about the benefits, show that mindfulness or mindful practices can be a tool that people can be successful with. But speaking of that often, and not the perfect part of it. The messy part. “Wow. I tried to do my attention practice this morning. I tried some mindful movement and it just didn’t feel right. I guess I wasn’t up for it. I may try again later because I know I need it. This morning it didn’t fit my life.” So I would say modeling is the piece of advice that I would have.
I have been so impressed with your work Adam and your inspiration. I honor your journey on this path of bringing that teachable nurturable movement to as many children as possible. The need is great and the benefits are even greater. So well done, good luck, and stay in touch please.
Thank you Ms. Wynne Kinder for speaking with me, and for all the great work you do to help make this world a better place for kids. If you are a teacher, check out her books and programs. The future of our world may depend on it.
For more information about Wuf Shanti: https://wufshanti.com/2018/05/about-wuf-shanti/