Fall River Transformation School Gets “Second Wind”
What do struggling students in an Indiana high school, violent convicts in Georgia, and anxious test-takers have in common? The answer is: the practical benefits of meditation, exercise, and self-expression, and they all came together in late February at the Doran Transformation K-8 School, part of Fall Rivers educational “Innovation Zone”.
The Doran School, struggling with achievement for the past few years and with a 50% new staff in place, is in the throes of implementing its redesign plan, and according to Maria Pontes, Principal, improving student readiness to learn is a big factor. So much so, that with help from ERC founder Larry Myatt, the school has created an expanded “Wellness Team” that is developing a whole new menu of care coordination for students and staff. Part of their February professional development was to learn “Second Wind”* techniques from Jeffrey Cohen. Cohen brought and demonstrated a repertoire of classroom strategies that help teachers to mentally and physically engage students, and increase their powers of concentration and focus.
Neuroscientists, psychologists and counselors and school practitioners are benefitting from new studies that mark distinct benefits of old and new techniques involving neural blood flow. Schools are concluding that letting go of exercise and the arts to focus on testing strategies has had a negative effect on student’s readiness to learn, and therefore limiting their achievement.
Remember our three examples from the top of this article? Three dozen struggling students come to their mid-western school each day an hour early for high-intensity exercise workouts that have raised their self-esteem, grades, and behaviors. The novel approach has taken root to the extent that other clubs and elective gym classes are appearing in the school and visitors are coming to explore the methods and approaches. In Georgia, an experiment with a correctional institute’s most violent offenders, using yoga and meditation, has proven to be a huge asset to prison conduct as well to inmate’s personal habits and behaviors. And a study of nervous, typically under-achieving test-takers has shown that a combination of meditation, visualization and writing, conducted just before starting a test, has lowered test anxiety and substantially improved scores.
Ms. Pontes described the Doran “Second Wind” session, at which every faculty member participated voluntarily and enthusiastically, as “awesome” and something she feels many of her teachers will adopt and will want more training from Cohen. Practices based on Second Wind have been a fixture in some of Boston’s high-performing Pilot Schools, where they help students extend concentration and turn on their preferred methods for increased performance.
The Doran’s efforts have been of note to Carol Nagle, who heads Fall River’s Family Services Association and also serves on Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown’s 2020 Scenario Development Team. She has become an enthusiastic supporter of the school’s efforts, hosting a Wellness Team retreat and making skilled professionals from her organizational available to the school’s student support staff and students. If this new Doran Wellness model proves to be as effective as early signs indicate, the school district expects to codify the practices and design features and adopt it in other schools.
For more information on the benefits of Second Wind download the flyer