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Mindful : April 2019
Lack of focus, bullying, teachers stretched too thin—these are just a few of the challenges inspiring schools across the country to bring mindfulness into the classroom. Among those leading the charge is Kathy Flynn-Somerville. A classroom teacher for over 25 years, she is on special assignment from Pittsburgh Public Schools, demonstrat- ing and teaching mindful- ness at all 54 K–12 schools in the district. “ When I go into a school, I’m trying to reach the entire school with each visit,” Flynn-Somer ville says. She meditates with up to 300 students daily, returning for 10 to 12 ses- sions per school, a schedule that has made her pres- ence familiar and welcome all over the city. When the school day ends, she has facilitated sessions with teachers and district staff. In addition to help- ing teachers manage the stresses of their demanding jobs, the extra sessions help them model mindful behav- ior for their students. That may all sound a bit hectic, but it’s working: The early results of the multi- year project speak for them- selves. In research she’s con- ducted, Flynn-Somerville has found upward of 90% of students say trying mind- fulness has helped them in some way—to manage strong emotions, to be more kind, to focus better in school. And nearly half have taught friends or family members how to do it. The goal of Flynn- Somerville’s work is to shift school cultures toward greater compas- sion, or as she says, simply “humanness.” In the meantime, her job keeps her firmly planted in the challenges at hand. “At the end of every day, I’m pretty exhausted,” she says. “ But this has become the most important work of my career so far. I’m so happy to be doing it.” PEOPLE TO WATCH Kathy Flynn-Somerville PENNSYLVANIAN MINDFULNESS TEACHER 14 mindful April 2019 PHOTOGRAPHBYJASONCOHN