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Multiculturalism, Mindfulness

and K-12 Schools

Presentation at the Westchester Guidance Expo
October 21, 2015

Jennie Park-Taylor, Merle Keitel, Samantha Garofalo,

Yoni Hochstein, Bianca Palala, & Elena RiveraSalvitelli,
Fordham University

Barriers to Academic Success:

Individual and Family Factors
Immigration, Language, & Culture
Students from immigrant families may be language/cultural brokers for their
Some students have pre-immigration trauma experiences.
Low SES is associated with:
Externalizing problems, depression, and psychological maladaptation.
Lower participation in literacy/educational activities than those with more
Academic and social emotional struggles

Barriers to Academic Success:

School Factors
Low Teacher Expectations or Weak Teacher- Student Relationships Lead to:
Students feeling a lack of school belongingness
Students detachment from school
Schools in Low SES Neighborhoods tend to:
Lack AP courses and other college preparatory programs/courses
Lack enrichment opportunities (e.g., sports, chess clubs, arts programs)
Be in poor physical condition (e.g., asbestos)
*Development of students sense of self may be impeded by a discouraging climate

Barriers to Academic Success:

Neighborhood Factors
Minority students disproportionately attend schools with highest
levels of poverty
Living in poverty involves distinct material hardships and
environmental disadvantage that may impede a childs cognitive
High crime rates, drug use, & gang activity.

Urban Minority Youth and Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through
paying attention on purpose, in the present moment,
and nonjudgmentally to the experience in the here and
now - moment to moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).

Evidence For Mindfulness Leading to Better Academic

and Social Outcomes for Youth: Lawlor (2014)
Mindfulness linked to lower depression and stress
Teachers reported higher cognitive control, optimism, empathy,
perspective taking, and school self-concept
Stress measured by cortisol in saliva- found students had a
more regulated rhythm of stress management
Significant decreases in depression and aggression
Rated by peers as more trustworthy, kind, helpful, and more

Evidence For Mindfulness Leading to Better Academic

and Social Outcomes for Youth: Schonert-Reichl et al.
Peers saw improvement in mindfulness group: Better able to take
in others views, be helpful/trustworthy, and share.
Student self-reports indicate significant differences in mindfulness,
empathy, perspective-taking, emotional control, optimism, and
school self-concept.
Authors found mindfulness-based programming significantly
improved cognitive functioning in classrooms and social/emotional

Evidence For Mindfulness Leading to Better Academic

and Social Outcomes for Youth
After 5 minute mindfulness intervention, performance decrements that
occur from stereotype threats may be reversed.
Mindfulness exercise alleviates working-memory load, relieving cognitive
pressure (Weger et al., 2012).
Mindfulness exercises also reduce problematic involuntary engagement
responses to social stressors.
Enhanced self-regulatory capabilities and reduced rumination (persistent
and worrying thoughts) (Mandelson et al., 2010).

Mindfulness Leads to Better Academic and Social

Outcomes for Youth: Viafora, Mathiesen, & Unsworth
Mindfulness can help students:
Focus more in school
Improve attention, reduce stress, and manage difficult feelings
Improve cognitive functioning critical to academic success
**Was effective with homeless youth as well

Implementing Mindfulness: Elementary and Middle

4th and 5th graders who did Mind-Up demonstrated better coping, stress
management, empathy, and peer acceptance (Schonert-Reichl et al.
5-week mindfulness program called Mindful Schools to 409 low income
K-6th graders (Black & Fernando (2014).
Students are taught and encouraged to practice mindful activities such as
breathing exercises, body awareness, and thinking. Improved classroom
behavior for up to 7 weeks post-intervention.

Implementing Mindfulness: High School

Wisner, Jones, and Gwin (2010) looked at 11 different studies of mindfulness meditation
(MM), transcendental meditation (TM), and relaxation response programs.
Meditation helped students improve their coping strategies and self-awareness .
Mindfulness can be learned quickly, used in groups, and implemented for brief cycles of time
(e.g., 4-8 weeks).
Mindfulness Meditation: Decreased anxiety and problem behaviors, improved social skills and
academics in 32 adolescents with learning disabilities.
Learning to BREATHE: Reduced negative affect, fatigue, aches and pains; increased
emotional regulation, calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance in 137 HS females.

Multicultural Competence
3 Components of Multicultural Competence:
(Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1993)

Multicultural Competence: Whats Missing?

Implicit vs. Explicit Attitudes
Unconscious vs. Conscious
Encountering an out-group member or associated stimuli
encourages automatic out-group attitudes
Implicit level changes (The things we say do not always match our
real beliefs/attitudes/feelings).
Research from the Implicit Apperception Test (IAT)
Evidence that a brief meditation exercise can reduce prejudice
toward homeless people (Kang, Gary, and Dovidio, 2014).

Mindfulness and Multicultural Competence

Mindfulness can aid in developing multicultural
competence through an increased awareness of
how ones internal states and external environment
relate (Thomas, 2006).
Practicing mindfulness gives individuals the
potential for noticing privilege and lack of privilege
in daily interactions (Wildman, 2013).

The School Counselors Role

Ensure that students succeed socially,
academically, and emotionally in school.
Collaborate with teachers, administrators, and
parents and act as advocates for students.
Help students recognize, be aware, and accept
issues beyond their control.
(ASCA, 2014; Lapan, Gysbers, & Kayson, 2007; Sandhu, 2000).

View students concerns with compassion
Discuss mindfulness goals during sessions
Help students to:
Recognize reactions
Accept situations
Change aspects of response
Experience personal acceptance and freedom
(Carmody, 2009; Gehart & McCollum, 2007)

Integrating mindfulness into the curriculum

Add mindfulness exercises to the academic
Student/Staff-based mindfulness blog
Individual and group counseling
Coordinate a program for staff and students
Staff workshops/Team meetings
After school

Things to consider:
Keep oneself abreast of latest techniques and
attend additional mindfulness training workshops
Think about yourself, your students, colleagues,
and community
Multicultural considerations
Consult colleagues

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