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Leaders of Dynamic Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a nonjudgmental sense of awareness that allows one to pay attention to purpose and being in the present moment. Mindfulness is not just meditation, reflection, concentration exercises, or a quick fix for stress. It is the nature of being conscious of personal sensations and feelings and attending to them. 

The Mindful Stress Buffering Account presented by Creswell and Lindsay (2014) proposes that mindfulness alters stress appraisals to reduce stress reactivity and strengthens stress coping mechanisms. Furthermore, they present that mindfulness can activate the SAM-axis (a stress-response system) in one of two ways: reducing the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response to stress) or increasing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (network of nerves that relaxes the body after experiencing stress). This biological evidence communicated that mindfulness can help mitigate the effect stress has on human health. 

Moreover, applications of Mindfulness-Based Programming have observed increases in well-being, improved behavior regulation, and reduced stress and psychological symptoms. Stress and trauma can have direct (onset of diseases) and indirect (impair cognitive function and performance) effects. Implementing mindfulness practices can help reduce stress and support health. 

Arete President Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg plans to use a Niroga Dynamic Mindfulness Training to implement mindfulness practices within Arete to help not just students but staff and leaders too!

Why this training? 

The work from the Niroga Institute has developed from using their training in groups with students in Oakland. It was tailored for youth who are in serious distressing circumstances and focuses on addressing their trauma. Niroga specializes in an integrative approach that involves social emotional learning, social emotional teaching, and social emotional parenting. 

Materials from Niroga are not new to Arete as we have used their approach in the past when piloting and designing the SEL curriculum 2019. It started with training students and afterschool staff with Transformative Life Skills sessions with the help of Niroga. This work resembled a bottom-up design where the Arete SEL pilot team saw how students took the lead in mindfulness-based programming like deciding when they wanted to take the time to do breathing exercises. Four years since the SEL pilot, Sarah wants to layer in a top-down design where leaders within Arete receive training through Niroga’s Dynamic Mindfulness sessions. 

“The intent of this training is to give you more oxygen to survive with your work,” Sarah coaches the leadership team. She underscores the importance of providing her staff with the necessary tools to help and support their needs as human beings and educators. She intends for this training to help Arete's leaders deal with their trauma, whether it be vicarious trauma or acute trauma. This is a call for Arete’s leaders to know how to support themselves and find ways to address their stress. Down the line, they will be transferring the skills learned through Niroga to their work within Arete.

What do you hope your employees gain from this training? How will progress and learning be tracked? 

“I want them to feel comfortable breathing. I want them to feel comfortable creating a space for mindfulness.” Sarah hopes to see these mindful behaviors happening in all Arete meetings, classrooms, and across the organization's culture. The leadership group will finish the intensive training period by June and subsequently have working products that are manifested at the partnership schools

In terms of assessment, there is a plan to have our leaders working on designing a curriculum for this summer that implements what they have learned in their Niroga training. Engaging Arete's leaders in some form of design work will put their skills to the test. This is imperative for implementing their new learnings for the upcoming school year at all of Arete's four expansion sites.  Their learning will be observed, and they will be coached to integrate Niroga's dynamic mindfulness skills into their staff trainings and regular team meetings. From there, the dynamic mindfulness skills gained from this spring's trainings can serve as a model for future work. Niroga is well known on the West Coast but not in New York. Arete can serve as an example for others to see how powerful integrating Niroga's trainings can be within an organization and at community school sites.  

Why this group? Do you hope it’ll have a trickle down effect?

Sarah’s vision for this session was to have a pilot to start with an influential group. She states that this approach is partially in response to Arete's expansion as the organization is living through the question: “How do we want this culture to expand with the other boroughs?”

Arete is a relatively small organization with over a decade of experience at the The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, which serves as a model for new partnerships. This training allows for a monthly leadership series to build a leadership cohort. Then, at each community school site, there will be a cohort that will be able to lead the school's dynamic mindfulness work. Sarah notes that these leaders have been through a lot by being an organization within a big city that serves marginalized students and families. Niroga gives Arete a way to power up its employees to help them lead and create a great culture to serve the community. After having gone through the training, she anticipates that these individuals are able to lead others in the work. The goal is to have leaders that are comfortable with leading dynamic mindfulness practices and learning how to self-regulate themselves as they engage their staff, students, and families. This is a beneficial way of providing support to the leaders of our organization by offering opportunities to properly address their stress and trauma to then suitably serve our communities. This work fully embraces the mission of seeing our employees, students, and families prosper! 

What did you notice within the organization that led to adopting this training?

Sarah encountered Niroga five years ago when attending a women's leadership conference in California. One of the Niroga staff members was leading a workshop where he had attendees participate in dynamic mindfulness practices while also learning about impacts of trauma on the work of education leaders. All of the attendees at the conference were working in urban settings that dealt with chronic stress, direct trauma, and vicarious trauma. Since the pandemic, everyone has experienced trauma and stress while also leading with complex issues of working within an urban community. 

With this in mind, she acknowledges that trauma is real and prevalent within Arete and wants to help address that with the help of Niroga! A benefit of using Niroga is that their practices are refined in urban settings which is helpful for Arete implementing mindful actions to help reduce the impact of trauma. One thing that Sarah finds crucial in the work Niroga does that will be beneficial for Arete is the focus on trauma as a somatic definition

“Trauma freezes within our body! I want to provide a sort of first aid for our educators and leaders. Post pandemic, it is clear to all of us that we’re fragile! We are still processing what has happened and figuring out how to effectively move forward.” She finds it vital for trauma not only to be addressed through thinking and processing, but also through movement. This is what Niroga brings to us: dynamic mindfulness - transformative behaviors that require mindful movement, breathing, and centering. Niroga is a call to action! It is a breath of fresh air, a time to pause and take care of yourself! As she puts it, it is a simple way to do some self regulation that can take as little as 15 minutes. It is feasible and asks her staff to partake in these helpful practices.

 - 04/13/2023 - Anthony Ramirez-Diaz
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Arete Alumni Feature - Stephanie Polanco Serrano

Meet Stephanie Polanco Serrano - a third year student at Lehman College studying Psychology!

Her journey with Arete started when she was a high school student at The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology where she had the brilliant idea to start up the Self Care Club! Stephanie recounts that starting up this club helped her emotionally because the focus of the club was to offer a space where one would take care of themselves through different artistic activities. This outlet allowed her and other participants to learn of various ways to practice self care! Professionally, she gained communication skills and learned how to take initiative when she had to propose the idea to Arete Executive Director at the time, Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg, in order to get the club up and running. She also mentions that she felt connected to Arete and our mission because she felt that her voice was heard and as a student she felt that her idea of starting up a club was validated and taken seriously. 

Stephanie also became a tutor as a high school student during the pandemic. Stephanie chose to become a tutor because she felt that helping students academically would not be challenging to her as she was in good academic standing. Another big factor in taking up this opportunity was being motivated by a former middle school teacher, Ed Martinez, who presented this opportunity and encouraged her to form part of the program. In the end, it worked well as she was able to solidify her teaching and time-management skills and gain different service skills. As Stephanie puts it, “this role helped me grow because I learned how to serve my community!”

Now, her role within Arete is Senior Program Coordinator. Stephanie oversees Arete's afterschool programs at their various sites, on top of many other responsibilities! Currently, she is located at P.S./I.S. 155 to help the program function and flourish. 

 

Stephanie is grateful for Arete because they foster an environment where she can develop professionally. They provide her with opportunities like participating in trainings and professional development sessions. Being part of those things has helped her realize what it takes to be a part of a successful working environment. She continues to benefit from Arete because she feels security in the role she currently has and underscores that within the organization, there is a sense of trust and unity amongst her coworkers! As a college student, she is also extremely thankful that Arete works around her school schedule and does not penalize her for being a student unlike other college students her age who do not have the same privilege.

 - 04/12/2023 - Anthony Ramirez-Diaz
arete alumni feature - kailyn espinosa

Arete Alumni Feature - Kailyn Espinosa

Meet Kailyn Espinosa - a third-year college student (technically a lower senior) at Hunter College double majoring in Adolescent Education grades 7-12 and English Language Arts. Combined, these two majors work towards equipping her with the skills to do work in the field of Adolescent English.  

Kailyn’s journey started off in her senior year of high school, during the pandemic where she worked as a middle school tutor. She tutored middle school students in different subjects such as English, Math, Science, History, and did other work like social emotional learning. On top of that, she often had to communicate with parents to discuss the progress of the students. 

As she entered her first year of college, she took on the role of Learning Advocate. As a Learning Advocate, she conducted family outreach which meant she helped families connect with different resources. She often helped families acquire access to chromebooks and wifi during this tough period of time of online learning. Additionally, in order to build community through the pandemic, she hosted movie and game nights to unite students even through a screen. At some point during this point in time as a first-year student and as a worker within the organization, she took on both roles simultaneously. 

Even through her roles within Arete as a newcomer, Kailyn underscores her growth as a student but also as a worker. While in high school, she never envisioned herself becoming a teacher; however, after becoming a tutor, she found out it was not as bad as she thought it would be. “Maybe I could become a teacher!” asserted Kailyn as she recounted that upon entering college, she declared an undecided major but her initial roles within Arete allowed her to develop a strong interest in teaching and education. Her professional development also consisted of figuring out her strengths and weaknesses. She found out that she was pretty good at teaching and advocating for families and had the necessary skills to go into the profession of teaching. On top of that, Kailyn was able to narrow down the age group of students she felt most suited to teach through her work as a tutor and Learning Advocate. 

During her second semester of freshman year, Kailyn got promoted to a supervisor of the tutoring program. She essentially overlooked high school tutors and helped foster a stable environment for the tutor-tutee relationships. This meant she created breakout rooms, welcomed both tutors and tutees, and conducted observation sessions during ongoing tutoring sessions. During these sessions, she observed the relationship between tutors and students and gave tutors feedback to help them improve on their tutoring skills. Kailyn’s previous experience as a tutor gave her the expertise to know what was working and what was not working during tutoring sessions. Her promotion from tutor to supervisor gave her insight into the management of tutors and gave her the opportunity to professionally develop and gain competence as someone in a higher position. 

Later on, during summer bridge, Kailyn became a literacy educator. As a literacy educator, her focus was on students who were behind in literacy. Her responsibility was to help bridge the gap between on-level students and students who were struggling in literature. In order to do so, Kailyn helped students by reading and testing their comprehension skills in small groups. One thing that Kailyn learned as a tutoring program supervisor and literacy educator was that she could work with older students and professionals. Her previous experience revolved around a younger demographic, but these two new roles allowed for her to experience what it would be like to work with older students and also take on roles that were higher up within the organization. 

Currently, Kailyn works as a Specialized Reading Intervention Facilitator. She administers and facilitates specialized lessons to help students’ comprehension skills through different activities like SEL, writing prompts, and discussions about the books they read. In conjunction with this first role, Kailyn is also a Program Coordinator and Data Specialist. She reports data for middle school and high school students through two different platforms - EZ Reports and CitySpan. The data she handles and reports is fundamental to the funding Arete receives. It is worthy noting that Kailyn started off with just reporting data for one community school (The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology) but has now transitioned to managing data for all of Arete’s community schools. 

“Before Arete, I did not know what social emotional learning was!” One thing that Kailyn pointed out as something she appreciates and makes Arete distinct is that they exposed her to SEL. She was shown different activities to conduct SEL. She then became equipped with the skills to host her own SEL sessions and activities. Through this, Kailyn learned that social emotional learning is an integral part of learning and development which ties back to her career aspirations of working with children and education. 

Kailyn acknowledges that her work with Arete as of now delves into a more administrative field, but still maintains the essence of working with kids. She benefited from the flexibility that Arete granted to her as a college student. Arete was able to accommodate to her schedule and helped her gain social skills through her various roles. Her exceptional journey within Arete highlights how she was given the opportunity to professionally, socially, and emotionally grow as an individual. 

 - 03/22/2023 - Anthony Ramirez-Diaz
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 2

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:

· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)

· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts. The second portion was The City Artifact Shareout, which is a space for selected SEL Educators and professionals to share the resources they utilized to help guide EQ activities within their communities. This year, seven eager SEL experts volunteered their go-to tools. This article highlights three.

  1. Tozyea Reed (Dallas, TX) - SEL Calm Corner are physical spaces designed to help students check in with themselves. In these spaces are handouts, and hands-on tools for self-awareness and mindfulness.

  2. Kara Hader (Tulsa, OK). - Yale University’s Mood Meters are color-coded zones that help students identify their moods and that mood intensity. These meters are helpful in setting up norms and practice for noticing how you feel and then regulating those emotions.

  3. Lavone Walker (Omaha, NE) - Vibratone is a percussion bell that is used to focus group attention. At the sound, SEL student practitioners are intentionally centering.

Other impactful artifacts shared included Cooking Clubs for kids and staff, SEL Calm kits, and stipends geared at SEL initiatives. All of the artifacts provided takeaways that could be specified to our own communities and EQ practices.

The Arete SEL Challenge: Thank you for reading this article. As a part of our growing SEL community, we invite you to join the conversation. Which of Adams's highlighted artifacts interests you the most? Which of the briefly mentioned artifacts would you like to hear more about? Do you have any cool SEL artifacts to share?

 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 3

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:

· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)

· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts. The third portion was The City Networking Session, and participants had a choice of three Breakout Rooms. The Breakout Room discussions were focused on Strengthening Community Partnerships, Youth Voice, and Policy and SEL Working Groups, respectively. I joined the Youth Voice room since Arete’s Vision, Mission, and Motto are aligned with youth advocacy and SEL Leadership. The facilitator, Farhen Johnson, was phenomenal in delivering this thought:

 “SEL can’t work if it’s being done to you. However, SEL can work if we are speaking life into each other and showing up for one another.”

She drove home her point by challenging us with this thought:

“ SEL is a thread. How can we braid it in culturally?"

I took this as: Where in Arete’s program can we emphasize beneficial customs and observations based on our specific cultures and experience?

The key is developing a Connected Environment. Johnson listed four strategies for developing Connected Environments:

  1. Know Names

  2. Practice Emotional Checks

  3. Introduce Community Circles

  4. Keep all spaces in alignment

 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring
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Reflecting on the ExpandED SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future Part 1

This April, Arete Education had the remarkable honor of joining fellow SEL Educators and exceptional EQ-minded professionals in facilitating the ExpandED Schools SEL Convening 2022: Belonging and Excelling Toward a Bright Future. This annual event was curated to lead members of the SEL educational community in networking and in learning promising SEL practices. Arete was asked to co-facilitate the Breakout Room focused on SEL Frameworks and Models. We shared Arete’s SEL Curriculum and the SEL Module II model with a wider audience, and in turn, received numerous SEL resources and praise from others. This 4-part Reflection will share the highlights and takeaways from the Convening and also challenge the readers to join the SEL conversations.

Feel free to explore the resources below:
· Session Slides and Resources (presenter slides/videos)
· Session Recordings

The Convening was sectioned into four parts:

  1. The Welcome and Key Note Speech
  2. The City Artifact Share-out
  3. The City Networking Session,
  4. SEL Professional Development

The keynote speaker was David Adams, CEO of Urban Assembly, and the premise of his presentation was to drive home how Belonging truly influences one’s purpose and need for education. The main text of reference was W.E.B Dubois' The Souls of Black Folk. This literary work revealed to Adams several insights. He emphasized three:

     1.) The purpose of Education is to transform from a carefree man to a thoughtful man, and the responsibility of each educated person is to help us all through the struggles and into progress.

     2.) To belong is to understand your responsibility to the group, and the group's responsibility to you. Being named and claimed can be healthy and helpful.

     3.) Burdens are easier to bare if everyone carries their own weight. Keep in mind that the strengths need never be unformed, as long as their benefits are mutual.

In closing, Adams reiterated the importance of belonging to and in educated communities by emphasizing the standstill politics places on education. Adams expressed that when education is guided through teaching rather than learning, a student’s scope is narrowed. The solution to teacher-centered education is in our shared characters, groups, and mutually shared experiences.

The Arete SEL Challenge: Thank you for reading this article. As a part of our growing SEL community, we invite you to join the conversation. Which of Adams's three insights were most impactful to your concept of belonging? What are some of the groups you proudly belong to?


 - 05/09/2022 - Nicoise Waring

Grounded in SEL

Last month, we kicked off our SEL in the Curriculum, a monthly workshop series! This work is targeted to support Enrichment Specialists, Teachers, and Support Staff implementing Arete’s SEL Practices during their time with students.

 Our goals for this first session were :

1.)  Introduce the documents in the SEL in the Curriculum Workshop drive space and how to access them. 

2.) Highlight the Arete SEL & EQ Activities for immediate implementation 

3.) Engage and practice 2-3 of the Arete SEL & EQ Activities

As the participants gained access to the drive space, it wasn’t long before they all began to select ideal Icebreakers and exercises their students would be just as excited to experience. As a group, we engaged in an SEL Check-in Question, Deep Breathing, and Plutchik Wheel Color Check-outs. 

Of the session, Nicoise Waring said: "As a facilitator, I absolutely enjoyed the in-person engagement and smiles from personal EQ moments. The feedback received supports the adaptive nature of the SEL in the Curriculum workshops to instructors’ and students’ needs. I’m thrilled and I look forward to our workshop next month!"

These are just a few of the many exercises our staff will share with our students. As we sow these seeds, we hope to fuel the growth that will lead to our students sharing the fruit of these practices with the community!

 - 11/09/2021 - Ismael Valentin, Jr.

Summer Bridge (Rising) Enrichment Club Highlights – Table Tennis and Fitness

Welcome to Table Tennis & Fitness Enrichment Clubs for Summer Bridge 2021. 

The Table Tennis Club is led by Ms. Millye (also the Middle School Team Softball Coach), Mr. Ohl (also a teacher at The Lab School), and Ms. Amy (a new member of our Arete family this summer). Table Tennis is a competitive game; however, it is a sport that many students wouldn't look upon first. Interestingly, Table Tennis is one of the most popular clubs and was the first Enrichment club to be fully enrolled this summer. Students enjoy Table Tennis as they feel they are challenged beyond their limits. With Table Tennis, students are able to acquire patience as well as strategic skills. To know how you want to strike your opponent, you need a strategy. Within this club, we see different students strategizing in different ways. We see some students who like to hit their ball with a spin, and then we have some students who like to back-hand from the start. It's amazing to see youth taking charge in a sport like this one. 

 

We also would like to highlight the Fitness Club this summer. Fitness is led by Emily Robles, Ranffy Perez, and Ali Sumareh, who are all Alumni from The Lab School. Fitness allows students to freely express themselves while also challenging them to go above and beyond phyiscally. With fitness, middle school students are able to learn about the importance of working out but also being active. Being active is essential to the youth as they need the consistent reminder regarding their health and wellbeing. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, students are in the gym playing a variety of different sports. As shown to the left, students are in a circle playing volleyball with their instructors. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students are in the cafeteria, hallway, or fitness center doing different activities, ranging from running, working out, or doing different sets. 

Students from both of these enrichment clubs enjoy them and are always active when it comes to participating. 

Stay tuned for next week's post as we will continue to highlight the different clubs that we have for Summer Bridge! 

Be sure to check out our Instagram Page and Website for any updates, announcements or newsletter regarding the summer program.

 - 08/24/2021 - Mariyam Sumareh
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Summer Bridge (Rising) Enrichment Club Highlights - Creative EQ and Guitar

This week at The Lab School, we are diving into two enrichment activities at a time. Welcome to Creative EQ and Guitar

 

Creative EQ is led by Nicoise Waring, who specializes in SEL. SEL is Social Emotional Learning and EQ is Emotional Intelligence. With SEL, students are able to take a step back from all that they are dealing with for a moment. Students are able to perform breathing exercises, do check-ins and reflect on their day. It's important that everyone finds time in their day whether it's 5 minutes or 10 minutes to take a break from everything that they are doing and get in touch with themselves.

 

This week in Creative EQ, Ms. Waring led her students through making masks. One thing about Ms. Waring is that she loves showing her students new things while also acknowledging cultural events that happen around us. Students had the opportunity to either make masks on the Day of The Dead or do something related to the Black Lives Matter Movement

 

While in Guitar, which is led by Marcelo Cardozo, students were able to learn about music and the way that they can play. Mr. Cardozo has provided a safe space for the students to get comfortable enough to play a new instrument. 

 

While being in the classroom, we saw students learning a new piece of music. It was fascinating seeing the younger students play such an instrument with care and ease. Although these students were beginners to playing, they had the knowledge and right mentor leading them. Mr. Cardozo has been with The Lab School before, and so he knows how to handle our students with care. 

 

Each of these clubs holds a special place in our students' hearts, and so it's up to us to make sure that these students receive what they need. 

 

Stay tuned for next week's post as we will continue to highlight the different clubs that we have for Summer Bridge/Summer Rising! 

Be sure to check out our Instagram Page and sign up to receive our weekly newsletters regarding the summer program.

 - 07/30/2021 - Ismael Valentin, Jr.

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