Links | The Inner Resilience Program

The Inner Resilience Program

 

 


THE INNER RESILIENCE PROGRAM

History and Underlying Principles

The Inner Resilience Program’s mission is to cultivate the inner lives of students, teachers and schools by integrating social and emotional learning with contemplative practice. IRP was founded by Director Linda Lantieri in the spring of 2002. Originally, the aim was to equip school staff and parents in schools in lower Manhattan in and around Ground Zero with the skills necessary to rebuild their inner strength and resilience after the events of September 11th, 2001, and to model this way of being for the children in their care. It soon became clear that the work being implemented in schools in lower Manhattan had broader implications to the field of education in general. So many teachers are overstressed and close to burnout and they need help to manage the new challenges facing them inside the classroom and out. Children’s lives are also much more stressful today.

When IRP began in the spring of 2002, over 40 NYC elementary, middle, and high schools, mostly in Manhattan, were involved in the program. Today there are nine model elementary schools in lower Manhattan and East Harlem that are implementing the program in NYC. IRP began implementation in the South Burlington School District in Vermont in the spring semester of 2008-2009 school year. It is also being integrated in the Warren and Youngstown City School Districts in Ohio and in six elementary schools in Madrid, Spain in spring 2010. Since IRP began, 6,000 school staff, 3,000 parents and 12,000 students have been served. Adults and students alike are helping to reclaim their schools as caring and mindful communities of learning.

The mindfulness-based approaches used in IRP help create healthy environments for teaching and learning by assisting both teachers and students to hone the skills of self-regulation, attention, and caring for others. The underlying principle of teaching specific skills to teachers and students through sustained practice and the development of a mindful classroom environment may provide value-added benefits because of the emphasis on repeated practice of skills over time in the context of a caring learning community.

Specific mindfulness practices taught include:

  • Deep abdominal breathing to relax the body and quiet the mind by using the breath as an anchor to bring attention to moment-to-moment awareness
  • Progressive muscle relaxation and a body scan
  • Mindfulness exercises with sustained practice using the various senses

 

Focus and Methods

The implementation of IRP includes weekend residential retreats for school staff, professional development workshops, individual stress reduction sessions and parent workshops at school sites. The program also includes opportunities for teachers to nurture their inner lives through weekly yoga classes and monthly sessions in which school staff are introduced to many self-care strategies including a variety of contemplative practices.  IRP has also developed a k-8 curriculum: Building Resilience from the Inside Out. The curriculum involves a 10-hour training and follow up staff development visits to each individual classroom of the teachers trained.

 

The IRP framework has the following essential ingredients: regular classroom instruction to develop students’ social, emotional and inner life skills; a more mindful approach to behavior and classroom management aligned with Inner Resilience methods; a safe, orderly and peaceful classroom climate which values reflection; mindfulness based practices integrated throughout the curriculum; Inner Resilience workshops that inform and engage parents; professional development for staff on their personal learning of these skills as well as support for implementing this work in the classroom.

 

The focus of mindfulness educational practices is grounded in contemplative neuroscience including the concept of neuroplasticity - the notion that the brain is the key organ in the body that is designed to change in response to experience and training of various kinds. Marrying the idea of neuroplasticity with the kinds of mental training offered by contemplative practices, educators are learning just how much we can train the mind and change our brains/bodies in the directions of greater attentional focus, emotional calm, awareness and insight, and caring for others.

 

When is the program offered?

The professional development for teachers is offered either after school or during school time with funds to either reimburse for substitute coverage for teachers or provide stipends to teachers who attend training after school. The Building Resilience from the Inside Out curriculum is taught by trained teachers as discrete lessons that are part of the regular school day. It is also integrated into other curriculum areas throughout the day. IRP is also supported by the creation of a “peace corner” in each classroom. The peace corner is a special place that is set aside where children can go whenever they need calm and stillness in order to regain their inner balance.

 

Challenges Encountered/Proposed Solutions

Signs are promising in terms of student acceptance of these practices, but the research base still suffers from too few peer-reviewed papers that employ rigorous research methodologies. Also there is still a general lack of agreement on the active ingredients of programs and ways to measure their effectiveness. A key hypothesis behind a lot of this work still needs testing and that is whether developmentally appropriate practices will promote the development of executive cognitive and emotional control. Also, more research is needed to better understand the developmental issues involved in teaching children contemplative practices. However, in the meantime, we can apply our current understanding of children’s development to the advancement of evidence-based practices. 

 

 

Research/Impact

In spring 2006, IRP received generous funding from the Fetzer Institute for Metis Associates to conduct rigorous research using a randomized control trial to examine the impact of the program on the well-being of teachers and students as well as on the climate of their classrooms.  A total of 57 teachers of Grades 3–5 (including 855 students) from NYC public schools participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. Teachers in the treatment group participated in the IRP during the 2007–2008 school year. Activities, which were intended to reduce teacher stress and increase their concentration, attention, job satisfaction, and relations with their colleagues, included a series of weekly yoga classes, monthly Nurturing the Inner Life meetings, a weekend residential retreat, and training and support in the use of a curriculum module for students. It was theorized that changes in the teachers would have a positive influence on the climate of their classrooms, which in turn would affect students’ wellness with regard to stress and frustration levels, attention, and acting out behaviors. In addition, the program was intended to reach students directly through curriculum activities. Teachers from the treatment and control groups completed a battery of surveys in the fall and spring of the 2007–2008 school year. Between-group analyses indicated several interesting and notable results with regard to teacher wellness, including reduced stress levels (as measured by one scale), increased levels of attention and mindfulness, and greater perceived relational trust among treatment teachers. Additionally, 3rd-gradestudents of treatment teachers perceived that they had significantly more autonomy and influence in their classes at the end of the school year than at the beginning, and analyses of student wellness indicated that the program had a significant, positive impact on reducing 3rd- and 4th-grade students’ frustration levels.  

In 2009-2010 school year, the New England Network for Child, Youth and Family Services also conducted an evaluation in the South Burlington School District. The evaluation methodology relied on both quantitative and qualitative data using validated measures that were completed at the beginning and end of the intervention. Forty-one teachers participated including five teachers in targeted classrooms whose 84 children also participated. At the end of the program 16% of teachers said that IRP had a significant positive effect on students and 40% said it had a moderately positive effect. About half of the students said that Inner Resilience helped them focus “a little better” in class and made them “a little more” ready to learn. Over 75% of the students said such activities could benefit at least some children and that they should therefore be introduced more widely in the school.             

 

Supporters

The Inner Resilience Program receives generous support from the NoVo Foundation, The Kalliopeia Foundation, the Fetzer institute, The Philanthropic Collaborative and individual donors. 

 

More information

For more information on The Inner Resilience Program please visit our website www.innerresilience-tidescenter.org.  For more information about Director Linda Lantieri see www.lindalantieri.org. For more information about the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), one of our partner organizations, see www.CASEL.org.