When I started in education at the ripe age of 22 at Playworks (then called Sports4Kids), I only knew I loved kids and sports. The past 10 years in education have brought me on a journey from play and sports to presence and mindfulness.
At Playworks I learned the tools and skills to create a playground environment of respect and fun. Despite working at a very rough school, fights, referrals and negative behavior dramatically decreased. From this experience, I saw the need for that same healthy environment in the classroom. I became a teacher bringing the fun back to learning. The students responded well with discipline, respect, excitement and most of all happiness.
A couple years ago, however, I began to see a change in my students. The kids were disconnected from themselves and the world. They lacked self-esteem, imagination and a love of life. I re-evaluated the way I was supporting students. Why couldn’t I engage the students as well as before? The students were dealing with similar life experiences, yet they were less present.
I dedicated myself to living and learning through personal healing and empowerment, and I invited my students to go on this journey with me. I took mindfulness classes through Mindful Schools and used the curriculum in my classroom–yoga, play, art, positive hip hop, and more. The students responded immediately, and the result has been amazing. As the school climate continued to be chaotic, my students were the “eye of the storm”. I now realize, just as Jill Vialet did with play, the power of guiding kids to find power in themselves. By doing this, opportunities open for their personal success. Students understand that life’s most trying and challenging moments create strength and resiliency.
This sparked a deep passion in my heart, and I created the Mindful Life Project. The mission of Mindful Life Project is to reach the most “at-risk” behavioral problems at a school, and teach them proven skills that allow them to detach from the emotions and feelings that have been controlling their lives. They come to the realization that they can always find the inner greatness that they have. They can stop the cycle of negative thought and behavior and redirect the energy to positive choice making and empowerment. The goal is to always be present and open to the moment and to the flow of life. Mindful Life Project starts with the hope that we as a society can become supportive of all our children, and start to reach the needs we have one child at a time.
Please visit www.mindfullifeproject.org to learn more about what we are doing and how we can bring the program to schools and communities around you.
JG Larochette was born and raised in Berkeley, CA, played baseball at Saint Mary’s College, and received his B.S. in Psychology. He started his educational career as a Playworks program coordinator. He has been a classroom teacher, community organizer, and mentor in Richmond, CA for 9 years and is the founder and director of Mindful Life Project.