During a recent trip to Southeast Asia, our founder Brian decided to visit a school in Laos. The international school, Vientiane Pattana School International, is a bilingual school located in the Sikhotabong District of Laos, just beside the Thai border. VPS is a progressive school that seeks to instill its students and community with cultural awareness and a lifelong appreciation for learning, so when Brian sat down to meet with Jamie McCahill, a teacher at VPS conducting an ethics class, Illumination Institute seemed like a natural fit.
For the past several months, Jamie has used Illumination Institute’s curriculum to teach his students mindfulness skills. With regular support from our team in the form of phone calls, emails and even video calls when schedules permit, we’ve been thrilled to have Jamie on board as our first international teacher. And from his feedback, it seems that Jamie and his students have noticed real changes since starting with our program.
“After my first experience practicing mindfulness, I felt calm, relaxed, focused and ready to work,” Jamie said. “This is exactly the mindset that I want my students to have at the beginning of each day, and each lesson.”
One of the key components of our mindfulness program is encouraging teachers to develop their own personal mindfulness practice so that they can become a calm presence in the room for students to look to as an anchor.
“Some weeks after beginning to implement mindfulness lessons into our ethics curriculum, I noticed some students really beginning to get into it, and being able to become much more aware of their thoughts, feelings and emotions,” Jamie reported. “Their focus and self-reflection skills have improved, and there is just a general sense of calmness in the classroom. We are very grateful to have the Illumination Institute providing us with detailed resources each step of the way.”
Jamie teaches a total of around 130 students in grades 7 through 12. After noticing the benefits of practicing mindfulness skills and developing a greater sense of awareness and compassion, Jamie’s students were ready to take their journey to a new level. They began translating our mindfulness lessons into Laotian so that they could teach the same skills to local students who didn’t speak English.
During a recent field trip to a school in Van Vieng, a town about 70 miles north of Vientiane, Jamie’s students led mindfulness exercises before a class of local students, in their native Laotian. All students sat on the floor together, eyes closed, focusing on their breathing, and learning to be at peace with the present moment.
“I was so proud of my students,” Jamie said of the experience. “Not only did they deliver a great mindfulness lesson to four different groups of students, but they also translated your scripts into Lao so the students could understand it.”
“The kids really got into it!” he added.
As an organization with a dream of a more mindful, compassionate world, we are thrilled to see our lessons crossing international borders and even language barriers. We’ll continue to provide support to Jamie and his students, along with the other teachers, administrators, school psychologists and students of all ages who use our curriculum to discover a better way of being. We couldn’t be more thankful to Jamie and his students for helping to spread Illumination Institute’s message.