Highlights from Central High School

By Neanta Parnell

It is truly a pleasure to work with students across the Philadelphia school district. For Jazman Dobson, Central is one of the high schools where she is beginning to see the benefits of her mindfulness instruction.

Jazman is multi talented, a bass player and classically trained dancer, (about to perform at SXSW), she brings that rhythmic and melodic sensitivity to her instruction. At Central, Jazman gently commands the classroom with an intuitive and streamlined flow. She begins class by having students journal about their inner weather as soon as they arrive.  How are they feeling at that present moment? From there, she prompts students to journal about a questions that connects with the content of the day’s lesson. Before more discussion, everyone immerses themselves in mindful contemplation. When they finish the practice, they recheck their inner weather. How are they feeling now? Has anything shifted. Three or four students share out what they were feeling, what they noticed, and how they are working with what they observe in themselves. The students are all gaining self-knowledge and a sense that their experiences are often shared by others, they are not alone.

This past week, Jazman’s prompt related to lessons on evolutionary brain development:

“Write about a time recently when the amygdala took over and you had a strong emotional reaction to something, perhaps anxiety prior to a test or something else. What did you do to support yourself?”

Students completed the Teen Brain lesson with Jazman, so discussion and journal responses were lively and thoughtful. Some related to school pressures, some related to childhood memories, some related to social media. The theory of the survival instinct and how it is encoded in us became tangible as teens related it to their own lives. Jaz followed this up with a Love and Kindness exercise where they extended gratitude to someone special to them. Students wrote heartfelt messages that were thoughtful and deep. Her commitment to helping students flourish by inviting their own expressions, while maintaining a clear and supportive learning structure made the session rich and constructive.

Teaching is an art and a science, and when the balance is good, students light up.  Through Jazman’s creative instruction Inner Strength Teen program, Central students seem to be more aware and respectful of the delicacy of their humanity. They seem to relate to one another with more ease and have more pride in themselves as they better understand the connection between mind and body. Jazman’s having success helping students build inner strength for outer stability in this Philadelphia school.

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