The arrival of a typical school year conjures eager anticipation along with inevitable undercurrents of anxiety. This, as we all know, is no typical school year. Tensions surge as teachers and homeschooling parents shoulder the burden of carefully preparing kids to learn amid unusual circumstances—whether that means enduring long hours of wearing masks in class, or being separated from their friends during distance learning. If you’re an educator in need of support, you’ll find relief in a new app created just for you.
JabuMind was developed by a team of teachers, administrators, artists, and mental health clinicians to bring iRest–based meditations and mindfulness courses directly to your fingertips via mobile device for self-care throughout the school day. Like any other iRest meditations, these practices are completely secular (non-religious) and easy to engage at your own pace. Initially launched in the United States, JabuMind will soon be available worldwide.
JabuMind was co-created by Jill Apperson Manly, a Certified iRest Teacher who says she has “always had a fascination with the deeper self”. Jill spent her early career overseas teaching elementary children in such destinations as Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland). Inspired by rich cultural exchanges and fueled by her passion for social and emotional learning (SEL), Jill wrote a children’s book called Nothando’s Journey that has since been used in learning curricula around the world. One character in the book is named Jabu, taken from a Zulu word meaning “rejoice together”. JabuMind, then, is named for a happy mind.
With the JabuMind app, educators can expect to learn:
- Tools to practice mindfulness meditation.
- Methods for meeting and navigating intense emotions.
- Ways to improve communication and interactions with students and peers.
- How to cultivate positive states of mind like gratitude, kindness, joy, and compassion
- Techniques to manage stress, overwhelm, frustration, anxiety, and depression.
- Ways to improve restful sleep and relaxation.
iRest Institute recently talked with Jill about the JabuMind app—a project on which our own Richard Miller advised —and its enormous potential to uplift educators.
What is JabuMind and why is it important?
JabuMind brings mindfulness to teachers.
During the school year, children typically spend more time with their teachers than with their parents. The positive influence of a teacher is paramount to the success, growth, and well-being of the child. If we rely so heavily on our teachers, then why don’t we treat them as people to be honored and valued?
On the contrary, the America we have today leaves teachers out of the conversation. Too often, we don’t respect a teacher’s advice when asked how best to support the well-being of our children. We underpay our teachers. We underappreciate our teachers. It is no wonder nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession after five years. The social emotional health of our teachers must be addressed.
We know that mindfulness apps are powerful social emotional tools. We know that certain proven methods of mindfulness, such as iRest, are especially effective. JabuMind is a smartphone app that utilizes a proven method of mindfulness to deliver self-care to teachers in an engaging, easy-to-use way. JabuMind is specifically designed to meet the needs of teachers.
Tell us about "SEL": for those unfamiliar with the lingo of educational development, what does it mean?
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is a trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL). CASEL supports educators and policy leaders and enhances the experiences and outcomes for all pre-K-12 students.
The story of a child growing into an adult is universal—cultures, families, religions all play a part. How and what a child learns in school varies from country to country, and decade to decade. Right now in the United States and globally, societies are plagued with higher than ever rates of child trauma, suicides, depression, anxiety, and stress.
To respond to this crisis, the United States has set standards called SEL, or social and emotional learning. School districts, private schools, and charter schools are all jumping to provide children with SEL lessons. They want teachers to teach SEL in the classroom. Yet teachers need support if they are going to teach these skills.
How might iRest be helpful?
If you are speaking the language of school administrators, you could say that iRest is adult SEL. iRest can prepare the adult to be more self-aware and to be able to have a conversation with another person about their own beliefs, thoughts, and emotions and see themselves in a much deeper way. Similarly, our app gives the teachers the 10 fundamental iRest steps in bite-sized pieces.
There are many great mindfulness practices out there. I have done quite a few. For me, the accessibility of iRest is why I choose it.
Did you have an "a-ha" moment that led to the creation of JabuMind, or was it a more gradual evolution?
It was an “a-ha”. I will never forget the time I was teaching SEL to children and a principal asked me to teach mindfulness to his teachers. What I saw when I met with these teachers forever changed me, and that’s when I knew teachers needed our immediate attention.
This happened about four years ago. I was leading a first day of school mindfulness meditation for teachers. I asked the teachers to close their eyes and reflect upon their day. I had created a safe space for teachers to carve out a moment of silence after a chaotic day and deeply connect with their feelings. As I gazed out on these teachers, my focus landed on one of the most respected, valued, and wise teachers of the school who began to weep.
To me, this was not something to be ashamed of. This was a brilliant way for this teacher to release stress. We know that one tear releases more stress hormones than any other way of removing stress from our bodies. I was proud of this teacher and moved by the impact meditation had on this group. I was proud of the principal who cared for his staff and teachers enough to provide them with this self-care. Lastly, I was proud of the community for supporting the principal in adopting this program. We need more like it. When teachers feel appreciated and cared for, they can show up as their best selves for our children. With mindfulness practices, we can refill our teachers’ depleted cups and restore them to their passionate, optimistic selves.
How did your own work with children play into the creation of the app?
I see firsthand the impact an adults' lack of self-awareness unknowingly harms children. To me, this is a big deal. I include myself in this group always.
Prior to establishing at an iRest practice, you traveled extensively and worked overseas. What perspectives or practices did you pick up along the way that you apply to your work today?
I want this app to be global. My books are part of a SEL curriculum in 14 countries. The stories in my books come from my overseas experiences. What I saw and what we are seeing is that many countries are using schools to address their social needs. They hope that, by teaching SEL, kids can be more compassionate and have more empathy.
This is a good idea, but the adults teaching it need to first grasp internally the power of this topic. Kids are smart and perceptive. The old adage rings true here: you cannot teach what you do not know.
Globally schools are moving to address inequities, bullying, suicide, depression, anxiety. My travel and years overseas taught me the world and its inhabitants are more alike than different.
Who are some of your primary influences in the realm of yoga and meditation (and perhaps beyond) and why?
Janice Gates, Richard Miller, the late David Simon MD, Eckhart Tolle and nature, people and myself. I use iRest to see myself where I can learn about the world. I move outward-in or inward-out. I try to surf life and avoid riptides, and iRest is my surfboard.
I am a work in progress.