The Problem that motivates us
Our world is in crisis with critical stakeholders, teachers, facing the mammoth task of creating safe, stimulating learning environments for children while affected by personal, local and global challenges. Traditional modes of teaching in this VUCA world leave children unprepared to navigate unprecedented global challenges and individual stress. Compounded stress (academic, personal, family) contributes to mental disorders (anxiety, depression, conduct) in 166m children and youth, affecting their grades, attendance and interpersonal relationships. (UNICEF, WHO, 2021) Most national curriculum frameworks stifle the innate talents of children and as the late Sir Ken Robinson said, “schools kill creativity.”
Ongoing racial discrimination around the world is evident that access to culturally tolerant educational technology is grossly insufficient and opportunities for positive representation of underserved communities in every sphere of society is vital in reshaping self-identify and global narratives, particularly about black and asian people. Despite gargantuan needs, we have found that for many of the underrepresented communities we have worked with since 2011, spending 2.5 hours over 8 weeks on mindfulness-based, self-care is a ‘luxury they cannot afford’’ especially when language and ethnicity of teachers leads them to feel that experts rarely look or sound like them.
Having experienced the problem, we are addressing the lack of access to mental health support alongside limited relevant programmes and platforms offering multiple languages and user customisation. By conducting MBSR, MBCT, Paws.B and Mindful Schools programmes with adults and children in SA, Sudan, India, the Philippines and Northern Ireland, we found that contextualisation is integral to meeting complex needs. With valuable content on Headspace, Buddhify and Calm primarily for English speakers, which is also the case with schools platforms, Smiling Mind, GoNoodle and DreamyKid, most ESL and all non-English speakers are overlooked and not reached. My 13 years of class teaching revealed that short, daily routines are easier to adopt and integrate than interventions that require specialist training/trainers.
Our MEtime for Learning Mandala PoC will have language choices and be data-driven: filtering strategies based on emotional temperature; analysing learner reflections; directing teachers to learners in need of support. Instructional content will be customisable to personal avatars with voiceover recording that empowers underrepresented teachers and learners to lead their own mental health breaks.