Our Story

   Lighting the way....

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"We are visitors on this planet. We are here for one hundred years at the very most. During that period we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true meaning of life."

Dalai Lama XIV

Why this initiative?

Mindfulness is not in any way, shape or form a new phenomenon. Mindfulness practices have existed for centuries, lifetimes, if you will. 

 

The motivation and intention behind this initiative were derived from my simply experiencing the improved well-being, cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits of engaging in mindfulness practices for over a decade.  

Throughout ​my many educational experiences I became fascinated with psychology and how the human brain works, in particular with the concept of 'Neuroplasticity' - the idea that the brain can change itself through exposure to new environments and new training. 

 

Over 15 years ago, I discovered the benefits of practicing mindfulness techniques after experiencing a traumatic event. I have since seen firsthand through mine and others' experiences the benefits of practicing mindfulness. As an educator I have been practicing and leading mindfulness techniques (breath meditation, visualization, yoga among others with my students) and have seen the benefits of these practices materialize over time in individual students and in my classroom in general. This resulted in improved attention, less behavior issues, 

increased academic growth and a noticeable calm and family focused classroom culture. Later when I left the classroom to lead a school, I decided that if mindfulness could change my classroom culture then why couldn't it change an entire school's and that's where THIS journey began - with a simple intention motivated by experience and wanting to contribute to the world.

 

After four years of introducing, developing, maintaining and watching a mindfulness program evolve in an urban school and seeing the benefits on school culture and students’ emotional regulation and improved outlook, I am now passionate about and feel called to provide children with the skill of practicing mindfulness. The goal is to teach mindfulness practices as a tool to develop and sustain improved attention, focus, increased self-awareness and improved emotional regulation. I strongly believe that adaptive lasting and sustainable change has to occur from the inside (within the brain) and also believe in the benefits and proven outcomes of early intervention.

 

I have introduced and sustained a mindfulness program at Southwest Baltimore Charter School along with my then co-worker and current CEO of Infinite Focus Schools, Ashley Williams, I am a board member of Infinite Focus Schools, and have witnessed firsthand the benefits of mindfulness in changing children’s mindset, thought process, emotional regulation and school climate and culture. I also inspired the recent work by Zoe Horner, current CEO of Treasured Youth Co, to advance this project and deliver value at a grassroots level in primary schools across Western Australia which resulted in the birth of M I S A I D in November 2018. 

 

At its heart, MISaid aims to light the way forward to improved Social Emotional Health for children and young people and we aspire to achieve great outcomes for the benefit of all involved.

Who am I?

I am a certified U.S. based school administrator and teacher, with teaching licenses in the US, Western Australia and Jamaica.  I am the Principal at Southwest Baltimore Charter School, an Expeditionary Learning Charter School in Baltimore City and an avid meditation and mindfulness practitioner. 

 

I am currently taking a year off from work to travel and would like to, as an act of service, spend some of that time supporting schools worldwide with assessing, developing and implementing a sustainable Mindfulness program into their curriculum.

 

I am passionate about education and dedicated to working with children. This passion has led to a combined 21 years of teaching and education leadership positions and experiences in both first and third world education systems.

Iffeisha Gordon-Toppin