Sara Potler LaHayne is the founder and CEO of Move This World – a different kind of edtech company. Hers is focused on an important social and cultural good around education, increasing mindfulness. As we do with edtech leaders, we were fortunate to get Sara to sit and answer our Five Questions and, with a focus on how mindfulness helps prevent bullying given that October is National Bullying Prevention Month, here they are, along with her answers:
Q: Awareness and action around bullying are much better than ever before but much of that, it seems, is centered around stopping it after it starts. How is what you’re doing more preventative?
Mindfulness, one of the skills that we teach, helps students develop a deeper awareness of themselves, and a greater ability to regulate their emotional responses. This allows them to take the space and time to breathe and collect their emotions before lashing out in an unhealthy or unproductive way. For further evidence as to how this works, go to https://www.stopbullying.gov/ or https://startempathy.org/ or http://character.org/.
This is why we’re so excited about the work that we’re doing. When you consider that one out of every four students report being bullied during the school year and about 70 percent of students have reported seeing bullying at their schools, it becomes clear that bullying is a national epidemic. Mindfulness is a tool that we can use to help connect in more authentic, empathetic ways.
Q: It’s logical that kids and students learning about bullying and acquiring skills to address it is important. What sorts of things are you doing to help teachers get better about preventing bullying too?
We’ve provided educators across hundreds of schools worldwide with short, daily mindfulness practices that drive self-confidence, emotional control and respect toward others. Our platform allows school leaders to actively shape the culture around them through a daily practice of emotional identification, management and expression for themselves and their students.
Q: How can you teach empathy and other social and emotional skills that help reduce bullying when the lessons are being virtually facilitated? Was there a tech or pedagogy breakthrough that really opened that up?
That’s a great question. We’re really excited because we’re leveraging technology to democratize access to these solutions, and are empowering teachers with the tools that they need to be set up for success. Our technology-enabled platform provides 24/7 access to easy-to-use instructional videos, along with trained coaches for support from anywhere around the world, along with classroom visuals, data analytics, a resource library and much more. This means that teachers and companies that might otherwise not have access to these tools do. And we know that it’s working; in our partner schools, we’ve seen a 20% increase in teachers teaching their students strategies for coping with stress and frustration.
Q: What’s something you learned by doing Move This World? Or is there a specific, interesting experience you’d like to share?
I recently went “off the grid” for six weeks, which taught me some amazing lessons about the power of pause. After taking the time to self-reflect and nurture my passions, I came back ready to lead Move This World with a newfound energy. For anyone who is thinking about doing this, or nervous about it, I would encourage them to go for it. It was hard to be away from my great team and the organization, but the time away helped me reinvigorate my creative juices, re-center myself, and energize in a way that I know is worthwhile.
Q: This issue is so important – what kind of results you are seeing from your efforts with Move This World?
I’m glad you asked. We’re seeing amazing results, with our partner schools reporting year over year during the same time period in school year 2013-2014 to school year 2014-2015 a total of a 60% decrease in suspensions and a 37% decrease in incidents of conflicts.