Following an extensive exploration and review, the Foundation awarded a grant to the Community School Collaborative (CSC), a joint program of two community agencies in the Twin Cities—Change Inc. and Guadalupe Alternative Programs, both not-for-profit organizations.

The purpose of the $35,000-USD-funded program is to engage 16 teachers at two urban middle schools serving at-risk students in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, in an IFS experience. As part of the funding, all teachers and staff at these two middle schools would be introduced to elements of the model. The CSC provides school-based mental health services at both schools and has the support for the pilot project of both principals.

Middle schools were chosen as a focus of the pilot program for the simple fact that middle school teachers, given the developmental stage of their students, must be resourced with the ability to bring qualities of Self into the classroom, such as curiosity and compassion, in order to be effective.

For 10 Saturdays over a period of 10 months, the Project Lead, Jody Nelson, EdD, LMFT, and a team of mental health professionals and coaches will facilitate an experience for teachers through which they will take an inner journey to explore their own human psyche through the IFS lens and look at new ways to incorporate these new discoveries and learnings into their classroom. Speaking of the social and emotional learning efforts in schools, Jody explains, “Most mindfulness-based education is focused on the student. To our knowledge, there is little focus on resourcing and preparing the teacher. We know they are the most critical piece to resilience and protective factors in schools.”

The project’s objective is to contribute to students’ emotional development by bringing to them the view of internal parts and qualities Self, which are reportedly readily accessible to kids, leading to a process of self-knowledge, Self-discovery, and Self-leadership. By meeting some of their internal parts and learn how to access their innate wisdom, both teachers and students are expected to discover how to be less reactive to challenges around them, learn how to be calm in the face adversity, and gain the confidence needed to face whatever comes their way at school and beyond.

The project will be evaluated using a pre-post program survey through which teachers will self-report on their capacity to identify their internal parts and access qualities of Self leadership. Teachers will note their observations of their students, though journaling, with an emphasis on the teacher observing and listening. Interviews with teachers at the end of the project will gather qualitative data on teacher and student impact. Data about student performance and disciplinary referrals will also be tracked to observe any changes in the process.