How Mindfulness Supports Social Justice in Schools: Q&A with Rhonda Magee

When mindfulness and PE teacher Alex Tzelnic struggled to bridge mindfulness and social justice teachings in his fourth grade classroom, he reached out to Rhonda Magee, author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice. Here, he shares their conversation.

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Despite mindfulness being about stretching our comfort zones, after a couple decades of practice sometimes it feels like it is my comfort zone. I’ve been steeped in the practice for so long—studying Buddhism as an undergrad and grad student, writing about it, and sharing mindfulness practices with my students at the school where I am a Mindfulness Director and PE teacher. I’ve become something of an ambassador to stillness, willing to discuss mindfulness and meditation anytime, anywhere. Yet there was a moment last year when I felt stumped.

I was attempting to link mindfulness and social justice for an upcoming series of health and wellness lessons I was teaching to fourth graders. After a couple of weeks of teaching basic mindfulness, the next few sessions would integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Despite engaging in numerous professional development workshops centered around DEI, I had never been the one to teach that material directly in a classroom setting. As a white-identified, cisgender male, it’s no wonder I felt at home discussing mindfulness, a practice that has largely been taken up in white, privileged spaces. Reflecting on the experience, I…