Positive Psychology Spotlight: Alan Brown
by Suzee Connole
Alan Brown is a dean at the Grace Church School in Manhattan, where he uses mindfulness practices to connect to students at different stages of their academic career. “As a mindfulness leader at the high school level, school is where I plant seeds,” Alan says. “Students are in a position to harvest these seeds and use them on their own time, in their own scenarios.”
Alan’s “seeds” include a variety of techniques aimed to help students understand what works best for them. “Kids are able to learn information, but need their own experience applying it,” says Alan. For the students who benefit from written expression, he offers tools like thank-you letters, lists, and thought organization exercises. For the students who respond more to embodied experiences, body scanning and mindful movement are his go-to approaches.
Part of Alan’s job is to create programs that support children, teachers, and families to thrive and flourish. When not in his own classroom, he acts as a consultant for other schools looking to incorporate mindfulness programs into their curriculum.
One of his goals is to educate teachers about replenishing their self-compassion to avoid burnout. Showing teachers and adults how to value themselves as much as those they work with allows them to live the message they are sharing with their students. “Schools are not alone in tending to view the workplace as somewhere that teaches us to care for others more than ourselves,” he says. What’s most important to him is “for students to graduate having learned how to be a better person both for themselves and others.” Alan is adamant that this starts in the classroom, with teachers who believe in practicing mindfulness. “Children read body language,” he says. “A teacher who yells or gets distracted by students will not be well received.”
All adults, not just teachers and parents, can serve as role models for kids and teens, Alan says. “What we put out to the world is a gift to those affected by us,” he says. “Children who experience self-loving and whole adults have a much better chance of flourishing in the same way.” His fondest hope is that kids will take that perspective and spread it to others, continuing to plant and cultivate seeds of thriving.
Alan offers the workshop “Schools as Agents of Love: Fostering a Sense of Wholeness in Students and Teachers,” at the 2017 Embodied Positive Psychology Summit.
Alan Brown is a dean at Grace Church School in New York City, where he leads mindfulness programs for students and parents. He runs Learning to Thrive, providing mindfulness-based coaching to students and families, and consults with schools on implementing programs in mindfulness, well-being, and positive education. Alan holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago, and is a Fulbright fellowship recipient. A certified teacher in the leadership network of Mindful Schools and a Certificate in Positive Psychology graduate, Alan has taught in both public and private settings for 15 years. He serves on the National Advisory Board for the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. learningtothrive.nyc
Suzee Connole is the Marketing Assistant for Wholebeing Institute. Part of her role at WBI involves highlighting how alumni, faculty, and guest speakers are taking positive psychology principles and applying them in the communities where they live and work.