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“Focusing Belongs in Schools” Project
We are embarking on a project to introduce “Focusing”, as developed by Dr. Eugene T. Gendlin, to Educators. Our vision starts with presenting Focusing as a useful tool for Educators of all types to become their own best friends, and to help them improve relationships wherever needed. Our vision grows with our belief that “Focusing” can become a tool in classrooms, both as a foundation for self care and a means to advance social and emotional learning goals.
From 2011-2012, Barbara Dickinson had the unique opportunity to work directly with the creator of Focusing, Dr. Eugene T. Gendlin (“Gene”). One of Gene’s favorite topics was “Focusing belongs in Schools!” In the ensuing years, Barbara has met several professional educators in different countries who use Focusing in schools, and she has been inspired by their experiences to launch this project.
The primary goal of the project is to create a “template” showing how Focusing can be introduced to educators at the State level, starting in the US. With this template, Focusing professionals in any state, and in many other regions, can introduce Focusing, first, as a skill that educators can use for their own benefit, and then, once a comfort level has been achieved, introduce Focusing concepts and practices in their classrooms and lesson plans.
Once we create the template - what we did, how we did it, and what effect (if measurable) did we have - we will publish that template for use in any other state in the US, and hopefully any other region in the world (with suitable adaptations for cultural differences, of course).
Based on conversations with professionals in curriculum development, Barbara has learned that listening, paying attention, compassion and empathy are the key skills in the most up-to-date social and emotional learning plans. Focusing professionals know how to teach these! This knowledge is the basis of the project to offer Focusing as part of the tool kit of educators.
It is important to note that the lack of a substantial collection of research demonstrating measurable, repeatable, predictable successes using Focusing as a teaching tool hinders the effectiveness of any effort to convince educators of its usefulness. That is why this project uses the “ripple effect” -- providing Focusing as a tool for educators themselves, so that its usefulness can “ripple” out to all education settings.
Now that we have a team of advanced Focusers with complementary skills, we have begun work on the first instance of reaching a regional organization, the New Jersey Education Association - the teachers’ union - of some 200,000 members. We understand that approximately 20,000 members attend the annual convention. This “reach” is unprecedented for Focusing, at least in the English speaking world, and we are thrilled!
What is Focusing?
From our About page: “Focusing is a natural skill and has been with us since the beginning of time. Because of cultural tendencies over the past few centuries, most of us have lost touch with this skill and need retraining. The term “Focusing” came out of research Eugene Gendlin began in 1953 at the University of Chicago. He did 15 yrs of research analyzing what made psychotherapy either successful or unsuccessful. His conclusion was that it was not something the therapist did, rather something the clients did inside themselves during the session. He began to study the behavior and how to teach it. He wrote a little book called "Focusing" that you may have run into. It’s a wonderful book, a great place to start and what is known about Focusing has come a long way since then.”
The “Focusing Belongs in Schools” Team includes three Certified Focusing Professionals and one professional Educator, and will grow in time.
- Barbara Dickinson - Co-Founder and Certified Focusing Professional (New Jersey, USA)
- Sandy Jahmi Burg - Co-Founder, Certified Focusing Professional, Coordinator, and Creator of the “Learn Focusing” Program (Virginia, USA)
- John Harvey - Certified Focusing Professional, Fundraising Professional (Illinois, USA)
- Jessie Mullins, Professional Educator (Virginia, USA)
The following professionals are involved as Contributors to the Facilitator Guide for Parents, Teachers, ,Therapists, Coaches and Other Group Leaders that Sandy is writing to go with Smartview Stories books.
- Cindy Anderson, Retired Reading Teacher, Maryland.
- Diane Stadnichuk, Indigenous Family Social Worker in Manitoba, Canada.
- Don Langrehr, Retired Professor Education, Radford University, currently working part-time as a Reading Teacher in Roanoke, VA inner city schools.
- Inge Terrill, Director at Phoebe Needles Camp and Conference Center, Calloway, VA
- Kelly French, Family and Children's Therapist, North Carolina
- Tajali Tolan, Family Therapist and Youth Educator, Be Brilliant program
We are currently collecting testing locations for the Facilitator Guide. We have 3 in Floyd, one in India. Each will receive two copies of the first three published Smartview Stories books along with a pdf copy of the Facilitator Guide. We estimate testing for January - March 2024. Once we receive feedback in April, we'll put finishing touches on the content and move toward publishing the Facilitator Guide.
In 2023, we will again attend the New Jersey Education Association Convention from 11/9-10 to gather observations, experiences and information about how to run a successful workshop and offer a successful exhibit to educators from all over the state.
By attending Social and Emotional Learning workshops and engaging with Exhibitors of Social and Emotional Learning materials, we will develop our own approach based on solid real-time experience.
In 2024, we plan to present a workshop and an exhibit at the NJEA Convention in November.
Our core team of five is based in two places on the East Coast of the US, and one place in the Midwest. In terms of connecting with a professional education community we are concentrating on New Jersey, where one of our Founders, Barbara Dickinson, resides. Our Facilitator Guide has the potential to be tested around the world in early 2024 wherever English is in use. We anticipate testing in a wide variety of educational settings. This material is suggested for ages 9 and up, including adults.
Our first fund raising effort is a Course we are offering through “Learn Focusing”. This course teaches the “Interactive Focusing” practice that not only helps individuals become their own best friend, but helps them improve their relationships with others. The course will be offered online in early 2024.
Our team includes expertise in fundraising, and we will have more to tell you in the near future about how we will underwrite “Focusing Belongs in Schools”.
If you are interested in learning more about the “Focusing Belongs in Schools” Project, please contact us. We have numerous ways to get involved including volunteer opportunities.
Sandy Jahmi Burg
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