MindUP in Skiathos, Greece

By Uz Afzal, MindUP Consultant


In February 2020, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Greece and introduce the MindUP programme to a range of teachers on the island of Skiathos. Staff on the municipality of the island had heard about the programme and how it supports children’s focus, resilience and emotional regulation and were keen to bring the wellbeing curriculum to teachers there.

Halcyon Days

Skiathos is a particularly stunning island and my visit happened to fall in the time of “Alkionides Meres” or “Halcyon days”. This is a brief time in winter when, for a few days, there is plenty of sunshine and warmth in the air. One of the teachers explained to me the myth behind this: Halcyon (Alcyone in Greek) was married to a mortal god, Ceyx, who drowned in a storm. Following this, the couple were turned into kingfishers so they could continue to live together, and the sunny Halcyon days were given to them so their eggs could be kept warm and protected during the winter nesting period.

Not Lost In Translation

We gathered together in the beautiful municipal building on a sun-soaked Saturday. Teachers came from across the island and a few from neighbouring Vollos. The Mayor, Tzoymas Thodoris, greeted us with coffee and pastries, our amazing translator, Revekka Nikolaidou, handled the introductions and then we began.

I introduced the programme to the group: explaining the structure, the benefits, and the research it is based on, and then we dived into the neuroscience. I talked the teachers through the three key areas of the brain and then gave them the task of creating a song, rhyme or poem, both to consolidate their learning and as a way of introducing this information to their children. Teachers always rise to this challenge with gusto and this group were no exception. They recited, they sang, they chanted, they hollered. I loved hearing tunes which were familiar from my own school teaching in the UK, even though the language was new to me. It was a rousing and memorable part of the day.

Next came a stroll through narrow streets, past white-washed buildings and lazy cats, to a café for a lunch of fresh salad and juice. I could feel the hint of Spring around the corner. Then it was back to the Municipal building for the second half of the day. We explored how the programme could work in the schools in Greece and how it would fit in with their education system.

MindUP for All

We sat in a circle and expressed gratitude, and it felt a privilege to hear such heartfelt sharings. We explored the practice of the Brain Break and teachers found cosy corners in the building in which to lead each other in this mindful listening and breathing exercise.

We talked about how the MindUP programme was there to support each of them, as much as it was for the children, as we all need to take care of ourselves, so we can then better care for others.

We parted with hugs and kisses and hopes of another meeting. A truly Halcyon day.

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