By Felicity Darville
We often complain about the public education system – its shortfalls and setbacks – but we don’t often praise some of the hardworking educators who go above and beyond to overcome these hurdles to invest into the lives of our children. Their contributions make a difference. Even when some parents don’t seem invested enough, there are teachers who move into action to nurture the potential of their students.
Dale Marshall is one of them. Her 17 years as an educator has been characterised by an out-of-the-box approach to getting the best out of her students. Her keyword – mindfulness. She believes so much in this that she has set herself apart as not only an educator, but as a coach and consultant. Her motto: “Transforming Youth through Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Social Responsibility”.
Mindfulness is the art of cultivating the ability to focus your attention in a particular way, she explained. It enhances positive neuro-connections in the brain and, over time, it has been proven to even reconfigure the way we respond to stress and anger. Harvard studies on mindfulness and neuroplasticity explain how mindfulness can literally change the landscape of the brain to rewire our emotional behaviours, even after trauma. It is an invaluable tool to enhance learning, self-regulating behaviour and helping children with test anxiety and social stress.
“Not only do I know the rigours and stressors of parenting, I also understand the widespread symptoms of burnout and the struggle to cope in education that many of our teachers are facing in this new era,” Dale explained.
“While we all have a mission to educate and inspire, we too cannot pour from an empty cup. Research has spoken loudly about the benefits of mindfulness as a tool for educators. It helps them to learn techniques and tools for being more empathetic instructors and leaders and showing them how to hold themselves with deeper care so that students and the profession get the best of them.”
So mindfulness works both ways, positively impacting the teacher and the student. As a professional educator with a broad scope of experience in all levels of the education sector, having a consistent track record of innovation in educational entrepreneurship and being passionate about civic involvement in youth development and transformation, Dale found this idea of “mindfulness” being one of the most profound in education.
Dale is currently a social studies and civics specialist teacher in the Public Schools high school system. She is in the second successful year of an after school programme that she created a curriculum for based on empowerment, environmental stewardship, mindfulness, yoga and self-awareness. She also developed other curriculum and tools for mindful awareness for women, mothers, homeschoolers and kids and she does online mindfulness coaching and consultations.
The Bahamas, mainly New Providence, is facing criminal activity on school campuses and there appears to be widespread disregard for authority in education. These same problems have been significantly curbed by school districts in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom using mindfulness based interventions.
“I am deeply concerned about the imbalance of focus on creating healthy internal landscapes for our children versus attaining academic merit,” said Dale.
“There should be a healthy balance… and I am excited about the possibilities that mindfulness can bring to discipline reform, teacher morale and restoration, school pride, empathy and values here in The Bahamas, in the near future.
“I want to impact the country and educational system by offering mindfulness workshops and sessions, curriculum and programmes to schools, civic organisations and corporations as a part of holistic health and development. I can create corporate workshops, classroom and club sessions as well as guided one-on-one consultations.”
In 2017, Dale began to create curriculum and programmes to integrate mindfulness and education content. Mindfulness research in education and its affect on self-regulation, schoolwide discipline, focus and learning outcomes inspired her to do so. Her Conscious Kid Creative Writing Retreat held in the summer of 2017 blended the connection between what is perceived and what is created in written composition classes. Across the country, she said, this continuous to be a weak aspect for many children due to factors beyond reading, namely a disconnect in how they focus on and perceive stimulus in their environment.
Dale found her life purpose through a most unfortunate tragedy. Her mother and father, Victor and Pauline Wells raised their daughters Dale and Danielle in Grand Bahama. Prior to being in Freeport with her parents, Dale was raised in New Providence by her grandmother, Dorothy Coakley, until the age of five. The Wells home was a loving one. Pauline was a nurturing and strict mother who believed in good old-fashioned values, education and structure. The home was always immaculate, she took great care of her family and made sure her girls had all they needed. This helped them to value stability, steadfastness, putting in work, substance, tradition and comforts. Victor - a “dynamic father”. He was a strict law enforcer in the public eye with a “truly strong presence”. However, at home he was the most jovial loving father always making the girls laugh and never actually using corporal punishment with them. Dale saw him having “a great balance between strength and compassion”. He inspired her love of eclectic soul music as she grew up listening to his music collection, including Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Mozart, Bach, Bob Marley and Beethoven. But at the age of 18, Danielle died of sickle cell anaemia. Dale’s first trusted friend, supporter and confidante had left her at such an early age.
“I lost a part of my heart at that point,” she painfully recalls.
“She was both an inspiration and an example of authenticity, knowledge, intelligence, wit and vibrancy. It was pivotal in pushing me towards a life purpose.”
Forging a path to that purpose was fuelled by lessons she learned from her grandmother during her formative years: “God and the human connection to the Divine has always been a very fundamental part of my life. My grandmother was a devoted Christian and a praying woman who taught me that prayer and spirituality were at the cornerstone of our existence. So as I grew older and matured, I explored the world interpreting her lessons as a deep ‘knowing’ that we are multi-layered, purposeful beings who are more than our day to day lives and physical experiences.”
Somehow, Dale always knew she wanted to work with children in a restorative and healing way. She was five-years-old when she started scribbling chemical formulas to heal cancer and other diseases and wanted to be a physician. However, upon graduating from Sunland Lutheran School and due to financial constraints, her mother, guidance counsellor and one of her teachers convinced her to attend the College of the Bahamas and pursue a degree in education, noting her natural knack for working with and caring for children.
“Once I graduated college, it was in my first year of teaching that I knew that mentally and emotionally supporting and connecting with children meant so much more to me than having them regurgitate material,” Dale said.
“I would pick children up on the weekends, mentor them, and have sessions and videos about their heritage and inherent talents and gifts.”
Over the years, Dale has created a number of meaningful programmes for children including the Rose Club – an after school programme for girls and at-risk girls helping them to “understand, appreciate and manifest their petals with purpose before the world had a chance to mis-educate them that they were for beauty or pleasure”; and Summer Belles – a female empowerment summer programme that incorporated self-awareness, empowerment, yoga, etiquette and entrepreneurial skills.
When her daughter was born, Dale wrote the book “Superstar Me - Adanna and the Dog Star” (available on Amazon and Kindle) which addresses “positive self-image as a black Bahamian female, bullying, single parent family dynamics, pursuing careers in science as a female realising one’s interconnectedness with all of God’s creations”.
Dale is professionally trained trained as a Youth Leadership Development Facilitator through the world renowned Centre for Creative Leadership; Mindfulness practitioner; Certified Mindfulness Essentials Educator; and Certified Mindfulness Instructor for both adults and children through Mindful Schools International programming. She can be reached for personal or group sessions at telephone: 242-442-0610; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Instagram: @star_inspired; Facebook: facebook.com/starinspiredbooks; or website: Starinspiredinc.com.