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The Mindful School Leader - Book Cover Look Inside

The Mindful School Leader

Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School

By: Valerie Lillian Brown, Kirsten L. Olson

With step-by-step guidance, this inspirational handbook teaches you to use mindfulness to become a more effective leader and a positive force for staff and students.
Product Details
  • Grade Level: PreK-12
  • ISBN: 9781483303086
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Year: 2014
  • Page Count: 256
  • Publication date: December 24, 2014

Price: $30.95

Price: $30.95
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Big results come from small steps.

If you think you don’t have time for mindfulness, think again. This handbook, named a Best Courageous Book of 2014 by The Center for Courage and Renewal, was written with school leaders in mind—your responsibilities, your stress, and your schedule. When you add mindfulness into your day, bit by bit, you’ll become a more effective leader and a more positive force for your staff and students.

With the help of this inspirational yet practical guide, you’ll start fitting pieces of practice into your busy home and work life, whether you are sitting in your office or walking down the hall. Features include

  • Real-life profiles of mindful school leaders
  • Practice exercises to try right away
  • Guidance so you know if you are “doing it right”
  • Hard-to-find resources, including mindfulness apps

Mindful school leaders are better at managing meetings, responding creatively to complex situations, and achieving resilience at work and at home. Take the first steps to transform your life—and your school.

"This inspiring book makes a strong case for school leaders to include mindfulness in their personal and professional lives.  Based on solid research and enhanced by compelling examples of real people, it shows how school leaders can feel more grounded, connected, clear and focused.  Mindfulness makes leaders more effective with relatively little effort, but be advised that the benefits can be contagious, transforming your school from the inside out."
Christopher Germer, Clinical Instructor
Harvard Medical School

"In The Mindful School Leader, Brown and Olson offer with remarkable clarity and depth a thorough introduction to the practice of meditation, the science behind its benefits, and many firsthand accounts of lives and work situations transformed through this practice. Although this book was written for those in leadership roles in education, it will be inspiring for anyone interested in understanding their own minds and finding more ease in life and work."
Joseph Goldstein, Co-Founder
Insight Meditation Society

Read Valerie's Edweek article: "8 Steps to Be a Mindful Listener"

Key features

The book uses the following:

  • "Portraits of Practice," case studies and interviews with educational leaders currently in the field that demonstrate how individuals in the U.S. and around the globe are using mindfulness to improve their lives and their schools, embedded in the text alongside key practices described;
  • a mindful school leader small step guide to building a mindfulness practice;
  • helpful tips for incorporating mindfulness in daily life in all leadership venues: meetings and meeting preparation, team leadership, strategic planning, walking-around-management;
  • mindfulness resources (books, places to practice mindfulness, DVDs, etc) for school leaders;
  • links to guided mindfulness meditation audio and YouTube video to assist school leaders develop and sustain a mindfulness practice;
  • a sampling of mindfulness apps to remind school leaders to be mindful.


Valerie Lillian Brown photo

Valerie Lillian Brown

Valerie Brown, JD, MA, PCC, transformed her high-pressure, twenty-year career as a lawyer lobbyist, representing educational institutions and nonprofits, to human-scale work with leaders and teams to foster trustworthy, compassionate, and authentic connections. She is an accredited leadership coach, international retreat leader, writer, and Chief Mindfulness Officer of Lead Smart Coaching, LLC (, specializing in application and integration of mindfulness and leadership, and is a Co-Director of Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership. 

She holds the following degrees:  Juris Doctorate, Master of Arts, and Bachelor of Arts.

Her books include The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel (QuakerBridge Media, 2012) and the highly acclaimed, The Mindful School Leader: Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School (Corwin, 2014). 

Valerie’s received extensive training from the Center for Courage & Renewal and Parker J. Palmer; the Institute for Transformational Leadership at Georgetown University; the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, & Society; the Center for Compassion Focused Therapy; the Ojai Foundation; the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology (NYC); Chestnut Hill College (PA) Certificate in Holistic Spirituality; The Leadership Circle Profile™; and Transformational Educational Leadership. Valerie is an ordained Dharma Teacher in the Plum Village tradition founded by Thich Nhat Hanh and a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). As a certified kundalini yoga teacher, she helps leaders discover the wisdom of the body. She leads an annual transformational pilgrimage to El Camino de Santiago, Spain, to celebrate the power of sacred places.

Kirsten L. Olson photo

Kirsten L. Olson

Kirsten Olson is Chief Listening Officer at Old Sow Coaching and Consulting, where she works with education and learning-sector leaders nationally and internationally.  She received a masters and doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and is also the author  Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up To Old School Culture (Teachers College Press, 2009) and Schools as Colonizers (Verlag, 2008).  Kirsten is a founding board member of the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), a national not-for-profit organized to create greater educational equity, social justice, and to foster passionate learning. 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword by Richard Brady, President, Mindfulness in Education Network


Chapter 1. Why Mindfulness? The School Leader's Life

     A School Leader Practicing Mindfulness

     Benefits of Practice

     What Is Mindfulness?

     Why Do Leaders Need a Mindfulness Practice?

     Leadership Challenges to Our Sector

     Knowing When to Disengage and Recharge

     How Stress Shapes Our Brains

     Mindfulness for Educational Leaders

     Your Leadership Practice Matters

     A Leader With a Growing Mindfulness Practice

     First Steps: You've Got to Practice

     Portraits of Practice

Chapter 2. The Science of Mindfulness

     Practice Snapshot: A School Leader Practicing Mindfulness

     The Science of Mindfulness

     Stress: A Public Health Risk for Educators

     Mindfulness Alleviates Stress in the Body and Mind

     Mindfulness Practice Aids

     Portraits of Practice

Chapter 3. The Well-Focused School Leader

     A Sleepless Night for Jason

     Mindfulness and Attention Training

     Two Ways to Practice: Formal and Informal

     Mindfulness Practice Aids

     Mindful Attitudes

     How Much Practice Time?

     Practices That Complement Mindfulness

     Distraction: The New Normal and the School Leader’s Dilemma

     Negativity Bias: Part of the School Leader’s Dilemma

     The Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind

     The Myth of Multitasking

     Portraits of Practice

Chapter 4. Communication and Connection: Powerful Skills of the Mindful School Leader

     Donna S.T.O.P.s

     Mindful Communication: Mindful Speaking, Mindful Listening

     Having Difficult Conversations

     Mindfulness Practice Aids

     Portraits of Practice

Chapter 5. Reclaiming Our Wholeness: Four Educational Leaders Explore Mindfulness

     Portraits of Practice: Schools Leaders Practicing Mindfulness

     Mindfulness Practice Aids

Chapter 6. Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence: Principles and Practices to Transform Your Leadership Life

     A Leader Fails to Notice

     A Leader Grows EQ Through Mindfulness Practice

     Mindfulness Practice Aids

     Portraits of Practice

Chapter 7. Mindful Leadership in Action: Putting It All Together

     Fundamental Principles: The Evolution of the Leader Evolves the Team

     Stepping-Stones in Your Leadership Journey: Know Yourself

     What Mindfulness Practice Supports

     A Mindful Leader in Action: A Last Case Study

     Well-Being and Compassion at the Center of a New Educational Vision

     Mindfulness Practice Aids

     Portraits of Practice

Appendix A: Books for the Mindful School Leader (Online Only)

Appendix B: The (General) Mindful Library (Online Only)

Appendix C: Mindfulness Apps—Our Top Picks (Online Only)

Appendix D: Our Top Picks for Websites and Places to Practice Mindfulness (Online Only)

Appendix E: Relevant, Recent Mindfulness Research in Education (Online Only)

Appendix F: Comprehensive List of All Mindfulness Practice Aids in This Book (Online Only)

Appendix G: Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (Online Only)