School can frequently be a difficult place for students, teachers, and administrators. For example:
- Administrators have to assess teacher performance, use data to determine strengths and weaknesses in the school, and manage events and school security.
- Teachers worry about their students and admin observations, develop and implement lesson plans and assessments that meet state standards, and deal with behavioral issues, attendance, and the academic performance of their pupils.
- Students have varying home lives, interests, and social interactions, and they also must manage their schoolwork, stress about their own academic performance, and absorb the emotions of those who surround them.
With all of these challenges and the multitude of other everyday issues and hurdles to leap in the school and in the classroom — many of which we have not listed — it is no wonder that the average student feels negative emotions like stress, boredom, and fatigue each day. For many school employees and students, these feelings and worries are accepted as just parts of the education system; however, there is a potential solution to these negative feelings: mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a simple concept, but it is difficult to implement without appropriate training and practice. It involves settling the body and the mind, centering oneself, and working to remain “present,” and there are many benefits and uses for teachers and students in the classroom and throughout the school. Although mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, deep and controlled breathing, calming movements, gratitude, and physical work have been practiced for millennia, little is known about the effects of their use in an educational environment. Fortunately, recent studies have shown that mindfulness can have extraordinary effects on students.
Here are a few of the many possible benefits students may enjoy through regular mindfulness practices:
- Increased Focus & Academic Performance
- Improved Self-Regulation, Resilience, & Communication Skills
- Reduced Levels of Anxiety & Stress
- More Social & Emotional Awareness
How Can Teachers Implement Mindfulness in Their Classrooms?
There are many ways to bring mindfulness practices into the classroom, including dedicating the first five minutes of class to a quick meditation practice, managing stress and excess energy with a breathing exercise, or forming a sharing circle where students can check-in with themselves, their peers, and their teacher. However, mindfulness practices cannot be effectively implemented unless the teacher has his or her own practice. Teachers are encouraged to experiment with mindfulness and find what works for them before jumping into mindfulness activities with impressionable and sensitive children.
At The Teacher’s Academy, we offer many online CEU courses. One such program, “Mindfulness in Education,” walks teachers through various exercises, teaches them about the benefits and modern research on mindfulness, and helps them design a personal practice. After the successful completion of the course, teachers will be prepared to bring those exercises to their classrooms.
Of course, implementation is not always smooth and can be met with resistance in some cases. One potential speedbump to attempting mindfulness practices in the classroom is student buy-in.
If students are skeptical or worried about whether or not participating in the practices is “cool,” a culture shift in the classroom may be required. One way to accomplish this is to give them ownership over something a bit more tangible in the classroom to give them a stake in the community they are asked to trust. How about creating a classroom garden?
We at The Teacher’s Academy understand that the mental and emotional health of students from kindergarten to 12th grade is essential to their performance in both academic and social spheres and to their development as members of a larger community. We are committed to designing and offering high-quality professional development opportunities for teachers in Montgomery County, PA. Take a look at our selection of courses, and learn how to improve your classroom today!