Written by Patricia Ward, Mindful Schools
Everyone can agree that stress levels in schools are at an all-time high, not just for students but for teachers and staff as well. A promising practice that is being used in schools all over the world and right here in the Grand Rapids area is Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the new ‘running’ for health and wellness. Twenty years ago, if someone said ‘I’m going out for a run’ you would want to know what they are running from. Today, people know running (or walking) is one way we take care of our physical and mental health. Thirty years ago, Mindfulness was an intervention used primarily with adults that were suffering from stress, chronic pain or depression. Today it is being integrated into schools all over the world to help students with attention, emotional regulation and empathy for self and others.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention — to thoughts, physical sensations, and the environment — without constantly feeling the need to judge what’s happening or to make it other than it is. Mindfulness is a way of meeting our experience with the presence of mind to respond skillfully to life’s challenges, rather than reacting based on intense emotions.
Mindfulness is simple, but not easy. It is a skill that we need to practice. When we practice it, mindfulness allows us to live with a greater sense of calm, balance, and ease.
Why teach mindfulness in schools?
Studies show mindfulness training for students:
- promotes empathy and optimism
- helps students regulate stress, and calm down when upset
- improves focus, attention, and executive function
- leads to lower levels of depression and aggression
- improves impulse control
Did you know that paying attention and regulating emotions are teachable skills! A recent University of British Columbia study found significant academic and effective benefits for students after implementing a mindfulness-based social and emotional learning program with 4th- and 5th-graders:
“Children with the mindful intervention… outperformed their peers in cognitive control, stress levels, emotional control, optimism, empathy, mindfulness and aggression.”
University of British Columbia Published in Developmental Psychology, 2015. Students showed 24% less aggression, 15% improvement in math scores, 20% more prosocial, 24%
increase in social behaviors.
Why teach mindfulness to teachers?
Studies show teachers who receive mindfulness training:
• have greater self-compassion and less emotional exhaustion
• demonstrate improved classroom organization
• use more effective teaching practices
• have fewer symptoms of stress and burnout
• demonstrate less emotional reactivity and fewer attentional biases
Mindfulness cultivates healthy habits of mind! A 2013 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found significant differences between teachers who received mindfulness training during the school year, and those who did not.
The researchers found that teachers who received the mindfulness training:
- displayed reductions in psychological stress
- showed improvements in classroom organization
- reported increased self-compassion
- used more effective teaching practices
In comparison, the group that did not receive the training showed signs of increased stress and burnout over the course of the school year.”
Mindfulness offered at Kent ISD
We have been teaching mindfulness at Northview Public Schools East Oakview Elementary for two years now. A trained mindfulness instructor visits the classroom twice a week for 8-weeks with a 15-minute lesson. At the end of the year we asked teachers, what were your key take away learning from this initiative?
“I enjoyed learning how the brain works and how I have control to monitor my own feelings and emotions as well as my reactions to them.”
“Even if a student isn’t participating, they are listening. I was very surprised by a few of my students who did not participate but practiced one-on-one when they were upset.”
“That mindfulness can be done anywhere and at anytime if the day.”
The next Mindfulness Teacher Training begins on October 5th, 2018. If you are interested in learning more or signing up for a mindfulness training at Kent ISD, click here for more information.
For more information contact Julie Mushing at Kent ISD: JulieMushing@kentisd.org or Patricia Ward at: firstname.lastname@example.org