“In a hyperactive world, stillness is the deepest rebellion.” ~Donna D’Cruz
Since I began teaching in 2000, I have noticed an increase in anxiety and lack of focus in my students. I believe the rise of social media and technology, mixed with more academic and extracurricular demands, is to blame. Not to mention, these children are dealing with the ups and downs of adolescence, which I believe is a recipe for continuous self-doubt and worry.
In school, we educate our children to be problem solvers and critical thinkers. We also teach them to exercise and venture into the arts. But do we teach them how to control their minds? Do we show them that their thoughts are temporary? That they can control their mindsets and heart rates?
As a once anxious child, I can definitely say no we don’t. I remember biting my nails to nubs, having stomach aches and headaches, and always possessing an overall feeling of worry.
Fortunately, the tide is turning in education. Meditation and mindfulness are increasingly becoming popular concepts used in the classroom.
Research show that meditation actually creates a physiological change in the brain. A Harvard study found that it reduces the body’s stress response by strengthening the relaxation response and lowering stress hormones like cortisol.
This year, I decided to implement this into my own middle school classroom. I begin class with what I call a “Mindful Minute.” As students walk into class, I write on the board what materials they need. They know they need to unpack, get seated, and close their eyes.
As they settle into their seats, I turn the lights down and use the Calm app to play nature sounds or calming music. I explain that they need to slow down their breathing, relax their bodies, and refocus their minds for class. I like to give them motivational advice and positive affirmations during this time, or I just allow them to enjoy the silence and think of something they feel grateful for.
Students are learning that they are in control. They can slow down their minds, prioritize their commitments, and simply just breathe. When students stop the constant barrage of input, they have a better plan of action for the output.
When I asked my students what mindfulness in the classroom has done for them, I received incredible feedback. Here are some examples:
“Thinking about my actions has helped me to be a better student, a better friend, and a better person in general.”
“After mindful minutes, I feel more calm and am able to concentrate better.”
“Mindfulness helps me find my inner calm. It makes feel right at home and like I’m running free from any troubles.”
“Mindfulness helps me seek and find better solutions.”
Students also expressed that they are using their mindful tools outside of school when they are at home, playing sports, or performing.
I hope more teachers implement this in their curriculum. I believe we are doing students a disservice if we don’t.
There are many wonderful ideas on YouTube for implementing mindfulness in the younger grades as well!