The everyday life of children and adolescents today is characterized by increasing sensory overload and high, often exaggerated demands on their performance and psychological capacity. It is not uncommon for young people to be under great pressure of expectations and to be unsettled in their self-esteem and self-image. The mental health of our students seems to be at stake.
An increasing number of adolescents are psychologically conspicuous. What if we learned from a very young age to find peace and quiet? At the Thirteenth Annual Teacher Leadership Institute, I was intrigued by the break-out session “The Benefits of Mindfulness”. I learned, in the “practice of mindfulness” we see a way to consciously perceive and accept oneself, others and the environment.
Starting at the beginning of the school year, it is my goal to practice mindfulness as the basis of life and learning with my students in their everyday school life. Through targeted exercises, they will learn to be present in the here and now, to perceive what is happening at the moment, what to expect and be challenged by it. The practice of mindfulness promotes an appreciative attitude towards oneself, towards others and the environment. A positive relationship with oneself, the other and the learning environment has a motivating effect, strengthens self-confidence and promotes concentration. The “School of Mindfulness” also provides the children and young people with a tool for learning to cope with difficult situations and to grow in their personal development.
Mindfulness helps the students to be calmer, they can control their emotions themselves. This way you don’t lose any lesson time and the students are in the right frame of mind. Students learn how to deal with small and big challenges; how to make sense of their emotions. It will also help students to figure out “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”
Mindfulness contributes to the fact that thoughts in the brain can move freely again. The students experience how their brains work and how they can control their feelings through meditation. Meditation is about being here in the moment.
The American education system is very much focused on performance and progress in learning. Students increasingly report that they are restless, unfocused, and cannot sleep at night because they are afraid to fail and/or deal with other stressors. Therefore it is important to find a good method that keeps the mental well-being of the students in mind. Mindfulness training should increase students’ awareness about self and the environment. It is important to show students ways to calm their brains and to be mindful of each other. As teachers, we can provide them with knowledge that they can use in everyday life. So that they may have words for their emotions and experiences. This helps them to understand their relationships with others and the world around them.
At Arizona schools, too, there are now model experiments on mindfulness in the classroom. Being in the here and now sounds easy, yet fostering mindfulness starts with the mindful attitude of the teacher and his/her willingness to acquiring the skills to incorporate mindfulness in the classroom.
Teaching mindfulness practices in the classroom.
Elements of mindfulness can be imparted in teaching situations. It is now well known that observing erratic thoughts in meditation and returning to the breath promotes students’ ability to concentrate. Small breathing and body exercises promote self-awareness and empathy and enable the students to understand themselves better and to interact more consciously.
Teachers cannot allow students to do nothing for days.
Maybe teachers just need to allow small moments when students don’t want anything, don’t have to do anything except to consciously experience the moment. It costs nothing, just a little time. To take advantage of quiescence, it is important to learn to be really friends with yourself and to be in friendly attention to what is going on, whether it is pleasing or not. One highlight of this practice is that it usually becomes quite pleasant after a while.
Do nothing now and then, stop, enjoy the moment. Why not? Especially if it leads to positive self-awareness and positive relationships among our students.