Mindfulness is about paying attention to the “now” and being present in the moment. In other words, mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing. But it’s the ability to not be overly reactive or overwhelmed that’s the reason why so many schools are adopting this centuries-old practice.
By introducing mindfulness into our school, we will teach students simple yet effective ways to diffuse anxiety and alleviate stress. The practice in our school consists simply of a few moments of quiet reflection and calm breathing at the start of each school day, again in the afternoon to refocus on learning as students return to the classroom after lunch, and once more during long class blocks.
“We sought out this program for TVHS after hearing quite a few students talk about their difficulty in managing stress and staying focused at school,” Principal James Niedermeier said. “We know you work hard and that your lives are packed with worries, and we hope that this strategy will help you cope with these things even after high school.”
What is Mindful Learning?
Mindfulness is not new. Rooted in practices of ancient Buddhism, it was biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn who first coined the term in the 1970s. In 2007, schools in the U.K. were the first to incorporate mindfulness into their curriculum. Five years prior, in 2001, a Pennsylvania State University researcher named Mark T. Greenberg set out to study the Mindfulness Education (ME) school-based intervention program, after observing a growing number of school-aged children experiencing myriad social, emotional and behavioral issues. These issues were gravely interfering with students’ interpersonal relationships, school success, and their potential to become competent adults and productive citizens. Fast forward to present day, the impact of these stressors on 21st century learners has only been amplified.
Mindfulness continues to gain recognition in education, especially as an effective tool for students and teachers alike to cope with stress and work. Studies show mindfulness triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class activities.
Tech Valley High teachers and staff have participated in continuing professional development for this initiative since January. They have explored deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and mindful yoga movements – practices that can easily be applied in the classroom with students.
According to its website, as of 2016, the Calm Classroom program has been implemented school-wide in over 200 schools, reaching 200,000 students and their families, 10,000 teachers/school staff, and 1,500 administrators in Chicago, Detroit, Albany, Los Angeles and other cities throughout the nation.