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Mindfulness in the Classroom

Evelyn Wilson -  Boys Town National Training

Mindfulness is a form of meditation. It is defined as a state of mind: the act of “paying attention on purpose” to the present moment, with a “non-judgmental” attitude (Jon Kabat-Zinn). Another author presents a more simplified definition indicating it means being aware of your present feelings and emotions (Mindfulness Classroom Activities; Teach HUB.com). Mindfulness can be developed by simply practicing awareness of the breath, gentle yoga movements, sitting quietly and walking with intention. These practices serve as a foundation for cultivating positive, healthy behavior, and to foster psychological and emotional resilience to better meet life’s challenges. Mindfulness techniques have been introduced in a number of professional environments, including the medical and mental health fields. Educators have used Mindful Instruction activities to teach students how to focus on their breathing in order to help students train their minds, quiet their thoughts and regulate their emotions. Other classroom activities include the Stillness Challenge, Mindful Eating, Sensory Challenge, Headspace and Mind Yetti. Just as new academic concepts, social skills, and rules are taught – mindfulness techniques must be introduced, broken down into steps, and practiced frequently in order for students to experience the benefits. Some mindfulness instructors also suggest explaining how the strategies will help the student. At Boys Town, we encourage educators to provide students with personal and believable reasons for using these strategies. Teachers suggest that starting the day or week with mindfulness activities helps students focus and prepare for further instructions. Additionally, building time into the daily schedule to practice the mindfulness strategies, especially after transitions, can be very effective. Giving students an opportunity to be still and quiet after returning from recess or lunch beaks may allow them to prepare their minds to focus on learning. Mindfulness may or may not be an effective intervention for all teachers. On the other hand, in our quest to support students, and teach them to manage some of the day-to-day stressors in their lives, mindfulness meditation strategies may provide a helpful tool for students. In today’s world, many students are inundated with life stressors that hinder their ability to focus in the classroom. Educators are becoming more aware of the fact that a significant number of students have experienced varying levels of trauma. Subsequently, teachers continually search for strategies to support students. They are in search of ways to help increase their students’ ability to focus and be present during the school day, as well as introducing strategies that will aid students beyond the school grounds. An increasing number of schools have introduced mindfulness activities to help students focus, reduce stress, increase their self-awareness and introduce other self-regulating strategies.

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