Focus on the Now: The Benefits of Mindfulness in the Classroom
By Chase Fordtran
At some point, every school teacher has struggled to get a classroom full of rowdy students to settle down, calm their minds, and focus. Or has had to march a misbehaving student to the principal’s office. But is there an easier way to refocus a room full of students or a better alternative to sending a student to detention? There may be thanks to mindfulness meditation.
What is mindfulness meditation?
The term ‘mindfulness’ has been around since the 16th century but didn’t come into the mainstream consciousness until the late 1970s thanks to biologist and Founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Dr. Kabat-Zinn developed one of the original mindful meditation programs called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Although mindfulness meditation is adapted from ancient Buddhist meditation techniques, it is entirely secular in ideology. Dr. Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as follows, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” In essence, mindfulness meditation is the practice of turning attention towards oneself in the present moment and away from the everyday stresses of the world. Breathing techniques, mental imagery, and body relaxation techniques can be incorporated into a person or groups’ mindfulness meditation practice.
How can it help in the Classroom?
Mindfulness meditation can focus, calm, and help balance the emotions of students and be used as an alternative to detention and suspension. The use of mindful meditation is not only used in instances of discipline, but teachers are also integrating it into their daily class routines with great success. Some teachers feel it helps improve their student’s ability to concentrate. In fact, a recent scientific study indicated that meditation boosts our attention span, reinforcing the idea that mindful meditation can be utilized as a helpful tool in the classroom. What teacher wouldn’t want more focused and attentive students?
What are the steps of using mindfulness meditation in the classroom?
1. Find a comfortable position
It’s best to start the class period with the mindfulness meditation practice. Get everyone’s attention and have them find the most comfortable position. Cross-legged on the floor or upright in a chair works best.
2. Time to Relax
Meditation time should be adjusted based on the age of the student. The younger the student the shorter the time they will be able to practice mindfulness meditation. Calmly and gently instruct the students to close their eyes and focus on their breathing (check out the 4-7-8 technique). Guide them to take in all the joyful and calming things around them when they inhale, and when they exhale release all the stress and negativity of the day. Remind the class to stay aware of their breathing, focusing on the sound and sensation of the air going in and out of their lungs.
3. Bring thoughts back to the present
Tell the students to allow every thought whether good or bad to come and go. There is no judgment if their mind wanders off, just acknowledge it and continue to focus on their breath. Remind the students to be aware of the present. During the last minute of the mindful meditation practice instruct the students to focus in on their physical surroundings and to open their eyes slowly at the end of the meditation practice.
4. Make it a routine
Include mindfulness meditation in the daily classroom schedule for best results. Being mindful and mastering the meditation technique takes practice. The more frequent the mindfulness meditation routine is the better the outcome will be.
The takeaway is that there may be other options to help students cope with a lack of focus and emotional outbursts while in the classroom. However, it should be noted that teachers should always talk to their school administrators and formulate a plan that works for their particular classroom. Teachers can also benefit from a personal mindfulness meditation practice. It can help with the daily stresses of teaching and the pressures outside of the classroom. Here are some great mobile apps to help teachers get started on their mindful journey. So, just remember to breathe and focus on the now!