Mindfulness as a calming and centering technique for adults has caught on fast, and now a growing number of schools are introducing mindfulness practices into the classroom environment. So can kids raised with electronic devices seemingly wired into their palms focus and be still for long enough to practice mindfulness? And can it help with behavioral issues, stress management or academic performance in a school setting? In schools from California to Maryland, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.
Schools vary widely in the pressures their student cohorts face—whether it’s a relentless drive to perform academically, or a daily reality of violence in the schoolyard or neighborhood. A recent article in The Washington Post highlighted the many ways mindfulness can help students, revealed through interviews with students, teachers and mindfulness practitioners alike. As Frankie Engelking the director of student and community wellness at Potomac’s McLean School noted: “You can do the best lesson in the world, but if the student’s upset or angry or is preoccupied with something else, that great lesson’s going to be wasted.”
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Mindfulness may be practiced briefly at the beginning of each class to hone students’ focus, or it may take the form of a more involved weekly lesson. Mindfulness as a stress-reduction aid is also being taught to at-risk teens as part of suicide-prevention outreach programming. Companies that specialize in providing mindfulness training in schools, such as Washington DC’s Minds, also often provide training to school staff and parents so that the whole school community is on board with the practice. In this way, parents and teachers can support students to use the calming and focusing techniques they learn and help de-escalate family or schoolyard conflict situations.
School representatives interviewed for the article reported greater student concentration and focus. Students, too, reported that they use mindfulness techniques to calm themselves down when they fight with siblings, to overcome sleeplessness or to help them deal with mid-test anxiety. California-based Mindful Schools provides online training in mindfulness techniques for teachers. So if you are interested in implementing a mindfulness program in your child’s school, consider broaching the subject with the school’s counselor, a curriculum coordinator, or your child’s teacher to explore training options locally or nationally.