Mindfulness in High School
Isn’t it true that some classrooms have a specific vibe about them? When you walk through the door, you are greeted with a sense of serenity, belonging, clarity, and active participation from all stakeholders. I want to create that kind of environment in my classroom, and one of the ways I’ve attempted to do so is by enrolling in mindfulness for the educator’s training course. Since then, I’ve incorporated daily mindful moments into all of my lectures and workshops. It has had a significant impact on the culture of the classroom.
Following are some of the replies I’ve received since introducing this practice:
My International Baccalaureate students arrived one day with a heavy sense of deep exhaustion radiating from them, and it was difficult to teach them anything. Following check-in, I led us in a thoughtful minute during which we focused on appreciation, and then we each offered one compliment about the person sitting next to us in the room. The students’ demeanour began to shift in a noticeable positive direction.
One of my sophomores came up to me and reminded me that the anniversary of a relative’s death was coming up soon. He inquired as to if he may arrive early to class to take a mindful moment. He and I sat for a few moments to take it all in and pay respectful tribute to his relative. As his classmates filed in, they did it silently, as though they were respectful of his personal space.
Some of the phrases I hear from pupils are as follows: “Guess what? Meditation helped me prepare for my soccer game,” “Mindfulness assisted me with my presentation,” and “I used mindfulness to help me fall asleep last night.”
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In my high school classroom, there is a lot of mindfulness.
What methods did we use to accomplish this?
First and foremost, I devote time each day to cultivating my mindfulness practice, which includes regular use of an app, participation at retreats, and reading about mindfulness. As teachers, we are well aware that our kids can detect a phoney in less than three seconds. Meaningful involvement in the classroom reduces if the mindfulness practice in the classroom appears to be a sham.
This school year, I introduced mindfulness by informing kids and parents that we would be practising daily mindful moments, explaining why we would do so and describing what those moments would look like.
After greeting students at the beginning of each period, I remind them of the various methods we’ve practised mindfulness, including mindful listening, diaphragmatic breathing, gratitude diaries, progressive muscle relaxation, affirmations, and so on.
Before we begin, I lead students into a space of awareness where laptops are at half-staff, phones are put away, lights are dimmed, and speaking is prohibited. Once the posture has been established, I trigger it by saying, “Often, we’ll be sitting with a tall spine, neck bent slightly, feet firmly planted on the floor, and eyes gently closed.” Sometimes we lie on the floor with our legs up the wall, and other times students are given the option to choose their position on the floor. I draw the reader’s attention to the existing situation. The majority of the time, we pay attention to our breathing, but there are occasions when we pay attention to ambient sounds, our emotions, mental activity, and so on.
On other days, that’s all I do—I either conclude the practice with a verbal closing or with a chime of the singing bowl from a student. On other days, I integrate a certain type of mindfulness focus into the classroom. All of this may take between one and ten minutes.
Singing bowls are being used by a high school student.
Mary Davenport is a well-known author.
The author’s class may conclude with a chime from the singing bowl, as part of the author’s mindfulness exercises.
Most class mindfulness programs begin with brief lectures in which professors describe the practice and then engage in it for a few minutes or so. I’ve found that learning through practice is the most helpful and time-efficient method I’ve discovered so far. Students’ questions are prompted just by participating in a mindful activity, allowing their learning to be more authentic and meaningful.
Because this is the first year that I have led daily mindful moments in my classrooms, I asked for feedback from my students at the end of the first semester. It is apparent that students value the practice; the majority of students express a desire to continue our mindful exercise and believe that they have benefited from it. (The complete findings of the survey are available here.) Individual responses and student comments are presented in addition to prompts, averages, and overall results.)
Despite the excellent outcomes, there are still difficulties.
Some students just do not engage in the activity, as evidenced by whispers, giggling, and other signs of disinterest in class. This is something I address both publicly and personally. When distractions are occurring, I might say something like, “Notice, without passing judgement, the sounds in the classroom: laughter, texting, and so forth.” They are a part of our collective memory.” This reduces the impact of distractions on your performance. In addition, I will subsequently summon disruptive pupils into my office for a private discussion. That typically goes something like this: “You do not have to like mindfulness; in fact, you are not even required to participate.” The one thing you must never do is divert the attention of your peers who may be benefiting from it.”
Some days are better than others. This is something I accept without passing judgment on it as part of the experience. However, rather than employing mindfulness as a tool to regulate student behavior, which can never be the goal, I neutrally examine the experience of students. As I do in other areas of instruction, I return to the value of my practice: It is my genuine involvement that motivates students to make the same investment themselves.
It’s all worthwhile in the end. Students have reported that mindfulness is beneficial for stress management, confidence, relationships, communication, metacognition, health, and focus, among other things.