We have all heard of the term “mindfulness,” whether on the news, online or social media. It’s become very trendy and is incorporated in business practices to increase productivity and reduce stress. Yet, can it be incorporated into classrooms? Yes. Let’s take a look at what mindfulness is. A simple definition is paying attention to the present moment, accepting the moment at face value. It is about taking care of ourselves. When we are stressed and anxious, our brains go into overdrive. We don’t take the time to take in the situation; we just react. Our reactions can negatively affect those around us. We also miss out on creating a solution in that moment. Below are some ways mindfulness can beneficial for both teachers and students.
For teachers, taking a few quiet moments before a class starts to focus on breathing helps prepare the mind for the day and relax the body. (Student can always tell when a teacher is stressed or upset.) Mindfulness helps teachers to be present in the moment by learning how to manage their emotions. This means experiencing the moment without judgement. When we judge (students, cohorts, people…etc.), we experience feelings of anger and guilt. This distracts from the learning process. When teachers can focus on the moment instead of their emotions, they can better understand a student’s needs. The benefits of being mindful include reducing conflicts, not taking a student’s behavior personally, enjoying the moment and creating a positive learning environment.
Students can become mindful as well. When students practice mindfulness, they learn how to focus as well as manage and understand their emotions. Mindfulness can be included in a lesson plan. At the start of a class, students can take a few moments to close their eyes, relax their bodies and focus on their breathing. This helps reduce anxiety and clears students’ minds. If students are having trouble focusing on their breathing, they can picture the color blue when inhaling and the color red when exhaling. Or, they can pick a spot in front of them to focus on. They can also do this at the end of class, to get ready for the next one. Teachers can also implement an “attention check in.” This is when teachers ask students to check where their attention is. Students will learn what their mind is doing at that moment (e.g. wandering) and that they can choose where to direct their attention.
There are many benefits to incorporating mindfulness into the classroom. By becoming mindful, teachers and students can create a rich learning environment and improve their well-being. These practices will help students and teachers in and out of the classroom.