Sarah P. Michigan

Mindfulness in Schools

Mindful teaching reduces student's stress and increases their performance

 Dear Future President,

In every high school, there are always those students. There is always a student who was once a well off student, who due to the stress of high school, turns to making poor choices. There is always a student who has emotional or mental issues, which due to the stress of school, expresses them in ways that can be harmful or violent. Then there is that one student who has given up on putting in any sort of effort because of the effects of stress. Even the average high schooler experiences an unhealthy amount of stress that is left undealt with. This fact is just something that everyone has accepted as a problem that the student should solve outside of school. But in reality, students should deal with their stress at the place where most of it comes from: school. Currently, schools do not teach students to manage stress and deal with their emotions. They do not teach students to be mindful. But that needs to change. Schools should implement mindful teaching because it reduces stress and improves student’s learning experience.

Mindful teaching should be implemented in schools because it improves student’s behavior. High school is a very stressful time for students. They are expected to do well in their classes, prepare for the future, take advanced classes, participate in extracurricular activities, have a social life, and be healthy. Personally, I’m not in any after school activities, I have all average classes (aside from a gym class and orchestra), and I hardly have a social life. But of the seven hours that I have between me getting out of school and me going to bed, about 40 minutes is spent by just getting home, and 1-3 hours is spent doing homework or some sort of school related work (1 hour is on a day of light homework) but the most I’ve spent was about 4 hours, and that was only half of my homework in those 4 hours. So imagine if I did do something. Even if it was just a sport, I would have to go to weekly practices and games, and my time would disappear. But most students in my school take an honors class or two along with sports, and afterschool activities on top of this, and don’t even think about time for friends or sleep. It’s easy to see how the stress would pile up, especially for those who don’t know how to deal with such stress. It is easy to see how students who can’t handle it would make some poor decisions that could ruin their life. Schools expect students to find time to deal with their stress, but most of the time, that’s not a possibility. That’s when mindful teaching comes in. Mindful techniques include meditation and self reflection, which is something that teens rarely stop to do, but is very important in managing stress. According to an article written by Mariam Williams that looks at the effect of mindfulness on behavior “Mindfulness can regulate mood symptoms, help students focus, and result in social-emotional benefits and improve performance”. Mindfulness can help students keep in check of their mood because it allows them to confront their internal problems in a calm and healthy manner. Mindfulness also helps students focus on their emotional problems to find a good solution. Mindfulness can even help students be more social, or to keep their social tendencies from becoming a distraction. Students learn to open themselves up through mindful teaching, and they grow a connection through being mindful together. Basically, the mindful practice of looking inward helps students identify and solve the issues that lead to stress and bad behavior.

Mindful teaching should be implemented in schools because it also improves academic performance. A lot, students are told to focus on their work, but schools don’t teach them how to truly do so. If a student cannot focus in class and falls behind, then they are usually left to fail. There are students out there who simply do not have the right mindset to stay focused correctly. There are also students who take on too much work without knowing how to manage it all. Mindful teaching can actually help these students. According to the article A Mindful Approach written by Rick Docksai, which talks about the benefits of mindful learning “By training on reducing what may inhibit test taking-such as mind wandering-mindfulness is a means of reducing what would be a negative influence on performance.”. In mindful teaching, students are encouraged to calm themselves and are taught how to effectively focus, which are skills that can help students in any classroom. Keeping the mind focused on a single task like breathing correctly can help students begin to learn how to focus on more complex tasks, like classwork.

Some people oppose mindful teaching because they feel that it forces religious beliefs on them. While a lot of belief systems preach mindfulness and mindful techniques, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, mindfulness can really be associated with any faith, or no faith at all. According to an article on mindfulness written by Miriam Williams “Mindfulness has roots in eastern traditions, such as Buddhism’ said Fung, but it can be practiced as a psychological technique, without any connection to spirituality.” Mindfulness doesn't have to be religious or spiritual at all. It is a technique for the mind to organize itself, and can only be taken in a religious manner if the student wants to.

So how can mindfulness be implemented in schools? Well, first of all, schools should add mindful teaching to it’s required teachings. Schools should be required to either set aside time in class for mindfulness or provide a mindfulness class. Teachers need to be taught how to teach mindfulness to students, and implement programs to educate teachers on the importance of mindfulness.

I urge you to implement mindful teaching in schools. If students continue to learn as they do now, then they will not be educated to live as an adult. If students do not learn, then the whole country fails.