Mindfulness in the Classroom

AlgonquinWhat is mindfulness?

I discovered mindfulness last year, just as the school year was wrapping up. I’d been hearing the word thrown around for quite a while and thought it was about time that I discovered exactly what being mindful was all about.

Before I tell you what mindfulness is, let me begin by telling you what it is not. It is not a classroom management system. It is not about creating or maintaining tranquility (although this can be a side effect of the practice). It is not religious. It is not the absence of thought. It is not a magic wand that solves all of our frustrations and anxieties.

In a nutshell, I learned that mindfulness is when we purposefully pay attention to specific sensations and emotions that we are experiencing in the present moment, without judgment. It can help us to improve our focus and self-regulation. It can lead to an increased sense of calm and empathy. It may provide relief from stress, anxiety, and impulsivity. It helps us to understand and connect with the thoughts and feelings we are experiencing in the present moment.

I’m interested. Now, where do I start?

I began by researching mindfulness in education and found an organization called Mindful Schools. They offer three online courses for teachers and other professional youth workers: an introduction to mindfulness, a curriculum-training course, and a certification course.

The first course is an introduction to the personal practice of mindfulness, an essential part of my goal to use mindfulness in the classroom. Once I had the basics, I moved on to the second course which lead me through the Mindful Schools Curriculum, focusing on topics including how to teach mindfulness in a classroom setting, how to explain mindfulness to others, and some of the basic research and neuroscience behind the practice. The third course, which I have not taken, is a yearlong certification program.

*N.B. – The Mindful Schools Curriculum is available to educators after completion of the curriculum-training course.

What other resources are out there?

In researching mindfulness in education, I discovered a number of useful resources for educators. Any Internet search will provide you with a long list of associations, schools, and individuals who are adopting mindfulness techniques in the classroom. I have found the following resources particularly interesting and helpful:

  • The Mind Up Curriculum – Like the Mindful Schools Curriculum, Mind Up introduces mindful awareness techniques through a series of lessons meant to be taught in the classroom. This curriculum also provides explicit teaching about modern neuroscience and how the brain works.
  • Teach, Breathe, Learn – California-based author and educator Meena Srinivasan has written a wonderful book that provides further understanding about mindfulness in the classroom.
  • Mindfulness in the Mainstream – CNN Correspondent Anderson Cooper went behind the scenes at a mindfulness retreat, which was reported on 60 Minutes. This short clip of his findings might be of interest for anyone wanting to explore mindfulness on a more personal level.
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11 Responses to Mindfulness in the Classroom

  1. Danny!

    This is a really exciting area to explore with your action plan. My own daily meditation practice has, I think, been instrumental with supporting my classroom practice. Something is really profound about exploring this ancient practice for the modern, 21st century classroom and I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey takes you and your students.

    Some old technology that might be helpful: these are three books I just pulled from my shelf that might be worth checking out.

    1) “Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone who Teaches Anything” by Deborah Schoeberlein

    2) “The Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom to Inspire Teachers” by Donna Quesada

    3) “Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens” by Diana Winston

    While the last two titles certainly lean more towards the Buddhist experience, it is hard to deny that mindfulness has its roots here and there is an abundant source of wisdom and writing about mindfulness in relation to Buddhism.

    I’m curious if there are any Apps or software that could help support students being more mindful and focused in their classrooms. Have you come across anything yet in your reading?

    • Hi Celeste,

      Thanks for sharing those great resources! There are a couple of apps available that ring like a mindfulness bell. You can set them to ring at different times throughout the day to help bring you back to a mindful space. I ended up buying a bell (singing bowl) to use in the classroom. Another piece of technology I was thinking about it a mindfulness blog. Right now my students are keeping a paper journal, but blogging about their experiences might be a great way for them to share their thinking with each other as well. 🙂

  2. I have to agree with Celeste that this is a very exciting road to be heading down! I know she has provided a few good resources, but I thought I could add a few more:

    http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/med-guided2.pdf is a guide specifically for primary students.

    You may also be interested in this podcast from CBC The Current: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/10/14/exploring-the-buddhist-practice-of-mindfulness-in-the-classroom/

    I think that the blogging piece would be a very interesting addition – possibly something that Sesame HQ could help out with?! I’d love to support you in any way I can!

    I’m looking forward to reading and chatting more about this!
    garth.

  3. Allison Harding says:

    What an interesting action plan, Danny. Mindfulness, particularly in the classroom, is a new idea to me – but I think it’s a powerful one. I remember reading an article a little while back that described a meditation app. I can’t remember the article or the name of the app, but in searching for it, I came across this article: “The Best Meditation iPhone and Android Apps of the Year” http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps#12.
    Perhaps you are familiar with these already, but if not, I hope it’s helpful!

  4. Adam Gregson says:

    Hey Danny,
    This is a great initiative. There has been a few people suggesting this in my school, and a Wellness Team of committed staff and students has worked hard to get people to be mindful in their day-to-day life. Aside from whatever pedagogical benefits there may be (and this seems pretty hard to measure), it seems to me to be a healthy mind set for people in general. I hope your students, and you yourself, benefit from this initiative.

  5. Derek Doucet says:

    Hey Danny,
    I have a group of people who will be following your journey quite closely. We have an initiative being researched and looking for implementation in the near future. I don’t have much in the way of resources but I look forward to looking at all of the ones shared here!

    What a great action plan, and something I would like to explore personally as a means to ground myself and find balance.

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