Meditation in the classroom setting

Let’s face it, life can be challenging, especially today with the change that is occurring across the planet. When teens experience challenges in their personal lives it can affect how they behave in class, how they engage in learning and ultimately how they perform academically.  Meditation is evidence based and can enhance the wellbeing of both students and teachers.

During the teenage phase the brain is very malleable and even a small amount of meditation practice can have a positive effect on the brain. One study carried out at Harvard Medical School showed that regular meditation practice reduces stress, improves attention and supports emotion regulation which is essential for managing difficult feelings like anxiety and depression (Hölzel, B.K., Lazar, S.W., 2011).

Meditation originated from ancient eastern traditions and dates back around 2500 years. There are many forms of meditation and the one that is practiced most in the West is a secular practice called mindfulness meditation. 

Mindfulness is the practice of developing sustained present moment attention in a non-judgmental way. To put that simply it’s a practice of ‘just being’. You may find it hard to believe that such a simple practice can have such a profound effect on your students’ wellbeing. But it really can, you just need to try it with them.  Below are some important ways meditation can support students in the classroom setting.

  • One of the most challenging tasks for students today is to stay engaged in the learning process. School life can be very fast paced and having regulated breaks in the day to just be in silence can give both the students and teachers a chance to pause. When students can spend a few moments at the start of class to settle down and be silent with themselves, this will prepare them to shift into the content of the lesson in a more mindful and engaged way.
  • School life can also be demanding and full of ups and downs. Getting into arguments, feeling behind in studies and experiencing personal issues can weigh heavy on the students and make it difficult for them to concentrate on anything else. Mindfulness can help students pick up on patterns of negative self-talk, accept their emotions as they are and refocus their attention on resources such as the breath or things that they might be grateful for which will develop resilience and enhance positive states of mind.
  • Students are human beings therefore depending on the day some students may feel good and other days not so great. Mindfulness helps students to realize it’s not wrong to experience difficult emotions. Mindfulness can also help students be more considerate of how others feel including their fellow students and teachers and with this awareness they may engage with them in ways that show empathy and demonstrate respect.

There are countless other benefits to mindfulness meditation and these benefits will vary from student to student. Many students may initially complain because they may feel their attention span is too short or they have an inability to sit still. And yes, it is not an easy practice, especially at the beginning. Over time students may notice small, improved changes in how they relate to themselves and the teacher, how they engage more positively in the learning process and how they can manage their stress levels before exams. I believe in the future meditation will be a habit that most people practice just like eating breakfast. But first, we must practice consistently to develop the skill and sharing it in the classroom is a great place to start! 

How Does Mindfulness Meditation Work? Proposing Mechanisms of Action From a Conceptual and Neural Perspective Hölzel, B.K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S.M., Gard, T., Lazar, S.W. (2011)
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