Laurie Grossman, one of the founders of the mindfulness-in-education movement and co-founder of Mindful Schools, writes the following :
“Students walk into our classrooms each day carrying with them their entire experience. Their thoughts and actions are more often influenced by their own state of mind than by the lessons and activities that we ask them to engage with. Whether it simply be a rushed morning after a late night, feeling ill-prepared for an exam or dealing with a more serious trauma, such as losing a parent, or emotional neglect. These heighten a child’s stress levels, increasing their anxiety and making it difficult to relax at all.
We all know that concentrating, and therefore learning, while stressed or distracted is near impossible. Including mindfulness in education is a simple practice that provides students with something they can DO in those moments of stress, distraction or anger.”
Currently in Southern Africa, there are only a handful of schools that include mindfulness in their school curriculum. I applaud these schools for getting it right because it is no small undertaking to run a successful, sustainable mindfulness program in a school.
Keith Horan, a teacher and mindfulness facilitator based in Ireland, wrote a research paper as part of his MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches on the common challenges faced in implementing mindfulness programs in schools. In short, he states that in order for a mindfulness program to be successful in the long-term, it needs to be part of the classroom curriculum. This daily practice is what is needed for mindfulness to have an impact on a student’s well-being.
He also raises the important question of the level of training and personal practice of the facilitating teacher. To teach mindfulness, facilitators need to have their own daily mindfulness practice in order to authentically guide others. Keith states that he has seen a number of teachers, who do not have a personal mindfulness practice, being asked by their school principals to deliver a mindfulness program. To me, that is like asking someone who cannot swim to be the school’s swimming coach. The level of training and personal practice of the facilitating teacher is critical.
Mindful Minis offers two training courses for teachers: a 20 hour Foundation Training and a 100 hour Advanced Training. These courses offer teachers an introduction to mindfulness, help them to develop their own personal mindfulness practice and assist them in bringing mindfulness into their classrooms. More details about these courses can be found here.
“We do not know what specific knowledge our children
are going to need ten or twenty or even five years from now because the world
and their work, when they come to it, will be so different from ours. What we
do know is that they will need to know how to pay attention, how to focus and
concentrate, how to listen, how to learn, and how to be in a wise relationship
with themselves – including their thoughts and emotions – and with others.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness in Education, 2013