Mindfulness: Cultivating Healthy Classrooms for Students and Teachers
Over the last decade mindfulness has become increasingly popular. A 2015 UK Parliamentary report recommended its implementation into the sectors of health, education, workplace and criminal justice.
The reason why mindfulness has become so widely accepted within education can begin to be answered by asking the question: what is the intended function of a school and classroom? Each one of us probably has many different answers to this question. However, we can most likely agree that part of the answer is that it is a place for learning. What learning is can be very subjective. Different individuals, families and cultures may have varying ideas and values of what learning looks like and what the goals and outcomes might be. However, the actual process of learning, what physically happens in our brain, and what conditions support or hinder these processes, can be more objectively defined. By becoming aware of the impacts that stress has on the brain and its ability to learn, we gain greater understanding of the need to create safe and healthy spaces for young people. We now know that if a young person is experiencing a stress response (also known as a flight-or-fight response), their ability to learn is greatly decreased. Mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to decrease anxiety and stress, and increase self-regulation, resiliency and focus.
By becoming aware of the impacts that stress has on the brain and its ability to learn, we gain greater understanding of the need to create safe and healthy spaces for young people.
When thinking about the classroom environment, it is also crucial not to forget about the teacher themselves, and how their sense of personal well-being impacts the classroom and school community. In 2003, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future identified teacher retention as a ‘national crisis’. Instead of thinking about themselves, teachers have a myriad of other tasks that come first, from lesson planning, to classroom management, to integrating new curriculums etc. Mindfulness practice is an effective way for teachers to decrease burnout and increase their sense of personal well-being. Who the teacher is as a person can be considered the hidden curriculum within a classroom, so finding ways to support our teachers to take care of themselves, and therefore better take care of their students, is a crucial step in the cultivation of healthy learning environments.
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This blog post was written by Elli Weisbaum for LearnTeachLead.