by Patti Ward
I have been in the field of education for over 35 years. Over those years I have witnessed schools becoming much more complex, more expectations for both teachers and students, and more pressured filled as each year has passed. Administrators, teachers and students are pretty much exhausted at the end of a school year. Higher expectations, more content, critical thinking, complex math skills, summative and formative assessments throughout the school year, teacher evaluations that rely on student performance, the list goes on and on. Wow, I am exhausted just talking about it.
From what I have observed in schools, students are learning more, they are learning how to think more critically, how to collaborate and create; not just learn and regurgitate. They are learning how to apply this knowledge in novel and creative ways. Teachers are honing their educational craft, becoming ‘coaches’ in the classroom, learning how to use assessment data to inform instruction, encouraging collaboration and independent learning all the while teaching an extremely diverse population of general education student, special needs children and at-risk students all in the classroom, all with the same expected outcomes.
Having said all that, I guess I am not surprised that schools are looking into Mindfulness. I have been asked to speak at several school districts on the topic of mindfulness over the last few years. It is a sign that people are reading and hearing about it in the press, they hear it helps with things like attention, social emotional regulation and empathy for self and others. They wonder if it might fit within their school improvement model, perhaps within Standard 5: A Culture for Learning. Some of the expectations for this standard are:
School leaders create a culture that ensures success for all students and staff.
- School leaders work to intentionally develop relationships that model respect, trust, collaboration and high expectations for all.
- School leaders and staff collaboratively create a safe and supportive learning environment through established safety and behavior expectations for staff and students.
- Staff models a healthy school climate, including social, emotional, and physical health that is desired for students.
- Students in crisis, students at risk of dropping out, and others who require intensive assistance are identified and linked to appropriate support in a timely manner.
- Positive risk-taking by staff and students to achieve established goals is modeled and supported by school leaders
Sounds like a great fit to me, a former teacher and curriculum director. Mindful Schools has found that “mindfulness practice decreases stress and anxiety, increases attention, improves interpersonal relationships, strengthens compassion, and confers a host of other benefits.” If schools are looking for a way to create “A Culture for Learning” looking at and learning about Mindfulness is a great way to get started.