Mindfulness In Schools: What's the Big Deal?
by Jen Armstrong
Mindfulness In School Is A Movement Taking Hold
Ideas such as having “a mindful moment room” and “the calm-down beanbag” are just a couple ideas that are making up mindful schools.
So as an individual, or parent, interested in the education system or child development, it is likely that you may have come across the concept of mindfulness based interventions and how they are having a positive impact on children’s well-being and behaviour in schools. There are many methods in which schools are employing people externally to run programs, or they are providing training for the teachers themselves to implement mindful methods into the daily teaching schedule.
From my past experience of working with children I was particularly impressed with one organization The Special Yoga Foundation which is based in London. This is a small charity with big aspirations, and they provide yoga for children and adults with special needs alongside those who don’t have special needs. I met the founder and course creator, Jyoti, who is an amazing person with big ideas of how she sees the charity developing and spreading the mindfulness based interventions far and wide. Jyoti compiled a training program for teachers which equips them with a variety of tools they can use at a click of a button or with just two minutes to spare. These include tools such as a 2 minute relaxation within the classroom or a few yoga postures and stretches- see the link to their website here-https://specialyoga.org.uk/. It was exciting talking to her about the program especially due to its focus on making these methods so easily accessible and workable for teachers to integrate into their daily work in schools.
Mindfulness is spreading around schools across the world, and there are a few organisations in America whose successes have been shared widely on social media in recent times. One of these is a school in Baltimore where they have introduced a ‘mindful moment’ room. To put this into context, the school is in a highly unsafe area with many vulnerable children who routinely engage in criminal activity and who regularly abscond from school. As a consequence there are high rates of students with emotional problems causing daily conflicts between students in the school leading to a pattern of low achievement rates. This was the reality of this school, and being a student there pretty much meant that your prospects for achieving well and integrating well into society were quite bleak. That was …. until they introduced mindfulness into the school.
Aggression rates in the school have now reduced hugely which has lead to 100% of all suspensions being abolished.
This school’s ‘mindful moment room ’ has served to replace detentions, and by teaching the students that when they feel they can’t concentrate, or they are getting themselves riled up and into trouble, they can go and calm themselves down in a safe quiet space. Someone is always there to support them and help them with techniques if necessary.
The "Calm-Down Beanbag"
Another school in the USA introduced a ‘calm down beanbag’, which has resulted in young children taking themselves over to it during a class, and taking a minute to breathe slowly and calm themselves down before returning back to their desk and to the task at hand. Unlike traditional time out methods – the child, in this case, has learned to take control themselves and thus has a feeling of achievement. I find this a very exciting concept, that young children are learning to recognise their emotions and are taking it upon themselves to calm down and breathe for a moment, without being instructed to. This is something that all children need, especially following the Ferrell and Barrett claim in 2007 that ‘numbers of children being diagnosed with anxiety and depression is increasing at an alarming rate’. So 10 years on from this, the problem remains on a rapid increase, making it evermore important for us all to act now because, should we leave it to fester any longer, the problem will only get worse, and it will affect not only these children and their families, but subsequent generations in the future.
‘Remember, balance is key’