Mindfulness revolutionizing schools? It sounds crazy.
Mindfulness is some crazy Buddhist yoga thing, right? How could some foreign idea ever transform how western society teaches their children?
However, there are two simple and powerful reasons why schools will take up this trend.
- Attendance goes up!
- Teacher burnout goes down
While there are many other criteria schools take into account when making decisions, this article will primarily focus on the benefits of mindfulness from a financial perspective.
As you’ll see, mindfulness does indeed offer pluralistic benefits ranging from stress relief, less teacher burnout, and the implied benefits of immune system enhancement from less stress. But as I’ll emphasize throughout, the best benefit of it is that it’s free!
Why Schools Care About Attendance And Teacher Burnout
In our current education system, schools are paid based on attendance.
I know there are other monetary factors other than attendance, and that attendance is sometimes paid per student, and other times on a ratio basis.
However, the bottom line is clear: attendance is connected to money.
The school’s budget is directly related to student attendance.
If more students attend class, the more money schools have for teachers, programs and sports.
The less students attend class, the less money.
Toxic stress is real and teacher burnout has real financial consequences for schools.
The Learning Policing Institute reports that urban school districts can spend $20,000 in expenses related to each teacher turnover.
Likewise, the Dallas Business Journal reports that $2.2 billion are spent in teacher burnout costs per year, in the United States.
Mindfulness Dramatically Increases Attendance
Here is a prominent news article which features the relatively dramatic changes in attendance based on incorporating mindfulness into the detention program, among other benefits.
“What Happens When Meditation Replaces School Detention” (just search this phrase in Google and you’ll see dozens of articles come up featuring this prominent story).
This high school in Baltimore hosts a range of students from over 30 different nationalities. There are many different languages, ethnicities and religious groups.
This school decided to implement this program, and the results based on 15 minutes per day speak for themselves. Here is what they say:
“In the first year of implementing the Mindful Moment Room at Patterson High School, suspensions and verbal and physical altercations all decreased by more than half. At the same time, attendance rates increased by three percent, grade promotions increased by 19 percent and average student GPA increased by a half percent.”
These other benefits – GPA and grade promotions – are additional ancillary benefits in addition to the stress relief and teacher burnout (covered in next section).
Mindfulness Decreases Teacher Burnout
In addition to increasing school attendance rates (and GPA), mindfulness also has extensive research in stress reduction.
Plus, incorporating it in the classroom is relatively easy. This means teachers can reap the stress reduction benefits of mindfulness without much retraining.
For example, one Mindful Teacher Training program from the California company Mindful Schools based out of Oakland, trains teachers to ring a bell and have a one to three minute of silence before instruction.
During these few minutes of silence, students are told to focus on their breath, wiggle their toes or in some other easy language to practice mindfulness.
It’s a simple technique that when repeated at least once a class, but optionally could be implemented a few times during a class, would help both students and teachers to reduce stress.
Teachers Benefit The Most By Teaching Mindfulness To Students
Teachers may benefit more than the students they teach in terms of mindfulness.
While critics may argue that a few minutes of meditation won’t drastically decrease stress in classrooms to a significant degree and can be easily interrupted by obnoxious students, still though, the teachers themselves who teach the mindfulness benefit by teaching mindfulness.
It’s the principle that you learn best what you teach others.
In a difficult scenario, a teacher could just have the students do five breaths of mindfulness to calm down. While five breaths of it is very little, just the act of going through and teaching mindfulness can help train teachers in vital stress reduction skills.
The next time this teacher has a parent teacher conference meeting, or has to deal with a particularly obnoxious child who interrupts meditation, the teacher has practiced their skill of breathing.
The teacher can stay calm, instead of losing control and showing their temper to the child which only makes things worse.
Critics Make Correct Points But Need To See Bigger Picture
While critics of mindfulness interventions in school are correct in their viewpoints that mindfulness can be difficult to implement within the classroom, the benefits of teachers teaching it is still significant.
Plus, critics have very little argument towards teaching mindfulness in detention, where it’s been shown to be effective especially for the most problematic kids who end up in detention very frequently.
Furthermore, critics of mindfulness may be overfocusing on the difficult instances of teaching and neglecting all the other instances where the mindfulness instruction is readily received and doesn’t impact classrooms negatively at all, but rather, enhances focus and studying.
In conclusion, this trend is here to stay. The results have been promising so far, and in terms of the most problematic situations, there is very little reason to not teach mindfulness in detentions.
Plus, mindfulness is free! We all know that education is on a limited budget. It offers plenty of benefits with very little downside.
In a time of covid-19, quarantine and social unrest, stress levels will be rising. There is additional need for stress relief, and many people are aware of the need for immune system enhancement. Mindfulness offers both stress relief and immune system enhancement, again for free!
This article is written in collaboration with Jared Levenson. Jared Levenson is a Mindfulness and Eating blogger at Eating Enlightenment. Jared has lived as a zen monk and is a certified yoga instructor. He is also the host of the Eating Enlightenment podcast.