Teacher Andrew Jones examines the evidence for introducing meditation to students and teachers. This is from the Guardian…
If the sheer amount of work generated by school has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation before, during or after school. Even a few minutes meditation can give students and teachers a sense of calm and peace of mind that benefits their emotional and physical health.
Most forms of meditation centre on the concept of mindfulness, which makes one aware of their moment-to-moment experiences; noticing and accepting their thoughts, feelings and emotions. This kind of meditation can be used in school to make students and teachers aware of how their daily experiences of school life are affecting their state of mind and, hopefully, to calm their reactions and thoughts throughout the rest of the school day.
Another popular form of meditation focuses on compassion, which endeavours to cultivate compassionate thoughts and feelings for other people, especially for people students might not like or know. The aim here is to create better community cohesion among the school population.
Although both types of meditation have their roots in Indian religions, there are now countless scientific studies demonstrating their benefits. For example, research by academics at Stanford University found that people practicing mindfulness meditation valued calmness in their day-to-day lives more than those who did not.
Moreover, there are now respectable scientific studies suggesting meditation can lead to people living longer and healthier lives with less risk of heart attacks and even less chances of getting colds.
In the context of educational psychology, a number of studies have found that meditation can improve wellbeing and develop empathy skills. For example, studies lead by Shauna L Shapiro of Santa Clara University have found that awareness of one’s state of mind can improve coping strategies for dealing with the stress of everyday life, which may benefit students under pressure to attain high grades or teachers targeting ever higher pupil targets. In relation to compassion, the University of California, Los Angeles’s (UCLA) David S. Black and colleagues found empirical evidence that meditation leads to reduced misbehaviour and aggression among children and adolescents.
Meditation, therefore, can be employed to tackle a myriad of problems in school, including poor student attainment and staff fatigue. Many schools, including my own, are establishing a ‘quiet time’ period during the school day of 10 to 15 minutes when students sit quietly to meditate, reflect on what has happened that day or simply rest.
Have you tried anything like this in school? Please tell us what you did and how well it worked on Twitter or in the comments below…