Pittsburgh Public Schools join the ranks of forward thinking educators and bring mindfulness practice into students’ daily routine. These types of programs are starting to become more common among schools as educators discover that meditation is more effective than existing disciplinary tactics.
Mindfulness and the Schooling Environment
Going to school should be a fun and inspiring experience for children. Time at school should give them a chance to explore their imagination and fill their minds with new ideas. They should be excited to go, so they can play with their friends and show off their Ariel Lunch Tote or Star Wars Backpack.
Unfortunately, many children find the academic demands of the public education system stressful. Equally, many children struggle with the social pressures that arise at school. North Allegheny Superintendent Robert Scherrer brought mindfulness practices into his schools for this exact reason. He comments:
We realized that a number of our students were experiencing tremendous amounts of stress. We wanted to teach them some strategies and techniques that could really help them deal with that stress. ~ Robert Scherrer, North Allegheny Superintendent
Furthermore, there are bigger issues affecting the U.S. education system. Increased security, lock down drills and much too-frequent news of school shootings – these societal trends add a new layer of tension within the educational environment.
This is where mindfulness programs can present an opportunity for educators to introduce a simple practice that promotes a peaceful and compassionate atmosphere. It helps reduce stress and help both students and staff overcome interpersonal challenges.
In some schools, educators are using meditation instead of detention. Examples include Robert Coleman Elementary in Baltimore, Maryland and the Success Achievement Academy in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Such alternative methods to discipline help students reflect on their behavior. In addition, it helps them wind-down after an argument, so it is easier to think about what happened and why.
Mindfulness Programs and Emotional Health
Mindfulness is a very simple process of observing the present moment. Due to this simplicity, teachers can easily instruct children on how to participate. For example, at Pittsburgh King PreK-8 teachers lead the students in a practice by talking them through a body scan. This helps the children calm themselves and has a soothing effect when they are angry or stressed.
On the other hand, when children are angry they are not likely to become less angry by being punished. Instead of calming children, tactics such as reprimands and detention can create additional feelings of frustration and resentment.
Similar to the proverb, “Think before you speak,” mindfulness teaches us to pause before we react. This benefits educators just as much as students. At King, administrators and teachers use the new mindfulness programs to help them when responding to student behavior. This includes staying calm during altercations and reduces knee-jerk reactions.
Compassion fatigue is rampant in schools. We need more compassion and less stress so [teachers] are more available and present for students. ~ Stephanie Romero, a former teacher and executive director of Awaken Pittsburgh.
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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