Lately, I have been seeing a ton of articles on mindfulness in schools. Meditation and mindfulness training is being used as a technique to calm anxious students, typically in elementary schools in more progressive, liberal communities. While I think this is great practice, you know who else needs mindfulness training? Teachers. And high school students. And parents, now that I’m thinking about it.
Students are so overwhelmed with the demands that teachers put on them. Some of my students complain of having three to four hours of homework per night. That’s a lot, and I remember those days (and late, late nights). If you add sports and clubs, it’s no wonder some of my students feel like this:
And teachers, in order to do a good job, have to place these demands on students. And the work comes back to them. To give an explanation of teacher anxiety: I have 119 students this year, and that is fairly low compared to some of my peers. It takes 10 minutes to grade a typical essay, and that’s if you have a lot of experience. That means that during any week that teachers are grading five sets of essays, they need to be doing about 1200 minutes or 20 hours of essay grading on the weekends. Why on the weekends? Because during the week, they have no time for that. They have to grade quizzes, homework, smaller writing assignments; they have to plan their lessons, make copies, attend meetings, and communicate with parents. Oh, and they have to teach their five classes! 🙂 So what happens before the kiddos come into the room in the morning? This happens:
With all of the demands placed on teachers, it is not a mystery to me why the average career span of a teacher is five years. Given the pay and the public’s relatively low level of respect for teachers, you have to really love it.
And THAT, folks, is why I began using mindfulness and meditation to stay sane. All teachers need this support, and so do all students who are fully dedicating themselves to their schoolwork.
As for myself, since implementing mindfulness training, I have noticed first and foremost that my health has improved. With fewer sick days and more stamina, I feel more prepared to face each day and less “in the weeds”, or at least I beat myself up a little less about being in the weeds. Am I a better teacher? I’m not sure, but I think I am.
Mindfulness training and a meditation practice would help my students as well. I can feel the anxiety in so many of their voices when they reach out to me about how they feel about an upcoming essay or test. Though I feel for them, I can’t change the demands I am obligated to place on them, and I can’t pretend that they are meeting standards that they are not meeting. What I wish I could change is how they feel about all of it. It seems like some of them get sucked into a cycle of demanding too much from themselves, procrastinating as a result, and then beating themselves up over a C. Their stress rubs off on the teachers and the parents, which then in turn affects administrators. Right in time for the holidays, we’re all stewing in anxiety soup!
This cycle is preventable if everyone knows how to manage their own time and stress. This is not an easy skill, and with the demands society places on kids today, I think it is a skill that has to be taught! It certainly continues to be a struggle for me, but with the help of mindfulness I am getting a tiny, tiny bit better at it.
Bring mindfulness to schools, please! For everyone’s sake. 🙂
Check out this link to see what one organization is doing to promote mindfulness for students:
- Mindfulness for Beginners: Dispelling 7 Myths of Meditation. (elephantjournal.com)
- Mindfulness in the workplace (stephaniedobbin.com)
- ‘Mindful Moments’ Program Has High School Students Begin And End Each Day With Meditation (VIDEO) (wonderfultips.wordpress.com)