A quiet classroom can be a refreshing sound for any teacher, but a mindful classroom, while also quiet, could carry a host of benefits for teachers, students, and even parents.
Eden Koz, a meditation instructor and owner of Just Be, says her work with local schools has yielded success. And implementation ranges from “quiet time” for children during morning announcements to a 10- to 15-minute mind break for students who are stressed out, among other activities.
“Imagine you’re going into a room with 125 little kids, it was so calm and so quiet, it was astounding,” says Koz, who works with people of all ages through her practice. Her mindfulness workshops help people better deal with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, grief and other issues.
“The quietness and the calm that these little people exhibited, adults would even have issues with this,” she says. “If parents could come in and see these kids, they would be astounded.”
She recalls hosting an assembly at Akron’s Case Elementary School, where they’ve practiced mindfulness before, and she says the children were “amazingly calm.”
In Medina, she met with children who were a bit older. “In Medina, for two days I met with 100 6th graders and 7th graders,” Koz adds.
She says a number of schools have approached her about helping their classrooms. And they’re pleased with the results.
So, what is mindfulness? It’s basically a technique of open awareness of one’s surroundings with no particular attachment to those surroundings. While meditation is used in tandem with some religious practices, it’s not necessarily a religious activity.
Koz says she’s had to clarify this point for teachers and parents alike.
“I want to assure folks that anyone can do this,” she says. “I just want to make it work for who you are as an individual. Mindfulness can be really flexible.” One way around this is focusing on the activity as “quiet time” rather than meditation. The key is to just encourage people to slow down.
Much of the research around mindfulness in the schools is anecdotal, and empirical data is still in the early stages. But Koz says she’s seen a number of benefits, like improved grades and enhanced focus and self awareness, along with increased social-emotional intelligence. For those schools who are sports-driven, mindfulness can also improve athletic performance, she adds.
According to Mindful Schools, mindfulness in the classroom helps strengthen attention spans, build compassion, and increase adaptability, calmness and resilience.
These practices also carry benefits for teachers: According to the research paper “Evidence for Mindfulness: Impacts on the Wellbeing and Performance of School Staff,” written by Katherine Wear, an emeritus professor at Universities of Exeter and Southampton in England, mindfulness for teaching staff leads to reductions in stress, burnout and anxiety, reduced time off, and improved ability to manage tasks and deadlines, along with increased coping skills, problem-solving and motivation.
And mindfulness offers a break from technology, which can be useful for any of us.
For more info about the work of Just Be, visit edenkoz.com.