Schools in the Washington West Supervisory Union are integrating mindfulness meditation and education into the classroom; students are engaging in brain-gym exercises that increase concentration and awareness and coordination of right- and left-brain function.
In the elementary schools, students are doing yoga and relaxation exercises alongside teachers. At every school, teachers and students are experimenting with new ways to incorporate mindful thinking and action into learning and life.
Mindfulness, defined by mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and without judgment,” has been found helpful to both students and teachers to cultivate a more responsive and positive learning environment and to learn how to manage stress.
Research has shown that mindfulness practices improve educators’ abilities to cope with demanding jobs through the utilization of contemplative practices in both personal and professional lives. This fall, 24 WWSU educators took a course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Teachers, taught by Ferris Buck, Fayston, and Richard Czaplinski, Warren and Adamant, both experienced mindfulness practitioners and teachers.
Ten educators from Valley schools took a similar course offered by Susan Woods, a mindfulness-based practitioner/professional based in Stowe.
Students in many classes at Harwood are now familiar with a variety of practices that encourage paying attention to what is going on in the present moment, such as focused breathing and listening to the ring of a set of chimes as the class begins.
“I love the fact that we ring chimes at the beginning of our history class,” said one sophomore. “It helps me to settle down. I am often tired and unfocused, and sometimes I just don’t want to be in school. This practice helps me to relax and get into the class. It took a while for me to get used to it, but now I look forward to it every day,” the student continued.