By Richard Burnett, co-founder of Mindfulness in Schools Project.
There are many roles for mindfulness in a school community. At the most basic level it is the skill of paying attention – not in the narrow way that teachers might bark at a child to “pay attention”, but in the much wider and richer sense of truly attending to whatever is happening at any particular moment.
Mindfulness is a great way of addressing the kind of worries that all of us experience. Instead of relating to the anxious chatter in your head and the butterflies in your tummy as something unpleasant which is to be avoided, you can learn to attend to it differently. You can begin to recognise anxiety a little sooner than you’re used to. You can learn how to ‘be with’ the stresses and strains of your life without being swept away by them.
And the first place mindfulness needs to take root in a school is amongst the staff – perhaps in whoever you are reading this article. You cannot teach mindfulness to young people unless you’ve experienced the benefits yourself, just as you wouldn’t teach anybody to swim if you’d never been in the pool. Reduced stress, reduced absenteeism, greater teacher well-being and efficacy are a handful of the benefits which the growing body of research suggests.
For both staff and pupils alike, some find mindfulness helps them stay focused on their work; a few discover it can help them to ‘flow’ in their creativity, music or sport; many find that mindfulness practice helps them short-circuit the chattering mind and get to sleep. Jon Kabat-Zinn – the founding father of secular mindfulness – once described mindfulness as “being alive, and knowing it”. Many people find they start to appreciate things they might not usually notice: for the first time they look at objects along the route they walk each day, they listen properly to a friend, they taste their food. We teach people to ‘stop’ and to ‘be’. It is amazing how helpful it can be simply to feel your feet on the floor and notice your breathing.
Mindfulness in Schools Project is a registered charity aiming to bring mindfulness to young people and those who care for them via evidence-based classroom curricula, written by teachers for teachers.
See how mindfulness can help recruit and retain staff with our Mindfulness in schools courses: