Mindfulness: a mental state that one can achieve by focusing on the present and maintaining awareness of one’s surroundings. This is a new trend being implemented in many SHS classrooms. Practices including meditation and various breathing exercises are being initiated by teachers during class time in order to reduce students’ stress levels. While the teachers are no doubt acting with good intentions for the betterment of students’ mental wellbeing, there comes a time when these practices can become overused and overdone.
Charlotte Bonanno, an SHS student who has performed mindfulness activities repeatedly in three of her seven classes, describes her experience with mindfulness and meditation as becoming overwhelming. “I often even feel like meditation and mindfulness, in general, can make me more stressed, giving me time to think about how much school work I have while the class is in silence,” said Bonanno ’21. Even though these activities may be proven to relieve stress if done for short periods of time or in times of extreme pressure, repeated performances of these tactics for long stretches of silence can cause students to reflect on all that they have to do. This can further inhibit students from reducing their stress levels and only adds to the problem.
While the given time to reflect is important for students, it is just as crucial to consider the philosophies of the teachers behind these activities. “I think that given the stress levels that students are experiencing, it would be great to help them learn mindfulness strategies,” said Elizabeth Colleary, SHS teacher and member of the Wellness Committee. Colleary also stated that teachers have students’ best interests in mind, and if mindfulness tactics such as meditation prove to help reduce students’ stress and anxiety levels, teachers will likely be motivated to implement them into their own classrooms.
While Ms. Colleary is a member of the Wellness committee, she does not practice meditation in her classrooms. Jennifer Rosenzweig, however, begins every class with three to five minutes of mindfulness practice, whether it be meditation or the time to reflect and think about oneself. “I think it allows me to enter into class in a calm way, especially in a building where students are running around, having just come from a test, quiz, or something else creating anxiety for them. I also think it helps to remind ourselves to think, explore, and learn in a positive environment,” explained Rosenzweig.
Within SHS, there are students who see mindfulness as beneficial and those who do not, as well as teachers who differ in opinion as well. It is necessary to keep an open mind (no pun intended) about mindfulness and meditation in the classroom to a certain extent, but more importantly to understand individually what works to reduce one’s own stress levels. Whether a student or teacher agrees or disagrees with the practice of mindfulness in their classes, the principles of mindfulness itself speak to reduce stress and anxiety. This is defined only as taking as little as a few seconds to enter into a positive and self-reflecting state of mind, something that arguably every human being has time to do.