Benefits of a mindfulness professional development for your teachers

Jones, D. (2011). Mindfulness in schools. The Psychologist, 24(10), 736-739

‘I feel very strongly that it should be part of teacher training, because apart from anything else it will benefit the trainee teachers enormously – and then they can use it in their schools,’ says Lavelle. Accumulating evidence suggests that the social and emotional competence of teachers is a key factor in establishing healthy student–teacher relationships, managing the classroom, and teaching social and emotional aspects of learning – creating what Patricia Jennings and Mark Greenberg call the ‘prosocial classroom’ (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Claxton agrees that mindfulness would be hugely beneficial for both teachers and students: ‘If I ruled the world I would make it mandatory – there is no downside risk, and the evidence shows these things work.’

Rempel, K. (2012). Mindfulness for children and youth: A review of the literature with an argument for school-based implementation. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 46(4),201-220

Research reviewed here suggests that mindfulness-based practices can have a positive impact on academic performance, psychological well-being, self-esteem, and social skills in children and adolescents. There is evidence that mindfulness-based training in schools is feasible and acceptable to those who have participated in it.

 Children deserve to experience life positively, and society has a duty to provide them with the skills and strategies to manage life’s more challenging moments. Mindfulness may be one way to provide this.

Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, M. J., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., … & Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26(1),70-95

Participation in a mindful awareness practices program was associated with improvements in behavioral regulation, metacognition, overall EF, and specific domains of EF based on teacher and parent report. Analysis of individual subscales showed that both teachers and parents reported improvement in children’s abilities to shift, initiate, and monitor.

Razza, R. A., Bergen-Cico, D., & Raymond, K. (2013). Enhancing preschoolers’ self-regulation via mindful yoga. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(2), 372-385

While the lack of standardization can make replicability challenging, it allowed for flexibility in the program and increased ecological validity of the intervention. Thus, in contrast to a packaged curricula that include a set number of lesson plans implemented of a specified number of weeks, this study suggests that teachers familiar with mindfulness and yoga can promote self-regulation in their classroom by implementing strategies that fit with their existing practices.

Shapiro, S.L., Lyons, K.E., Miller, R.C. et al. Educ Psychol Rev (2015) 27: 1-30

Contemplative exercises in the classroom may help support the development of emotion regulation by shaping the neural circuitry underlying both automatic and controlled aspects of emotion regulation.

 In addition, by promoting the capacity to reflect on one’s current thoughts and emotions, contemplative practice may also afford children a better ability to use their top-down control skills to consider the multiple options for responding in a given situation, allowing children to respond flexibly and adaptively in the face of emotional events.

Betsy L. Wisner, Barbara Jones, David Gwin; School-based Meditation Practices for Adolescents: A Resource for Strengthening Self-Regulation, Emotional Coping, and Self-Esteem. Children & Schools 2010; 32 (3): 150-159.

Qualitative data indicated that students found MM* helpful for increasing self-regulation, calming themselves, relieving stress, increasing relaxation, and improving emotional coping. In addition, students reported knowing themselves better and increased abilities to ay attention and to control thinking. Students also reported that meditation resulted in a calmer school community with a more positive school climate and less stressed, happier, more engaged students.

*mindfulness meditation