Mindfulness is an approach to life which quite simply means paying attention to the present moment. Straightforward right? Well actually, not always.
Life is so busy that we can be easily distracted from fully noticing exactly what is going on in the here and now. Also, our mind is often time traveling – it can be ruminating on past events and conversations or planning, organising or worrying about the future. Science is strongly suggesting that mindfulness-based techniques can help all ages; helping people to develop strategies to deal with every day stress, low mood and anxious thoughts, as well as helping increase contentment levels.
Thankfully many schools are beginning to cotton on to how important it is to help students look after their well-being and some school leaders see mindfulness as a significant aspect of this. However, with the current financial situation for many UK schools still very challenging, there is not always enough funds available for schools to introduce mindfulness to students in a meaningful way. All too often mindfulness in schools is about popping on a YouTube video for a few minutes every now and then. This has limited benefits and can sometimes do more harm than good. What we don’t want is our children to misunderstand what mindfulness is and be ‘turned off’ from what they perceive it to, be by well-intended but inexperienced teachers.
With this in mind I ran my first after-school mindfulness course for 9 – 11 year olds this term. I would much rather be delivering mindfulness sessions to young people in a school environment but the school budget constraints mean this is a rarity at the moment, so I decided to sow some positive seeds for the future by running a Mission: Mindfulness ‘Tweens’ course at the local library.
I thoroughly enjoyed delivering the course and was pleased with how it was being received, but it’s always good to get some feedback… so at the end of the course I asked the students for ‘2 stars and a wish’ – language they may well be used to hearing at school – and basically a way to find out what they liked about the course, and what they would like improved.
Here are the responses:
- It was good to be able to practice at home.
- It was a really friendly environment.
- I really liked that you listened to everyone’s ideas and let us all contribute.
- It was very nice to go outside for some of the sessions.
- It was really great that you explained everything very well so we understand.
- The course is well planned out!
- The course helped us.
- I learned not to think too much.
- I liked hearing what other people had to say about their thoughts and feelings.
- I liked how the teacher taught us and explained things if I didn’t know what to do.
- It helps you deal with your worries and thoughts about future events.
- It gives you a time to relax and helped you think about one thing at a time.
- I really enjoyed the mindful eating and the FOFBOC exercise but I also loved everything else that you taught me too!
- I liked the notebooks and drawing our thoughts.
- I liked the breathing exercises.
- It was nice to be able to do the practices at home.
- It was relaxing when we got to meditation.
- even more things to calm our minds!
- More book work at home.
- More lessons.
- More time to calm down.
- I wouldn’t recommend for you to change anything – I really, really want to do this mindfulness course again because it has helped me a lot with my anger and stress.
- It was really fun.
- More time to write and draw.
- I wish there were more sessions.
If ever there were a set of comments that spur me on to try and get mindfulness into schools more, or at the very least to get it to more young people, then these are they.
It may well take some nudges for schools to spend money on delivering a ‘proper’ mindfulness course. If you too think it’s worthwhile teaching a mindfulness course as part of the school curriculum, please do talk to the people who have the power to make this happen – Headteachers and Deputy Heads, school governors and the decision-makers on the ‘Parent-Teachers Associations’ would all be good starting-points for conversations.
If you would like any help finding a qualified mindfulness teacher for young people in your area then please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.
Let’s get mindfulness being taught meaningfully in more schools.