Stress in schools in the United States is high. In urban areas, the detrimental effects of poverty can cause high school dropout rates to approach and even exceed 50%. The pressure to increase test scores affects teachers and students in all schools. The competition to gain admittance to college causes turmoil for students throughout the country. In short, stress impairs the effectiveness of our educational system. Common problems in our schools include:
In addition, attention spans are rapidly declining due to the “instant gratification” children and adults are often taught through the media and the rapidly-evolving world around them.
Stress inhibits key parts of the brain that are necessary for learning. Before we address how and what students are taught, we must first ensure that they are indeed prepared to learn. Children and adolescents with less stress in their lives and those who can focus and handle stress they face outperform their peers. This is one cause of the achievement gap, which widens continually as children grow. Why not address it at its roots?
The problems facing education today are complex, often take students and educators out of the present moment, and require a wide variety of solutions. But no matter what the solutions, we must ensure that students are present for their lessons in order to maximize their learning potential.
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We offer online training courses for adults to learn mindfulness and use it with youth. Mindfulness is a simple but powerful technique to focus attention, manage emotions, handle stress, and resolve conflicts. Instead of simply telling youth how to do these things, we train adults to show them how — through direct experience. This allows youth to make wiser decisions in the heat of the moment, rather than only in retrospect. Our mindfulness curriculum brings improvements in concentration, attention, and empathy, while building a climate of calm in the classroom.
Mindfulness develops an “inner compass” – a true lifetime skill that is highly preventive. Understanding one’s own thoughts and feelings can save massive future expenditures to address juvenile delinquency, poor academic performance, stress, mental disorders, etc. In addition, having a mind that is calm, focused, and empathetic allows students to increase their scholastic aptitude, particularly if they experience a high degree of stress outside of school. The skills we learn as children are the ones at which we become best, which is why we train adults to begin teaching children in elementary school. All children can benefit from the vital skill of mindfulness, which helps them succeed at school and in life.
Our mission is to lead the integration of mindfulness into education. We’ve trained educators, social workers, psychologists, parents, and other adults from over 60 countries, impacting more than 200,000 youth globally.
The idea for a mindfulness program was sparked in Spring 2007 when a visiting therapist working at Park Day School and the neighboring public school commented that the students at the public school were in tremendous turmoil. Laurie Grossman, Park’s Outreach Coordinator, and Richard Shankman, a long-time mindfulness teacher, responded by creating a program to bring mindfulness training to the children and their teachers. The program began almost immediately with a 5-week pilot run.
The results were so inspiring that mindfulness teacher Megan Cowan immediately implemented the program in another local school. The responses from students, principals, and teachers were so encouraging that Laurie, Richard, and Megan decided to establish the Community Partnership for Mindfulness in Education (now Mindful Schools) as a major project of Park’s outreach program.
Over time, the program grew and attracted more staff, including Randima Fernando, a Silicon Valley product manager, who was eager to help the work realize its enormous potential. The program eventually grew large enough to become an independent non-profit organization in October 2010.
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