Despite the attention and popularity of meditation, many teachers are concerned that administrators will not approve of its use in the classroom. And for good reason. Teachers feel uncertain and anxious in the current climate. The modern educational system is driven by business data and metrics. Many teachers do not see school as a business. They see school as a very human experience trying to help young people with many unmet needs.
I have asked hundreds of teachers what is their legacy? Their answers reflect the most altruistic motivations. They want to be remembered as someone who cared, loved, helped and inspired their students. Unfortunately these motivations are often overlooked by evaluations and standardized testing procedures.
So what is the answer to this dilemma? The growing body of evidence indicates meditation is arguably the most effective pedagogical tool to address the increasing stress and anxiety in schools.
So how do teachers convince administrators that something as new and controversial as meditation is worth trying? I was nominated for the “Distinctive Educator of the Year Award” in my local County after introducing meditation into the classroom. I thought to share some tips I learned with you.
1. Give Meditation Another Name - When I first introduced meditation into the classroom I called it “Sink and Think.” Another popular name for meditation is “Mindfulness.” Other names include: powerful pauses, mind expansion, stress management, mind snacks etc.
These names all reflect some of the benefits of meditation. Take time to find a name that you feel comfortable with.
2. Use the Science and Data. Psychologists, scientists and other professionals have been gathering and analyzing data since the 1970’s. The conclusions are overwhelmingly positive. Brain research shows meditation reduces anxiety and stress levels. Managing anxiety is key to student performance because stress changes key thinking centers of the brain. School psychologists attribute stress and anxiety as the major cause of bullying and other dysfunctional social behaviors. Letting your principal know that using meditation will help issues such as bullying will get her or his attention immediately.
3. Send Skeptical Administrators Respectable Articles. Because of the attention and focus meditation is receiving from the media there are abundant articles from respectable sources. Here are some examples you can send:
4. Research the Pedagogical Significance of Using Meditation in the Classroom. Teaching students to meditate is helping them develop such skills as:
5. Answer the Question “How do you get students motivated after doing nothing?”
Think how you want to transition from meditation to work. One effective way to do this is to ask a question. Asking questions helps students straddle from their inner reflection to an outer engagement by focusing on something specific. These questions can range from checking their feelings to the work you will cover in class. Examples include: How are you feeling today? How was your homework exercise last night? Who is ready to fly a plane from New York to LA?
Engaging the thinking process through simple or surprising questions awakens interest and peaks curiosity. (I used the last question above preparing my students for a lesson in vectors. One of the math problems involved airplane pilots making flight corrections based on wind direction and strength).
6. Have Back-Up Strategies. Not all students will be compliant at all times. Every experienced teacher knows to have a plan B. What would you do if a student refuses to meditate? What could be an appropriate alternative? Where can students go so as not to distract others? It needs to be a fair and emphatic alternative. Remember meditation is helping your student’s ability to think and learn.
7. Get Started. This is your class. Once you are convinced about the positive effects of meditation just try it. You will learn a lot from your experiments. You can glean student feedback and reflect on unexpected issues that arise. This is a learning process and you will improve over time. Administrators have a lot of other things on their minds. Take the initiative so when they ask you about what it is you are doing you have the answers.
8. Invite Administrators to Observe Your Class. This is a powerful initiative to take. You are showing them first hand that meditation works. The majority of administrators will appreciate hearing something positive and different is happening.
9. Get Parent Feedback/Support. I was delighted when a parent thanked me for teaching their son meditation. She said it was really helping him and he was excited to be learning it. Parent compliments are rare but when an administrator hears them they go a long way in your favor. As more parents reported positively about my work the principal asked me to present my work to the rest of the staff.
10. Gather Student Feedback. Administrators often ask teachers to adopt a new teaching strategy based on “data driven” examples. This can be intimidating. As teachers you can also gather your own data. Have an end of year survey where students share their experience of meditation. Collect and analyze your data. You can present your findings to your principal and cross-reference it with your students’ progress, discipline issues, attendance rates and more.
For further information on introducing meditation into your classroom go to:
"Lawrence Carroll's workshop on personal stress management, which he conducted with my Columbia Grad School class
was a huge success."
Neal Pilson, Columbia University, Former President, CBS Sports