Faculty pilots ‘Take 10 Deep Breaths’ activity

English+teacher+Matt+Brashear%E2%80%99s+Mythology+and+Folklore+students+participate+in+the+newly+introduced+breathing+exercise+on+May+2.+Faculty+hopes+that+the+pilot+week+will+reveal+positive+results+as+students+evaluate+the+merits+of+meditation+as+a+form+of+stress+relief.+Photo+by+Ambika+Dubey.%0D%0A
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Faculty pilots ‘Take 10 Deep Breaths’ activity

English teacher Matt Brashear’s Mythology and Folklore students participate in the newly introduced breathing exercise on May 2. Faculty hopes that the pilot week will reveal positive results as students evaluate the merits of meditation as a form of stress relief. Photo by Ambika Dubey.

English teacher Matt Brashear’s Mythology and Folklore students participate in the newly introduced breathing exercise on May 2. Faculty hopes that the pilot week will reveal positive results as students evaluate the merits of meditation as a form of stress relief. Photo by Ambika Dubey.

English teacher Matt Brashear’s Mythology and Folklore students participate in the newly introduced breathing exercise on May 2. Faculty hopes that the pilot week will reveal positive results as students evaluate the merits of meditation as a form of stress relief. Photo by Ambika Dubey.

English teacher Matt Brashear’s Mythology and Folklore students participate in the newly introduced breathing exercise on May 2. Faculty hopes that the pilot week will reveal positive results as students evaluate the merits of meditation as a form of stress relief. Photo by Ambika Dubey.

Teachers encourage students to participate in breathing exercise during the week of April 27 to promote stress management.

English teacher Matt Brashear’s Mythology and Folklore students participate in the newly introduced breathing exercise on May 2. Faculty hopes that the pilot week will reveal positive results as students evaluate the merits of meditation as a form of stress relief. Photo by Ambika Dubey.

English teacher Matt Brashear’s Mythology and Folklore students participate in the newly introduced breathing exercise on May 2. Faculty hopes that the pilot week will reveal positive results as students evaluate the merits of meditation as a form of stress relief. Photo by Ambika Dubey.

 

“Try to sit up straight as you do this,” English teacher Scott Catrette said to his fourth period AP Literature students.

It was a Thursday morning, and the students knew the drill. The overhead screen was pulled down, an image of a blue sky with white clouds was on stand by. The bell would chime at any second and the students would begin the exercise.

The words “Breathe in” appeared on the screen.

Slowly and intently, all twenty-eight students took their first deep breaths. One, two, three, four seconds later, the words on the screen changed transformed: “Breathe out.” The cycle continued for another two minutes. Some students closed their eyes and went at their own pace, focusing their awareness to the tense muscles in their neck and shoulders. Others looked to the screen, inhaling and exhaling to the rhythm of the words. No one spoke.

“The beauty and simplicity of this activity is that it invites one to release or let go of unnecessary levels of stress,” Catrette said. “I do believe that everyone needs a certain level of stress in their lives, but it’s finding that balance that’s important. Too much stress in your life makes school unsustainable.”

Catrette is one of about twenty teachers who showed interest in piloting this breathing exercise in their classes from April 27 to May 2. Every day at the beginning of the class period participating teachers displayed the “Take 10 Deep Breaths” website on their overhead screens to help guide the activity. According to Catrette, AP US History teacher Viviana Montoya-Hernandez discovered the website and introduced it to Student Advocate Richard Prinz. Agreeing to do a test-run in several classes, the staff made a joint effort to design a five question survey regarding academic and emotional stress of students on Day 1 of the simulation and finally on Day 5. Catrette hopes that analysis of the survey data will reveal that this activity actively helps students develop healthy habits to manage stress in their daily lives.

Senior Emma Seyer, a student in Catrette’s fourth period class, participated in the activity in two of her classes during the week: Ceramics and AP Literature. Seyer had previously meditated in science teacher Jenna Smith’s Physiology class, but she had questioned the merits of the meditation when she noticed her classmates and herself dozing off during class. According to Seyer, weight lifting and physical exercise help her relieve stress, but she does understand how breathing can help manage tension “in the moment.”

“Track and field and being able to lift weights is useful, I feel very productive,” Seyer said. “But I can see how [breathing] would be helpful a couple minutes before taking a big test or exam – to just help calm things down … I don’t think I would build it into my schedule, but I would keep it in mind to implement as I saw fit.”

Seyer didn’t experience a drastic improvement in her ability to cope with stress after five days of participating in the exercise, but she said that if she had a more academically rigorous week, the activity would’ve brought a more noticeable change.

According to senior Jessie Chu, who practiced breathing in her AP Chemistry class before her final, the activity helped calm her down and build focus for the assessment ahead.

“When you’re taking a test, you tend to get nervous and make mistakes, so [the exercise] helps make you more cautious and calm,” Chu said. “If teachers start doing this everyday, that would be nice, as long as it’s just a few minutes to slow down.”

Depending on the students’ responses to the before-and-after survey, some teachers may plan to integrate “Take 10 Deep Breaths” into their class schedule on a more regular basis. According to Catrette, he has seen very little resistance in his classes. Most of his students have welcomed the activity with a mature openness and mindful willingness to evaluate the merits of meditation as a way to manage stress.

“I can definitely see this catching fire at school and becoming potentially school wide,” Catrette said. “And maybe it’ll be an option, teachers have the choice to do this or not, but I see this having a momentum behind it … you just have to leave the door open.”