Mindfulness in the classroom

Students share their thoughts on the effects of mindfulness activities

Charlotte Chui and Claire Yang

On the day of a test, students walk into class and are met with a tense atmosphere. In the last few minutes before the bell rings, students rush into the classroom, frantically conversing amongst each other to squeeze in more time to study. Some flip through worksheets and notes, while others swarm the front of the room to clarify concepts from the teacher. For sophomore Sean Chen, this is the typical experience right before an assessment.

The bell sounds, and class begins. Students are ushered back to their seats as the teacher stands up, cradling a stack of test papers in her arms. However, instead of passing out the tests, chemistry teacher Elizabeth McCracken instructs the students to close their eyes, put their hands together and breathe.

“It doesn’t really help because [my teacher] does it so abruptly,” Chen said. “There isn’t time to settle down and really get into mindfulness. Because of that, I think it defeats the purpose of [calming] down before you get mindful.”

While Chen dislikes the way mindfulness is implemented in class, he supports practicing mindfulness activities in class. In fact, he believes that they could prove to be helpful if teachers did them after their students get into the right mindset and settled down, not immediately after class starts.

“Right now it just feels rushed,” Chen said. “If everybody quieted down and she said, ‘Okay, let’s have a couple minutes of silence,’ or … even just … ten seconds [of silence] and then start breathing. That would help a lot more, make it a lot more worthwhile.”

On the other hand, sophomore Ashley Kim appreciates that her teachers McCracken and math teacher Sushma Bana do mindfulness activities in class, especially since she often gets anxious before tests.

“I actually don’t mind them because what the teachers are doing is that they’re focusing on our mental health,” Kim said. “I think that’s really important because I feel like in a such a stressful environment, like right before a test or right before a quiz or just every day in general, I really think that we need those extra five minutes in class just to take time and breathe and relax.”

Chen values the effort teachers put in in order to promote the mental well-being of their students, but he thinks that a lot could be improved on in terms of collaborative effort and timing.

“More and more teachers I feel like have been exposed to mindfulness and so [they] try to push for it,” Chen said. “But in terms of implementation… there hasn’t been an organized effort by all the teachers to combat the problems that require people to be mindful to fix.”

Besides using mindfulness to help students relieve stress, Chen wishes for teachers to implement destressing into all aspects of their teaching. He believes that teachers should tackle the issue directly by decreasing the workload, adopting more effective styles of teaching or adjusting the curriculum to students’ schedules.

Though these methods of mindfulness and destressing haven’t been implemented effectively, Chen notes that this isn’t the fault of the teacher.

From everything that I heard, a lot of students think that teachers don’t care at all about students when they really do,” Chen said. “I just feel like [teachers] can’t see the full picture — they can’t see broad enough, like all the causes of stress and so that’s not their fault. It’s the job of the students to let the teachers know instead of complaining about the situation, so it’s something that both parties need to work together with in order to have the best results.

However, sophomore Sophie Ye feels that mindfulness activities aren’t effective at all and that it has never had a positive impact on her. Even in middle school, when there was a weekly advisory period designated for practicing and teaching about mindfulness, she never particularly liked it.

“A lot of the times … I didn’t personally enjoy the mindfulness activities because at the time, I was in middle school [and] I didn’t have much to think about anyway,” Ye said. “I didn’t really see a point in it at the time. Even now, I don’t really see much of a point in [it] because we meditate in PE but it doesn’t help in cool down, and it’s just an extra five minutes where I can possibly take a nap.”

Nevertheless, Kim believes that there are people who enjoy mindfulness, except they don’t admit it openly.

“People may not want to show that they’re … supporting of [mindfulness] because it might make them seem weak or [not] cool or whatever,” Kim said. “Some people like to show off that, ‘Oh my god, I’m so stressed. I slept two hours last night.’ People like to do that.”

Ye disagrees, claiming that she and many others see mindfulness as a waste of their class time or simply busywork.

“It’s probably not going to be very easy to find someone who appreciates mindfulness in MVHS,” Ye said. “Stress is the kind of environment that we live in, and stress is the kind of environment everyone is used to.”

Yet, Kim feels that in the ever-present stressful environment of MVHS, mindfulness is all the more important. With these mindfulness activities, Kim believes that her teachers are only trying to make it easier for students to cope.

“It’s so important — we need to be healthy to function well at our school and so that we don’t break down,” Kim said. “We don’t really [notice] that our teachers are really caring for us because we’re all so stressed all the time. But the fact that the teachers are actually going to conferences [about mindfulness] outside of school just to make us feel better in this environment is pretty touching, so [students] should actually appreciate it.”