As educators, policy makers, and school leaders, we must consider how our actions and agendas impact our students. Everything we do must be aligned to holistic student success, and put it first: in educating the next generation of leaders, we must consider what traits these leaders will promote and what habits these leaders will adopt. We must consider how our own traits and habits inform our students'. We must consider what “student success” looks like, and how we recognize and promote it. We must give voice to students whose experiences truly reveal character learning. The education and classroom environment that we create should not be confined to desks, textbooks, or iPads, and should not be as linear as we sometimes make it out to be. The education that we create for our students should be adaptive, reflective, and transformative. It must enable students to be more resilient, cognitively flexible, and intellectually curious through developing self-actualization, self-awareness, self-advocacy, and self-control skills. The rest will follow.
Christine Galib, Founder of Plan My Plate and Wellness Director at The Village School, shares two of her students’ reflections on mindfulness and meditation. The Village School is a coeducational, non-denominational college preparatory private school in Houston, Texas. The school serves over 1700 students in preschool through 12th grade, and has an international student body, with students representing six continents and more than 50 countries. Contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack and Daniil are students in my Mindfulness and Stress Management Class, and share their reflections on mindfulness and meditation. They also participated in a meditation on the Day of Wellness at The Village School.
Reflections from Jack, 11th grade student
My name is Jack, and I'm one of the international students from China. It's my first year at The Village School. Since I’m taking the full IB Diploma, I also have the opportunity to take Ms. Galib's Mindfulness and Stress Management course. In this course, we learned about stress and how it impacts the body, and practiced mindfulness and meditation. This is really important for me, because I need to learn how to manage my own stress. This is the first time I’ve had the chance to take a course like this.
The Mindfulness course has helped me become more aware of, and manage, my mental health. This is because meditation is part of mindfulness. Both are really helpful for people who are stressed, because mindfulness helps slow down the moment and meditation helps build attention and awareness skills. Nowadays, people's lifestyles are really fast. As students, we always have a lot of work. Under this high pressure lifestyle, with many demands on my time and attention, I find myself stressed out very easily. So, having a set class period during the day to meditate is a necessity for me.
When I first was introduced to meditation, my initial feeling during the meditation exercises was to fall asleep. During the meditation, my eyes were closed, and when I heard the prompt to imagine a mountain, I became so relaxed that I fell asleep. But, the more we meditated, the easier it became to visualize these images and pay attention to my breath.
Being more mindful has helped me identify and manage my stressors. Also, once I realized how stress is linked to chronic disease, I realized the importance of making time now to incorporate mindfulness practices into my daily routine as a student.
Reflections from Daniil, 11th grade student
Hi to everyone! My name is Daniil, and I was born in the Ukraine. I am junior at The Village School. It is my first year here, but I enjoy it a lot because I have many opportunities to develop my knowledge and to discover new things. This year we have a new course and it’s called Mindfulness and Stress Management. I had never heard of mindfulness before, but since August, I have started practicing mindfulness through this class.
Being more mindful has helped me stay in the present moment and find stillness in stressful situations. In stressful situations, when I have so many thoughts rushing through my head, being able to slow down the moment to let the thoughts pass without judgement helps me stay calm and focused. I’ve also noticed that I can better remember my daily experiences.
Practicing “5 Breaths” has also been a very calming exercise for me. We turn off the classroom lights, our cell phones, and our laptops, and sit in a comfortable seated position, sometimes on a meditation cushion and sometimes on the yoga mat, with our eyes closed. We pay attention to our breath. Following Ms. Galib's narration, we take five breaths. I find this exercise pleasant and relaxing. And, for those who think they do not have time for it — this exercise does not take that long! In fact, it takes maybe 3 minutes to do! Afterwards, I am more aware of my feelings and feel like my energy has increased, too.
Had it not been for this class, I would have never tried “5 Breaths” before. I have been very impressed after just a few Mindfulness classes. It seems so simple but it has really helped me. It not only gives me rest or relaxation, but also gives me the ability to think more clearly, concentrate more, and become more open-minded to others’ perspectives. I advise everyone to try being more mindful, starting with just five breaths: it will help you to cope with stresses and to improve your well-being — it will make your life healthier, calmer, and more enjoyable.