For the past couple of years, the topic of mindfulness has been at the forefront for educators around the world. Mindfulness in schools has never been more important, but many parents and students are still learning about what it is and how it can benefit children at all stages of development.
At OWIS, we work to strategically implement mindfulness within the curriculum of our international primary school. We believe that giving attention to this area for students improves their general sense of well-being at our school.
Learn more about mindfulness at One World International School from this edited transcript of Mr Prem Kumar Rajoo’s presentation as part of our Parent Partnership Series. Mr Rajoo is the Senior Coordinator for Pastoral Care for Early Childhood and Primary School.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of being aware and present in the current moment.
There are two aspects to this from the perspective of our students:
- One of the main focus areas in mindfulness is to be able to appreciate what you have. Instead of being too focused on what’s going to happen next, you enjoy the current moment and accept that there is no right or wrong path. This is life; it is not a subject, an assessment or an examination. As you go along, you learn.
- Relationships with peers and friends are important to students. To manage these relationships, managing emotions is important. Mindfulness gives students the opportunity to explore how they feel and react to things around them in very simple terms. For example, take the intensity of anger that they feel when they get into a conflict with another classmate. By practising mindfulness, we can help them to understand, “Is this much anger needed? How else could you have coped with it? How can you move forward from this?”
When both parents and children have an understanding of what mindfulness is, they can practise this skill together. It has the power to transform both home life and academic life.
Most Common Misconceptions about Mindfulness in Schools
Before you can fully understand what mindfulness is, you need to be aware of what it is not. These are some of the most common misconceptions about mindfulness for students:
Mindfulness Myth #1: Mindfulness Is All about Meditation
While meditation can be one way to achieve mindfulness, it is not the only way. There are many other ways to become a more mindful individual.
Mindfulness Myth #2: Mindfulness Is a Religious Practice
Many people mistakenly assume that mindfulness is a Buddhist practice, but in fact, nearly all types of organised religion incorporate mindfulness into their practices. Mindfulness is not an exclusively religious experience.
Mindfulness Myth #3: Mindfulness Is Achieved through Relaxation
One of the most common misconceptions about mindfulness is that you can only be mindful if you are in a relaxed state of mind. In reality, however, you are being mindful as long as you are aware of the current moment — and any emotions that you are experiencing at that time.
Mindfulness Myth #4: Mindfulness Is about Getting Rid of Negative Thoughts
Mindfulness is not about controlling your thoughts, but rather, it’s about being aware of what you are currently thinking and feeling.
Mindfulness Myth #5: Mindfulness Is the Key to Happiness
Rather than trying to achieve happiness through mindfulness, you should work on practising mindfulness to experience emotions without letting them overwhelm you.
Mindfulness for Children: What It Looks Like at OWIS
At OWIS, we have incorporated mindfulness into our routines and curriculum in a variety of ways. For example, mindfulness at our international primary school involves:
Providing Students with Opportunities to Meditate
Meditation is one of the best ways to teach mindfulness to our students. Meditation plays a key role in our daily lives at school, and we find that students are also able to rely on it outside of the classroom. We begin meditation by asking all students in the class to sit in a circle on the carpet. They are asked to cross their legs, close their eyes and ease their minds. During this time, they are able to reflect on their thoughts, eliminate distractions and learn to be more present in the moment.
Creating an Awareness of Their Surroundings
One of the activities that is very commonly done in classes is getting students to be aware of their surroundings, but at the same time, to be able to understand what they can be really thankful for. We do an activity called five senses, and we encourage our students to focus on five things that you see, four things you can feel around you, three things that you hear in a classroom, two things that you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Most importantly, these are things that our learners are thankful and grateful for to be able to have and experience.
Teaching Students the Art of Mindfulness Photography
Young children in primary school may not be able to express their feelings using words, but they are able to depict their feelings with images more accurately. We give them a chance to showcase their feelings by allowing them to take a preferred device and take pictures of their surroundings. The images they capture can provide insight into their feelings, but the process also teaches them about making mistakes and resiliency. Of course, no picture is perfect — and that’s okay. The point is to showcase who you are and what you are feeling, and how you can accept both of those things.
Benefits of Mindfulness for Children
Mindfulness in school has endless benefits for children. At One World International School, we have found that our mindfulness practices have allowed children to:
- Feel happier while they are in school. Our students spend the majority of their days on campus. We want them to feel happy, welcome and at ease. Mindfulness allows them to be aware of their emotions, in control of the situation and more content in their space.
- Manage their stress more easily. Students feel comfortable interacting with their teachers and sharing any issues that have arisen throughout the day, and teachers are trained to rely on mindfulness practices. These exercises can alleviate stress and help students better manage their emotions during the school day.
- Focus on the task at hand. They feel less distracted and less overwhelmed and are able to take on the day’s tasks better.
Mindfulness Activities to Try
Mindfulness isn’t just for students. These mindfulness activities can help you or anyone you know become more mindful and aware:
- Go for a walk, and notice your surroundings. Pluck a colourful wildflower, or observe a bird in its nest. Bring your child on your next walk, and be open to their observations. Use them to kick-start a conversation.
- Craft a glitter jar with your child. The next time either one of you is feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or upset, shake the glitter jar and watch the glitter fall. By the time all of the sparkles have settled, your emotions will have settled as well.
- Think about five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste in the space you are in. This simple activity will help you centre yourself.
As a leading international school in Singapore, we are proud to incorporate mindfulness into our school day. At OWIS, we believe that focusing on the holistic development of our students while offering them an enriching academic experience best prepares them for a fulfilling and rewarding life.
For more information about mindfulness in schools and how we nurture habits related to mindfulness for students at OWIS, contact us today.