Detention! get out! There is a better way. let's bring peace to the next generation…
I was one of the lucky ones... although I was cheeky, ‘disruptive’, ‘dyslexic’ and had more than my fair share of detention at school, I also chose to study Drama G.C.S.E. with our lovely teacher who taught us all to meditate at the start of every lesson. It was one real life skill I learnt through those years, calming the mind, moving energy through my body and the immense power of meditation, which I continued to go back to throughout my life. So, my short answer is yes, let’s teach mediation throughout our schools, regularly and bring peace to the new generation. Perhaps this approach could be used to tackle all sorts of anger issues, self loathing, extremes of emotions and even challenge self-harm, knife crime and bullying, so often found in schools these days. So how do we get this all going? Who to approach? And how do we prove the remarkable effects meditation can have on young people?
Let’s take a little look…
Imagine you're working at a school and one of the kids is starting to act up. What do you do? The usual answer would be to give the unruly kid detention or or even suspension. In my memory, detention tended to involve staring at walls… bored out of my mind, trying to either surreptitiously talk to the kids around me (also cheeky chaps) without getting caught or trying to read or doodle my books, by writing my favourite raps or poems over and over, isolation was even worse. If it was designed to make me think about my actions, it didn't really work. I learnt to recall the whole of The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rappers Delight’ (still can) but it mainly just made me and everything feel pretty stupid (not great for a dyslexic kid) and unfair, though I do remember thinking just how boring and awful it was and that I should really try to not ever get back there… but the little joker in my personality would eventually win over and I would be back in detention again.
We all want happy, healthy lives for our children. Teaching kids how to meditate can give them a jump start to accessing the many benefits of meditation. Even though today’s kids exhibit elevated levels of restlessness, stress and anxiety, only a small percentage of children in the UK meditate. Yet several studies suggest that kids who practice mindfulness tend to develop positive traits such as increased self-control, better attentiveness in class, and more empathy and respect for others. In addition, meditation may help children manage challenging conditions such as stress, depression, ADHD and hyperactivity.
Clearly, introducing kids to mindfulness can benefit them now and in the long run including difficult children with violence or anger tendencies. Meditation spaces in schools have been popping up in the US to help deal with their youth problems and it’s had wonderful results.
In the US, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has been doing something different when students act out: offering meditation.
And.. it’s working. Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the Head's office, the Baltimore, MD, school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.
The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it's filled with lamps, mats, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are guided and taught these skills and also asked to talk through what happened. Remarkable results followed. Philips said that at Robert W. Coleman Elementary, there have been exactly zero suspensions last year and so far this year. Meanwhile, nearby Patterson Park High School, which also uses the mindfulness programs, said suspension rates dropped and attendance increased as well.
Is that wholly from the mindfulness practices? It's impossible to say, but those are pretty remarkable numbers, all the same. Meditation and mindfulness are pretty interesting, scientifically. Mindful meditation has been around in some form or another for thousands of years. Recently, though, science has started looking at its effects on our minds and bodies, and it's finding some interesting effects.
Here are a few benefits with a touch of science:
Enhanced Focus : One study, for example, suggested that mindful meditation could give practicing soldiers a kind of mental armor against disruptive emotions, and it can improve memory too. A group of U.S marines preparing for deployment spent two hours each week practicing mindfulness meditation training for a period of eight weeks. These marines showed marked improvements in moods and working memory, which allows for short-term retrieval and storage of information, compared to marines who did not meditate. The researchers observed that practicing mindfulness meditation in highly stressful and emotional situations like going off to war allowed them to stay alert and in the moment without being overly emotional. A great skill for pupils to learn.
Fostering Compassion & Self Esteem : Have you ever wondered how the Dalai Lama remains kindhearted and compassionate despite the raging violence tearing apart his home country? The secret to the exiled Tibetan leader’s unwavering magnanimity may lie in mindfulness-based meditation. A study conducted at Northeastern University College of Science showed that even a brief meditation intervention made participants 50% more compassionate. In yet another study published both experienced and non-experienced meditators who practiced compassion meditation, which is widely practiced by Tibetan leaders, showed more brain activity in regions linked with empathy while meditating than when not meditating. Richie Davidson, a neuroscientist, and Paul Ekman – one of the world’s leading researchers on emotions – performed a series of studies on The Dalai Lama’s right hand man Lama Oser – a European monk with over 30 years of meditative experience.
The researchers found that Lama Oser’s left-to-right pre-frontal cortex activity ratio (measured with an MRI scanner and compared to a sample of 175 people) was quite literally off the chart! His pre-frontal cortex activity ratio asymmetry indicated insane levels of equanimity, well-being, and resilience to setbacks, all of which were largely attributed to his discipline of mindfulness. All life skills needed to succeed. Could this be one of the tools we use to combat knife crime in our schools? It must be worth a try?!
Boosting Confidence : We are in a very difficult time for our children’s mental health, especially with the explosion of social media and self harm. Research has robustly demonstrated that children’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being influences their future physical and mental health, educational outcomes, social prospects, and quality of life in adulthood . Specifically, the ability to regulate emotions is correlated with higher levels of well-being and learning outcomes in both children and adults.
Building Empathy, Creativity & Happiness : Research has robustly demonstrated that children’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being influences their future physical and mental health, educational outcomes, social prospects, and quality of life in adulthood . Specifically, the ability to regulate emotions is correlated with higher levels of well-being and learning outcomes in both children and adults.
Not only that but it is studied to improve creativity, a life’s gift. The two main factors that determine levels of creativity are: divergent thinking (coming up with lots of ideas) and convergent thinking (solidifying those ideas into one brilliant concept.). Interestingly, the type of meditation performed had an impact on which type of creative thinking was improved. For example, free association meditation improved divergent thinking more than focused attention meditation. A 2012 UCLA study found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification, or folding of the brain’s cortex than people who don’t meditate. The extra folds may allow the meditators to process information faster than others and avoid ruminating on past events, which can distort our thinking and decision making process.
Practicing as little as one 15-minute focused breathing meditation can get you out of your head, remove the bias from your brain and help you think more clearly. Now that really is something we need to teach in schools! The argument for it is so strong, but how do we get the government and schools to take note?
Launched by The Duchess of Cambridge as a legacy of the Heads Together Campaign, the UK’s leading child mental health and education experts from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, Place2Be and YoungMinds have worked in partnership with The Royal Foundation to create Mentally Healthy Schools, an easy to use website and resource.
Together they have curated over 600 resources on this website, all reviewed and quality-assured by experts in the sector. In each section across the site you will find jargon free information, practical signposts, support and advice, easy to use lesson plans, activities, assemblies and more. You don't need to be a mental health expert to use Mentally Healthy Schools - it has been designed with teachers in mind and it’s a great place to start, then move to the meditation charities in the UK some are listed below.
Does your child’s school teach mindfulness? Is detention still practiced for punishment? Comment below.
You are welcome to share this with your school, with your teachers, your friends and family, your gym, drama, dance club, scouts and brownies. Mindfulness in schools is not just about children and young people; it is also very much about those who care for them. The benefits of mindfulness in the adult world are well-researched and the positive impact it can have on teachers, counsellors and carers. These benefits include: stress regulation and reduction, increased self compassion and increased teaching efficacy.
We want to have meditation practiced in all our schools and teach the next generation peace not war.
The Mindfulness Foundation has a huge amount of information for your reading here. As well as Mindfulness in Schools who support schools in establishing their practice and train teachers and others in mindfulness, the video above of Amy Footman, Head of School, Stanley Grove Primary Academy, and Paws B teacher trainer on BBC Breakfast trained though Mindfulness In Schools.