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Introduction/Background:

Recent research suggests that mindfulness interventions may be beneficial for all

students, especially those who have endured trauma or stress. More than half of all children have

experienced trauma or stress. These experiences can negatively impact a student's behavior,

academic performance, and social-emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness and yoga practices can help

to increase the physical, emotional, social, and mental well-being of young students. Children

cannot be expected to thrive academically if they are not emotionally balanced.


Rationale:

I have chosen this topic because I am really passionate about working with kids with

emotional and behavioral differences. I have a specific interest in advocating for children with

behavioral and/or emotional issues. Children with behavioral and emotional issues are often

misunderstood and not given the right tools to succeed. After diving into much research on the

topic, I found that the implementation of mindfulness practices not only benefits students with

behavioral and emotional need, but all students and teachers as well. I believe that if we can help

children in our schools learn to navigate their emotions and teach them healthy ways to manage

stress, we will help them thrive socially, emotionally, and academically.

Review of Literature:

Traditional school discipline methods such as expulsions, suspensions, and detentions do

little to solve the underlying issues which cause students to misbehave. Misbehavior among

children is more often than not misdirected behavior. Without the proper internal tools to deal

with stress, trauma, or even just the everyday social and emotional demands that come along

with growing up, many students become frustrated and lash out. In his book Lost at School, Dr.

Ross Greene (2009) discusses how students with behavior or emotional issues, especially

students who have endured trauma or stress, do not benefit from harsh discipline methods, such
as zero tolerance policies, in school. In fact, "A review of ten years of research found that these

policies not only failed to make schools safe or more effective in handling student behavior, but

actually increased behavior problems and dropout rates" (Greene, 2009, p. 2). It is

counterproductive to attempt to force children to behave through the threat of punishment.

Instead, students should be taught how to navigate stress and emotion internally in order to

manage their own external behavior.


Childhood trauma can and create any number of social, emotional, and/or behavioral

issues as well as detrimentally affect a student's ability to learn. Studies show that between one

half and one third of all children experience trauma (McInerney & McKlindon, 2014).

Mindfulness practices are one way children can develop the inner resources to deal with stress

and trauma. The journal article Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes of a School-Based

Mindfulness Intervention for Urban Youth discusses the negative impact stress can have on

students. Students who do not have the tools to deal with stress are at risk of suffering from

social emotional problems, behavior issues, and/or poor academic success. The study from this

article "supports previous research suggesting that mindfulness-based approaches may be

beneficial for enhancing responses to stress among youth" (Mendelson et al., 2010, p. 992).
Furthermore, the journal article, Contemplative Practices and Mental Training:

Prospects for American Education brings to light research based on neuroscience that supports

the benefits of using contemplative practices in schools. According to Davidson et al. (2012),

research suggests mindfulness and emotion regulation practices may produce beneficial changes

in brain function and structure. These findings lend to the idea that when students regularly

practice mindfulness skills, they are more likely automatically regulate their behavior when

needed. "Contemplative practices that promise to improve the regulation of attention, emotion,

motivation, social cognition, and behavior are one potential strategy for reducing the risks
children face and improving both social and academic outcomes through schools today"

(Davidson et al., 2012).

Description of the Process:

Goals for Learning:

When beginning this project, my goal was to learn how mindfulness practices can help

students of varying levels of emotional and behavioral need. I also hoped to learn what types of

mindfulness exercises students would respond to, and to what degree older elementary school

children would want to engage in the practice.

Process:

Before I began this project, I did not have a specific plan but I knew I wanted to

implement a mindfulness practice into a local elementary school somehow. I began by setting up

a meeting with the principal of Oak Grove Elementary School to discuss possible options. The

principal was more than accommodating. She offered me several suggestions and gave me the

freedom to build my own program. I decided that I would like to lead a brief yoga and

mindfulness class for a group of students. The principal discussed this with several teachers and

together they put together a group of twenty fifth graders to attend my class. Since then, I have

been leading a fifteen minute yoga and mindfulness class two days a week in the morning before

the students begin class.

Evaluation of the process:

The implementation of this project has been a seamless process. Everything just seemed

to fall into place as I built this project. The only thing I would change to improve the project

would be to have a little more time for the class. I think that fifteen minutes is the perfect amount

of time for a quick yoga session followed by a mindfulness exercise. However, it usually takes at
least five minutes for all of the students to arrive and get settled. If I were able, I would carve out

twenty minutes to make up for transitions at the beginning and end of class.
While the classes are brief and only two days a week, I believe they have been of great benefit to

the students involved. This class is not a requirement for this group of students but many of them

attend every session. Based on the feedback I have received from students, teachers, and the

principal, I can fairly confidently conclude that this class has helped students better manage their

stress and helped them to stay focused for longer periods of time in class.
Reflections:
This project has not only taught me a great deal about teaching students mindfulness

practices, but I have also learned much about myself throughout the process. Sometimes it can be

difficult to lead a group of fifth graders in a guided mediation. I found that at times I had to

muster up a great deal of patience to encourage such a large group of students to relax.

Additionally, I found that I often had to rely on my natural ability to be flexible and adapt to the

mood of the students each day. Many days I would arrive to class with a carefully prepared plan

for the session only to find that the kids were not in any mood for it. I quickly learned that I

needed to have a backup plan (or two) every day.

While there were times when things didn't work out exactly as I had planned, this

experience has been entirely positive for me. This experience has realized for me the positive

impact mindfulness practices can have on our youth. Moving forward, I will be an advocate for

the implementation of mindfulness in schools. I have plans to integrate many of these techniques

into the curriculum of my future classroom.

References

Greene, R. W. (2009). Lost at school: Why our kids with behavioral challenges are falling

through the cracks and how we can help them. New York: Scribner.
J Davidson, R., Dunne, J., Eccles, J. S., Engle, A., Greenberg, M., Jennings, P., ... & Roeser,

R. W. (2012). Contemplative practices and mental training: Prospects for

American education. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 146-153.

McInerney, M., & McKlindon, A. (2014). Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma

Informed Classrooms and Transformational Schools. Education Law Center. Web.

Unlocking the Door to Learning: TraumaInformed http://www. elc-pa. org/wp-

Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B. L., & Leaf, P. J.

(2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness

intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(7), 985-994.

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