Edutopia has an interesting story about a principal at a troubled San Francisco middle school who instituted (among other holistic changes) twice daily meditation sessions for students. The results, according to the piece, have been dramatic: Suspension and truency rates at the school are down, while GPAs and teacher retention are up. “I definitely saw a correlation between [students’] behavior, being more manageable in class, and their beginning to meditate more,” says a special education teacher at the school.
In a related post, education psychologist Daniel Willingham, who admits he once would have rolled his eyes at this sort of thing, says there might be something to the meditation-student improvement connection. While the available research isn’t yet conclusive, he stresses, a growing number of studies point to the possibility that a regular meditation practice might benefit some students:
The last five or ten years has seen a burgeoning research literature on the cognitive benefits of mindfulness meditation—that style of meditation in which one focuses one's thoughts on the present moment and emphasizes a[n] open, non-judgmental attitude towards thoughts and sensations. ... From a cognitive point of view, the daily practice in the management and control of attention might yield benefits for students. This sort of attentional control is positively associated with academic outcomes.
The Edutopia article suggests that teachers might do well to partake, too. A number of the teachers at the middle school profiled say meditation has helped improve their physical health as well as their attitude and responsiveness. “I’m nicer,” says one. “I’m still strict, but a lot nicer.” That sounds like a pretty good combination for a teacher.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.