Mindfulness give students a new way to focus during school hours

Chris Johnson

High school students go to school for about seven hours a day, and within that schedule there are few chances to relax their bodies, minds, and completely focus. Students rush from class to class, getting assignment after assignment.

As stress builds for students, it is easy to become overwhelmed. While stress is common in high school, some staff believe that mindfulness is key to lowering stress and keeping students focused.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. Most staff members who teach it have their own distinctions, but teach it with a fundamental basis. It begins with clearing the mind and using controlled breathing. After that, teachers bring in their own variation, but all with one purpose: to allow the students to calm their minds and put all of their focus into the class.

Multiple teachers practice mindfulness on campus with their students. One of the most avid mindfulness teachers is English teacher Amity Hotchkiss.

“We do it at least twice a week, for five to ten minutes. We have three steps. Mindful bodies, mindful breathing, and mindful sound,” Hotchkiss said.

Students often find themselves in class spending an hour and a half sitting in one spot working on one task. This is a challenging task for most people, let alone a high schooler. Some students believe that taking the limited time to practice mindfulness can enhance their focusing abilities.

“Mindfulness makes me take a break from the fast-paced world around me and relax into the moment instead,” senior Jack Saavedra said.

Some students believe it is a balance of work received, paired with outside distractions that cause their lack of focus. However English teacher Mary Kitchens believes the primary reason is new technology. She said that if there ever was a time to implement a focusing strategy for students it would be now.

“I know students often say the top stressor in their life is homework, but I know in talking with other teachers, it’s not the amount of homework. If anything it’s become less. But what has changed is that students have so many other things pulling their attention.” Kitchens said.

Last year the district offered workshops on mindfulness and its benefits in the classroom which was attended by some mindfulness advocates. Many of those who don’t teach or practice mindfulness feel a lack of exposure rather than not believing in it. Teachers may feel uncomfortable if they don’t have the sufficient ability to teach it correctly.

Another reason some teachers don’t teach mindfulness is because they don’t believe their students find it helpful.

“It seems like many of the students don’t take it seriously. Sometimes I feel like the students waste more time than they would save by keeping students focused,” senior Josh Burr said.

As more research comes out, teachers will be able to assess how mindfulness can affect their students. In a recent New York Times article, published in November, 2016, Lesley Alderman said “Consciously changing the way you breath sends a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which can slow heart rate and digestion and promote feelings of calm as well as the sympathetic system, which controls the release of stress hormones like cortisol.”