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Can 'Mindfulness' Improve Learning?

Before teachers can teach, they need their students' attention. That's why it's worthwhile considering "mindfulness," which uses exercises to calm students and make them more receptive to instruction ("The Mindful Classroom," Time, Sep. 22).

The Compassionate Schools Project underway in 26 Louisville, Kentucky schools has produced better grades for students enrolled after 12 weeks than for students in a control group.  Moreover, the teachers involved in the program also benefited in handling their own stress.  That's no small consideration in light of the high rates of stress reported by teachers across the country today.

When I was teaching, I noticed a distinct difference in readiness to learn in my students depending on the hour of the school day.  First period was the calmest, probably because most students were not yet fully awake.  The worst period was the one right before lunch, probably because all students were hungry.  In both cases, I would have welcomed training in mindfulness.

I realize that tradition dies hard in education.  Some teachers will likely maintain that mindfulness is just another fad, or that the time devoted to it takes away from formal instruction.  But I believe it has the potential to make the classroom more conducive to learning.  If nothing else, it helps make school a more enjoyable place.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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