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Minnesota Teachers Curbing Distractions With Mindful Meditation

WAYZATA, Minn. (WCCO) -- One of the challenges school teachers face is getting students to pay attention.

Some teachers here in Minnesota are turning to new methods to manage classroom distractions. The new tactics are part of what's called "social and emotional learning." It's a nationwide trend.

Across the Twin Cities, teachers are receiving training to learn how to incorporate mindfulness meditation into the school day. Math teacher Seth Brown knows he's faced with a challenge when 8th graders at Wayzata West Middle School take their seats.

Their minds are often elsewhere.

"I have to teach those kids math with all their hormones, and all their social things. They just broke up with their boyfriend of two hours and they are crying because that was the love of their life. There's just a lot of things that go on in a teenager's life," Mr. Brown said.

That's why at the beginning and end of each Pre-Algebra class, everybody goes into timeout. They close their eyes and remain silent and still. This is a mindfulness exercise.

The students' brains are taking a break.

"So if you have a 48-minute class but you are thinking about everything else, you are not going to be really learning math. So it is worth it to take five to eight minutes of a 48-minute class, so if I can get 20 minutes of really focused learning time, they are going to learn it a lot better," Mr. Brown said.

He says he experimented with mindfulness exercises last school year. He discovered students were less stressed, more focused and more patient with one another.

"They are not all on the same page so instead of disrupting everyone else, they can use the mindfulness on their own to start breathing and maybe not burst out or pick on the kid next to them, because that's what teenagers do," Brown said.

And as they grow older, they may find that mindfulness continues to be valuable.

Other school districts, including Minneapolis and Eastern Carver County, are also training teachers in social and emotional learning to try to improve student behavior and classroom climate.

Here is more information on the Mindfulness in Schools Project.

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