On his first day teaching at Coronado Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., students threw rocks at Jean-Gabrielle Larochette, pretending he was a police officer. He spent fifteen minutes of every class calming down a handful of kids in this low-income-neighborhood public school who wouldn’t follow directions or behave.

Larochette began practicing meditation and mindfulness to cope with his own stresses of teaching and supporting traumatized kids. He believed the breathing techniques that helped calm his fears might work for his students too, so he founded the Mindful Life Project.

“Before we can teach a kid how to academically excel in school, we need to teach him how to have stillness, pay attention, stay on task, regulate, make good choices,” said Larochette. “We tell kids be quiet, calm yourself down, be still. We tell them all these things they need in the classroom, but we’re not teaching them how to do that.”

The project has since grown and is now being incorporated in a group of elementary schools in Richmond, in an attempt to improve academic performance and create a more positive school culture by teaching students mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to exist in the present moment and practicing it often looks like meditation. Schools across the country are beginning to use mindfulness as part of an effort to address the social and emotional needs of children, improving student achievement in the process.

“My hour of lost teaching time because of behavior problems went down to about 15 minutes a day –that meant almost a whole other day of teaching,” Larochette said. “I had to figure out what I could do to bring this to the rest of the schools in our area.”

Studies of mindfulness programs in schools have found that regular practice — even just a few minutes per day — improves student self-control and increases their classroom participation, respect for others, happiness, optimism, and self-acceptance levels. It can help reduce absenteeism and suspensions too. A mindfulness practice helps reduce activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center responsible for fear and stress reactions.

“The other thing we know mindfulness does with the brain is it increases the activity in the prefrontal cortex,” said Vicki Zakrzewski, education director at the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, which studies the science behind mindfulness. “This is where we make our decisions, how we plan, our abstract thinking,” she said.

Educators at Nystrom Elementary school in Richmond are seeing some of those positive effects in their students. “This year is much better,” said third-grade teacher Glenna Hamilton. “Last year, it was just horrible.” One of Hamilton’s most disruptive students became more respectful and responsible since he began receiving mindfulness training. “If he does something incorrect, instead of being argumentative with me, he really thinks about it and realizes, ‘I didn’t make a good choice,’ and I see him self-correcting,” she said.

Nystrom’s school culture has shifted since the student began mindfulness training, said Principal LeDonna Williams. Students now have a common language to use when they want to calm each other down and fewer students are being sent to her office. When a student does act up, Williams will sometimes ask them to practice mindfulness before she addresses the problem. “Then you see the little fists releasing and their temperament coming down and they’re willing to talk to you a little more candidly about what their issues are,” Williams said. “They use it, they really do and it’s nice to see that.”


Many students at Nystrom directly know people who have been killed and others experience trauma secondhand from living in a violent neighborhood. In 2013, there were four homicides, 39 armed robberies and 47 assaults with a deadly weapon reported to the police in South Richmond.

“There’s a lot of grief and loss,” Williams said. “A lot of students experience violence on a daily basis, either in the home or in the community. And it’s coming out in their school work, in their interactions with other students, the climate of the school, it affects that.”

 ” credit=”Katrina Schwartz

All the schools the Mindful Life Project works with have seen drops in detentions and referrals, said Larochette. At Nystrom, 18 kids accounted for 82 percent of the suspensions. At the beginning of their mindfulness training those kids were suspended 62 times in the first trimester. After three trimesters of mindfulness practice, that rate had dropped to 20.

“When we look at low-performing schools it’s not that these children are unable to learn, it’s that very often they are unavailable to learn,” said Madeline Kronenberg, a West Contra Costa County school board member. “They’re not able to focus; they’re so fixated on other things that are going on in their lives that it’s difficult for them to be able to find space for learning. Our job is to educate these kids and the way you educate them is that they need to be available to learn.”

At Nystrom, students report using mindfulness in a variety of situations. “When there are older kids, we were playing football and he hit me pretty hard on purpose,” said sixth-grader Tayshawn Newman. “We were going to get into a huge argument, and I just said, ‘Forget it.’ I took a deep breath and said, ‘Forget it.’” Another student reported that the mindfulness training makes him feel calmer and that he uses it when he feels like hitting someone. Another boy said he uses his mindfulness practice when he has trouble falling asleep.

The mindfulness instructors understand that for many kids the ability to create inward calm is crucial when external quiet is hard to come by.

“The idea was to really create a grassroots movement,” said Larochette. “A movement that’s within, that stays within, that solidifies within and then meeting our kids when they get to middle school and high school and sustaining those opportunities and having a mindful life project instead of just mindfulness for eight to 10 weeks or a couple of years.”

The project is in the process of finalizing contracts with two of the biggest middle schools in the area. They hope mindfulness will follow elementary school graduates, helping them navigate middle school and eventually high school. Ultimately, Larochette would love to have high school mindfulness students come back to mentor younger students.

Check out what the Mindful Life Project looks like in action.

Low-Income Schools See Big Benefits in Teaching Mindfulness 19 April,2017Katrina Schwartz

  • Toby Sumerfield

    Enjoyed reading this and gave me some great ideas for my PE class Monday morning!

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  • Heinslor

    Interesting – I would like to know how they set this up in the typical lower income school with few resources and larger class sizes (I am assuming these schools are in the same situation as most). I like Toby’s comment about incorporating this in PE. Religious schools could (and probably do) use prayer for this.

    • Landis Marks

      I whisper something with a handshake to every kid before an activity starts. It is personal and heart felt. What I have learned through practice is that kids calm down whenever you direct something to one person instead of the group. Kids rarely concentrate when you speak to them as an ensemble, BUT if you calmly talk to one they are more likely to calm themselves. Free tip.

      • Landis Marks

        In other kids are curious and nosy. Use it to your advantage!

    • Dennis Nappi II


      As classroom teachers we could even do it on our own with zero cost. We can find a way to make it work, regardless of funds. But a school wide program would be great.

    • susanne

      I teach third grade in a lower income school with 30 kids. I’m following the curriculum from mindfulschools.org and I’m finding it to be a great concrete structure. I do a new lesson with a new “tool” about once or twice a week and then we practice every day when we come in from recess. At this point, the kids can meditate for about 4 minutes comfortably, which I think is impressive of them. Also, the kids use the techniques to calm themselves and avoid fights (reported to me by them). Often, if the kids are particularly antsy and struggling to pay attention in class, I’ll have us all take a few mindful breaths to get refocussed.

  • j gran

    I, being an old lady, remember back to when I attended school in the 50’s….they taught us this but didn’t call it mindfulness. At that time it was called discipline.

    • Katesey

      I think you largely miss the point of mindfulness, which involves a nonjudgemental nonattachment state of mind to addressing and processing feelings and emotions that comes from somewhere much deeper inside of oneself (much like what psychologists call “intrinsic motivation”), instead of a fear of punishment or correction from an authority (maybe like “extrinsic motivation”).

      • Amy

        Perhaps she meant self discipline? Because mindfulness takes a bit of self discipline.

    • james

      Man, what kind of school did you go to that did yoga and made an effort to treat children like thinking human beings?

    • Landis Marks

      Great the Jim Crow era. People sho’ knew how to treat folk back then!(sorry for the obligatory internet chat chain yank :-)) Come on friend what is wrong with teaching kids strategies that they can use for life? I have been practicing Buddhism for 35 years and work and volunteer with children from inner-city back -grounds to wealthy kids and special needs kids as well. My practice works. It is non-religious and child centered. I have less discipline problems than the disciplinarians.In fact if a kid has problems acting out I always take them. The problem is I can’t get fellow coaches or teachers to follow my methods even though they marvel at the results I get. Why? It is because first the instructor has to learn mindfulness. If the teacher lets go of his/her ego, the children follow. Ego is the enemy.

      • susanne

        With all due respect (thank you for your service), leading a class of 30 through a mandated curriculum does not always allow for time to talk with one troubled child while the other 29 sit waiting to be taught. Try to teach long division and handle a disruptive child at the same time. And fyi, my class practices mindfulness every day (3rd grade). It absolutely helps, as do clear consequences for behavior and one on one talking as you suggest. I don’t think teachers’ egos are necessarily the problem.

    • electcom

      oh is that were the term JV was developed using the old spare the rod theroy

  • Kim Massicotte

    Very insightful, for the students and the teachers. As an education assistant, I often find myself elevating to a place of anger instead of moving in a positive direction when attempting to rectify a situation between students, or between students and myself. Thank you, I will definitely continue to learn more about this mode of teaching.and thinking.

    • susanne

      Please, please, please, check out mindfulschools.org! I’m a teacher, and the FIRST thing this work did was to help ME not to get to that point. Now I do it with the kids (2nd and 3rd grade) and now we all help each other.

  • Dennis Nappi II

    This is a fantastic idea. I have taught in three of the most challenging districts in Pennsylvania. I have had classrooms much like the one described with desks and chairs thrown at me and attempted assaults on the regular. Add to the fact that I’m a former police officer and my students wanted to kill me. But I have found when you can get through all of their distractions, and there are many, you see that these angry “City kids” are just children. They want to learn and they want someone to care about them. We are in a state of crisis with or education system but with ideas such as this one,we can make a change! These Children are our future and they need our help. Great idea and an excellent article. Thank you for sharing.


    • susanne

      Me too (North Philly to be exact)! Now I’m in Oakland, CA and I just finished an online course in teaching mindfulness to my students through mindfulschools.org. I highly recommend it as a place to start.

      • Landis Marks

        One on one greeting is something that is done as the kids walk in. 30 kids is just too many. Wow

        • susanne

          You’d be surprised. You really can get to most of them at some point while they’re hanging up coats, getting out homework. I do it less formally than you, but I try to comment on new hairstyles, new football, etc. I must say though, that I’ve always done this and the mindfulness activities are vastly different and so far, much more effective.

  • Zeana Bey

    Trying to activate the prefrontal cortex to increase rational thought and decision making in children when the prefrontal cortex doesn’t finish fully maturing until 25 years old in girls and 26 years old in boys…ummm? . Additionally, the process of synaptigenisis and neural pruning (increase in brain growth and then pruning away neurons leaving only the strongest connections as a way to refine skills) had already occurred when children enter the school system and won’t occur again until 12 to 13. Meaning that using mindfulness to somehow jumpstart the growth of the prefrontal cortex and thus the executive processing of a small child is bad logic using incomplete science.

    I totally support using mindfulness for children with trauma and as a way to teach emotional self regulation and calm down the resulting over responsive limbic response. I support using it aswell as increase participation, optimism etc. What I don’t approve of is the use as implied by the first quote which is to teach a bunch of young children how to sit down, be quiet, and pay attention. Almost every single piece of research on child’s development indicates that such expectations are not developmentally appropriate and it’s worrisome when a teachers goal of teaching mindfulness is to impose adultified behaviors onto children, particularly children with trauma who typically become parentified as a result and never get the chance to experience safely engaging in typical childhood behaviors

    • KatesieC

      I had a similar discomfort with some of the framing here. My sense is that it’s a “sit down and pay attention” culture’s appropriation of mindfulness. Same thing about “they don’t disrupt class as much now so I have even more teaching time!” How about outside, free play time? But given that that’s the system in place, I’d rather the kids have learned emotional self-regulation than be diagnosed an drugged ADHD. It’s a step in the right direction. And maybe those kids can come out of that system with a healthier sense of that reality/system via their practice, and then motivated to help change it…

      • susanne

        It helps with focus and blocking out distractions, it’s not about disruptions. Outside play is not necessarily the answer, particularly when outside play leads to arguments and disagreements that come back into the classroom because children don’t have a strategy for responding. Most kids who fight recognize afterwards that it was indeed not the best way to handle the situation. Mindfulness helps them make the decision in the moment.

    • Landis Marks

      I don’t think they are trying to jump start a process and I get totally what you are saying about trying to “adultify” kids rather than have them go thru their normal cognitive maturation process BUT maybe this can get children to take advantage of their natural tendency to daydream and have them to dream of a peaceful world without producing a short fall in creative thought or growth as an individual. I see it as guided discovery to the fact that the present matters, the past is past and the future will take care of itself, so do not agonize. Anyway one can hope.

      • onetinkerbell

        These are kids who cannot even begin to have a normal cognitive process and learn things because they are so distracted by what’s going on in their home lives, etc. It’s not about daydreaming but about an ability to focus their minds so that the stress of living where they do doesn’t color every single bit of their lives.

    • Ben Demolish

      We learn at any age. As you must know, the brain is highly plastic. Before, mainstream was all about how “static” the brain was after a certain age. Now it’s flipped around.

      Don’t get carried away by the details and lose sight of the larger picture. Just because there are more opportune times for types of learning doesn’t mean it is wasted outside those moments.

      It is a skill to be able to simply be still. Some cultures teach it much better, while still relaying creativity and critical thinking. To young children. Their level of mastery may not be the same, but the they have the basics already there.

      It is more of a disservice to not challenge a child. They don’t need to be perfect, or expected to succeed, but the kid shouldn’t ever feel like they are exempt because they are “less than” or “already past” the lesson. I remember picking up on the teacher’s attitudes about all of us. The weaker kids fell through the cracks thinking they were stupid (enforced by the teacher) and the stronger ones were just goofing off and being disruptive.

      Frankly, it always seems to boil down to being challenged. The kid may come from a crappy home with bad values, but after the first few weeks of the school year, the teacher should have a rapport of trust by then. No one can fix everything, but can possibly impart that “school is safe and my way out”. Year to year, that message that education is fun and a way to something better can be reinforced.

      • Zeana Bey

        Brain plasticity acknowledges the fact that the brain is constantly developing and strengthening and ‘re routing neural connections. Acknowledging brain plasticity also means acknowledging that there are times when the structure to understand things have not developed yet because as you so aptly noted the brain is not static in its growth. My point is that we need to be aware of what is developmentally appropriate for a child and user this to be out standards off of. The executive functioning of a preschooler is not developed weigh to be able to sit through a 5 hour teaching day and never be impulsive etc. Their brains are totally primed and ready though to learn social interactions, to do something see the consequences and predict that the same consequence will occur again, to learn through their actions. So it’s baffling to me that the schools are trying to add in all these programs to help kids conform to age inappropriate expectations rather than changing the curriculum to support kids learning though interaction, play, and social process all things that meet a child where they are at.

        One last note, having spent the last 6 years working with children with extreme trauma histories it’s frustrating witnessing them go to school and have the experience of teachers who are frustrated (and perhaps legitimately) by those children’s behaviors simply repeat and confirm their home experiences of adults not being able to/want to see them as good children and have positive interactions with them. These types of kids of course are not focused on sitting still and learning, they are too focused on trying to establish they are safe while staying alert for any cues that they are going to be in danger. It’s interesting to me that there seems to be a double standard here for children. A returning combat veteran, my sense is we would all be sympathetic to the fact that he/she experienced trauma. We would be understanding that they probably are going to be spending a lot of time thinking about their combat experiences and will be hyperb aroused. And none of us would say, Hey you need to immediately reintegrate back into society, and spend less time focusing on what happened in combat and more time focusing on what is going on here in the office. Nobody would say that. But yet for a child from a traumatic home life the comments from several teachers in the article were just that: stop being so focused on your trauma because it makes it harder to teach you. Get over it asap. Or the idea that somehow one year of Good rapportt with a teacher and some mindfulness skills will fix it all. Furthermore, if a child is still is in apotentiallyi dangerous situation trying to teach them how to emotionally self regulate and not be hyper aroused rather than focusing on getting them out of that situation is taking away the very coping skills and behaviors that have kept them safe. Mindfulness can be great for trauma but not if that trauma is still occurring

    • onetinkerbell

      Actually, when kids are able to sit still for age-appropriate lengths of time, teachers end up being able to teach at a normal pace that will allow kids to learn, rather than teachers having to cram information into them, thus allowing plenty of time to move about, talk, and be a kid. It’s about creating an environment in which learning and an exchange of ideas is possible, not creating a regimented child who is unable to act appropriately to his/her age. We’re talking in these examples about kids who constantly act out in ways which are inappropriate and cannot follow instructions, not kids who are already behaving appropriately and are being made to learn to just sit and listen, with no time to be kids.

      Also, in case you didn’t notice, they’re talking about ‘activity’ in the prefrontal cortex that comes naturally from being mindful, NOT an attempt to activate the prefrontal cortex to achieve specific behaviors. I think perhaps you interpreted that sentence differently than the author intended. They’re saying that they’ve seen positive results in terms of improved ability to listen and stay calm in situations that were formerly difficult. Yes, the author is trying to draw some kind of a conclusion by adding the bit about activity in the prefrontal cortex, but it’s an implied conclusion not one that is at all substantiated. What the author is trying to imply is that the mindfulness training may have applications elsewhere. And as you point out, increasing rational thought in children whose brains have not finished growing is not necessarily going to happen through mindfulness training. However, there is a link that the author doesn’t follow up on, which is that if this can help children learn to make good choices (and just because their brains are still growing doesn’t mean that they can’t), then there is a possibility that this may have applications in adult communities where behavior is a concern, such as prisons.

      Perhaps instead of using your child development texts to support your reaction to a cursory reading of this article, you might take a moment and process it so that you don’t immediately have a knee-jerk reaction and misinterpret both the things reported and the author’s intent.

      • Zeana Bey

        Its interesting to me that my response which was, here are things about this I agree with here are parts that concern me, and here is a full explanation of the science they reference is viewed as reactionary especially when so many other responses take an extreme view of the matter (this is horrible vs this is perfect). Whereas I think there are things to take and things to disregard in this post, meaning I’m not very invested in either proving it to be all good or all bad. It would seem like you are though.

        I don’t know whether this article is only referring to misbehaving children add you imply, my sense is it was applying to ask children. And neither of us, unless you are the author, can definitively know. Either way I think the important conversation is how do we and the schools that are using this define problem behaviors. Is it the child who is, add you suggest disruptive, violent and aggressive or is it the child who is pathologize because they are being held to behavioral standards that are not developmentally appropriate to where they are? And then if it is the first what is the understanding of the function of these behaviors and given that function is mindfulness the right way to go? Is the child who is unfocused and not following directions experiencing the normal behaviors of children with trauma? Perhaps then it is more effective to help identify triggers in the classroom that make that child feel unsafe, and identify things and people who do make them feel safe , assuming the trauma is over then using mindfulness practices. Maybe it’s a child with hearing problems which need to be addressed. Or sensory processing issues that can be solved by stinky giving then something to occupy their hands with during lessons, or maybe any other number of reasons some of which will benefit from mindfulness done of which won’t.

        The point is, there are tangible benefits to teaching children mindfulness AND we need to be aware of when this skill is being used in a positive beneficial way and when it’s being used to address so called problem behaviors that occur because of developmentally inappropriate standards

    • Anthony LaCroix

      But results are showing it works. Be it a child or adult, when you finally feel safe to drop your guard, to a safe person you will open up and the human nature will strive. Strive to do things that are acceptable to positive people.
      Your education or knowledge is awesome, but if something is working that will give a child a chance to learn, please don’t stop it with “what the books say”.

  • Daniel De Kok

    where were you 10 years ago when I was teaching in PA?

  • Anon Y. Mous

    Please be aware that many evangelical Christians find this practice objectionable, especially if the goal of the practice is to clear and empty the mind. Should the instructor limit the practice to teaching secular practices that encourage students to observe their thoughts, feelings and sensations within the body, that’s less problematic. Should the instructor teach chanting, even seemingly nonsense syllables, that’s unacceptable (and there’s court decisions to back that up). Many evangelical Christians find it uncomfortable that the practice is very much Buddhist. If the instructor teaching these practices has any sort of a New Age/Yoga background (for example, teaches yoga at the health club, is a practitioner of New Age/Alternative/Integrative health practices or is known to be involved in the occult), most evangelical Christians will consider it objectionable and not want their children exposed to it.

    • BNUF

      Cool. Then sick to your ultra conservative, backwards evangelical Christian teachings. I’m surprised you even took the time to read an npr article, knowing that npr isn’t typically pro creationist and everything that goes along with evangelical teachings.

      • Anon Y. Mous

        You don’t know me. You don’t know my background. I am actually politically moderate. I am not pro-creationist. No one deserves ad hominem and straw man attacks. Your post demonstrates that you are extremely intolerant of a point of view that is different from your own. You are no better than the extreme right wing you attack.

    • Guest

      If they object to yoga and mindful meditation, then they merely show their ignorance.

      • Anon Y. Mous

        You show your ignorance by refusing to recognize that others might have a problem… now that’s closed minded.

    • Landis Marks

      Buddhism is a secular philosophy not a religion. Chanting is totally unnecessary and I agree with you should not be taught. Shoot I don’t chant either. Buddhism isn’t New Age is old school moral principles.I am not a fan of the New Age claptrap I see either.

    • onetinkerbell

      Yoga is not an occult practice. Yoga as practiced in the United States is generally not a religious practice.

    • As a fellow Christian who is learned in the art of education, this practice has little to do with Buddhism and much to do with learning self-control… you know, one of the fruits of the Spirit.

      • Anon Y. Mous

        Are you a liberal Christian? What you have just said sounds more Universalist than Christian.

      • PB

        I am a devout Catholic and I practice mindfulness. Another word for this in my realm is contemplative prayer supported by writings of Fr. Thomas Keating.

    • Annie Mouse

      Hi Anon Y. Mous,

      I’m Annie Mouse. Nice to meet you.

      If evangelical Christians object to deep breathing and focusing on the breath, I advise they stop doing so at once. Breathing, that is.

      I agree that it is very, very harmful — FULL of superstition — and cannot be trusted.

      As you were.

  • Rebecca Felmlee

    I don’t think its meant to make kids sit and be quiet all day. I think it is meant to help them focus on what they are participating in, whether it be PE or project centered learning or a whole class math lesson. It works in all teaching situations. I am a strong proponent of the students being in charge of their learning and being focused on that learning will just increase the amount of information they are able to retain. I do know that when a childs affect gets in the way of learning you have to find a way to relieve that before learning can take place.

    • Ms. Splinter

      Absolutely. I teach in this sort of environment (though admittedly not quite this bad). Students are completely unable to put aside any drama or personal issues for even the length of a class period. These are 11 year old children, and they can’t refrain from saying every single thing that pops into their head, no matter what goes on around them. On a bad day, the result of this to be half a dozen girls absolutely sobbing, shouting across the room, and planning to get into a fist fight (or even throwing a punch) because one of them looked at another. On an average day, it takes 10 minutes of every class period for students to find their seats and even begin to be ready to work, and many have to be told every single day. This is far from insisting that children become perfectly compliant minions. It is staving off chaos and teaching them how not to end up in jail because their reaction to everyone is to lash out. No one has ever taught them differently, but truly successful people–whether we are talking about professional or personal success–are people who can put off their first reaction in order to aim for a larger goal.

      • susanne

        Exactly! It’s about helping children to take a second to respond to a stimulus in a skillful way rather than to react out of anger.

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  • Aime Nzouzi

    It’s just so instructive what I just read. I do think children or young in a classroom, might think about other thing than concentrate on the task which is given to them. The fact they still young and have a “virgin ” mind we have to teach them how to focus on the actual task learn how empty their mind in order to receive notions we are teaching to them. It is definitely important for children coming from difficult family or young who faced the war to learn mindfullness and practice exercise like as they might be traumatised what they live at home. So we have to make they focus on the course and they are not thinking about his who shouts last night with mum because one of the bill wasn’t pay. Some student might be wise as dad and mum have I have to work well at school to be better.That’s a good motivation, but it’s seem like pressure but doesn’t stimulate good artist or creativity. Learning should be a relax process, as it is the mindfullness exercise, which will improve or heal children or student mind.

  • verdulo1

    “A lot of students experience violence on a daily basis”… I think teaching mindfulness is great, but there also needs to be a lot more done to prevent violence so that these kids won’t have any trauma to overcome.

    • Alison Dault

      If these children can make better decisions, they will fight with each other less. They will make better judgement calls later, which directly goes to ending trauma by helping to resolve situations in non-violent ways.

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  • Ben Demolish

    How the hell do parents even raise kids like this? I feel guilty for being too energetic, but I never wanted to assault anyone, and I never did.

    These kids then need to go back to parents who gave them messed up values to begin with… just seems like a drop in the bucket.

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  • earthwalkertoo

    Mindfulness is certainly a buzz word now….but step beyond and cast it instead as one of many tools that can be used to help kids become aware of their thinking and emotions…nurture at the positive end a curiosity about who they are that is outside of mainstream cultural attractions…early in my teaching days, I wrote a paper suggesting that every Friday the school engage in a learn-from-one-another day with teachers and students learning and teaching side-by-side…and the first half hour of the day would start with some kind of ‘focus’ building practice including everything from martial arts to drawing to sitting by the creek (we happen to have been blessed with one)….in a world where everyone can be 7/24 connected to technology what a benefit for children to learn there is another side

    I also agree that ideas of inappropriately trying to hasten the childhood mind into adulthood mind is a terrible mistake (and developmentally doomed)….but how much better to suggest that our ‘ADD’ population learn how to take a short walk ‘mindfully’ around the hallway before settling into a classroom then putting her/him on drugs…perhaps an option that will emerge from the Mindfulness fad

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  • NancyG

    I find that a lot of these comments miss the point. First, this is not about getting kids to “sit down, be quiet and pay attention.” Children are perfectly capable of sustained quiet, stillness and focus, especially in pursuit and exploration of things meaningful to them. Mindfulness is about giving children the skills to do that, to begin to know their own minds, and to use their minds to govern, control and understand their feelings and actions. It’s about teaching them to be okay with just themselves and to conduct themselves in accordance with their wishes, not just desires. And the continuing growth of the prefrontal cortex is why it makes sense; because it provides an environment for that development. And yes, these kids often experience violence, but teaching mindfulness is a way of dealing with the reality of violence AND a way of preventing it, especially the cycle of violence. I do strongly disagree that Buddhism is not a religion. Perhaps as it is practiced in the West among upper-income whites it is not, but Buddhism around the world is very much a religion. Let’s not deny that. All religions have some meditative component. But meditation is a technique that can be separated from the religion and used in a secular way.

  • GladysKravitz

    Teach it everyday at the Prison

    • Baggie

      Prison / school = same thing. You are there involuntarily, have no control over what you do, and often held hostage to the behavior of those around you because you have no freedom of association but are subject to group punishments.

  • Brian Kundinger

    This worries me. Mindfulness as I know is a liberatory thing. It aims to sharpen the mind so that it is more productive, precise, and creative. It enables people to think outside of boxes and challenge ideas they had never thought of before. Using it regulate behavior seems like a sick appropriation of a wonderful technique.

    Again, makes me uncomfortable

    • T

      I think you may have different feelings about the practice if you worked with the type of children they are talking about. Everyone should have the opportunity to be in control of themselves. The type of kids we are talking about, don’t have the upbringing that gives them the emotional tool kit needed to address intense and overwhelming negative emotions.

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  • BD

    THANK YOU Brian K and everyone else who posted below who actually understands this concept. The people who don’t like, or are uncomfortable with this program, I’m guessing have NO clue what it’s like to be in the world of these kids. I have 100 (lower socio-economic) kids in my Preschool and If I could start this in some small way between ages 4 and 5…just getting them to “breath” and be in control for 1 minute 3 or 4 times a day, it would be a start. Experiencing what goes on in our schools today where we are producing kids who are out on the street with guns at 15, NEED programs that will allow them to learn, what someone in this discussion called, “self discipline” and give them a moment to know that someone cares. Mom and dad used to teach it, now, often there is no one in their world who even knows what mindfulness is and now and we are producing a society of sociopaths. If you think I’m wrong, you’re not watching he news. It’s time we stopped teaching to standardized tests and started dealing with the “total child.”

    • Zeana Bey

      I’m uncomfortable with how it is being used in this instance. Let me follow that by saying the last six years of my work experience has been as a counselor and therapist for children and teens coming from abusive homes or with severe trauma history. I’ve also used mindfulness with these kids, but as a way to help them learn how to emotionally self regulate and calm down not as a way for them to, as the quote states,“Before we can teach a kid how to academically excel in school, we need to teach him how to have stillness, pay attention, stay on task, regulate, make good choices,” said Larochette. “We tell kids be quiet, calm yourself down, be still. We tell them all these things they need in the classroom, but we’re not teaching them how to do that”. I also wouldn’t do it if the kids were still continuing to experience trauma or abuse as teaching these kinds of skills while the tasks is still occurring is contraindicated in almost all trauma therapies.

      Stating people who disagree simply don’t understand the situation as well as you do seems to be an easy way to brush aside legitimate concerns and avoid having to take then into account our integrate it into your thinking on the topic

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  • Mary

    I am curious if you have tried mindfulness practices with any of your students. If yes, please share your experience. If no, are you willing to try it before concluding that it is developmentaly inappropriate? I see it as another tool for the kids’ and teachers’ toolboxes.

    • Zeana Bey

      Mary, I think that is a misreading of my post. I’m not saying that mindfulness practices are developmentally inappropriate. I am saying that expecting grade school children to be able to utilize fine executive functioning skills needed to make rational choices and decisions, control impulses, and essentially sit down and focus for an entire school day is developmentally inappropriate. When the article starts with the following quote:Before we can teach a kid how to academically excel in school, we need to teach him how to have stillness, pay attention, stay on task, regulate, make good choices,” said Larochette. “We tell kids be quiet, calm yourself down, be still. We tell them all these things they need in the classroom, but we’re not teaching them how to do that.” I get concerned that we are holding children up to standards that are developmentally not able to consistently meet and then pa thologizing them when they aren’t able to. There is nothing wrong with mindfulness practices but I do worry about the circumstances and reasoning for using them as out forward by that particular quote.

      For kids with trauma mindfulness can be a wonderful skill. Though I would caution against using it if a child is still in a traumatic environment as the hyper aroused state mindfulness helps with is what is helping these children survive and avoid further danger.

  • Barbara Bryner

    It is too bad that some “mindful meditation” programs in schools have been halted by protesters claiming that the program is an attempt to impose Buddhist religious values.

    (A Methodist study group in which I participated uses the practice as part of a weight control program!)

    • Anon Y. Mous

      Mainstream Methodism is very liberal… where I am, it is so liberal that it is more akin to Unitarina/Universalist than Christian

  • templescroll

    This is great, my classroom kids need to relax more too. I play soothing music and dim the lights during homework time.

  • Judy

    Jon Oliver (Boston) has been teaching school staff & parents Lesson One: Skills for Life for a number of years. He was honored by Harvard Med School & at White House. It takes three years to totally change the way staff & parents work with children and the investment pays dividends. There are not quick fixes, but committed educators and parents make the difference. Check out Lesson One: Skills for Life.
    The information on “how brains learn” has been available for many years. We adults have to change how we work with youth. To quote Eric Jensen, “If the teacher keeps using the same strategies over and over and the student keeps failing, who is really the slow learner?” Please let all of us in this nation commit to the professional learning that is needed for school staff and parents to learn, for if the adults don’t learn the kids won’t either. Greater commitment to education and youth is needed by this country!

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

    We’ve got a wonderful video and a whole package of resources about this over at Edutopia, produced a few years ago, if you’re interested in trying this at your own school: http://www.edutopia.org/stw-student-stress-meditation

  • www.MindfulnessAndMore.net

    teach the Mindful Schools curriculum in a low-income school in Tacoma, WA. During
    the class on gratitude a 9 year old student raised his hand and said, “I
    am different. I don’t have anything to be grateful for. My parents
    just sent my sister away because they didn’t want her anymore.” I
    responded with, “Yet, you walked in here today. You can be grateful for
    your legs and feet. You can see me. Can you be grateful for your
    eyes?” To which he answered. “I guess you are right. I got a letter
    from my sister. She sent me her picture. I can be grateful for her
    picture. And in the letter she said that where she is now, they are

  • vee

    seems well intentioned and i dont doubt it hasn’t been useful for both students and teachers, but it also looks like the pacification of children.

    “When there are older kids, we were playing football and he hit me pretty hard on purpose,” said sixth-grader Tayshawn Newman. “We were going to get into a huge argument, and I just said, ‘Forget it.’ I took a deep breath and said, ‘Forget it.’”

    what about standing up against oppression? what about accountability for our actions? what about transformative justice? when conflict happens the best thing isn’t to CALM DOWN and FORGET and RESPOND BY NOT RESPONDING. we need to openly challenge conflict in a healthy and meaningful way – through open dialogue and communication.

    not against mindfulness, but certainly being critical of it’s implications. the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

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  • saijanai

    Different meditation practices have different effects. Mindfulness’ effects on stress, aren’t as consistent as recent reviews suggest. When you include the effects of meditation practice on PTSD, Transcendental Meditation is far more effective than mindfulness practices, for example.

    When it comes to how school-age children react to meditation practices, this is another area where different practices have different effects.

    Take Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, where, according to Principal James Dierke, *every* student had a relative who was murdered, did the murder or saw a murder. After TM was introduced, the school went from the worst in SF on many measures to one of the best, and Dierke himself was awarded the National Association of Secondary School Principals “2008 Middle School Principal of the Year” for the improvements in the school that Dierke attributes to all the kids learning to practice TM.

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  • Our children go through so much being raised in a racist society so any mechanism that help calm their minds is welcomed. In fact, I think mindfulness should be a requirement for all black kids:


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  • I recently had my son ( 18yrs old) who suffers from severe ocd/GAD watch a presentation on youtube, given by Dr. Zinn at Dartmouth College. He has had years of cognitive therapy, ERP therapy, medications and was just recently introduced to MBSR therapy by a cutting edge therapist he is seeing. He really didn’t understand why he was suppose to do the body scans, breathing exercise, etc. What was the point? It’s not making me better. This one lecture by Dr. Zinn changed his world. It was as if a light bulb had clicked in his brain. This one youtube video explaining MBSR therapy and why it is important, has helped him more than 7 yrs of one-on-one therapy . Perceptions have been changed and his view of his world is radically different.

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  • ayuryogameditation

    i really enjoyed to read this post!Yoga is fantastic, it has definately helped me to maintain good health and have plenty of energy.

    Yoga and Meditation Programmes in USA

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  • Michelle DeYoung

    I am getting my Master’s in school counseling right now and studying the use of music as a mindfulness tool. Have you ever used music listening or maybe drum circles to help alleviate student anxiety?

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  • indiegogo

    Fantastic post!Thank you for the post !It’s very useful….indiegogo

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  • Brock Goehler

    Anybody try this in a middle school?

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  • Mindfulness is one of the aspects of the Ninth Intelligence. Alas, we do not teach applications of the Ninth Intelligence in public schools.


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Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She’s worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She’s a staff writer for KQED’s education blog MindShift.

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