Query: Victoria Classrooms are Tuning in to Mindfulness
Mindfulness. The word conjures the image of a manicured, recently-divorced woman sipping red wine between yoga asanas. Or a vegan ecotourist with dreadlocks and a hemp shirt meditating cross-legged on the steps of a Sri Lanka temple.
Google the word “mindfulness,” and you’ll find over 29 million hits in half a second. Mindfulness retreats, mindfulness apps, even mindfulness workshops aimed at the staff of major corporations.
But for Lisa Baylis, a teacher and counselor in Victoria’s School District 61 and the founder of Victoria Educators for Positive Education, mindfulness is a key tool on the ever-expanding belt worn by educators.
Mindfulness is defined as the act of remaining open and non-judgemental to emotions, thoughts, and sensations arising in the present moment. While its origins lie in Buddhist meditation practices, mindfulness has recently become a secular buzzword and has been accepted by mainstream psychology as an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, and addiction. And now, mindfulness has moved into the classroom with positive results. One study from the University of California showed that second and third graders who practiced mindfulness meditation for one hour a week for six to eight weeks were more attentive and could make better decisions.
For this feature article, I will examine the resources and strategies, including professional development courses, Baylis is using to bring mindfulness to Victoria classrooms, and look at how parents and educators can get involved.
I’ll also speak to Dr. Wanda Boyer, associate professor Educational Psychology and Leadership studies at the University of Victoria, about how mindfulness can impact a child’s self-regulation—their ability to manage emotional reactions in an appropriate way. I will also consult Dr. Michele Tanaka, assistant professor in Curriculum and Instruction at UVic, about the use of mindfulness in training teachers.
I am an emerging writer with a BFA in writing from UVic and have been published as a poet in This Side of West and Poetry is Dead. I regularly practise meditation as an associate member of the Zenwest Buddhist Society.