Query: Victoria Classrooms are Tuning in to Mindfulness
Mindfulness Monday. Students from Reynolds Secondary School are packed into the wrestling mat room. But these teenagers aren’t perfecting their headlocks or trying out a single-leg takedown. They’re practising body scans—lying on their backs on the blue vinyl floor, breathing deeply, and simply paying attention to how their body feels.
At the centre of this strange spectacle is Lisa Baylis, one of the school’s counselors, and the founder of Victoria Educators for Positive Education. She’s an outspoken advocate of mindfulness in the classroom who also offers workshops and professional development sessions to other educators in the Greater Victoria area.
Mindfulness is 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.
Now, mindfulness is moving into the school system 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 Baylis is using to bring mindfulness to Victoria classrooms and the advantages mindfulness holds for local families. I’ll also show how Vancouver Island parents and educators can get involved.
I’ll 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 (minor in religious studies) from the University of Victoria. I have been published as a poet in This Side of West, Poetry is Dead, and Poetry Lives Here. In 2015, my poem “Parasomnia” won second place in Grain Magazine’s Short Grain poetry contest, and in 2016, my poem “Remains” was shortlisted for Prism International‘s Pacific Spirit Prize. As an associate member of Zenwest Buddhist Society, I regularly meditate and take a personal interest in the advantages of mindfulness.