In nearly 20 years of teaching, I have seen a change in teens. They are stressed, they are struggling, and they cannot cope. Check out why practicing mindfulness helps teens and see how you can do it, too!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with Greater Good In Education. All opinions are my own.
Nearly 20 Years of Teaching Teens
I was 18 when I began working in a high school. I worked as a para, a tutor, and a coach at the high school level, and from there, I moved into my own classroom where I have been for the last 11 years. Anytime I tell anyone that I teach high school, I get a lot of “Whoa, tough job”-type comments. My response is always, “Nah, I could never teach the littles.” At least my teens understand actions and consequences.
Boy, do they understand that concept. Teens these days are dealing with way more pressures, consequences, and stressors than we ever did. Social media adds to the stress on top of the continuous pressure that they are feeling from parents and school. In nearly 20 years, I have seen a huge shift in education, in content that we are teaching, and in the way students are coping with stress. Heads up, they aren’t, which is why I have taken more of an interest in Mindful Movements, an activity from Greater Good in Education.
What is the Mindful Movement?
Mindful Movement is a stress reduction strategy that has been proven to help both adults and youth with stress, self-esteem, and an overall positive mindset. Essentially, it focuses on getting people moving positively, with the intention of helping them self advocate and cope with stress among other things. The practice of Mindful Movement helps you to become more aware of your body and practice paying attention to different poses and postures.
Teens are an at-risk group when it comes to positive mental health. In general, teens are more stressed and less able to cope with the current climate than they were even just 10 years ago. When they are stressed and overexposed, they are not able to focus as well on the task at hand and therefore they often become delayed in their learning and development.
Practicing Mindful Movements
As a graduate student, I did my research on growth mindset and included a lot of research on mindfulness. I also implemented Mindful Mondays where we would take 5-10 minutes each Monday to re-center and walk through various relaxation and meditation exercises. Sometimes we would just sit with our eyes closed being thankful for one thing, sometimes we would get up and stretch and move while focusing on breathing, and other times we would just share positive intentions for the week.
I had let this practice go over the past few years and just recently began to implement this in a few of my classes where I am seeing some behavior issues and also before my students are about to take a test. So far, I have tried Mindful Movements 3 times and my students giggle through it, but they do it. I tell them to stand tall, close their eyes, relax their shoulders and breath in and out.
We reach up high to the sky while breathing and then we fold over like rag dolls and let all that stress and tension go. We stretch, we breathe, we laugh, we learn and we then get back to the task at hand. It has only been about a week since I began trying these out and I am definitely going to continue with it.
Why Practicing Mindfulness Is Helping Teens
A colleague asked me why I was taking valuable content time to “stretch.” I could rattle off about 20,000 reasons why we need to be fostering environments in our classrooms that promote positive self-confidence, focus, education for the WHOLE student and more. Bottom line is that our kids need to be taught how to manage stress, how to step back, take a breather, relax their body and then attack the problem.
They need think time, they need to breathe before they react, and mindful movements help them to tackle stress and can improve their attention and executive functions (like self-control, decision-making, etc) as well as help them focus so they can learn in an environment that is safe and comfortable for them. You can learn more about Mindful Movement and more positive education resources by checking out Greater Good in Education. It’s a wonderful website full of resources to help parents and educators alike foster experiences and techniques to help our youth.