The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded a major grant to help fund teachers’ training in contemplative practices such as meditation. Known as Cultivating Awareness and Resiliency in Education (CARE), the program that received the grant uses mindfulness meditation to help teachers recognize emotional patterns–both their own and their students’–so that they can more skillfully respond to classroom social problems like bullying.
According to Patricia Jennings, the director of CARE, “Surprisingly, there has been very little research into what is required to be a good teacher in terms of the psycho-social skills needed to run a good classroom and foster a healthy class climate and good student-teacher relationships.”
So far, teachers in Denver, San Francisco, and Philadelphia have received CARE training, and the grant will be used in part to judge the effect of CARE on classrooms. Jennings hopes that the field of contemplative education will one day be an integral part of American schools.
I can certainly think of many teachers from my grade-school days who would have benefited greatly from this kind of training, either because years of teaching had beaten them down to the point that they were mentally checked out all day, or because they clearly were overwhelmed and stressed by maintaining discipline, being either too lax or too strict as a result.
Perhaps the most tangible benefit meditation could have in schools would be with introducing meditation practice to kids, teaching them to spend a few minutes calmly observing their own thoughts and emotions in a purely secular way. It’s widely accepted that children need physical exercise scheduled into their day in the form of P.E. Why not contemplative practice, too? Meditation could be a unit in gym class, just like volleyball and ballroom dancing. (Yes, we actually had to pair off and practice ballroom dancing under the basketball hoops in middle school. Oh, the horror.)
How would you feel if meditation were added to your child’s curriculum in some way?