A Reflection On Teaching Mindfulness In Schools
Last week was the fourth week of helping teach mindfulness to two classes of middle school students. It has brought so many memories to my mind: waking up before dawn, the icy drive to school, navigating the confusing streets of downtown Denver, remembering how horrible it was to have to wake up so early when I was in Middle school and High school.
Last weekend I read of an ingenious scientific study done in which researchers were took rats who had achieved the highest on a series of intelligence tests and another group of rats who had achieved the lowest on the same tests1. Each researcher was given one rat and asked to run a series of tests on how well they could navigate a maze (I know, this is exactly the kind of cliche ‘scientist in a lab coat with the rat in the maze’ scenario that we see in cartoons and movies). Lo and behold, the ‘highly intelligent’ rats performed better than the ‘dumb’ rats. But the reality was: there was no difference between the two groups of rats. They never had been tested for intelligence before hand. The real experiment was on the researchers themselves. And lo and behold: the expectations of the researchers and the ways in which the different rats were then treated lead to this remarkable outcome.
Just taking this study at face value, one can only conclude that the expectations we have profoundly affect our experiences and what we perceive. I became quite aware this week at the middle school that the first class is the so called ‘gifted class.’ And the second class is not. And each week I am there, the other teachers and counselors always comment on this and comment on how much more unruly the second class is. They speak out more, get out of hand more, don’t follow directions as well. But I love this second class. They have a lot of energy. I see no difference in basic intelligence between the two classes. I just hope that the kids absorb something of value about mindfulness. And I actually don’t want them to use it to be more ‘well behaved.’ What I want is to see them use these teachings to free their own minds, discover the power of their own awareness, and to know the freedom already present in their inner most being.
Written by Julian Royce
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