Stress in schools in the United States is high. In urban areas, the detrimental effects of poverty can cause high school drop-out rates to approach and even exceed 50%. The pressure to increase test scores affects teachers and children in all schools. The competition to gain admittance to college causes turmoil for students throughout the country. In short, stress impairs the effectiveness of our educational system. Common stress-related problems in our schools include:
- Inability to focus
- Impulsiveness, leading to difficult classroom management
- A lack of connection between students and their school community
- Breakdowns in communication
- Conflict among students and teachers
In addition, attention spans are rapidly declining due to the “instant gratification” children and adults are often taught through the media and the rapidly-evolving world around them.
Studies have shown that stress inhibits key parts of the brain that are necessary for learning. Children with less stress in their lives and those who can focus and handle stress they face outperform their peers. This is one cause of the achievement gap, which widens continually as children grow.
The problems facing education today are complex, often taking students and educators out of the present moment, while requiring a wide variety of solutions. But no matter what the solutions, we must ensure that children are present for their lessons in order to maximize their learning potential. Mindfulness is one of the solutions.