Middle school can be a stressful environment, so an Alexandria, Virginia, school is experimenting with new techniques designed to help students succeed.
At George Washington Middle School, some teachers are starting class with meditation. The lights are dimmed, soothing music is turned on and teachers guide the kids to breathe, settle in and focus on something positive.
Sometimes, students repeat the phrase, “There is greatness within yourself.”
Teacher Elkin Rodriguez said it’s important for students to listen to their inner voices. She proposes to her students that perhaps their inner voice sometimes says: “We can be great friends, great students today.”
Students and teachers said having a few minutes of reflection has paid off in regard to focus, behavior and even self-esteem.
Sixth grader Miley Gutierrez enjoys the focused time.
“It helps me be ready to learn,” she said. “It makes my body calm down and gets the distractions out.”
Keisel Sanchez, 11, said the classroom environment was noisy and distracting before meditating became a part of the routine.
Meditation, time for reflection, and a cell phone ban have made strides towards a calm classroom environment for @GWMSPrexies. See the new way of life that Ms. McNutt, Mr. Rodriguez, Principal Mazur and other GWMS staff have started: https://t.co/xeQ3Jv2rXQ pic.twitter.com/EJGY6fvPRD
— Alexandria City Public Schools (@ACPSk12) February 11, 2020
Many parents at the school are supportive of the meditation sessions, even asking how they can replicate the environment at home.
In addition to meditation, cellphones aren’t allowed at the school. Principal Jesse Mazur said that policy ensures every second of the day counts.
Mazur said he wanted to remove the social media “drama” engulfing students and free up school counselors caught up dealing with the subsequent “fires.”
He said removing smartphones has transformed the environment and is one of the best decisions he has ever made.
Only a few parents have objected to the ban, complaining they can’t easily contact their children during school hours.