One of the main purposes of any school is to develop the students’ skills in various academic endeavors, some of them very challenging– like doing math (even high level calculus), writing well, engaging in critical thinking and analysis (when it’s easier to surf the internet or play video games), speaking in public (with confidence, and without undue fear), or reading the great books (and understanding deeply their messages).
We do all this at Sea Change, with a passion. Our top quality academic curriculum delivered by outstanding instructors in a one on one environment is one of the things we do.
Another purpose of education, at least in our view, is to develop skills in other areas than academics–working with others collaboratively, treating each other with kindness and compassion, inspiring others, becoming well-conditioned physically by high quality exercise and nutrition, and aspiring to be the best not only in school but in our life at home with our parents and siblings. These are all part of our core values here. Moreover, we firmly believe they are skills which can and should be developed.
How does mindfulness fit in?
Here is how. Mindfulness has been described as the ability to pay attention in a particular way, non-judgmentally, in the present moment, on purpose. This is the classic formulation by Jon Kabat Zinn, and it is a good working definition for what we do at Sea Change.
With mindfulness a student can learn to pay attention to, and become aware of, his or her tendency to not want to turn to that homework, and instead lie on the couch and watch video games, and appreciate that tendency is not helping develop a needed skill. Or the student can learn to become aware of a habit to eat cookies instead of fruit, and how that is counter to sound nutritional goals. Or the student can become aware that lashing out in anger, using hurtful words, in class or at home, will not create positives in their lives.
By integrating mindfulness into the school program, we teach students to be able to create space for choice. By paying attention, without judgement, you create ability for the student to evaluate their speech or actions in the moment. The student comes to understand that he/she does not need to act according to past habit, or blurt out hurtful words based on thoughtless reactions to their immediate emotions. Students can learn to STOP, pay attention in the present moment, not react thoughtlessly, and instead choose to adopt other actions–actions that are more skillful.
So we believe (and there is considerable research supporting this belief) that mindfulness is a significant advantage to developing the skills needed to succeed in this world–academic, physical, social and emotional skills. Moreover, mindfulness improves each person’s ability to choose which skills are the healthiest, wisest to pursue in this life.
In short, we believe mindfulness is core to our mission of transforming students to lead happy and successful lives, because it improves their ability to choose what will promote that goals, and then improve their ability to carry through on their choices.
And that is a skill well worth developing.