Guest Blog: Shelley Murphy

Supporting Student Well-Being through Mindfulness Practices
Shelly MurphyLast week I (Shelley Murphy) had the opportunity to hear Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg speak about the quality of Finland’s education system. One of the many things that stood out to me as particularly memorable was Finland’s teachers’ primary focus on supporting student well-being. It got me thinking about the newly published Ontario Ministry of Education document Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/excellent.html. Its focus is on the skills, knowledge, and characteristics learners need for success and well-being and a plan of action for promoting these. I am excited to know that the ministry has recognized the fundamental importance of student well-being and has included it as one of its four core priorities here in Ontario.
One way to promote student well-being and resilience is through mindfulness awareness practices. Mindfulness practice, which has most recently been taught and practiced within the context of medicine, has been increasingly attracting attention in the field of education. When I was an elementary teacher, I used mindfulness practices to help students learn to be more self-aware, less reactive, and to meet each moment with greater attention and presence. As a teacher educator, I now introduce my preservice students to mindfulness awareness practices within my Special-Education courses. There is increasingly convincing data showing that regular mindfulness practices strengthen the areas of the brain that control attention, executive functioning, emotion regulation, and mental flexibility. A myriad of groups and organizations are surfacing to promote mindfulness in our schools for these very reasons (e.g. Discover Mindfulness in Ontario http://discovermindfulness.ca/ ; Mindful Schools in California http://www.mindfulschools.org/ ). Considering the importance of supporting the mental health, resilience, and overall well-being of both school aged students and our preservice teachers, I think mindfulness awareness practices and their applications within educational settings are worth taking a closer look at!

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