By Dayanna Isabel Blandón Caballero – Student in Education
Nowadays, we live in a highly demanding society, and our students are not exempted from this reality. Students can arrive to the exams with problems, challenges, and different conditions that we may know nothing about. Asking students to complete a test that covers a large percentage of the final grade, write paragraphs, and taking risks in an unknown language without addressing their internal state is not effective. To reduce unwanted psychological preoccupation with academic concerns, researchers suggest implementing mindfulness techniques that can help the students to find healthy ways to cope with stress and emotions. More than ever before, knowledge regarding educational strategies has grown, and it allows us to take advantage of different educational practices that will lead our students to reach their full potential.
In 1979, the biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn developed an eight-week course to help people to learn how to deal with the pain and health conditions like depression or anxiety, taking as a starting point the Buddhist practices. His constant research developed in what we know today as mindfulness. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is the human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, instead of being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us or inside of us. According to Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl and Robert W. Roeser (2005), mindfulness has taken a general interest in education as a strategy to help the students to deal with stress, emotions and to improve their memory and concentration skills (Zenner, Hernnleben-Kurz & Walach, 2014). Furthermore, the results of mindfulness techniques can be even more beneficial if parents promote spaces at home to develop them (Zenner, Hernnleben-Kurz & Walach, 2014).
As teachers, we have many opportunities to introduce our students to mindfulness practices by allowing them to stop, observe, breathe, experience, and reflect. It's not a secret that the time for completing the exams is reduced to merely an hour and a half. Nevertheless, teachers do not need that much time to take a pause, which in the end will be offset with the boost of the performance of the students. Teachers can take some time before the exam to do different mindfulness activities like asking the students to write how they feel about the exam or listing things that they are grateful for, or what they do when they feel stress. Through these prompts, teachers can identify if the students feel uncomfortable, and if needed, ask assistance to the counselor or the psychologist of the school.
Finally, is important to be aware that mental conditions are present and directly affect the student’s performance. The World Health Organization (WHO), stated that 10 and 20% of the adolescences have experienced anxiety or depression (World Health Organization, n.d.). In treatment contexts, researchers have demonstrated that mindfulness can lead to improvements in adolescent’s levels of anxiety and depression (Zoogman et al. 2014), which leads to higher academic performance. Therefore, applying mindfulness techniques, before or during the exams, that develop the mind-body connection, make the students aware of their personal needs, improve their focus, and encourage them to be present with interest, curiosity, and acceptance. Furthermore, mindfulness allows the students to feel comfortable with themselves, their environment, and with the exam, which is related to improve the acquisition of the language by committing fully to the learning process. In educational settings, it is worth to experience with different techniques that can lead students to overcome their mental barriers, and allow them to learn how to deal with difficult situations that can happen in their lifetime.