Student Voices: Calm-Now Chloe

Posted on October 29, 2017

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Now that I’ve been collecting data on mindfulness in the ELA classroom for a couple of years, I want to begin to bring in some of the voices of my students. (All students whose work appears on my blog have given me permission to share their work, as have their parents.) Today, I introduce you to Chloe.

Chloe is the pseudonym for a ninth grade student who could be completely incapacitated by stress when asked to speak in class–even from her own seat, let alone in front of the class. Mindfulness practices have helped her calm down and overcome her fears of public speaking and other things. After practicing mindfulness for over a year, she is able to look back and laugh about the day she cried in class, paralyzed by fear. This is her story, slightly edited for correctness.

I was feeling my usual sense of frustration, and guilt. The same feeling I’ve felt since fifth grade. I hadn’t done my homework yet again, and the teacher was giving me a hard time. Yet again. I was mad at myself for not turning it in, or even bothering to do a simple page of fifteen math problems, or a quick bit of research for biology. I hate how lazy I’ve been. But what I hate even more is the fact that I’ve done diddly-squat about it. I knew I needed to get myself straightened out and back on track, and SOON, or I’d definitely never get anywhere in life. I needed some form of help.

My silent pleas for help were finally answered. I wandered into my class and plopped down in my seat, exhausted. It was the first day of the second trimester. I was close to falling asleep because of how confusing the day had been. The bell rang and a short while later, our teacher, ms. eddy, stood up and told us what she had planned for the day. She told us she was going to have us try a thing called “mindfulness.”

I wasn’t so sure about this. I felt like that would be far too deep for me, as I’m not very spiritual. I also thought it might be worth a shot, because I was so desperate for help at this point. I wanted to get over feeling useless, and be able to do my homework. Not to mention I had no choice because she had planned for us to do a practice anyway.

She shut off the lights, and the audio clip started. I closed my eyes. A very  monotonous voice came over the room. My friends and I snickered immaturely at his gravelly, tired voice. After a while, we shut up and focused. I listened closely to him and followed what he said.

A few minutes later, it ended and I sat up, blinking slowly as the lights came back on. I felt lighter somehow. Like my stresses had been lifted off my shoulders. My mind had been cleared, oddly enough. Something so simple did so much.

Over the next few weeks, we did more mindfulness practices. The more we did, the more it would show. I noticed my grades rising. My homework turn-in rate was on a record high for math class. I was getting a little better sleep, and my depressive episodes were shorter. The meditations we did were varied. I enjoyed all of them. Some less than others. The one that helped the least was very, very short. I couldn’t reach my state of mindfulness at all.

This mindful state is very important to rational thinking. I learned that in class when we studied the effects of mindfulness on the human brain and how effectively you can evaluate and resolve conflicts. We were taught about the main parts of the brain that mindfulness affects: the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is basically the brain’s security guard, and it stops negative emotions from getting where they need to go to be processed rationally. The hippocampus not only helps us respond to fears and threats, but also stores memories. The prefrontal cortex is where it’s at. This place does just about everything, but to keep it simple, it’s the powerhouse of thinking and learning.

After we learned those things, it led me to wonder. Why aren’t more classes doing this? Why not more schools? These would be so useful before a test. Or before an oral presentation of some kind, considering I’m not the only one with that fear. A lot of people have nerves that need calming, and that’s exactly what mindfulness is for. It helps you to be calmer overall. Mindfulness arms you with the power of rationality, so you don’t have to stress over everything. This is in no way saying you can’t have a little fit or breakdown every now and then, but these  practices can reduce the amount of times you have said fit. These are also not ensuring that you’ll always feel happy or at ease. There are things that may happen in life, and those things may be far beyond your control.

In conclusion, mindfulness has helped me more than I’d expected, and it would certainly be worth a try to anyone feeling any kind of negative feelings.

Posted in: Mindfulness