Z is for Zen school

| May 1, 2014

A Haiku:

Mindfulness in school

We’ve talked a lot about it

Louis CK cares

How essential of a component is the body to our aesthetic experience? How about in school?

As one of the primary mechanisms that teaches us how to regulate our life and what the good life is, school teaches us first to sit up straight, listen, think, take turns, be neat, well-mannered, engaging, etc.  Yet, it never explicitly teaches us how to do these things or why. It teaches us only that these are necessary and fundamental structures for learning and engaging with others.

What if we took these things as seriously as we should? What if we investigated, with students, what is worth pursuing and how do we do it? What conditions should we set up for learning?

What about this?…


According to Larochette, who founded the Mindful Life Project, out of his own frustrations in teaching:

“Before we can teach a kid how to academically excel in school, we need to teach him how to have stillness, pay attention, stay on task, regulate, make good choices,” said Larochette. “We tell kids be quiet, calm yourself down, be still. We tell them all these things they need in the classroom, but we’re not teaching them how to do that.”

Madeline Kronenberg, a school board member involved in the project says the concern is not that kids are not learning or are unable to. Instead they found that many kids are simply “unavailable” to learn. Mindfulness – by focusing on being present, now, and stillnessincreases the activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is where we make our decisions, how we plan, our abstract thinking (Vicki Zakrzewski, education director at the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center)”.

Although this project has focused on kids in low-income, high risk environments so far, I see positive implications and potential for this sort of practice in all classrooms, especially when students are confronted with significant pressure and stress – perhaps when an 8 year old is, for example, expected to endure 3 days of high-stakes standardized testing.

In case you missed it, Louis CK cares:


I wonder how much of mindfulness is aesthetic practice and how much it prepares us for it…

Perhaps contemplative practices, as the practices designed to be conducive to religious experiences, can contribute to a disposition of openness to aesthetic experiences. In other words, perhaps contemplative practices and aesthetic practices share enough common ground in terms of the capacities they activate and develop, that they become mutually supportive. And if we conceive both such practices broadly, we even find significant overlap. Dancing can be a both a contemplative practice and an aesthetic practice. Painting can be a contemplative practice; silent meditation can be an aesthetic practice.