How to improve our national education system. Today many children come to school with nervous systems unprepared to learn. Our modern lifestyle contains huge doses of real and/or imaginary violence, constant media exposure, general busyness, and high pressure that constantly triggers the fight-freeze response, stimulating our limbic systems, washing our minds and bodies with stress hormones. This can have long-term effects.
Educators and researchers are exploring the use of contemplative or mindfulness-based approaches to teaching and learning to reduce stress, enhance classroom climate, and help students calm their bodies and minds, open their hearts and focus their attention.
Thanks to contemporary neuroscience, we now know that exposure to situations that trigger emotional reactivity during development changes the way our brain and body respond to future stressors. It’s like a thermostat that’s been turned up too high.
But contemporary neuroscience has also discovered neuroplasticity, the principle that our brains can change and grow at almost any stage of life depending on how we use them. We have the potential to profoundly change the way bodies and minds function at any age, but especially during development.
Contemplative education deserves a prominent place in the national debate on improving teaching and learning. We know teachers are stressed, we know too many students and schools are failing, and we know it’s unacceptable. But beyond testing and interdiction, we need to approach these complex, human problems on a human level too, and start by asking the right questions. How can we relieve and better cope with the stresses. How can we better prepare and open students and teachers minds and hearts for presence, resilience, receptivity, communication and learning.