Mindfulness helps students cope

Mindfulness at Calabasas helps students cope through distance and remote learning
Posted on 02/22/2021
The third grade teachers are using the eSpark student App. At the beginning of each class session students are asked to rate how they feel. The avatar will change daily depending on the student's choice at the beginning of the program.

By Sarah Wright

Student mental health has been a concern for students, parents, teachers, and administrators throughout the covid-19 health crisis over the past year.

Many students are struggling, and many students, families, and teachers have taken steps to address this concern.

Third grade teachers at Calabasas School do daily check-ins to find out how their students are coping. If they notice a student needs a little extra TLC, they meet one-on-one with that student, according to Bethany Patterson, principal.

Elizabeth Bond is the distance learning teacher for the fourth and fifth grade learners. In her class she provides a “recess” time where students have 30 unstructured minutes to chat with their classmates in a Google meeting. The Google Classroom also has a “Butterfly Garden” where social butterflies can say hi and post updates for one another. There is also a strong focus on growth mindset development.

The eighth graders participate in a couple of minutes of social and emotional learning daily by using the “Be Mindful Card Deck for Teens,” animation videos from Headspace (a company specializing in meditation), expressing gratitude, and completing a weekly self-evaluation.

Recently a group of middle school students from Calabasas met to discuss activities they are doing and strategies they are implementing to protect their mental health during distance, remote and hybrid learning.

The students all acknowledged the obstacles they are facing include feeling disconnected from peers and teachers, difficulty in engaging with people through a screen, not having a teacher next to them to guide them through their work, and taking advantage of the independence they often feel at home compared to being in a classroom.

In spite of those challenges, the students are being proactive about maintaining their mental health. Activities range from listening to calm music, meditating, taking walks in the early morning, playing with pets, riding horses, drawing, and spending quality time with family.

Amed Preciado, an eighth grader, said that at one point during remote learning he began waking up early in the morning. He decided to make use of the early morning wakefulness to fulfill his responsibility of walking his family’s dogs.

“Taking walks in the morning is amazing,” Preciado said, “because of the fresh air and the smell. One day I woke up early, and I just decided to take the dogs out. I just kept doing it because it felt good.”

Jelanie Ryser-Cantua, a seventh grader, said she has found connection with her family during this time.

“I like to be with my family because I can spend more time with them and do fun activities with them. We watch movies, play board games and go on walks with my family, even my dog comes with us,” she said.

Frank Hernandez and Andrea Arias, both seventh graders, have found contentment through personal hobbies. Hernandez rides his horses daily with his best friend.

“It gets me relaxed, because horses have a lot of love and being at the ranch just clears your mind,” he said.

Arias added that drawing and running help her clear her mind so she can focus.

Alejandra Lorta, an eighth grader, said her parents have the same high expectations as always for her academic progress, but that they have been adjusted to confront the present reality.

Lorta said she has found listening to music while she does her schoolwork reduces her stress and helps her focus. Inspired by a video she saw on tiktok she has also started practicing meditation to help her feel more confident.

“It’s like an escape whenever I feel super stressed. It’s like an escape from the outside world, but in your mind. A mental escape,” Lorta said of her meditation practice.

When asked what advice she would give other students, Lorta said, “Try to stay positive through it all, even though sometimes you may be stressed out, because this is the new normal.”

Ryser-Cantua said she would encourage other students to relax and to remember that the changes in school schedules won’t last forever.

Preciado added, “Try to get used to it. Live your life the way you used to, but combine it with new ways of doing things.”