Sloan incorporates meditation into his classes

Sloan: ‘Just relax and breathe’


Sam Barney-Gibbs/Talon

Meditation in the classroom has proven to be beneficial for students and reduces stress levels

By Sam Barney-Gibbs, Oak Park High School

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Chemistry and physics teacher David Sloan has been taking time out of his normal teaching schedule to add meditation sessions for his students.

According to the Exploration of Consciousness Research Institute, meditation in the classroom leads to greater relaxation, increased focus and more self-awareness for students.

“I had wanted to implement some sort of modified meditation to my students for years, this seemed like the timing would be perfect,” Sloan wrote to the Talon. “At the beginning of each class I’ll quickly take roll and then ask everyone to sit up straight, place their feet flat on the floor, close their eyes and just breathe.”

Sloan usually gets out of bed at 5 a.m. and meditates for about 20 minutes, occasionally meditating in the evening as well.

“I have found that with a consistent practice my overall stress levels diminish and I’m simply a happier person. The little annoyances throughout a day have much less of an effect on me and I’m able to maintain focus for a prolonged period of time,” Sloan wrote.

Sloan sometimes adds background noise or guided meditations during his sessions to fill the silence.

“We usually have some nature sounds in the background like ocean waves, summer ambiance or whatever sounds interesting. A couple times we have listened to a simple guided meditation,” Sloan wrote.

Sloan wrote that his integration of meditation in his classes could be beneficial for the high school students.

“Specifically, at OPHS, [students] face social, family and academic pressures that they are ill-equipped to deal with in a healthy manner,” Sloan said. “OPHS is notorious for being a ‘meat grinder’ of a school and one of our goals in the district is to decrease stress levels for our students.”

According to the Brain and Spine Team from the Cleveland Clinic, meditative practices allow students to perform better on exams and homework, while also aiding self-esteem, memory retention, the lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, and the immune system.

According to junior Alyssen Wong, the meditation, while not taking up much class time, is quite useful.

“Every day, we would take at least five minutes to just relax and let all our stress melt away. It also is a good way to loosen everyone up and get people to be more engaging/easy-going in class,” Wong wrote to the Talon. “For the most part it lets people clear their mind and relax for the future. We debrief after each meditation session.”

Sloan has received mostly positive feedback so far.

“[Students] express that the five minutes that we spend ‘breathing’ helps them to disconnect from the chaos of their busy lives. Most say that it helps them relax and focus,” Sloan wrote. “For most, it may be the only time during the day where they sit in silence with no distractions.”

Class time is cut short by the meditation sessions.

“My thought is that I can easily make up the five minutes in other ways; one minute here, two minutes there, take roll quicker, etc. For me, the benefits far outweigh any perceived time penalty,” Sloan said.

While Sloan has received mostly positive responses from students, some students are opposed to meditation time each class.

“If I’m energetic before the meditation, then I become even more tired before class starts,” junior Eri Ogata said. “It’s harder to concentrate on what he’s saying when teaching.”

Wong stated that she has implemented meditation outside of Sloan’s class.

“I’ve started using it outside of Chem to calm my nerves,” Wong wrote.

Sloan hopes that he can help instigate better practices in the lives of his students.

“I personally think that this is an investment in their mental and emotional well-being. My hope is that over time, with consistent practice my students will learn that these techniques can make a significant difference in their well-being,” Sloan said. “I feel that I have more to teach my students than just chemistry.”

This story was originally published on The Oak Park Talon on September 27, 2018.