Learning to be mindful before finals


Marelena Halikias

Every Thursday, freshman gym classes attend “Ruler,” a presentation in the auditorium led by their gym teachers. Ruler teaches freshmen how to recognize emotions in their classmates in order to be their best selves and have a valuable high school experience.

With finals quickly approaching, student stress levels are higher than ever. The countless last minute tests, projects, and presentations that pile up at the end of the quarter never fail to cause chaos before final exams. Each semester, study and stress tips are offered to students to make the end of the quarter more manageable.

This year, a new strategy is being used to combat stress: social-emotional learning. Once a week, each freshman gym class is being taught about “mindfulness,” and how being mindful can help to alleviate much of the stress that is prevalent in high school.

“To be mindful is to be physically present and to be present with your mind,” said Mrs. Greenberg, science teacher. “It’s about being aware not just of your surroundings, but also of your emotions and the emotions of those around you, and being more perceptive to the environment.”

Freshmen in particular are focusing on this theme as a way to manage the high school setting, which can be overwhelming in its early stages. For each gym period, the goal of the physical education teachers is to lead students in mindful activities and show videos to help students become more aware of their peers’ emotions, as well as their own.

“We do ‘ruler training’ once a week, where we do activities such as meditating, mapping our emotions, having conversations about why we are stressed and how to cope, and watching psychological science videos about tactics to conquer stress,” said Katrina Geiersbach, freshman. 

Marelena Halikias
Mrs. Tazelaar and Mr. Wiggins lead their physical education classes’ sessions, guiding them through activities like drawing, charades, and partner work to help them understand the concepts.

While the intention of the mindfulness activities is to teach the underclassmen how stress can be managed and why it’s important to be mindful of their emotions, many freshmen feel that the course isn’t as effective as it could be.

“I don’t think this program is in any way harmful, but I don’t think it’s beneficial either. I understand that this program is setup to improve our psychological outlook on life, but I don’t believe it is achieving that,” said Stephanie Cochlan, freshman. “Talking about emotions is a very sensitive subject for most, and usually we are expected to share or hand in information to our coaches and peers that we don’t know very well, so it’s not a very personal environment.”

While freshmen this year are specifically focusing on mindful activities each week, there are also many staff members throughout the school that try to create time for their students to be mindful during the school day.

“We try to do mindful activities once a week in class. Those can be a range of reflective activities, goal setting, or team building, really depending on the week,” Mrs. Greenberg said. “Making that more routine and incorporating it more regularly has to be a priority. It’s very important to take those minutes every week and to take those skills that are built, and to apply them to other classes and to life.”

The goal of most mindful activities is to relieve the mind of much of the stress it is enduring, and allow the individual to find peace in hectic situations, which are common around the end of the semester.

“It’s all about keeping in touch with the human condition. I think it’s really important to remember that we are emotional beings and we have physical, emotional, and academic needs we have to be in tune with,” Mrs. Greenberg said.

While mindfulness activities may not be the most popular among students, with finals coming up, it’s important to realize the benefits they offer.