In Student’s Own Words . . .

by Amelia Mraz

At the end of each 12-week mindfulness course, we ask students to take a survey about their experience with the class. While knowing this activity is not the most thrilling task, student survey responses and feedback offer invaluable insight into student’s relationship with mindfulness, engagement barriers-and wins, and how Inner Strength’s programming is making a positive impact on youth’s wellbeing.

Each semester we receive several thousand responses from students, sharing their stories and insights on what they liked and learned from the mindfulness program. While we use validated measurements such as a the EPOCH Scale, which provides statistical data on student engagement, perseverance, optimism, compassion, and happiness, open ended questions provide a more comprehensive narrative when combined with quantitative measures, as well as offering a space for students to anonymously provide honest feedback on their classroom experience.

As an instructor and research evaluator, I have to admit, reading the open-ended responses is one of my favorite parts of the research process. Knowing the time and effort our instructors invest in lesson preparation and activity planning, it gives me extra joy, when I read comments from students appreciating class activities, and the instructor’s passion and kindness.

Many students reflected on the benefits of mindfulness practices they learned from the course, such as one student who commented

“A mindfulness class can be beneficial as it teaches skills to manage stress, improve focus, and enhance overall well-being. It provides practical techniques to cultivate present-moment awareness, which can be valuable in navigating life’s challenges with greater resilience and mental clarity. My favorite part was interacting with others and reading the creative cards.” 

-11th Grade Student, Central High School

Other students shared their experiences with talking about feelings with peers and developing the habit of checking in with self, and writing down their inner weather.

“I liked when we meditated and talked about ways to be stress from and cool down after a long day. We had class discussions about how we felt about out day with a new topic everyday.”  -11th Grade Student, Central High School

Many students commented on the benefit of having a space within the school day to express themselves, connect with peers, and learn ways to handle stress and practice mindfulness.

“Mindfulness program was something different in a good way. It helped me find a way to deal with my anxiety or in their case my inner weather and what I was feeling and there is a way to calm yourself down. Using sound or breathing which really helps.” – 11th Grade Student, Bodine High School

“I learned to be more patient with myself and to always believe in myself. I also learned to express my thoughts and emotions more.”  – 11th Grade Student, Bodine High School

Not only does student feedback remind us of the importance of simply asking questions such as What did you like? And What did you learn, when evaluating school programming, but it also shows us that classrooms are more than curriculums, they are ecosystems of passionate teachers, curious students, and spaces where youth can normalize checking in with their thoughts and emotions, connect with peers, and cultivate kinder relationships with themselves, and others.

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