Since the beginning of the year, Menlo has seen some successes in its push to improve mental health through mindfulness. Photo courtesy Mark Newton and Andy Kitt.
By Caroline Frantz
In the last two years, Menlo’s Upper School administration has taken steps to encourage mindfulness and meditation. Their intention was to help students de-stress and build healthy life habits that will last long after graduation. However, participation in these activities has not been popular.
Many students feel that meditation wastes valuable time, something that Menlo students have only a finite supply of. Meditation has now seemingly become another task Menlo requires them to complete, contrasting from the administration’s original intent. “There's this weird double-sidedness to Menlo,” sophomore Luke Arnold said. “There are insanely high expectations of [students] and an overwhelming amount of work, but [Menlo also] encourages us to just take our time, relax, and have fun.”
“We are mindful that students aren’t getting enough sleep, and we want to help them with that.” Upper School Director John Schafer said. Some teachers have included a form of meditation in their classes to encourage relaxation, but it was never an official part of a curriculum until it replaced the public speaking class in the freshman wellness rotation for the 2015-2016 school year.
Additionally, Menlo has been encouraging mindfulness exercises during advocacy time. “During advocacy all [students] want to do is eat food and chill out,” sophomore Kayla Zamanian said. “Sometimes we do homework, but other than that it’s mostly just a time to relax and have a period of time when there isn’t anything to do. I think that is why there is so much pushback on meditation.”
When practiced repeatedly, meditation should make students feel healthier, happier and more confident, but it takes effort to get to that place. Since the beginning of April, teachers Andy Kitt and Mark Newton have led 10-minute meditations sessions in Martin Hall before school on Thursdays. “We have had many teachers and administrators come, which is really cool,” Kitt said. “We haven’t had any kids yet, but I am still hopeful. Students will feel more encouraged to go when they see the teachers setting an example for them.”