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Benefits of Meditation and Yoga
in CTC Programs

Thomas Viviano, Ph.D. / Lisa Cuffari 

          There have been a few studies on infusing Mindfulness and Yoga into elementary and high school class rooms and this article will examine the benefits of including them in Career and Technical Centers (CTCs).  These studies showed that Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga improved anger management (less episodes of anger outbursts), less incidences of fatigue, an increase in student resilience, a decrease in attention deficit, and improvement in concentration.  Merriam-Webster defines Yoga as, “A Theistic Philosophy teaching the suppression of all body, mind, and will, in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attains liberation.”1 I would simply state that Yoga is a system of exercises for mental and physical health.  Meditation is, “spending time in quiet thought for purposes of relaxation.”  Career and Technical Education lends itself naturally to this type of infused mind and body relaxation as in most cases, there is time enough to incorporate these activities since students spend on average of two hours and thirty minutes in their programs.  What are some distinctions about CTCs that would lend itself to benefiting from meditation and yoga?

  
  • The average time CTC students spend in their part-time program area is about two and one-half hours during the course of the day.This is much longer than the traditional 45 or 90 minute block of time that their academic counterparts spend in class.
  • CTC students exercise both cognitive and performance skills in learning and in practice.
  • Their CTC program exercises may require more active energy than that of some passive academic classes.
  • Because of time and schedule constraints, CTC students may not have physical education classes available to them as much as the traditional academic school allows.
  • Because of the dangerous environment and working conditions of some CTC programs, it is imperative that students need to be alert, safety conscious, and stay focused on the task at hand.
  • Finally, because some CTC programs involve human services such as Cosmetology, Dental, Early Child Care, and Culinary, where students may be in contact with live clients, it is crucial that they can take the focus off of themselves and center wholly on the client that they are working with. The few studies that have been done to this point have indicated many benefits of mindfulness and yoga in schools and for the most part, have proven to be beneficial both subjectively and objectively. The areas that were researched and have been proven to be of some benefit in applying some kind of mind and body disciplines are but not limited to:
  • Better behavior
  • Increased academic performance
  • Emotional and social development benefits
  • Increased attendance
  • A calming affect
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Increased concentration
  • Overall feeling of well-being
  • Enhanced body awareness
  • Less fatigue and muscle strain
  • Better mental health
  • Increase in resiliency
  • Anger control
  • Less episodes of rumination and intrusive thoughts
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased self-care
  • Sense of interconnection with nature
  • Less stress
  
 

            Peck, Kehle, Bray, & Theodore state, “Assuming that this study is replicated, yoga may become a promising alternative or compliment     to behavioral or medical interventions that are commonly used for children with attention problems.”2 Attention to what’s occurring is important in all walks of education but has particular implications when safety in the CTC lab is in question.  Career and Technical Education (CTE) students can hurt themselves or someone else if they are not totally aware of safety implications of the tools and equipment they are using.  Even the best and most experienced craftspeople can make erroneous judgments while working if their mind is not totally focused on what they are doing
 
            Khalsa, Hickey-Schultz, Cohen, Steiner, & Cope during their research on the mental health benefits of yoga in a secondary school, found that “three variables of the study showed statistically significant change from baseline to end-program in a yoga group compared with a control group.”3 The three areas were anger control, fatigue, and resilience with p values of 0.03, 0.02, and 0.01 respectively.  They found through various instruments of measure that students at the end of a yoga experience with the average of 20.5 sessions (SD =7.7), had better anger control, less fatigue, and more resilience than their control group counterparts.  The beneficial effects of anger control manifested itself in improved emotional intelligence, stability, self-control, self-reflection, and self-awareness.  For resilience, the ramifications here are that yoga may provide the kind of equanimity and personal resources that are associated with successful attempts at coping with stress and adversity and therefore a protective effect on mental health.  All of our students are over tested but CTE students have the added burden of an end of program assessment as well as their keystone and SAT exams that their academic counterparts take.  Add getting up earlier because of bussing issues for CTE students, co-op, part-time jobs, always having to be conscience of safety, and other CTE specific nuances, CTE students have to practice extra resilience.
 
           Mendelson et al., in their study of school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth, found that “(1) a mindfulness-based intervention is feasible to implement in urban public schools and is likely to be attractive to students, teachers, and administrators, and (2) shows promise in reducing problematic physiological and cognitive patterns of response to stress among youth.”4  Significant improvements were found in rumination, intrusive thoughts, and emotional arousal (p < 0.01), (p < 0.05), and, (p <0.01) respectively.  Also, a trend towards improvement in impulsive action (p = 0..07), and physiologic arousal (p = 0.07) were evident.  If a CTE student is bogged down in rumination, intrusive thoughts, and impulsive action, his ability to concentrate and thwart unwanted thoughts will be limited, therefore impacting negatively on his academic and CTE skills.  More importantly however, if a student exercises these undesirable thoughts with consistency, it can seriously impair his ability to restrain himself from violent intervention with tools in his hands that can now be considered weapons.  If you think about what we entrust these students to do and what instruments and machines we encourage them to operate on a daily basis, the ramifications can be harmful and dangerous.  We want all of our students to be able to have control over their emotions at all times and to resist impulsive violent behavior. 
    
 
            Wall, in his article on Tai Chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a middle school noted that, “Tai Chi  and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) provides strategies for children to react less to emotional cultural triggers, increase their awareness in self and others, and establish confidence in self-defense.  Learning MBSR helps students to self- regulate their feelings and the triggers that arouse (hostile) feelings” 5    A CTE environment is a huge social environment where students spend the majority of their day and become very familiar with many students for extended periods of time.  It is this familiarity that sometimes can breed contempt if students are not getting help with balancing these emotions, and with social and emotional intelligence skill-sets.
 
            Hilbert & Piper in their article on kid’s yoga for brain health stress five methods towards better student health and frame of mind and brain.  (1) “The first simple method to support a healthy brain, growing brain is hydration.  (2) Another easy way to improve a child’s attention level and foster a healthy brain development is substantial sleep. (3) The brain must be nourished with nutrient-rich food. (4) A more complicated strategy is limiting the use of technology.  Today’s children learn this way so this may be the most difficult method to follow. (5) Finally, they should schedule time to quiet the brain.”6 Number five is the foundation and basis of all mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. 
 
            Lisa Cuffari, the Dental Assistant teacher at Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, and a practicing extended function dental assistant (EFDA), practices meditation and yoga on a daily basis.  She states: When working in a dental office, the physical demands place a lot of stress on the body, particularly the neck, shoulders, back, and legs.  There is a constant need to stand for long periods of time, repeat the same motions, bend or twistthe body when operating equipment or examining patients, always stretching, twisting, and reaching out, use the stomach and lower back muscles to support the body, use muscles to lift, push, pull, and carry heavy objects, and to balance yourself to stay upright when in an unstable position.  Also there is stress in the constant need to stay focused.  Focused on details of objects that are a few feet away, see distinct differences between colors, shades, and brightness, focus on one source of sound while ignoring others, and understanding speech of patients.  Future dental assistants face the potential of muscle stretches, and can experience work related pain, such as back, neck, and shoulder pain as well as headaches.  As with any type of physical pain this can lead to exhaustion and even depression.  The average worker spends at least eight hours a day in unnatural awkward positions and if proper body mechanics are not practiced one may become prematurely fatigued and face a lifetime battling pain and discomfort.  Many dental hygeinists are faced with carpel tunnel syndrome where tendons of the wrist swell and exert pressure on the surrounding nerves causing painful tingling and a decrease in the ability to squeeze objects.  Working in dentistry requires good posture and flexibility to reach for objects and access the oral cavity.  It is recommended that clinical dental professionals practice muscle strenghening and stretching exercises to prevent any damaging effects to the body. You could transfer many of the above physical and mental demands mentioned above to just about any CTC program.  Ms. Cuffari feels strongly that her meditation and yoga practice significantly reduces the negative impact of such activity and feels the difference when she skips a session or two.  “I know of a dentist who has a yoga instructor come in once a week for his staff,” she says.
 
            An organization called Yoga Ed has been developed for the advocacy of yoga in the classroom with the philosophy that, “We envision a future where schools are seedbeds of health and happiness.  Where educators coach and embody lifelong well-being through dynamic teaching.  Where students learn life skills to cultivate mind-body fitness in tandem with academic success.”7 There is no doubt that adding secular mindfulness and yoga to the overall educational experience is a growing phenomenon throughout not only the United States but the world.  It is imperative that students clear the mind in order to sharpen their focus on their subject matter to help realize their career goals. 

  
References:
  • Merriam-Webster. (2014).     
  • Peck, H. L., Kehle, T. J., Bray, M. A., & Theodore, L. A. (2005, ). Research to practice: Yoga as an interventionfor children with attention problems. School Psychology Review, 34, 415 - 424. Retrieved from 
  • Khalsa, S. S., Hickey-Schultz, L., Cohen, D., Steiner, N., & Cope, S. (2011). Evaluation of the mental health benefits of yoga in a secondary school:  A preliminary randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 39, 80 - 90. 
  • Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B. L., & Leaf, P. J. (2010, May 4). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 985-994.  10.1007/s10802-010-9418-x
  • Wall, R. B. (2005, July/August). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston public middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19, 230-237. 
  • Hilbert, J., & Piper, L. (2014, Fall). Kids yoga for brain health. Yoga Living, 16(2), 16.
  • Yoga ed website. (2014). 
  
  

ABOUT AUTHOR
Thomas Viviano, Ph.D.
ARTICLES
  • FEATURED ARTICLE

  • EDUCATIONAL ARTICLE
EDUCATIONAL ARTICLES

  • Should Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace Be Taught in CTCs?


           Many studies and much research have been done verifying the significance and importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace in dealing with individuals or teams. This article looks at the importance of emotional and social intelligence in the workplace and how important it is to include emotional intelligence as part of the comprehensive overall training and education of our secondary students in career and technical education. It also addresses the importance of group intelligence in the workplace and in secondary career and technical centers. Since many tasks at both of these levels are project based, it is imperative that the teams going into these activities develop an understanding of group dynamics and what characteristics can make or break progress towards the successful completion of their mission.  

  • What 21st Century Leadership in Career and Technical Education Should Look Like


​          When speaking of educational leadership today there are many characteristics of leadership that are needed that perhaps were not necessary five, ten, or fifteen years ago. Technology's impact on how students learn and how teachers teach has had educational leadership think about more innovative ways in which to prepare, deliver, and assess curriculum. It is necessary now to empower our teachers as they are in the trenches and to lead in a way that that reflects unconditional positive regard through relationships. Trust and love take the place of power and fear in order for employees to buy into educational reform and it's important for them to know that they are in the forefront of change and are key agents of change. It is equally as imperative for today's CTE [Career and Technical Education] leaders to stay abreast of current and future trends in business and industry and to encourage technical educators to stay current in their professional and trade areas as well as in pedagogy.

  • Charlotte Danielson or National Board Certification: A Comparison and Contrasting of Two Major National Frameworks for Teaching

​​
          Two well-known major frameworks to measure teacher performance and determine what a teacher should know and be able to do are undoubtedly the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and Charlotte Danielson's Framework for teaching. Charlotte Danielson has four major domains and National Board Certification (NBPTS) has five major core propositions. Although they differ in wording, there are many similarities. As of this writing the Pennsylvania Department of Education is in the process of adopting Danielson's Framework domains and is in the process of piloting a rubric for the four domains that will be used as its teacher evaluation/assessment system. This paper explores the differences and similarities of NBPTS and Danielson's Frameworks but doesn't advocate for either. It also explores whether an NBPTS teacher would fare well on Danielson's framework rubric given their similarities. (Contains 1 figure.)
 
  

  • What Impact Does the Software Study Island Have on 4Sight, PSSA, and NOCTI Assessments of Part-Time CTE Students?


          The impact of the No Child Left Behind Legislation has left Career and Technical Education searching for methods and strategies to infuse academics into their curriculum to help students, through a rigorous and integrated educational experience, develop competencies required for higher education and ultimately, work. Unfortunately, there were pressures placed on states, districts, and schools to arrive at certain preset bench marks where ultimately, by 2014, all students would reach the 100 percent proficiency benchmark in state standardized achievement assessments. The NCLB along with IDEIA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act], partnered to make sure that all students with IEPs or 504 plans were held to the same standards regarding participation in these standardized assessments and also in the reporting process (Cornell University Law School website, n.d). This study looks at one part-time suburban Career and Technical Center and measures the impact of the software, Study Island, used to integrate academics into their Career and Technical Education programs. Specifically, 4Sight, PSSA [Pennsylvania State System of Assessment], and NOCTI [National Occupational Competency Testing Institute] assessments were examined for effect and relationship with Study Island for students without IEPs and students with IEPs. Study Island is tutorial software that aligns with the state's core curriculum and standards. Two appendixes present: (1) IRB [Institutional Review Board] Basic Training; and (2) IRB Approval Letter; (Contains 36 tables and 15 figures.)

  • Self versus Others' Perception of Youths' Mental Health


          Data was analyzed in the National Longitudinal Survey Study from 1997 specifically relating to questions regarding depression in youth. In the analysis it was found that how the respondent defined their own depression and poor mental health was different than the perceptions about their mental health from those that live with them in the same household, mostly parents. It was also questioned if gender made a difference regarding poor mental health, both self-assessed and by others in the household. In all cases, the respondents' self perception of mental health was much worse than the perception of those who lived with them. The ramifications from this may mean that the respondent may not get the help they need to improve mental health because others in the household, especially parent figures, are unaware of the depth of the disability. This may also indicate that communication is lacking in this area because of the stigma attached to mental disabilities. It was also found that gender did make a difference in that females considered themselves more depressed than males. What was interesting was that others' impression of the female respondents' mental health was much more positive than others' impression of the males even though self-perception showed the opposite. Either depression in females is more prevalent than in males or males are talking about it more freely. Regardless, it is essential that parents and guardians become educated in distinguishing differences between typical teenage anxiety and depression and communicating about this disorder and knowing what signs to look for. A part of this study also shows the impact that depression has on how much time youth spend at work in a year which collaborates with many previous studies. (Contains 3 tables and 1 figure.)

  • "Educating 21st Century Students: A Close-Up Look at a Successful Career and Technical Center"


          Through this paper we try to convey the necessity to provide the workforce with a labor force that is academically and technologically ready to meet the 21st century global demands. We feel this is accomplished by providing the students at MBIT [Middle Bucks Institute of Technology] with industry-standard equipment, academic and technology curricula that address what students need to know and be able to do in a competitive national and international arena, and with the employability skills that will foster responsible citizenship, collaboration, creative, and critical thinking. We introduce ways of achieving this through Challenge Based Learning (CBL), effective use of cutting-edge technology, learning through exploration and experiential strategies, differentiated instruction, and the necessity to learn each student's learning style. One of the key attributes and qualities of ensuring success is the faculty's willingness to embrace change and in doing so, fostering what works and discarding what does not. We understand the value of curriculum mapping, aligning academic eligible content with trade area standards and objectives, and in creating robust learning guides filled with technology and academic standards. We broach the importance of front-line management to instill in the faculty the value in establishing trust in their leadership, exercising their right to self-govern, to collaborate in the school's shared vision, and to exercise their freedom to think and contribute to the overall good of the school, the district, and the community. It is through these practices that Middle Bucks Institute of Technology is able to provide the 21st century skills to its students that prepare them for the rigors of higher education and employment. (Contains 2 figures.)

  • In Classroom Mentor Teachers: An Addition to Mentor Teachers


          There have been numerous studies done on the impact that mentor teachers and new teacher induction plans have on the new teachers' success in the first couple of years. A lot of these studies were done in an attempt not only to determine how to attract good teachers, but to retain them. It is our hope in this article to also determine if by having a classroom coach and teacher mentors in place, we can mold these new teachers into a strong cultural fit. This article looks at what impact an inside-the-classroom coach would have in addition to the benefits previously obtained from having mentor teachers that teach their own classes. Recent retired teachers and administrators serve as great untapped resources and have the time available to spend in the classroom while the traditional mentor teachers have their own classroom responsibilities and are unable to give the new teachers their undivided attention for a longer period of time. The school in this study, the Middle Bucks Institute of Technology (MBIT), has a two-year induction plan utilizing the skills of three mentor teachers and one classroom coach to provide support to five new teachers. Two of the mentor teachers are each assigned to mentor two new teachers and one mentor teacher is assigned to mentor one new teacher. The new classroom coach circulates among the classroom of the five new teachers during instructional time to observe and advise.

  • What Happens When Computer Software Is Used to Monitor Students' Conceptualization, Construction, and Analysis of Actual Electronic Circuits


          Of primary concern is the ability of students high school age to be able to conceptualize what actually goes on in electronic circuitry in order for them to be able to build and troubleshoot with precision skill. The Fault Assisted Circuit Electronic Trainer (FACET) was used on three students to determine if this electronic computer-aided instruction would be beneficial in helping students understand and conceptualize this complicated circuitry. This was a qualitative study where after each exercise on the FACET System, the students were interviewed to determine what was difficult to understand, easy to understand, where they struggled, and what was beneficial about this type of learning. This study took place in an Electrical Technology class at a three-year half-time Career and Technical Center. A bibliography is included.