Across the nation, schools are facing an epidemic of students struggling with poor attention, low academic performance, lack of impulse control, stress, bullying and violent behavior. Room to Breathe explores one promising solution that has been tested in dozens of public and private schools – a self-regulatory technique called “mindfulness” that increases kids’ focus and concentration, self-awareness, and ability to control their impulses.
The film presents a hopeful story of transformation, following a young mindfulness teacher, Megan Cowan, as she spends several months attempting to teach the technique to troubled kids in a San Francisco public middle school that tops the district in disciplinary suspensions.
Confronted by defiance and contempt, Cowan at first runs into substantial difficulties in the classroom. But under her guidance, the students begin to learn the technique and eventually use it to take greater control over their lives, decrease stress, and focus better in class and at home.
Based on the experiences depicted in the film, as well as results at other schools and independent academic studies, the mindfulness technique appears to have broad potential to significantly improve kids’ social interactions with peers and adults, to reduce bullying and violence, and to improve academic performance and graduation rates.