ClassDojo CEO: Never Too Early for Kids to Learn About Mindfulness
If you felt a positive disturbance in The Force today, it may have been due to ClassDojo’s Mindful Moment. At 11am local time, millions of kids from schools in 180 countries are participating in the “world’s biggest virtual mindfulness class.” The course comes with a downloadable lesson plan from ClassDojo, a San Francisco-based educational technology company.
Sam Chaudhary, co-founder and CEO of ClassDojo, says the idea behind Mindful Moment came out of a nationwide survey conducted by the company, which found that 98 percent of teachers experience anxiety about school life. Nine out of 10 teachers and parents said that they were interested in mindfulness lessons for the classroom, yet only 10 percent of respondents said they had such a program at their schools.
ClassDojo worked with Marc Brackett, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, to offer a series of free mindfulness videos and downloadable activities for teachers worldwide to use in the classroom. Yale Health defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. Mindfulness and meditation practices have been shown to decrease stress, improve sleep quality, increase compassion towards oneself and others, and improve overall well-being.”
“Mindfulness is the kind of idea that people want to benefit from, but haven’t had access to,” Chaudhary explains. “The reality is that for a lot of kids, there are a lot of parts to education that they don’t love. There are a lot of social and emotional challenges, and learning how to manage them is just as important as academics.”
ClassDojo is a digital communications platform connecting teachers to parents and students. The company’s products help teachers to create the culture they desire in their classrooms, and allow students to create portfolios they can share with parents that explore what they’re learning. Chaudhary says ClassDojo is used to some degree in 95 percent of K-8 schools in the US. The 40-person company’s mindfulness content is part of a suite of tools relating to mental health, he adds.
In Michigan, Beacon Elementary in Harper Woods uses ClassDojo in a designated “focus room” for kids who are prone to outbursts. Continually staffed by two adults with specialized training, the focus room gives students a place away from the classroom to take a break with games and toys. They also have the option to practice mindfulness via videos from ClassDojo, which the company says helps students reflect and think of ways to improve in the future.
According to tracking data collected by Beacon, during the first quarter of the 2018-2019 school year, the focus room saw a total of 288 first graders but only 83 second graders, possibly suggesting that as students use the focus room and experience the lessons learned there, they are less likely to need to go back.
Chaudhary says that ClassDojo’s goal is to use technology to level the playing field in terms of educational opportunity. “Equity is very important,” he continues. “Some kids get an amazing educational experience, and some kids don’t have access to anything. That’s unfair, because kids don’t choose the circumstances they’re born into. Our hope is to use technology as a power for good, and make it accessible and easily consumable.”
Chaudhary expects to create more mindfulness content in the future as the company continues to build out its platform.
“My hope for the Mindful Moment is that it’s the first step in a life-long practice,” he says. “I love the focus room idea at Beacon—it’s a pathway to build an empathetic, inclusive school culture.”