College for Creative Studies Adjunct Professor Molly Beauregard enjoyed teaching a variety of sociology classes, and likewise, her students seemed to like what they were learning. However, after nearly a decade in education, Beauregard started noticing a change in her students and found it increasingly challenging to reach them.
"I was doing the same kind of dog-and-pony show, and they were distracted. It was clear, the students felt unhappy. I had people not really showing up for class, and I felt confused by it," recalled the Bloomfield Village resident.
One semester in particular, in a class of approximately 23 students, four told her that they had made serious attempts on their life. Her classroom observations and experiences were echoed in a then-recent national study on college students' mental health.
"On the one hand, it was validating," she said. "But, I was saddened and stunned in hearing those statistics, and I started to think a lot about the tools I used to make me feel good and healthy and to help me stay grounded. The number one thing I came to was my meditation practice."
While educators are continually searching for ways to connect with their students and create a meaningful educational experience, Beauregard, 55, actually found a way and shares it in a newly released book, Tuning the Student Mind.
Published by SUNY Press in June, her writing documents her students' intellectual and spiritual journey for a semester as they learned to meditate and use it as a reflective tool to explore and better understand themselves.
Beauregard interweaves personal stories, student writing, and her response to the students' essays to makes a case for the transformative power of consciousness-centered education.
The book drew accolades from Deepak Chopra, a prominent self-help guru and well-known advocate for alternative medicine. In December, Chopra interviewed Beauregard about her work and posted their conversation on his YouTube channel.
People often ask Beauregard if it took her a long time to write the book. It didn't. She completed it in about a year, but its content is based on 12 years of research and classroom implementation, starting shortly after her disheartening classroom observations.
At that time, Beauregard took a year-long teaching sabbatical. She returned to CCS with a thoroughly researched proposal to incorporate meditation into her curriculum. It took some tweaking before the school gave her the green light to teach a course titled Consciousness, Creativity, and Identity.
The class combined the spiritual and theoretical, integrating meditation and self-reflection with a conventional academic curriculum. She calls it consciousness-centered education, and it's the basis of her book.
Beauregard said Tuning the Student Mind provides an accessible, step-by-step template for other educators while inviting readers to reconnect with the joy of learning in – and beyond – the classroom.
Her book shares a title with a 30-minute, award-winning documentary created by a former student to illustrate how Beauregard’s teaching method impacts those taking her class. The film, released in 2015, aired on PBS and has helped draw readers to the book.
Although the book is geared toward students and teachers, based on the feedback she’s been getting, she found that it resonated with parents as well.
"They see their children in it, and it gives them a particular insight into the kinds of struggles their children are having, and it legitimizes their experiences of living with upset kids," she said.
Story: Jennifer Lovy
Photo: Laurie Tennent