Teaching Mindfulness in the Classroom – Starting with Ourselves – Opening to Empathy

MINDFULNESS IN THE CLASSROOM

OPENING TO EMPATHY

Before you begin to teach mindful activities it’s important to remember; how can we teach the kiddos if we haven’t experienced it?  There are many activities that we, as teachers, can do to improve our own mindful practice and bring it into the classroom.
Opening to Empathy gives us a way to deal with the frustration and emotions that arise when dealing with difficult situations involving a student.  It allows the teacher to step back, empathize with the student, and find a solution that is beneficial to all involved.
 
The most wonderful thing is this exercise can be done during any frustrating situations with students, parents, coworkers, or family members!
 
The following Activity is from Daniel Rechtschaffen’s workbook The Mindful Education Workbook: Lessons for Teaching Mindfulness to Students. This was part of the week-long workshop I attended at Omega Institute this past summer.
 
PRACTICE: OPENING TO EMPATHY
We can begin by letting our bodies relax and returning to the four-part breath. With each breath, we cultivate some stillness and focus. Now bring to mind a recent experience with a student that was frustrating. We can picture it in our minds like a video replaying the incident. As we picture this incident, we can notice which thoughts are correlated with it. See if there are any judgments passing through the mind. As we keep picturing this student, we bring our awareness to our emotions and sensations. Is the jaw tight? Is the heart heavy? Observe how picturing this scene affects our bodies. Take a few breaths, noticing where any tension or discomfort is on the inhale and relaxing and releasing on the exhale. Try this a few times until there is a sense of stillness. Now picture the student again, but this time hold our hearts open to them. As we picture the student we can say to ourselves:
Just like me, this student has so much going on inside.
Just like me, this student wants to be happy.
Just like me, this student struggles.
Just like me, this student wants to find a sense of balance.
 
We can say all types of empathetic phrases, realizing how the student has so much going on inside just like we do. We stay interested to see what it feels like in our hearts to be empathetic even when we are frustrated.
 
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME
Whenever we experience frustration toward our students, colleagues, or family members, we can practice this exercise. We notice the ways people trigger us and take a moment to look inside. We witness our thoughts, feel our feelings, and see if we can work our empathy muscles. When we practice in this way, we learn to respond with greater composure, non-judgment, and kindness. 
 
 
If you are looking for more ways to practice mindful activities in your classroom check out my 
One-Minute Mindfulness Activity Cards 
at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store 
or my Etsy Store 

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