When other teachers find out that I practice mindfulness in the classroom, a usual response is, “I would love to do that, but I don’t even know where to start?”
I remember when I first decided to practice mindfulness in the classroom. I attended a TED Talk at Columbia Teachers College on the importance of mindfulness and how it can be used with students. I was so inspired I hit the internet and read as many books as I could on the subject and watched a ton of videos.
What I realized is that in order to teach students to use mindful techniques, I had to practice them myself. As teachers, we have the unique opportunity of having summers for ourselves. (That is if you are not teaching summer school or the hundreds of other jobs that educators work in order to ensure fiscal security.) I decided to use the summer to practice a variety of mindful techniques that could be helpful to me, and then, in turn, to my students.
The first year I decided to focus on mediation. Just like many teachers, I do not have a lot of extra time in the classroom, so I had to think of ways that were short, but effective. I came up with the following exercise to start each class.
LET’S GET STARTED!
This may be different type of meditation than is normally expected. When most people think of meditation they assume that students are sitting crossed leg on the floor in sitting upright in there chairs. I did not find this method effective. First, my students sit all day long. Second, as teenagers they never seem to get enough sleep. I’m amazed at how quickly they can fall asleep, even in a minute or two. So, I decided on a standing meditation.
STANDING AND STRETCHING
SHave them touch their toes, crack their knuckles, bend side to side, etc. Like I said earlier, they sit all day, so this is a welcomed exercise.
TStudents stand with their feet him distance apart, hands by their side, and knees slightly bent. Remind them not to lock their knees. YOU DON’T WANT ANYONE PASSING OUT!
EYES CLOSED OR FOCUSED
E Not everyone is comfortable closing their eyes in a group setting. It actually gives many students anxiety and distress. While I do not force students to close their eyes, they have the option so f focusing on a point in front of them. Sort of like when they “space out.”
Every exercise starts and ends with THREE DEEP BREATHS. I even tell students that this step is just as important as the meditation. I have students take 3 deep breaths. To teach this step I have students place their hands on their stomachs. I tell them that on the inhale, expand your stomachs into a balloon and on the exhale, force the air out of their bodies while sucking in their stomach. We inhale to the 4 count and exhale for the count of 6. After they have been practicing this basic step for a while, I will also guide them while they breath. I begin by telling them to relax their eyes, jaw, arms, hands, and finally press their feet into the floor. This helps relax the students and release any tension they may be feeling in their bodies.
We remain silent for two minutes. When first introducing this practice, I only have the students focus on their breath. I try to make it a game. “Let’s focus on how long we can focus on our breath until our minds wander.” At first it may only be a few seconds, but they catch their minds wondering, they are asked to refocus and try again. The next day we try for a few more seconds, and so on. There are many other exercise you can have them do during the silence such as affirmations, or visualization, but I also began with the basic focus on breath.
After the two minutes are up, we take three more deep breaths, wiggle their fingers and open their eyes.
Then we begin class. That entire exercise takes about 3 1/2 minutes. You can also begin with one minute of silence, or whatever best fits your schedule.
NOW, LET’S DO IT
As I stated earlier, it is very important to practice mindfulness yourself. You are the best examples for your students and once you know what to do, it is easier to explain to your students. Also remember, just like with any other exercise, improvement happens slowly over time. Kids love to say, “I tried it once and it didn’t work.” I tell them it’s like getting six-pack abs. Just because you do a lot of sit-ups one time, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. The same goes for mindfulness. Just because you did it once, doesn’t mean its going to cure all your problems.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
If you are looking for other ways to add mindful activities to your classroom, check out these One-Minute Mindfulness Cards that I have available at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store .https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mindfulness-Activities-One-Minute-Mindfulness-Cards-for-All-Ages-3656221