(Quite literally… NEXT WEEK! At least here in Canada… :P)
So, let’s get all you Educators out there motivated and ready to practice mindful moments this upcoming school year!
(Future you and your students will thank you for it!)
Are you ready…?
There just never seems to be enough of it.
Especially in a teacher’s day.
“How can I find the time?”
And understandably so…
Teachers have an extensive list of to-do’s!
An extensive, never-ending list…
HOW can we make time for Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is critical for students’ success, emotionalintelligence, and for building life skills.
Mindfulness is essential for teachers’ success, peaceofmind, and to preventburnout.
So, where do we find the time?!
I have the answer for you!
Here are 5 EFFORTLESS Ways to Add Mindfulness into Your Classroom TODAY:
Greet Students at the Door with Gratitude
Many teachers greet their students at the door each morning. Instead of just saying hi… add a fun “Question of the Day” element by asking kids “What are you grateful for?” before entering. Not only is it a fun way to practice mindful gratitude, you’ll also learn more about your students’ lives!
Take a Belly Breath In Between Classes
When switching from Math to Science, or English to Social, take a quick moment to pause for a breath. Have students place their hands on their bellies and take one big deep collective breath together. Remind them they are breathing out the previous activity to make room for the next!
First thing in the morning and at the end of the day, set a 30 second timer and have your students do a quick self check-in. Have students close their eyes (if comfortable) or gaze softly at a spot on the ground. Ask them to pay attention to any thoughts they are having, emotions that come up, or sensations in their body. Remind them not to place judgment on what comes up. Just notice it.
Tapping Before a Test
Before a test or any difficult assignment/activity, take 30-60 seconds to do a little tapping. Tapping is a wonderful way to decrease stress, it helps your students get into the right mindset before any nerve wracking activity. A quick minute is all you need. You can lead it or put on a tapping for kids youtube video! Try tapping in combination with positive affirmations too.
Warm Up for Gym with Yoga or Mindful Stretching
Gym is already part of the curriculum. And we already talk about the importance of stretching with our kids. Moving forward, add the mindful element to your stretching practice before beginning your gym class. Remind kids to stay focused and quiet. To pay attention to their bodies and the sensations from each stretch.
Well, There You Have It!
Some simple ways to sneak mindfulness into your day, everyday!
Time is on your side with these simple classroom mindful moments!
All day long, you give away pieces of your self to others.
To the tiny humans who need your support. Your full-attention. And your love…
But do you ever take a fraction of a second to give back to yourself?
Like a Car.. You Just Can’t Run on Empty..
Listen, I’ve been there.
My students mean the world to me.. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for them. As long as it means their protection. As long as they are loved.
But along the way, I forgot to stop and love myself…
Even though, I was aware of it, I thought burnout just couldn’t happen to me if everything I did was out of love.
But that wasn’t the case.
I’m human. You’re human too.
And as humans, we need to be filling up our fuel tanks constantly so we can keep on giving to others.
Sometimes, that means we need to give ourselves morethan others.
For humble educators: it’s a hard pill to swallow…
But it’s true.
I’ve spent the last few years learning this lesson the hard way.
And if I could go back in time now and have a conversation with the younger version of Miss T, I would tell her this:
#1. Don’t Bottle Things Up:
It’s easy to stuff our feelings, our exhaustion… And carry on for the sake of our students. But don’t.
Talk to people. To other teachers. Find a community. There is power in knowing you are not alone.
#2. Practice Self-Care:
There are no rules for self-care – it looks different for everyone.
Do things that nourish your soul, recharge your battery and foster sanity. This could mean writing in a gratitude journal, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk… Whatever it is, schedule time for YOU… Everyday!
Begin your morning with something for you, instead of immediately rushing off to take on the world.
#3. Take A Break:
There is strength in knowing when to step back. When to ask for help.
We pride ourselves in never having to call in sick or book a sub. But that’s not sustainable… Take the time you need to recharge.
Book a mental health day each month. Or apply for a short leave if you are in need of some ‘you-time’. Make it a reoccurring thing – like you’d make time to see your mechanic regularity.
There is a Good Chance you Already Know These Things, I Did Too…
But please, don’t let yourself hit burnout, like I did, before actually making some changes in your life.
It’s time to put yourself first.
You are human, after all.
Even the tiny humans in your life need you to love yourself.
Do you want to know how I brought mindfulness to my students?
Before we go any further, I’m assuming most of you who stumbled across this blog probably know of mindfulness or meditation.
But in case you haven’t, mindfulness is quite simply being aware or conscious of something. It’s the practice of allowing yourself into the present moment. Getting out of your head and staying mindful of the world in front of you.
I anticipated that mindfulness would help my students work through some of their traumas by helping them to understand their emotions and by learning how to regulate them. I hoped it would help them with any stresses and anxieties they may have. Because of a lot of their circumstances, we had some interesting student behaviours and students who lacked self control and self awareness.
Mindfulness studies have shown to have huge benefits in these areas!
I also anticipated some positive impacts in the classroom and a ripple effect throughout the school as well.. Like increased empathy and understanding towards classmates, therefore decreasing classroom conflicts and improving problem solving. I expected mindfulness to bring about a more compassionate school atmosphere!
Educators out there, doesn’t this sound like an IDEAL school environment?!
… back to the actual HOW of bringing mindfulness to my little Elementary school…
Being an Educational Assistant and not having my own classroom or my own scheduled time to hold any sort of mindfulness lessons, I had a little bit of a problem on my hands.
But problems are meant to be solved! All it took was a little bit of creative thinking and planning!
I asked myself a few questions:
“Who am I going to work with? Just my own home room class? The whole school?”
“What sorts of activities will I plan and lessons will I teach?”
“When am I going to find and make time for this?”
“Where can I get myself together with a group of students to teach them mindfulness exercises?”
“How am I going to get other’s on board with this idea?”
My goal was to get mindfulness into as many classrooms as possible, but I realized that I had to start small! With a little bit of a trial period…
As an EA, there’s not a whole lot of flexibility in my schedule and I don’t get any prep blocks so I knew I had to find time SOMEWHERE to get mindfulness into the week. I approached my teaching partner and our school principal with my dream. They were ecstatic and willing to give me the time and space in a spare classroom to practice mindfulness activities.
We decided on running it Monday to Friday in the mornings from 8:35-8:45, 10 minutes after school began.
On Mondays, we quietly and mindfully colored gratitude notes and put them in a jar to be read on Fridays.
Tuesdays to Thursdays were a mix of meditations, guided breathing techniques, relaxation activities, mindfulness stories and yoga games.
Fridays were for reading and sharing our gratitude notes with our group. And then displayed on the wall for all to see!
It started off small, but over time, it flourished into a full classroom! I even had one committed teacher who brought her entire class down to the little spare classroom every day to begin their morning with mindfulness!
With some of the improvement I had been seeing and the participation I was getting, I decided to take it one step further the following year, when I had a bit more flexibility in my EA schedule…
….And Mindfulness Club was born!!
Mindfulness Club was a recess club that would be offered to the whole school and kiddos were able to come to the club as they needed – there was no “you need to be here every day or you’ll get kicked out” rule.
I held ‘Mindfulness Club’ every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during afternoon recess. I wanted to get a variety of mindfulness practices in, so students were able to continually add new tools into their “mindfulness toolbox.”
I organized these practices into themed days:
Mindful Mondays: On Mondays, we would do breathing activities, guided relaxations, short meditation practices, etc. It was our day of silence and breath work.
Wind-Down Wednesdays: On Wednesdays, we did activities like mindful colouring, reading stories on mindfulness, doing kindness/empathy fostering activities, and holding sharing circles.
Flexy Fridays: Fridays were by far, the most popular themed day! Flexy Fridays were days filled with yoga and stretching activities. These days began usually with a Yoga Pose of the Day we would all learn together, and afterwards, we would do a yoga video, play a yoga game, or read a yoga story. Sometimes, we did partner yoga or took turns leading yoga sequences. It was so much fun to watch this crew transform into mindfulness leaders!
Regardless of theme, I always began and ended Mindfulness Club the same way every day.
We always opened with a circle (Don’t get me started on the power of circles!! We’ll leave it for another post…). We would take 3 deep breaths together, normally switching up the kinds of breaths we took, before breaking off into whatever activity was to follow.
We ended in a minute of quiet reflection. I would ask kids to sit down, closing their eyes or focusing on one spot on the floor. I’d instruct them to listen to their bodies. Do they have any physical feelings? Or any emotions that they feel now? How are they feeling now, after coming to Mindfulness Club? Before heading back to class, I’d ask them to do a quick check-in with me. Some shared a word that explained their feelings, others expressed themselves with the thumbs up/thumbs down system.
The question I’d like to leave them with was:
“What can you do for yourself TODAY, that can help you continue to feel joy?”
For 2 years, I had kiddos rate their happiness levels on a scale system of 1-5 (5 being the happiest) so I could track the average. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it allowed me to see trends and also to adjust my club based on the needs of the group.
Mindfulness Club ran in-person for 4 successful years. My little mindfulness crew grew bigger and bigger! It had a variety of students who attended it, many of them, coming back for more mindfulness again and again!
I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring mindfulness to kids. It’s been an exciting journey to watch them grow, learn, lead, become kinder and gentler humans…
It’s been an honour…
In March of year 5… DUN DUN DUN… the schools in Edmonton had shut down because of COVID-19. It posed a real challenge for me, trying to figure out how to get mindfulness to my students in their homes, whom I knew neededmindfulness, right now, in times of uncertainty and fear.
But, you know me, I’m not a quitter. I figure things out, especially if I believe it’s important enough, and so I did some more creative thinking and came up with an idea for bringing Mindfulness Club online…
Check out my next post to learn more about Mindfulness Club going DIGITAL!