Miss. T, here!
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 needed mindfulness, 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!
With love & gratitude,
P.S. I first wrote about my journey with ‘Mindfulness Club’ at KidsYogaStories.com
You can check out the blog post here!