A few months ago, I decided to start going to meditation classes being offered by a colleague at my school. Although very informal and causal, I immediately fell in love with the practice. Each week, we spend time also talking about mindfulness and this seemed like something that could easily be transferred into the classroom.
A few weeks ago, I started by doing one minute meditations every couple of days with my students. We would all gather onto the carpet, find a comfortable position to sit in and then focus on our breathing with our eyes shut for 1 minute.The kids thought it was a fun new activity and enjoyed the challenge of staying still for one minute (definitely not easy for everyone).
This week after a really interesting staff meeting in which we discussed mindfulness for teachers, I decided to take a bigger step with this new little exercise in my classroom. During this particular time block, I had only ten students present in my class. I started by asking each of them to be open minded and risk-takers, because we were going to try something new and perhaps somewhat challenging. We began by having a discussion about stress; what is it and where does it come from. What are some of the main causes for stress. The most common answers for these ten year olds was homework, younger siblings and friendship worries. Students were then resented with the idea of mindfulness. What could this word mean? When your mind is so full of things that you can no longer feel calm was their guess.
Ms. V, who had also joined us for this lesson, began to lead a new activity called a visualisation. Students were asked to spread out around the room and to lie flat on their backs. She then proceeded to read a script called about a walk on a beach (http://www.innerhealthstudio.com/visualization-relaxation.html). For 10 minutes, the students and I closed our eyes and followed along with the story she was reading aloud for us.
When the 10 minutes were up, I expected the students to begin getting hyper and to shout out how difficult it was or how bored they were. But none of them moved. They all continued to lie still and some of them began to sit up slowly. After a bit of prompting to slowly make their way back to the carpet, the students almost all unanimously agreed that they felt relaxed and calmed (some of them a but sleepy as well). We concluded the last minute with Ms. V teaching us a new breathing technique called fire belly.
Their follow up homework was to have a home talk with their parents about stress. Do kids and adults have the dame feelings/causes and cures for stress. I am excited to get a small dialogue started at home and hopefully the students and parents will feel comfortable talking to one another about this topic.
In the upcoming weeks, I think I plan to continue doing mindfulness lessons in class. Some kinds suggested we do them once or twice a week. I've been reading all sorts of ideas about how to incorporate this into a classroom and the data clearly points to this being a positive thing. I can't wait to see if the kids continue to enjoy these small moments.