By Dr. Teresa Turner, August 8, 2019
While much of the world is still focused on fun, teachers and school staff members across the country are already busy (paperwork, shopping for classroom supplies, curriculum planning, and a number of district and school-level meetings). The list of things on a teacher’s mind seems longer than the time left before students return to school.
With so much racing through your brain, it’s important to stop and check in with your body. Is your breathing fast or slow? Shallow or deep? Are your neck and shoulders tight? Does your jaw clench tighter as you think about setting up your classroom?
Take a moment and check in with your body.
There...what did you notice?
That quick body scan (or self inventory check) just gave you pertinent information into how you are feeling. As educators, we are so busy helping others, we forget to check in with ourselves to see what WE need. Knowing your inner feelings helps you take better care of yourself (first) so you can take better care of our students and fellow staff members. (HINT: There is a reason that preflight instructions on planes tell us to put oxygen masks on ourselves before helping others).
Mindfulness: Noticing what’s happening in the moment and responding with non-judgemental friendliness.
Mindfulness can play a part in creating and sustaining the kind of atmosphere and classroom community that freedom to be your authentic self (hence enjoy what you are doing) in your classroom and helps your students connect more with the material you are teaching (which increases learning and thus ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL). Mindfulness, noticing what is happening in the moment and responding with non-judgmental friendliness, is a powerful resource to keep in your instructional and classroom management “toolbox.”
Taking a Mindful Moment: Brief moments of awareness that help you stay mindful or “present” throughout the day.
Body scans help us check in with our sensations throughout the day. When we check in with ourselves, we give ourselves time to choose a response to whatever is arising by bringing our attention to what is happening in the moment. This check in is called taking “a mindful moment.”
Mindful moments are game changers because they give us a chance to reboot if we find things are heading off track (emotionally or physically). These brief moments moves our awareness from our heads back to what is happening in the present moment. It’s in the present (moment) where we can choose again. When we give ourselves to make a different choice, we unleash the freedom of “do over” before we do-wrongly.
Mindful Moments in your classroom: Increase engagement, decrease misbehavior and positively impact student learning (ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL).
At my previous school, we used mindfulness to transform our school. Mindful Moments concluded daily Morning New Show, we turned our ISS Room into a Mindfulness Room, our ISS Coordinator was trained and became our Mindfulness Coach, and our Guidance Counselor taught mindfulness in every classroom. That year, the number of Out-of-School suspensions dropped from 177 to 28 and our school was able to get off the Priority List for our state.
Even if your school doesn’t adopt mindfulness practices school-wide, you can still practice mindfulness in your classrooms. The result will be a more enjoyable school year for you while ensuring that your students learn and grow to their highest potential.
Here are 4 ideas for creating a mindful classroom this school year.
#1 - Practice Mindfulness yourself.
Lead by example. Find a few moments each day to sit quietly and focus on your breath.
#2 - Start your day/lesson with silence.
There is something magical about starting off together in silence. From kindergarteners to students in middle and high school, starting the day/period/lesson with a few quiet moments, followed by a short report from each student about how they’re feeling ,could help you make adjustments or changes in the next activity based on the “weather” in the room in that moment.
Additionally, the students also see each others’ responses, which informs them about how others may wish to be treated. This builds empathy (and doesn’t the world need a lot more of that).
#3 - Include Mindfulness objects in your classroom.
What signal do you use in your classroom to bring everyone together or get students to focus at the beginning of a lesson? A bell or rain stick are ideal for this purpose to que the class into stillness. My last school used Mindfulness or Calm Down Jars. which visually shows how our mood goes from agitation to calm. You can easily make one with a plastic or glass jar, some water, glycerin and glitter or glitter glue.
#4 - Practice Gratitude.
Gratitude practice is a simple way to share and remind ourselves and others about the things that matter. Sitting in a circle and each sharing something we’re grateful for can be a lovely way to end the day. This practice can be surprisingly informative, and don’t forget to include yourself in the circle.
I’d like to leave you with my hope for you this school year.
As you plan for the 2019-2020 school year, may you find new ways to stretch and grow by incorporating these mindful strategies and get ready to reap the benefits of a classroom community filled with intention, focus and gratitude. Share your stories with us at The Promise Informed Teachers FB page.
Happy 2019-2020 school year to you all!
Dr. Teresa Turner has been leading and coaching teachers throughout her educational career through a variety of school offerings including magnet programs. She currently serves as Project Director of Magnet School Grants for Richland One in Columbia, South Carolina. She offers her experience as a Promise Informed contributor to further support teachers in an effort to ensure achievement for all in education as a chief architect of Promise Informed Teachers.