written by Denise Lee
“Can we meditate today? I just took a test and I really need to meditate.” In my 28 years of teaching, I had never thought about hearing these words come out of my student's mouths, and yet, I was pleasantly surprised to hear them this year.
This past fall, I knew I needed to help students learn how to deal with today’s issues of excessive computer use, screen time, social media, gaming, anxiety, depression and overall well-being. In my research and discussion with other colleagues, the powerful topic of mindfulness kept coming to the forefront. A Middle School book study was born using the book, Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness by Debra Schoeberlein. Through a Decorah Middle School email and networking with others in the district our adventure began.
Many sources suggested that we needed to begin our own mindfulness practice first. Several of us began our journey with the app, “Headspace,” and a Mindful Living workshop (by Karen Bergan and Michelle Williams) to guide us through this process. As we grew more confident in our own practices and realized the benefits, we began to experiment in our classrooms. Within days we were finding our initial attempts at mindfulness were having a positive impact. Emails between our group with suggestions, stories of heartfelt comments and results from our students were shared.
Jennifer DeLaRosa: “I have a student who struggles with temper/behavior. He thrives on Headspace and meditation, and says, ‘It helps me to just remember I'm in a classroom to learn.’ I personally meditate to help myself focus on one thing at a time. I no longer am brushing my teeth, checking my phone and grading a paper all at the same time. :)”
Holly Fish: “Mindfulness is now part of my everyday routine. It not only gives me a sense of balance, but gives me a purpose to my day.”
Tara Henry: “I have my own mindfulness and meditation practice that I perform daily. I keep a gratitude journal, meditate, and read devotions. My classes have Wellness Wednesday during the Fantastic First 5. They love meditation and mindfulness. My students beg for mindfulness 5 minutes, particularly the meditations on Headspace. They appreciate the quiet reflection and simple down time as they state they do not get this time in their lives.”
Sarah Nowack: “The biggest take away from the Mindfulness book study was the "take one" practice of mindful breathing. I use it with my students often- and many of them tell me that they do it on their own outside of school and that they really feel the benefits (more focused, sense of calm & relaxation, and less stress).”
Carole Sand: “One of the successful mindfulness strategies I have used with students is having my 7th graders study imagery, then write and record a 1-minute description of a scene to share with the class. They used describing phrases to help us imagine the sound, smell, place, and mood. The past month we have started our class off with everyone closing their eyes and 1-2 students playing their recording for us to listen and imagine we are there. I mentioned to them to be introspective, focus on their breathing, and let themselves go to that place. The recordings have been so amazing, full of beautiful imagery from a variety of scenes. And students say it is a calming moment in their hectic day. Personally, I have been trying to implement meditating into my life by using the Headspace app before I go to bed. Just 5 minutes makes a difference in clearing the constant to-do list brain-chatter to help me slow down for sleeping. I also am more mindful when I exercise to leave everything behind and notice what's around me and make note of it, focusing on positive thoughts.”
Denise Lee: “It is easy when teaching to be so focused on what you want the outcome/learning to be from your students that you forget to slow down and focus on the process and the student. Learning about mindfulness has made me slow down, look students in the eye, get to know them more and appreciate the journey in getting to our end goal. It is about paying attention to the details. It is also about taking a moment to breath and relax. If you let it, teaching doesn’t allow you to have those moments during your day. Students rarely get that time during the day.”
We not only observed the benefits of our mindful practices, but a survey we used gave us more affirmation about what we were trying. A sampling of those questions are listed below.
Websites created from our book study:
Having the opportunity to choose a book/topic/activity that we felt important and necessary was a wonderful use of our Teacher Quality funds. Each of us in the book study walked away with an appreciation for the incredible need for teachers and students to have time to reflect, choose their own adventure, and unwind/breathe in our day to day lives.
Have you thought about using mindfulness practices in your classroom? Have you wanted to start a book study?
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