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4 Simple Ways to Teach Mindfulness in your Classroom

The power of mindfulness in schools + an awesome giveaway you won't want to miss! 

It was the last day of school. I was putting my kids on the bus and giving them one last hug when one of my boys looked up at me and said "Miss W, if I get angry this summer I'm just gonna' focus on my breathing and it'll all be good." Wait, what? Did he really say that? I was so excited and proud and happy and #alltheemotions but instead of saying anything, all I could think was: first bump!

We'd practiced Morning Mindfulness all year and focused a lot on breath awareness, but I was worried that it wouldn't stick with some of them over the summer. For this kid, it stuck. [#proudteachermoment] In that moment, I remembered the power of teaching mindfulness to kids.

All of my students, not just him, naturally crave mindfulness practice...They crave stillness. They crave a sense of peace and calm. Not only do they crave these feelings, but they also deserve them. In just one school day, kids can be completely overwhelmed socially, emotionally and academically. [#harshtruth] They may not know how to verbalize their emotions but often times their sense of overwhelm can manifest as attention-seeking behaviors. I, like most teachers, have tried a myriad of classroom management strategies. Some stick, some don't. But I've never found anything as powerful as mindfulness practice. I'm going to repeat that because it's just that important: I've never found anything as powerful as mindfulness practice.

What is mindfulness?
Although there are many different definitions, mindfulness is essentially the practice of being present in each moment, creating a relaxed and aware state of mind. It's about noticing and observing emotions and thoughts without judgement; viewing yourself from a place of compassion.

So, what does this look like for our digital native students who frequently experience sensory overload, attention difficulty, anxiety, or depression? It's challenging. It takes practice. It takes patience.

When I first introduced my 2nd graders to mindfulness through a breathing exercise, nearly the whole class was fidgeting, giggling or shouting out. The concept of calming their mind was very new to them. After just a couple weeks of practice my students would beg to do more. Why? Because their brains craved the stillness. I observed changes in their behavior, particularly in their interactions with one another. Rather than being quick to judge or assume, they became better listeners. They listened more attentively to me, they listened to their peers, they listened to themselves. Was mindfulness practice the solution to all behavior issues in my classroom? Absolutely not. But it did make things better. I've learned as a teacher that I can't strive for perfection, but I can most definitely strive for better. Mindfulness makes things better.

"Mindfulness allows you to be fully present in the here and the now in order to enjoy the wonders of life that have the power to heal, transform, and nourish us." -Thich Nhat Hanh

The brain research
As a student and teacher of yoga, mindfulness practice has been an important foundation in my life for years. I thought that if this practice could do powerful things in my life, surely it could work for my students, too. My first year teaching I began reading studies about the brain research behind mindfulness practice in kids. [#mindblowing] I learned that frequent practice actually leads to structural changes in the brain, allowing for a myriad of positive outcomes. Here are just a few of the benefits of mindfulness practice:

  • kindness
  • patience
  • compassion
  • listening skills toward others
  • increases executive function
  • better impulse control
  • longer attention spans

Introducing mindfulness to kids 
Here are few simple steps for bringing mindfulness into your classroom:

The science behind mindfulness is pretty incredible and I must admit it's interesting to read! But if you're like #aintnobodygottimeforthat, I understand. It's back to school season and the last thing on our minds is more reading. But bookmark this post and when you're ready, check out some of my fav articles about mindfulness:

In order to teach it to your students, it's important to try it out on your own. You won't regret it. Mindfulness practice can include anything from yoga, to meditation, and even washing the dishes! "What? Washing the dishes?!" Yes, practicing mindfulness is all about being aware of the present moment--your thoughts, your feelings, sensations in your body. Mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere. If you're interested in a more structured form of mindfulness practice, check out the Calm App. It's a great place to start. It's free and have serval meditations to choose from. I recommend doing it right when you wake up, or right before you go to sleep.
Even just one minute a day of active mindfulness is better than none at all.

There are so many incredible ways to practice mindfulness; it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Especially if you're someone like me who loves to do #allthethings. In your own personal practice and in your practice with your students, it's okay to choose just ONE thing to try out. Here are some simple suggestions to get started:
  • Your Own Mindful Moment: Choose a time during your daily routine where you can commit to being more present, aware of your body, your breathing, your thoughts and your feelings. Maybe it's when you're driving to work, or taking a shower, or even doing the dishes. If you're present and intentional, you're practicing mindfulness and your brain with get the benefits!
  • Introduce Mindful Moments in your classroom: these can be 30 seconds to 5 minutes but the idea is to get your students to pause and rest their minds. They can close their eyes, and just feel their breathing, noticing their inhales and exhales. 
  • Take a mindful walk as a class. This could even be done during transitions to lunch, recess, and specialists (and it gives kids a reason to actually be silent in the hall). Ask your students to use all of their senses as they walk. Observe. What do they see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Reflect on mindful walking and you'll be amazed at what they share. 
  • Practice mindful eating during breakfast and lunch. Encourage kids to eat slowly and taste every single bite of their food. You may even have a chance to discuss where their food comes from and all the hard work that goes in to making the food they eat. 
  • Read and recite positive affirmations. You can introduce positive affirmations with my Calm Cards. Download the freebie sample set here. You can read one each morning as a class, or keep the whole set in a sanctuary space or calm space in your classroom for students to refer to as needed. 
  • Read books about mindfulness. There are so many incredible options out there! Check out my top picks for mindfulness books in my blog post here. 

Even if you choose one aspect of mindfulness--like being present during your drive to work, or doing a mindful moment with your students--be consistent. The more you do it, the closer you are to making it a habit and eventually, part of your lifestyle. Your brain and body will thank you!

#MindfulTeachers Instagram Giveaway

Being mindful with your students begins with YOU! I've joined my friend, The Mindful Educator, to bring a giveaway you won't want to miss! Look what you could win:

  • The most delicious, calming chamomile tea
  • A Handful of Quiet- an ahhhhmazing mindfulness book for your classroom
  • Que Bella face mask & exfoliator 
  • Tea tree oil foot repair balm
  • Organic lavender essential oil-perfect for a diffuser or to rub on your wrists 
  • Aromatherapy candle with the most delicious cooling scent
  • Positive quotes card deck (watercolor theme)  

All of this...delivered straight to your mailbox #YAASSS
What are you waiting for? To enter: 
1. Follow @theteacherspassport AND @themindfuleducator on Instagram
2. Find the picture above on our Instagram pages and tag two teacher friends in the comments
3. For an extra entry, repost the image on your page using #MindfulTeachers in the caption

Good luck! May the odds be ever in your favor.