There's no doubt that 'mindfulness' has become a buzzword in education today. Some may call it a trend, waiting for it to fizzle out. But the more I have studied, researched, read and practiced, the more I have become convinced that mindfulness is the missing piece in many of our public schools. As I began reading articles about the effects of mindfulness in schools, I became more interested and curious about starting this practice in my own classroom. I came across study after study showing the short and longterm effects of mindfulness on students' emotional regulation, self-awareness, and response to stress.
When I started to implement "mindful minutes" in my classroom, one thing became strikingly clear to me: I couldn't expect my students to practice mindfulness if I hadn't cultivated a practice of my own. I was trying to teach my students to be emotionally present, calm, and aware, but as I rang the chime and started the "mindful minute" in my classroom, my own thoughts were racing. How am I going to respond to that tense parent email? How is José going to react when he finds out he failed his quiz? I have to remember to send Maria to the nurse at lunch time. Who's messing around right now? Who isn't taking this mindful minute seriously? WHO JUST MADE THAT FART NOISE?!.....and so on. I myself was not at all present, and I was stressed. I was in my second year of teaching, and contrary to what I had always been told, it was shaping up to be way harder than my first. I had a caseload full of students with emotional behavioral disorders, and the unpredictability of each day had me in an anxious frenzy. I would lay in bed awake at night going over every negative encounter and interaction of the day. I would pick apart every student meltdown and over-analyze my role in it. I would approach school in my car on a cold, dark winter morning and drive around the block 4 times just to delay the start of the day. I knew that if I wanted to make school a more stable, calm, peaceful experience for my students, I had to start with myself.
I started reading more about mindfulness for myself rather than just as a classroom strategy. The truth is, it isn't a "strategy": it's a state of being. Being aware, being present, being tuned-in to yourself. I started to make a habit of practicing mindfulness before bed each night and occasionally in the morning before school. Mindfulness is called a practice because it is exactly that. It takes commitment and eventually becomes a habit with practice. After devoting more energy and time to practicing mindfulness, I found myself practicing it naturally on my lunch break, walking down the hall, on the rare (luxurious) opportunity for a bathroom break. And the best part is, I started to quickly see the payoff. Just ten seconds of paying attention to my breathing and tuning into my body could instantly change the way I reacted to a chaotic co-worker, a disruptive student, or an emotional parent.
I am still learning about mindfulness and how to cultivate the practice in my own life and in my classroom, but I wanted to share what I have learned so far. If you are interested in starting a mindfulness practice of your own or for your students, check out this book, this free app, and this website. These are just a few resources that have helped me throughout this journey!
Have you practiced mindfulness? How has it impacted your life & your teaching? I would love to hear about your experience!