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Our lives today are busier than ever before. We constantly feel the need to rush from one task to the next at a breakneck pace. In the rush to accomplish necessary tasks and check off items on our to-do lists, we often find ourselves losing our connection with the present moment. We find ourselves disconnected and missing out on what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. This creates a deep need for mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying careful attention to our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Mindfulness is just as important for children as it is for adults, and the sooner you start with mindfulness practices, the better. Incorporating such practices into your classroom each day will bring compassion and positivity back to your teaching and your classroom, and you and your students will benefit a great deal from being more mindful.
Teach your students about the idea of mindfulness and all the benefits it can bring, and explain to them how it can help them both now and long into the future. The ultimate goal of mindfulness in children is self-awareness and self-regulation. It’s about allowing them a moment to connect with themselves and make better choices, both in regards to their behavior and in their interactions with others.
Mindfulness helps students manage their stress as well, often allowing them a chance to relax, breathe, and find peace in the midst of chaos. While it can help anyone, including both students and adults, it often is the most beneficial who struggle the most in educational environments, such as those with ADD, ADHD, autism, or a prior trauma of some sort. Mindfulness increases focus and students’ abilities to pay attention to the most important thing at any given moment, and it allows kids the ability to connect with themselves and others in a new and positive way. It helps them not only acknowledge their emotions, but also understand and process them in a productive and helpful way.
At some point during the day, or multiple times a day if your schedule allows, take a moment for mindfulness and simply pause everything. Encourage students to close their eyes and take a few deep breaths, focusing on their breathing and their physical selves. Tell them to feel their feet on the floor and their hands on the desk, and give them a chance to reset their focus and their attitudes. These moments are best taken during times of transition or immediately following a chaotic activity.
It’s great to start a lesson or a class with a mindful moment, but sometimes you need a break in the middle of a lesson to check your focus. Teachers may need this just as much (or more than!) as students sometimes. You can prompt the break whenever you feel the need for it, you can set a timer to the halfway point of the lesson, or you can give one student the responsibility of picking the time of the break each class. The focus check should be a silent time where students can stand up and stretch, do some focused breathing, and think about where their mind was right before the break. If they weren’t focused on the lesson, the break is a chance to refocus. It can also give students and teachers an opportunity to reorganize their thoughts and allows the information being taught to be absorbed more fully.
When a discipline problem arises or a student is having trouble focusing or regulating his or her emotions, view it as a teachable moment and a time to encourage mindfulness. Rather than jumping straight to discipline or immediately providing a solution to the problem, bring up the student’s choice. Ask them if they made a wise decision or if they thought about what they were doing and how it caused an issue. When it comes to emotions, ask students how they feel and encourage them to be specific and elaborate. Then discuss what exactly made them feel that way and how they think they can resolve their feelings. Remember that self-awareness and self-regulation are the ultimate goals of mindfulness, so whatever you say or do in those teachable moments, do it with those goals in mind.