The kids of this generation are facing record-high stress levels. As teachers, we have a responsibility to help the children in our classrooms be as healthy and happy as possible. One way to help them is through incorporating mindfulness practices in our classrooms. Mindfulness is the practice of taking a moment to calm your thoughts and your body, and paying attention to what you’re experiencing in any given moment without judgment. Studies have shown that pausing to be mindful can reduce stress, help sleep and focus, and improve academic performance. So, how can we, as teachers, bring this into our classes on a practical level?
Practice Mindfulness Yourself
It’s important to lead by example. If you have already started becoming more mindful, it will be easy to explain to the children in your classes how to do it and how it will benefit them by using your own personal experiences. Take some time to really focus on how to become more mindful yourself, and the natural next step will be for it to flow into your classroom. Modeling this behavior in the classroom, such as pausing to take a breath and self-regulating when you feel yourself getting upset, will be a powerful influence on your students as it can really benefit them from seeing an adult manage difficult emotions in a healthy way without anger and judgment.
Take the Time to Give Purpose
Just like anything else in the classroom, students will more fully engage when they understand the purpose behind what you’re doing. Before beginning mindfulness practices with your students, take the time to explain the benefits of mindfulness to your students so they will be more receptive to the practice. Answer any questions students may have about mindfulness. Lead a discussion on mindfulness by asking questions to your students like, What is mindfulness? Why is practicing mindfulness beneficial? Why is it so important for everyone in the class community to participate? In the beginning, lead mindfulness activities with purpose every time. Soon, it will be so engrained in your students that you won’t have to spend time explaining purpose. It will also save you time in the long run by avoiding time wasted fighting battles with students on participation.
Try Fun Mindfulness Exercises
Find fun mindfulness exercises that are appropriate for your classroom depending on the grade level you teach. For whole-class practices, it can be as simple as pausing in the middle of a lesson to refocus attention by asking your class to stand up and stretch or take 3 deep breaths. For individual practices, you could have a special corner in your classroom with a variety of activities for students to have private time of being mindful on their own when they need to self-regulate. These ideas are simple and easy to implement and can by very successful with the right expectations, structures, and procedures in place to prevent distractions and optimize self-regulation. The biggest thing you can do for your students to ensure positive results with mindfulness is to make it a routine in your classroom. Start every class by taking a few deep breaths, have a breathing routine before starting assessments, have designated reflection time, possibly in a journal of some kind. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is right for you and your students.
There are also more in-depth mindfulness exercises you can incorporate with a bit more time set aside in your schedule. Check out this website for twenty-five ideas on how you can bring a ‘mindfulness moment’ to your class.
Kids spend most of their day at school. We have the opportunity, as their teachers, to educate them not only academically, but emotionally and mentally as well. The benefits of mindfulness are endless as long as it is done consistently and with purpose, and it can be quickly and easily implemented in your classroom. Try out any of the many ways to bring mindfulness to your students, and see the incredible results.
For more best teaching practices, head to Credits for Teachers where they provide self-paced online Professional Development courses for K12 teachers. Teachers who take their courses receive graduate credit from their university partner that can be used for salary advancement or license renewal – (Learn More Now)