Going back to school can include a mixture of eagerness and anxiety both for you and the kids. We’ve worked together using FocusedKids to teach children strategies for managing stress, but it’s important for you as teachers to have the same tools. So, I’d like to highlight a few ways mindfulness can enhance and create a climate for learning in the classroom by attending to our own inner experience, creating connection, and planning well to build a strong container.
Mindfulness can help us to channel the chaos of a new school year and show up in the classroom in the ways we most value. Cultivating present-time, embodied awareness allows us to be more available for genuine, caring relationship with our kids. And even when we’re unable to find any stillness or relief inside, the simple fact of being in touch with our own experience grants us more access to empathy and greater authenticity with the children.
Bringing mindfulness to the this time of year means paying attention to how you’re feeling both before and during the first days of school. Ground the excitement and energy in your goals and dreams for teaching. Staying connected to why we’re doing this work can help to sustain our motivation, and can translate into more creative teaching.
Showing up fully and caring are essential, but as we all know, they’re rarely enough! We also need to plan. As you prepare to go back to school and greet new faces, I invite you to infuse your planning with some wisdom. Take a few minutes to breathe and quiet your mind. Then, reflect on your own memories as a child and intentions as an educator. Or, if you like, listen to or download the Mindful Schools back-to-school guided meditation here.
In addition to starting class each day with a mindful activity, here are a few suggestions from Mindful Schools to set a solid foundation in your classroom.
- THE CONTAINER
- 1. Set the Tone: Embody the qualities you want to model; communicate them directly and indirectly, through words and actions.
- 2. Create Structure: Set up routines, explain them, and be consistent. It’s generally easier to relax a strong routine than to impose one on a chaotic room.
- 3. Make Ground Rules: Have a conversation (age appropriate) about why you’re all there; co-create some guidelines and agreements with which everyone can get on board to support your shared purpose.
- 4. Get to Know your Kids: Find activities that lets you learn who they are, their strengths, learning styles, goals and dreams.
- 5. Plan Ahead: Be sure to plan beyond the first couple of days so you have a sense of how things hang together.KIDS:
In order to thrive, kids need regular interaction with balanced, non-stressed adults. The development of the human brain depends on daily contact with mature and well-regulated nervous systems. This need extends all the way through adolescence. Yet the conditions of modern life create a perfect storm for dramatically limiting that kind of healthy contact for children. The incredible pace of things, the disintegration of communities and extended families, the incessant presence of screens, and the demands of economic pressure have produced an adult population riddled with stress, anxiety, addiction and depression.
In the face of all of this, one of the primary things we can provide as educators is our own warm, genuine, heartfelt presence. Whether they are conscious of it or not, children and adolescents are hungry for relational attunement and connection on the human level. Their neurobiology demands it.Help kids settle in to the new year and classroom by using the chime exercise to start each class.