Saturday, August 2, 2014

Incorporating Mindfulness Into Class Lessons

Mindfulness is a way of exploring the world with a fresh set of eyes. I attended a few sessions on mindfulness at VSCA's Spring Conference and have been doing a self-study of mindfulness this summer and meditating daily for the first time.  The concept can be broken down into a three part equation, or what The Mindful Child author Susan Kaiser-Greenland calls the ABCs: Attention, Balance, and Compassion. I am now planning ways to share what I have learned with my staff and students when school resumes.  For example, I will do a standing mindfulness exercise with my staff when before I do our annual bullying refresher training during preservice week. Mindfulness in schools, the workplace, and the larger world is growing as a way to deal with our increasingly stressful lives.  I know it is helping me and it can make school a more peaceful environment.

According to the University School’s mindfulness coordinator, Mary Agee,
“It’s not about clearing your mind; it’s just about becoming aware.” Helen Tarleton, school counselor, illustrates mindfulness by shaking a snow globe. “When you shake the snow globe, it’s really hard to see what’s going on in the present moment clearly. What mindfulness does is, your mind is cluttered like [a shaken snow globe], and you stop and pause, and take time to really focus. All that clutter kind of then settles, so you can see clearly what’s right in front of you.” Others use the analogy of stirring sand in a class.  The sand represents thoughts and feelings, let them settle to the bottom.  They are still there to go back to later.

At the start of a lesson invite the students to participate in a brief (3-5 minutes) mindfulness practice.  Just explain that before beginning a lesson on ___ this exercise will clear our minds so we can pay attention and learn.  There are an infinite number of ways to do a brief practice but because children are asked to sit so much of the school day I recommend a standing meditation. Simply invite the class to stand in their own space in Mountain Pose. Stand with feet together, arms at your sides, arms at sides pointing inward or forward. Press weight evenly across the balls and arches of both feet. Breathe steadily and rhythmically. Remain still and quiet, breathing naturally for at least 1 minute, as the mind and body begin to relax. Invite the children to close their eyes or focus on a still point in the room that is slightly above eye level (helps keep chin up). Draw awareness inward to the small adjustment the body makes to maintain balance. Focus on the present moment, letting all thoughts and feelings fade away. This can be a quick take 2 deep breaths or a longer exercise letting the students explore a movement (like be kelp floating in the ocean). Ask the class to return silently to sitting being aware of how the body moves as it sits down.

There is a sample listening mindfulness practice available at

There are also several good videos on You Tube that show exercises...

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