Mindfulness in the Classroom- Every Little Bit Counts

Design

This past week has been a busy one for many Primary schools across England. It is collectively known as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) Week for Year 6 children. The instructions for giving the tests are strict and must be given at specific times on specific days. Over a period of four days they take six different tests. Anyone who works in a primary school or is a parent of a Year 6 child, will know about the overwhelming stress that this puts on the children; particularly as they have become much harder over the last few years.

This year has been no different, except that I felt helpless with supporting the Year 6 children at my new school. The tests were scheduled for my third week of school! The school had not been teaching any of the strategies for mindfulness and it made me sad that I may not be able to help this group of children properly prepare themselves mentally to face the challenges the tests would present.

After some discussion with the class teacher, I decided to teach the children a few basic mindfulness strategies.

First, we discussed how they were feeling about the tests, considering the emotions that were attached to these feelings and how our body responds. Of course, what they told me was of no surprise; nervous, scared and anxious. We discussed how this was normal and then I explained what was happening in their body with the brain triggering stress hormones to set off the primitive “fight or flight” response. I then asked them if they would like to trick their mind and body into believing it was clam. They whole heartedly agreed.

We discussed three basic strategies:
(Click on each strategy to take you to details of the strategy.)

1- Basic Deep Mindful Breathing– Including the One Minute Meditation
2- Starfish Meditation– To support those more active and sensory based children
3- Guided Meditation, particularly Visualisation- We used The Magic Shell Meditation in full and used their “magic shells” each day of testing to hold on to their worries and concerns during the testing so the wouldn’t bother them.

During the testing week, in the morning before the tests began, I spent time on the first two days of the tests with the class, supporting them through some breathing and visualisation exercises they had learned. On day three and four, I was unable to do this because Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) decided it was time to inspect the school (In my third week at the school! This is were my own mindfulness was significantly used and is featured HERE.). However, the staff had paid close attention to my modelling and continued to use the strategies with the children the last two mornings.

The result?
I will let the children explain. (I received these letters and cards.)

Will this positively impact on their final results? I am not sure. It was only a few weeks. But, I do know that they have quickly learned a life long skill that has supported their mental health and well-being this past week and, with that success, many will continue to use the strategies as they move into secondary school.

Mindfulness, every little bit counts!

Mindful Listening – Top Tips For Leaders

IMG_0239

During the day, whether you are the Headteacher, class teacher or office manager, you have many conversations. These conversations with children and adults range from fleeting to lengthy and form important parts of our lives.

Using Mindful Listening strategies can make those conversations more positive and productive. The strategies are not difficult; but, they may take some practice.

Mindful Listening Top Tips for Leaders

1- STOP! What people want from these conversations is to be listened to with full interest and intention. Take a deep breath, look them in the eye and LIsTEN to what they are saying. Don’t allow your mind to wonder and don’t start formulating a response before they finish talking. To them, what they have to say is extremely important and, many times, they don’t expect a full answer straight away and will usually appreciate the pause that will be required to formulate your response when they are finished talking.

2- CONTROL– Control your reactions. Notice your body’s response to what is being said, particularly if what is being said goes against your own feelings about the situation. Notice any rise in your own stress levels and take action immediately. Take deep steady breaths, relax your shoulders and continue to focus on what is being said.

3- NO PROMISES – Never make any promise you are not perfectly sure you can keep. Promises are an easy out of difficult conversations or situations. However, broken promises can destroy trust and make your life as a leader more difficult. What you can promise is that you will continue to listen to them, consider their opinion and make decisions based on what is best for the needs of the children. If you do make a promise, ensure that you follow through!

4- PROCESS– After conversations, allow yourself a moment to process what had been said between the people involved, make your plan of action and then allow the conversation to be put to bed. Obsessing over conversations will not do you or anyone else any good. It will not change what was said and steal time from your busy day. If you find yourself obsessing, take a Mindful Minute and then proceed.

Remember, that, as a leader, you will not make everyone happy with your decisions. However, they will respect those decisions if they know they have been listened to and given the time for consideration.

Take a deep breath, hold it and then exhale slowly. You can do this!

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Listening

image
In the earlier post, Mindfulness Starts Here, I wrote that mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment. Children and adults alike can find this purposeful focus extremely difficult. Our brains are humming with a million different thoughts. Multi-tasking is seen as the norm and not the exception. The adrenalin coming from this constant state of motion makes us addicted to the stimulus and leads us feeling lazy if we stop and focus on just one thing.

Mindful listening allows our brain to focus on the present moment. In school, mindful listening is also a good strategy to use during transition times and can be done at any time.

Basic mindful listening is simple and needs a minimum amount of equipment and time.

Listening for the Bell
With this activity, you will need a special bell that you will use just for mindful listening. There are several meditation bell apps for free or paid apps out there. One teacher I know uses the musical triangle with the same success. But, if you want to be more authentic, you can get an actual meditation bell.

1- Have the children sit comfortably and close their eyes.
2- Get them take a few cleansing belly breaths to help relax.
3- Tell them they are to listen to the bell and, when they stop hearing the sound, they are to give you a signal; raising hand, putting head down, etc.
4- To round it off, talk the children through a couple of belly breathes and then begin the lesson.

You will find that children will intently listen to the bell; focused only on the sound. At first, they may stop hearing the bell quickly. Over time, they will focus so hard on the sound, they will continue to hear the sound well after the sound has ended. This practiced, when used regularly, ma is clearly for children the transition time and gives some children that much needed signal and time to change focus of learning.

Once you have found your children have firmly grasped the Mindful Bell activity, you can move on to other listening activities that allows them to develop mindful listening without the bell.

Other Mindful Listening Activities:

10 Step Guide to Mindful Listening from Meditation in Schools( http://www.meditationinschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Mindful-Listening.pdf )

Guided Mindful Listening Meditation by MindscapesRecords.com
http://youtu.be/oj9bX5DqggI (5:33 minutes)

Listening Eggs- (Great activity for a Mindfulness Corner with an Easter Theme) found from Yogainmyschool.com – The simple instructions can be found here: http://youtu.be/_RQpXg-vXv0

What Mindfulness Listening ideas do you have or have been successful?

Share them in the comments below.