When I first started my mission to understand mindfulness, I did so because I wanted to find something that would help my overly anxious students. As I have written in previous posts, I was seeing a trend in my students that was really frightening. So many of them were coming to school anxious or having melt downs at home after school. Others were not making it to school because of their extreme anxiety. It bothered me to my core that so many 11 and 12-year-old kids were feeling this way.
I think that one of the reasons that it bothered me so much was I knew only too well that feeling of dread and anxiety. I have been a very anxious person my whole life. I am your typical worrier, people pleaser and perfectionist. I knew how my students were feeling and wanted so badly to find something that would help them. I was also looking for a tool for myself to help with my own anxieties.
As a teacher who is starting her 21st year of teaching, I see the stress and anxiety on my colleagues as well. I am so fortunate to work with many great educators who care so much about what they do. They work tirelessly to advocate for the children that they teach. This job has morphed into something that sometimes feels a bit overwhelming and out of control. Mindfulness has taught me how manage that feeling. It has helped me to manage the stresses of work and home. As a mom of 3 kids, it has helped me to be less reactionary and more in the moment.
So, if you are thinking of incorporating mindfulness into your classroom, it is extremely important that you first start practicing mindfulness for yourself. Learn about how it will help your own reactions and anxiety. Feel how it can help you to manuever through stressful situations. This will help you to better explain to students (as well and parents and administrators) how mindfulness works with the brain. To start, I highly recommend the Calm app. The app has numerous guided exercises that will help you to learn how to mindful. There are also a number of books that can help you to understand what mindfulness is (and what it is not!) I often tell my students that mindfulness is something that helps us to calm our brains from the busyness of life. It helps us to help our brains to work the way we need it to so that we can focus and enjoy all of the moments of life. It also allows us to learn better ways to react in situation so that we can be good friends. Mindfulness is an exercise that helps to build our brain muscles and needs to be practiced over and over, just like if we were trying to build other muscles in our bodies.
If at first mindfulness exercises seem to uncomfortable or too “hippie”…give it time! If you are having a hard time sitting still, you probably need mindfulness more than anyone! However, know that mindfulness is not just meditation. It is giving your attention to whatever you are doing in each moment. You can practice mindfulness when you brush your teeth, when you make dinner, or when you read with your child. I promise that after some time