As teachers, the work load is never-ending, and you give so much of yourself in the classroom that it’s easy to use up your energy reserves. In order to make it through the year, you have to learn to take time for yourselves and find ways to recharge those batteries.
The other day I was observing one of our teacher’s classes and I saw her do an exercise on “mindfulness” with her students. Jean asked them what they thought mindfulness was and they shared a few ideas. Then she said, “We’re going to do a mindfulness activity for one minute. You’re just going to breathe.” She had them practice breathing in slowly, holding for 6 seconds, and then breathing out gently.
When they began the activity, the classroom was quiet and everyone’s eyes were closed for a peaceful minute. Jean’s voice said softly, “When you’re ready, open your eyes. That was a minute. How did you feel? Did you like that?” The kids said yes and she asked, “Would you like to do that regularly?” They smiled as they nodded their heads. She said that if they didn’t feel comfortable with the activity, they could meet with her privately and let her know.
Since that moment, at the beginning of class, Jean’s students sit mindfully for 1-2 minutes before starting their work. I asked Jean how she came up with the idea and she told me that it was through an interest of her own and ideas our school psychologist shared with her. She feels that not only do the students benefit from the practice but she does too. As she gets her classroom ready before students enter — writing up the agenda, preparing charts, putting up documents on the data show — she can feel stressed and harried. Taking a minute to breathe before class starts helps her calm her mind and get into the right space for teaching.
Jean tells me that the benefits for her students were immediately noticeable. It seems to calm them after the hustle bustle of the hallway and getting into class. They’re less talkative and disruptive, more focused, and she feels that the calm atmosphere lasts throughout the entire class period.
I also experienced the gentle letting go of tension and anxiety as I sat in Jean’s class simply breathing for one short minute. My shoulders eased, my breathing slowed, and I walked out of her class feeling refreshed.
Since then, I try to practice this technique throughout the day. When one mini-crisis has followed another and life feels frantic, I sit for a minute and just breathe slowly. This is helping me manage my stress immensely. The other day as I was driving to work, traffic was crazy and I could feel my stomach clenching and my shoulders tightening. Was that any way to start the day? So I decided to practice mindful breathing. I also took the time to think of the many things I’m grateful for: my family, my friends, a job that I feel passionate about, fellow workers that I look forward to seeing every day, good health. Before I knew it the craziness in the street no longer affected me and I felt the anger and stress roll away.
Taking a few minutes every day to breath mindfully is an easy, effective way to plug in your batteries and recharge.
Do you practice any mindfulness activities in your classroom? In your own life?