Establish a calm classroom in 5 simple steps: Mindfulness for schools

Mindfulness is a real buzz word at the moment. It’s spreading like wildfire, and there is a reason for that – it can help us to feel calmer, more in control and aware of our lives, and hence can reduce stress and anxiety. Many schools are now also taking on board the benefits of mindfulness as it can stimulate learning and positive mental wellbeing.

How can you promote mindfulness in your classroom?

1 – Teach children what mindfulness is

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. Credit Pexels

There are some great activities for learning what mindfulness is. A great starting point is to explain that mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment and focussing solely on what is happening in that moment. Activities to introduce mindfulness might include eating something and then asking the children you work with to describe the experience afterwards. Encourage them to feel the shape and texture of the food, to experience the smell and flavour – and most importantly to try not to think about anything else while doing it. It is a good idea to keep religion out of your mindfulness teaching. This is because classrooms usually contain a broad mix of religious beliefs and some of these may already have thoughts or teachings on practices similar to mindfulness. So keep your explanations practical rather than spiritual.

2 – Teach children the benefits of mindfulness

Just as with adults, children need to understand why something is useful to them before they are likely to buy into it. By explaining that they will feel calmer, learn more effectively (and hence get better grades) and be able to manage their personal relationships more easily, they are more likely to be prepared to give the techniques a proper try and invest in mindfulness more fully. Think about what appeals to the children you work with, and use everyday problems, experiences and issues to explain the benefits – the more relevant your explanation, the more likely you are to have a receptive class. Mindfulness can be especially effective for children with social, emotional or mental health (SEMH) issues – however, this can also be a difficult target group to engage with for the same reason – so really talk to your class about how they’d like to improve the way they feel and why – this might give you a clue as to how to encourage them to buy into your mindfulness sessions.

3 – Have dedicated mindfulness sessions

We are all guilty of forgetting that we are meant to be being mindful and lapsing back into our usual every day stresses about things.

 

Children are no different, so it is important for you as their teacher or member of school support staff to plan specific mindfulness sessions and build them into your routine. This might be quiet time at the start or end of the day during registration when your class focus on a single activity such as reading. However, it is important that you introduce this in an appropriate way and remind the group what mindfulness is. For example, you might start each “mindful reading” session with a few deep breaths and some “mind clearing” – perhaps even with closed eyes!

4 – Encourage everyday mindfulness

Once your class has the idea and are buying into mindfulness, encourage them to practice it during their wider school lives. For example, you might talk to them about situations they find stressful or difficult and then talk about how to use mindfulness to help. Some children find transition between classrooms challenging –  hallways can be busy with students pushing and bumping into each other, there is the risk of being late to the next class and being told off by the teacher, and a myriad of other issues such as conflicts with classmates, not understanding the work or simply not getting along with that particular teacher. Mindfulness can help by offering students a calm way of dealing with each situation as it comes along – rather than seeing all the potential stress all at once and allowing this to cloud their state of mind. It has been shown that cortisol (released during stressful experiences) is a block to learning in the brain, so being calm in definitely beneficial.

5 – Get parents involved

Sometimes, we establish fantastic practises at school, and as soon as our students go home, they forget all about using them. This is easily done as most students probably don’t find the home environment as stressful as the school one, so they don’t see a need for the techniques. By involving parents and asking them to encourage mindfulness at home, not only will you be giving them a useful tool to use when their children become stressed, but you’ll also be providing the parents with this tool, too (and let’s face it – how many parents out there can say they never get stressed and couldn’t do with a calmer mind?) Perhaps you can run a twilight or school holiday workshop for all the parents of your class or send home a little booklet about the practice so that they can try them too.

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