At 7:45 am, my classroom is quiet.
Little chairs are tucked beneath little tables, the smell of wet paint from the last days art project fills the room, and the morning light streams ever-so-softly through the windows. I know this won’t last, but for now, the room is perfectly tranquil.
I sit down on the carpet, face upturned to the sun and take a deep breath. I feel my toes, my fingers, and the weight of my legs against the floor. I hear the birds outside, the rustle of the wind through the trees – and suddenly, I can feel what it means to be here, right now.
This is my moment of mindfulness.
My Mindfulness Journey
It was entirely an accident that I got into mindfulness. It wasn’t something I had planned for or even knew that much about. I was mainly looking to take a break from the busyness of the school day, calm my mind, and find some clarity.
Little did I know this 5-minute practice would become my biggest ally as a teacher. Morning meditation quickly became part of my daily routine and is now integral to my teaching practice. The positive effects can be felt both in my classroom and personal life.
What’s more, the lessons I’m learning when I practice mindfulness meditation seem to have a positive ripple effect on the people around me – creating an environment of trust, understanding, and empathy that can’t be taught by any book or lesson plan.
Mindfulness – It’s More Than Just a Practice
Mindfulness for teachers is not just about learning meditation techniques; it’s about cultivating a state of mind that allows us to better connect with our students and colleagues. Practicing mindfulness is about teaching ourselves how to be present in the moment, how to control our own emotions, and how to foster meaningful relationships in the classroom.
When teachers practice mindfulness, they open up a world of possibilities – an opportunity to create a more inclusive, compassionate learning environment for their students.
I’m confident that if more schools gave mindfulness a try, we would see a shift in the way education is approached – one that recognizes the power of connection, understanding, and empathy in teaching and learning.
Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers
There’s a reason that more schools than ever are starting to embrace and adopt mindfulness practices and training for teachers – the benefits are too great to ignore. There’s a growing body of research that shows how mindfulness can help school teachers through:
Anxiety and stress reduction
This was a big one for me. Regular mindfulness practice has helped me with stress reduction and responding better to challenging situations. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by stress, I can approach it from a more level-headed and mindful perspective. Huge win!
Improved focus and clarity throughout the day
No doubt, teachers encounter extreme stress on the job. Being mindful helps me stay focused and clear-headed, even when things get hectic or challenging. Say, for example, that you have a stack of essays to grade or need to plan a difficult lesson – mindfulness can help you stay on track and get the job done.
More meaningful connections with my students
Mindfulness has helped me be present in the moment, and this presence has allowed me to connect more deeply with my students. I am now more attuned to their needs and can better understand how I can best help them achieve success. This means more lightbulb moments in the classroom!
Enhanced problem-solving skills
Being mindful has helped me hone my problem-solving skills. Mindfulness teaches us to look at problems from multiple angles and find creative solutions. I now feel better equipped to handle any challenge that comes my way in the classroom.
Learning to cope in challenging moments
As teachers, we are often confronted with challenging situations – from “difficult” students to demanding parents and administrators, all the way up to our self-critiques and doubts about whether or not we can. Mindfulness can help us to stay grounded and connected to our true selves during tough times, allowing us to respond with clarity and compassion.
Mindfulness Exercises for Teachers
While I can’t promise that mindfulness will make everything in the classroom easier, mindfulness can help us to manage our emotions, focus on tasks and be more patient with our students. Here are a few mindfulness exercises that other teachers and I have benefitted from:
Why We Need to Teach Mindfulness in the Classroom
Mindfulness isn’t just beneficial for us teachers – it also benefits our students. Research has shown that when we teach mindfulness to students in schools, it can help to:
- Improve academic performance
- Improve self-care, health, and wellbeing
- Increase attention and ability to ignore distractions
- Increase self-regulation and reduce hyperactive/aggressive behavior
- Significantly reduce stress and anxiety
4 Mindfulness Activities for Students
If you’re interested in incorporating the benefits of mindfulness into your teaching practice and to your students, here are four activities you can try. You know your students best, so feel free to modify the activities as needed:
1. Deep Belly Breaths
Just like us, our students need to take a few moments to pause and breathe. Have your class sit or stand comfortably and take a deep breath. Invite the children to notice their breathing for 3-5 minutes. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for two, and breathe out for four. Encourage them to become aware of how their body feels with each breath. They may wish to place one hand on their belly to feel the breath move through their body.
Reflection: After the exercise, have them reflect on how they felt during and after the breathing exercise. Are they more relaxed? Do they feel “lighter” or calmer?
2. Body Scan
This exercise can help students to increase self-awareness of the physical sensations and emotions in their bodies. Have the class lie down on their backs and close their eyes. Guide the students through a body scan, starting at their toes and working up to the crown of their head. Ask them to notice any sensations or emotions they’re feeling in each body part and then move on to the next part of their body.
Reflection: After the exercise, have them reflect on how they feel. Did any body parts feel tense or uncomfortable? Do they feel more relaxed overall?
3. Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude is an important skill for our students to practice and cultivate. Have them write down a few things they are grateful for each day. This can be anything, from the sunshine outside to their best friends.
Reflection: After they’ve written down in their journals, have them reflect on how it made them feel. Do they feel more positive or content?
4. Kids Yoga
Yoga is great for students of all ages! Have your class move their bodies through gentle stretches and poses. Make sure to incorporate breathing exercises and mindfulness moments throughout the class. Cosmic Kids Yoga has a great selection of free yoga classes for kids that you can follow along.
Reflection: After the yoga session, have your students reflect on how it made them feel. Did any poses make them feel energized or relaxed?
Mindfulness is more than just a practice – it’s an attitude that you carry with you wherever you go. Practicing mindfulness can help us be better teachers, more effective leaders, and more compassionate human beings. By incorporating mindfulness into our daily routine, we can become better teachers and create a positive learning environment in the classroom.
At the end of the day, the greatest reward is seeing our students become mindful, compassionate individuals who are equipped to tackle any challenge that comes their way. That’s why mindfulness matters for teachers – it truly is the ultimate gift we can give our students.
Do you have any mindfulness activities that you’ve tried in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below!