Mindfulness in My Classroom: A 6th Grade Teacher's Story

As my school year started, I knew I wanted to make mindset play a key role in my student's day.  Each day a bell ringer greeted my class, and almost every day that bell ringer had something to do with mind set, character education, or ethics.  We discussed how to deal with losing in sports, how to handle getting a bad grade on a test, how to challenge one's self to possess a better character, what to do if you found a lost wallet full of cash.  Yet, it became apparent, pretty quickly, that my class needed something more.

Mindfulness in the Classroom - A 6th Grade Teacher's Story

Behavior - bad behavior, or poor choices - was at an all time high in my class.  Our daily bell ringers, weekly character lessons, school PBS (Positive Behavior System), student affirmations, and classroom incentive program had done nothing to sway the rampant disrespect and disregard I had seen throughout my classroom.  I had tried all of my usual classroom management tricks and nothing had an effect.  That was...until my teaching assistant and I had an interesting discussion one warm October day, when we both shared with one another about our success with meditation and mindfulness on a personal level.

Mindset, Mindfulness, Meditation - Definitions

As we both had been experimenting with meditation and mindfulness, seeing the benefits of calmness, serenity, and focus in our own lives, we thought maybe the class could see those benefits as well.  Within days I started my class on daily meditation, through an app I got on my iPhone, and almost immediately we started seeing results.

I tried the meditation and mindfulness at two different times of the day, after recess, and after lunch, finally settling on sharing our time together after lunch.  We would turn off the lights, turn on the speakers, and listen in to the message of the day.  Some kids would really hone in and focus, closing their eyes, breathing deeply, and working hard to master the techniques being taught, while others would simply color or put their heads down.  Regardless, of how they approached it, the mindfulness and the messages were working, as my behavior issues and referrals declined by approximately 30%, and our lesson content taught in the afternoons increased as well.
Meditation Apps - Headspace & Calm - Our opinions, your choice

Besides trying the meditation and mindfulness at two different times, we also tried two different apps.  These are not affiliate links, just my own experience and the feedback I received from my students.  The first app we tried was called Headspace.  I got this app recommendation from a doctor I had seen, and had only tried the free sample sessions previously.  Once the kids and I got through the 10 free sessions, we then switched over and tried Calm, an app I was recommended by a friend.  The kids immediately had an aversion to the Calm app even though I thought it had more features that they would like.  The students did not like the sound of the voice and felt like it was too rushed.  They also hated the background noise of the waves crashing on the shore.  So we went back to Headspace and I bought a yearly membership.  It's not cheap, just to warn you, although it is tax deductible if you're using it for your classroom.  I thought the investment of less than a $1 a day was worth it, but it can be a lot on a teacher's salary.

Mindfulness wasn't the solution to all my problems, but it alleviated a lot of the headaches..."
Mindfulness wasn't the solution to all my problems, but it alleviated a lot of the headaches I was having.  It also gave me 5-10 minutes to reground and recenter myself before starting to teach again.  I enjoyed emulating and setting an example for my students and I think many of my kids appreciated having the guidance and the security to see that mindfulness is not hokey or stupid or goofy; it's something even adults do.  One of my most difficult students was one of my best exemplars when it came to our daily mindfulness and meditation.

So if you have been dealing with behavior problems in your classroom, or a class that just comes back from specials bouncing off the wall, try mindfulness as a way to calm them down and focus them on learning.  You can use your personal device, a computer, or even just have them breathe deeply in and out for 18 seconds while thinking about where they are and what they are doing in that present moment.  Another idea is to have your students ground themselves in the moment by examining what they can hear, feel, see, touch, and taste.  This not only helps you to focus on the moment and mindfulness, it helps those with anxiety to regain control.

So give these mindfulness ideas a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

The Colorado Classroom Signature - Brittany

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The Power of a Greeting

Every day as students enter my classroom, I stand at my door and greet them.  Whether it's with a handshake, a hug, a fist bump, or just a wave, this simple gesture has power beyond measure and it's something you might want to consider adding to your teaching repertoire.

The Power of a Greeting

In 2017, approximately 1.3 million children were homeless at some point during the year. [1]  In addition to this, nearly 438,000 children are in the foster care system in the United States, with 12% of these kids living in group homes or institutions. [2]  This does not even include the children in domestic violence situations (5 million children each year [3]) or in homes where parents are deployed (over 900,000 children have had one or both parents deployed multiple times [4]).

Thus, with at least 6.7 million kids in situations where tensions are high, depression and anxiety are elevated, and connections with loved ones are often missing or strained, a simple gesture of hello in the morning, or whenever your class may be, can help make a connection with a student who may not otherwise get to make a positive connection with an adult that day.  Not only does it allow for a basic connection with a student, a greeting has been shown to build confidence, promote self-respect, and encourage positive feelings about ones self.

Even if you live in an area of affluence where both parents are present and students are well taken care of, a greeting can go a long way to build self-respect, confidence, and respect.  A smile, bright eyes, and a welcoming grin, joke, or gesture can put students at ease and earn you a well-disciplined student for the day.  While simply learning how to correctly shake hands can earn students a lifetime of respect.     

The Power of a Greeting
Besides the statistics, isn't it just obvious that a greeting can warm even the coldest spirit?  I've had the grumpiest students brighten up and become engaged in my class just because I met them at the door and exchanged pleasantries with them.  And I've had the saddest kids and kids traumatized by outside events make it through day after day after day inside my classroom, because I stopped and showed them how much I care before we began each day.  It's just a simple, "hello," or, "How are you doing?" or, "I missed you," and you've shown them that you care, thus making a connection with a student, and allowing many doors of opportunity to be opened.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
There are many ways to implement a morning greeting in your classroom. Here are just a few...

  1. You can simply stand at the door and shake hands as students approach.
  2. You can let students choose their form of greeting (handshake, fist bump, wave, high five, etc.) and greet each student in a way that they feel comfortable.  For a printable resource you can hang outside your room to let students choose their greeting, click here.
  3. You can let each student create their own greeting or handshake and greet each student in a unique way.
  4. If you're really busy, (although not advised) assign a student to greet students for you.  It's better than nothing.

Morning Greeting Printable

So, how do you greet your students?  Comment below, and let me know.

The Colorado Classroom Signature - Brittany

[1]  https://www.icphusa.org/interactive_data/the-united-states-of-homelessness/?gclid=CjwKCAiAyrXiBRAjEiwATI95mVAWHTpnDWkbtoJ-EbeEmnhggMdN7iTJackF11hQAEZ-XSfAjgjdiBoCtTQQAvD_BwE

[2] https://www.childrensrights.org/newsroom/fact-sheets/foster-care/

[3] https://cdv.org/2014/02/10-startling-domestic-violence-statistics-for-children/

[4] https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-military-families

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