Be Present in the Present: Putting Mindfulness into Practice in Your Classroom
When your students are in your classroom, you want them to feel inspired, engaged, and ready to learn. You also want them to feel safe and secure. You can create a safe learning environment for students by focusing on mindfulness. Think of “mindfulness” and you might picture a Zen-like classroom where students hone in on relaxation. But the concept can have a much deeper impact on your students, your teaching style, and how your students view their education.
What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, an internationally known meditation teacher, author, and researcher, defines mindfulness as the “awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
According to Kabat-Zinn, there are different stages of mindfulness: It can be a state, a trait, or a practice. A state of mindfulness can be a moment of clarity, where your state of mind is at peace. A trait of mindfulness is a sustained experience or habit you can develop of being mindful. And, lastly, the practice of mindfulness refers to more intentional actions such as meditation.
Students who are present, relaxed, and purposely paying attention—sounds like a teaching dream, doesn’t it? It may seem like a fantasy, but you can begin to employ mindfulness in your classroom and reap the rewards of a focused and intentional educational experience.
How Can Mindfulness Help Your Students?
Research shows that mindfulness can improve the mental, emotional, social, and physical health of students. It has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, reactivity, and bad behavior. And, mindfulness can improve sleep, increase self-esteem, create calmness, and help students develop empathy.
The mental health benefits of mindfulness can extend to student performance in the classroom as well, with helping students pay attention, be more focused, think in innovative ways, improve memory, and sharpen problem-solving skills. A classroom with a focus on mindfulness can become a positive learning environment for students.
How can you put mindfulness into practice?
Get Your Students on Board
Explain what mindfulness is and why you’re implementing it in your classroom, and then start small. Try mindful breathing as a first step. Follow the steps here to get started with a five-minute mindful breathing exercise.
Create a Call to Action
Get students in the habit of mindfulness by creating a class signal when it’s time to begin. You could ring a bell, or create a Mind Jar that puts mindfulness into action by demonstrating how to help an anxious brain relax. You just need a jar, glycerin, and glitter to create this tangible reminder of calm.
Make it Fun
Although mindfulness helps tackle some serious issues, your practice doesn’t have to be stuffy. Find games to encourage mindfulness and look for ways to create calm while focusing on fun.
Look for apps and podcasts that focus on mindfulness to give your practice a boost. The app Calm has a program just for teachers.
Let Your Students Check In
After your mindful moment, get a quick report from each student about how they’re feeling. It could be as simple as thumbs up or thumbs down to take the pulse metaphorically of your class.
Stick With It
Like any discipline, mindfulness needs to be practiced consistently to develop the habit. Put a moment for mindfulness into your lesson plans and get ready to enjoy the rewards.