Relax…and breath easy

As an educator, I never thought I would be so invested in relaxation techniques. Early on in my career, I began to see how paralyzed students became when stressed over their academic performance. The fear of getting a bad grade caused such a mental block, that the student generally got a bad grade as a result. I introduced tai-chi into the classroom. I always gave students the option to participate or not, however; if they did not participate, they had to sit and meditate or visualize themselves performing well. Interesting enough, most students participated. To set the atmosphere, I generally play a zen spa/meditation video that creates a beautiful scene. As it plays, the calmness begins to set in. I begin with slow and calculated movements as students mimic my every move. As I model what they should do, I’m speaking to them in a very calm voice. I tell them how wonderful and smart they are. I explain that they are stronger than their fears. We also do a series of movements that require them to balance. I tell them the focus it takes to balance is the same focus it takes to answer questions on their assignments/tests. I let them know that a low grade is nothing more than an opportunity to learn from. We all make mistakes. As long as they gave their best efforts, I am proud of them. I’ve introduced them to cleansing breaths. We inhale slowly while moving our hands up. As we inhale, I tell them to breathe in, positive words like, “I can, I’m strong, fearless and loved regardless of the results.” As we exhale, our hands are slowly coming down. I tell them to breathe out their fears, anxieties and negative thoughts that make them feel inadequate.

I’m sure tai-chi and meditation in the classroom seemed more like a novelty to some of my students…at first. Then, slowly but surely, they began to “buy-in.” It became an expectation. The students, rightfully so, held me to a higher level. They looked to me to bring the best out of them. My hope is always to empower them to tap into the greatness within. I nor anyone else can bestow greatness upon them. My intent is to show them they are great, faults and all…they just have to receive it. Namaste.

So it begins…the journey

I decided to start a blog to create a platform for sharing and learning mindful teaching strategies. Through mindfulness, students gain the confidence to express themselves and give their best efforts with an expectation of a learning experience rather than failure.

“What is a mindful teaching strategy?” you ask. It is teaching and offering students positive, alternative coping mechanisms to deal with their negative thoughts and self-doubt. The list of mindfulness strategies is vast, but here are a few that I use:

  • yoga
  • tai-chi
  • cleansing breaths
  • quick writes
  • journaling
  • positive affirmation statements
  • aromatherapy
  • color therapy
  • music
  • art
  • poetry
  • positive posters
  • greetings
  • smiles

Where do you find the time to incorporate these strategies? Some are as easy as decorating the classroom. For some of the other strategies, you’re gonna have to be more intentional. It may be tough initially, but try and weave them into your lessons. Start as soon as school begins to set the tone.

Throughout the years, I have learned students perform better when they feel good about themselves. Test scores don’t even begin to define students. Getting to know them, creating a safe environment conducive to learning, giving them a voice, incorporating their gifts and talents into learning and using mistakes to teach problem solving will give you a more comprehensive picture of the student.

As a side note, it is imperative that teachers practice mindfulness themselves. Sometimes we pour so much into others that we fail to adequately take care of ourselves, thus leaving us not nearly as effective as we would like to be.

I honestly do not know where this journey will lead, but I welcome the new venture. I look forward to hearing from those who make learning an unforgettable experience in the most magnificent way. Your efforts are truly appreciated …thank you!