A Brief Guide For Teachers
As part of my PGDE in Early Childhood Education at the University of Hong Kong, I partook in a module called “Experiential Learning”. Described by the Assistant Dean himself, this is what the aim of an EL project should do for you.
“EL projects offer the chance to see the community as a new and powerful knowledge space where you will all have the chance to expand your understanding and practice”
— Dr Gary Harfitt
I decided to organise a workshop for in-service teachers to teach them mindfulness skills to use for themselves in the classroom, but also pass onto their students through different activities. I decided to split my workshop into two Lessons. Let’s explore them below. (All material will be provided in links as we go along)
Lesson 1 — An Introduction of Sorts
I used a cool little game as a nice way of breaking the ice. Especially for adults because we tend to take ourselves way too seriously. A bit of play can go a long way! The game I used looks like a very tame version of this.
When relaxed, people are more willing to share. It’s always interesting for me to listen to the experience of others. Especially when they talk about it in a reflective way. Coming from Kindergarten, It is a new experience for me to learn what stress, trials and tribulations others experience in the educational field (especially Primary School and Secondary) and how they deal with them.
What is Mindfulness?
When people are first introduced to this, they have many ideas about what mindfulness means. It’s good to get people thinking and exchanging ideas. One of my students did this drawing below to illustrate what she believed mindfulness to be. She described becoming mindful as getting rid of thoughts and becoming more aware of your surroundings, especially nature, to create a natural feeling of calm.
After a group discussion, you can begin to narrow down the idea. At this point, I like to introduce meditation as a tool to start down the path of mindfulness as it is often the easiest method of understanding what mindfulness actually feels like. It’s fun to let students just meditate using their own method.
It’s always interesting to hear what people’s experience of meditation is. Spending a few minutes to discuss something that quite a few people are doing for the first time is fun and students enjoy talking about the differences and similarities experienced.
I like to introduce meditation through “Headspace” as it’s where I got my feet wet. You can find out more about Headspace here. The video below is a good example of what meditating is like. After students have this information, I like to talk briefly about some of the science and then jump into a guided meditation session. Here’s a good example.
It’s nice to compare conceptions of meditation before the guided meditation and after. Nearly always, students find the guided meditation much easier and are surprised at how easy it is. We spend time sharing our experience and talk about how we could transfer this experience of mindfulness into other activities.
I always ask students to have a go at trying to inject mindfulness into their own lives. It’s ideal to have a list that looks something like this.
a. Mindful Eating: Practice eating mindfully up to 5 x this week. At least for as long as you can … but try to reach 5 minutes.
b. Mindful Focus: Apply mindfulness to something else that you already do, and that might be easy for you (e.g., during runs, yoga, cooking, playing?).
c. Mindful Challenge: Apply mindfulness for five minutes per day during another typically mindless or challenging activity (e.g., on public transport, in the shops, watching TV,), and especially whenever you catch yourself going into judgement mode? Or multi-tasking?
Lesson 2 — Mindfulness in the Classroom
I like to use the same warm up game or something similar for the second lesson. It’s fun and students still enjoy it. Afterwards, open sharing is the aim of the game and to listen with empathy as each person shares their struggles.
Return to a Relaxing Place
Going back to guided meditation is always interesting because your experience is different each time. It is a good idea to focus on the application of guided meditation in the classroom for both teachers and students. I enjoyed asking each person how they would implement something like this. The answers you get are always surprising.
Mindfulness for Different Perspectives
From our discussions, you can start making lists of what practices you could use in the classroom for both your own benefit as a teacher and for your students to use, too. I was impressed how students could deconstruct what they had learnt and taken parts of the guided meditation out to suit their needs. One student suggested concentrating on sounds as a way to become mindful in the moment.
You Only Need One Raisin
Whilst guided meditation is an activity that you can do yourself or encourage your students to do, I wanted to take a multi-sensory approach to mindfulness because you can use all of your senses to be mindful in different ways. Using a raisin, I asked my students to make it last ten minutes! Some could and some couldn’t. The interesting thing is that pretty much all my students had a new experience of eating a raisin. They became more aware of the texture, what the tastiest part was and some even joked that the 10 minutes they experienced with the raisin were some of the most interesting relationships they had developed. They became mindful of what they were doing. Such a simple exercise can create a mindful experience if it’s set up right. Your students would love it too! Even the older ones. Check out how you do it, here.
Although colouring can be seen as a passing fad for adults, each of my students was surprised at how absorbed they became in this activity. Time flew by and they had to think a little while how long they had spent colouring. It was easy for them to see how this could be implemented in their classes as a mindful activity and discussion soon centred around which activity they liked more. Check out some materials for colouring, here.
A journal a Day…
Good questions are the basis of a strong journal entry.
- ) What matters here? — Through asking this question, you take ownership of yourself in the classroom and can use it as a starting point for creating conversation and community.
- ) Where are you know? — This is psychological. It relates to where you are now with your feelings as well as spiritually.
- ) What do you know now? — This encourages students to value their own experience of learning at different levels and encourages them to reflect.
Students liked this part also because it is easy to justify in academic terms but not as fun as some of the other activities. This obviously makes more sense at higher levels like Primary and Secondary schools but can be adjusted to drawing at the Kindergarten level. A guide on how to do journaling.
In the end then, there was a lot to discuss. Which activity worked best? How do we implement all of this into our curriculum without taking too much time out of our day-to-day activities we need to do? Will it work with my students? I believe most students became reflective of not only their own teaching practice but also their life. After all, you can’t really expect your students to become more mindful if they don’t have an example to follow. I like to leave further interpretation open for discussion now that teachers have a framework to work with.
In closing then, I hope this brief guide of sorts can help you in either implementing mindfulness into your daily life, your teaching practice or perhaps teaching others how to do it, including your students. Make sure to download all of the materials and give them a try yourself!
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to hit the little green heart below and don’t forget to follow along, too!