To teach Mindfulness you have to practice Mindfulness. So for our educators at MPS we begin with ourselves. Our teachers are encouraged to practice mindful activities during the workweek. Several times a week our Mindfulness coordinator, Erin Maillo invites colleagues to come to her room at the end of the school day for a few mindful activities. It is a great way to destress and at the same time pick up skills to introduce in the classroom. In addition, our faculty and staff participate in monthly focused training meetings on Mindfulness practices to incorporate into the classroom.
Our classes find time each morning and at the end of the day to engage in Mindfulness sessions as a way of practicing the work of Daniel Rechtschaffen who trained and supported us the past two years and through our incorporation of his activities from his recent book, The Mindful Education Workbook. In addition, teachers have received a variety of other materials to have at their disposal. We also conclude our day in the same manner. Throughout the day children practice Mindfulness either through teacher directed or self-directed moments as a means to be fully present in the moment, de-stress and refocus their energies.
Each lunch session provides a couple of minutes of Mindful eating where students and teachers focus on the act of eating. There is no talking and the focus is on savoring the particular food being eaten. What was it’s texture? Was it savory or salty? Was it hot or cold? What did you notice about the fragrance of the food, etc.? We then spend a few minutes discussing their impressions.
Most of our classroom have a “Chill Space,” though it may go by different names. “A chill space is somewhere in a classroom or other room in the school dedicated to helping students feel safe and nurtured. It is best if the space is collaboratively created with the students. Examples of what would be in the space are things like tactile objects to play with, coloring materials, or soothing music on a music player. The space can be decorated with pillows, fabric, and natural things. Students are self-referred to this space. This is not a spot that a teacher send the students to; youth can go there when they want. They go to the space when they are feeling dysregulated, and they come back out when they are ready to learn. Most teachers find that students go to the space right before they would usually act out and they don’t stay in for too long.” (Rechtschaffen, Daniel, The Mindful Education Workbook, p.224-225). Such a space can easily be created at home, too.
The practice of Mindfulness is synergistic with our work around Responsive Classroom in helping students and teachers use common language and strategies to mitigate conflict and provide for a safe, focused learning environment. At the core of our school is the realization that the social/emotional well-being of students must be in place before the core academics can be taught.
“When you drink, just drink; when you walk, just walk.” Zen saying
Head of School