3 Steps to Encourage Student Mindfulness
As educators, one of our most important roles is helping our students acquire knowledge and giving them authentic opportunities to apply it. Typically, these efforts are focused on curriculum and standards-based skills.
But what about the skills that transcend content? Students in today’s world need help with things like executive functions and mental toughness as well. After all, trying to teach content can quickly become a fruitless effort with students who are not in the right mental and emotional space to be able to engage with it.
Whether you are a tutor, classroom teacher, or a parent, there is a significant value to helping the kids we reach develop mindfulness skills. Here are 3 key steps you can take to help promote mindfulness in your students:
1. Be Mindful Yourself
As with all things in education, authenticity is key. If you are looking to instill mindfulness in your students, then you need to make the effort to be mindful yourself. Kids can sniff out hypocrisy from a mile away; so for mindfulness to take hold with your students, they need to buy in to the fact that you practice what you preach.
Whether it’s carving out time for a regular yoga session, using a mindfulness app on your phone, or simply taking advantage of the natural opportunities for focus throughout your day, mindfulness is a habit that needs to be part of your daily life before it becomes a teaching tool.
2. Make Time for Silence and Breathing
So much of what happens in education is governed by the clock; there are appointments to keep, schedules to follow, and more topics to cover than there are days to do it. Rather than give in to the stress of constantly trying to keep up, accept that there are limits to what the human brain can handle.
Before or during particularly rigorous learning work, carve out a moment for your students dedicated to calming their minds and establishing focus. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this:
- Guided meditation exercises – resources and videos
- Focusing on a calming tone like a singing bowl
- Partner breathing
- Using a multimedia prompt
This short burst of deliberate meditation can reinvigorate the minds of students and help bolster their engagement and focus in the process.
3. Give Students the Tools
Most people come to learn and appreciate mindfulness through the guidance of others. However, mindfulness is especially effective when it can be called upon when needed in times of personal stress. As such, giving students tools to calm and regulate their own focus can be a transformative gift.
While there are a whole slew of resources online dedicated to promoting mindfulness with students, don’t make the experience overwhelming (remember: the whole purpose is to calm and focus).
Start simple with short, purposeful techniques like S.T.O.P. and R.A.I.N. that can be shared with reminders on a classroom poster or an index card. By providing students a physical reminder (especially if it doubles as a cheat-sheet with the steps to follow), you can increase the likelihood that students will consider using a mindfulness technique when experiencing stress or trouble focusing.
Reflection is another tool that is crucial for effective mindfulness practice. Give students mindfulness journals to use to record personal insights. Encourage students to use the journals to regularly and purposefully take ownership over their thoughts, emotions, and actions.
In learning environments with technology access, the Calm app (available in web-based, iOS, and Android flavors), is being offered to teachers and their students completely free as a part of their Calm Classroom Initiative.
Whether you opt for complete curricular approaches or offer students bite-sized doses of new mindfulness techniques to try, teaching students to take control of their feelings and focus is a lesson they will carry with them long after they leave your tutelage.
For more insight into the benefits of sharing mindfulness techniques with students, check out this powerful Tedx Talk from Richard Burnett, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project:
How has mindfulness changed the learning experience for your students? Share your reflections with our readers in the comments below!