I would like to answer a question that teachers frequently ask about how to use the mindfulness or calming activities I teach. Hope the following example is helpful:
I want to try incorporating the calming activities from the Toolbox Trainings into my classroom (Take Four Before, One Minute Challenge, Finger Breathing, etc.) but my students’ behavior might be hard to manage! What’s the best way to go about this?
It seems like the last thing any teacher wants to deal with while trying to do teach “relaxation techniques” is the frustration of trying to get fidgety students to do it as well! When one of the students in the back of the classroom won’t stop making noises with his pencil or banging his foot against the table, it can feel at first like trying to teach calming activities is having the opposite effect! Realizing your own very normal frustration is a great first step because hiding your feelings of aggravation can lead you to want to give up all together (and your frustration will be easily discernible to your students anyway).
So, what can you do?
Here are some tips you can try.
- Before doing the activity, it can be helpful to acknowledge the newness and uncomfortability out loud by saying something like, “In a minute we are going to do a different kind of activity, one that involves being very quiet/focusing on our breathing/moving slowly, etc. and I know that these are things that are new for some of us.
- While leading the activity, keep yourself focused and centered by noticing the students who are already engaged in the activity and keep your focus on them.
- After leading the activity, praise the group for their bravery in trying something new and give the class time to process what their experience was like in a whole group discussion, in partners or in journals. It can be helpful to have a curious attitude towards all contributions as this will allow for more open discussions later and less resentment or feelings of being “forced to do something.”
- If you find that you have a member of the class who is consistently finding it hard to focus or keep quiet, you may want to talk to them separately before doing this activity or afterwards. Jumpy or fidgety students may request being in a separate part of the room, or even sitting closer to you, or having the option to put their heads down on particularly challenging days. A sample introduction to this conversation might be:
Alexander, I’m noticing that you seem to be having a hard time during our mindfulness activities. I know that it’s not easy to try something new/come in from another classroom/get settled down quietly and I know it’s not your intention to disturb people around you…you are an important part of our classroom community/group/etc so I just wanted to check in with you about this.
And then see where the conversation goes…
Hope that these tips are helpful!