Mindfulness: A teaching tool for inside and outside the classroom

October 27, 2017 | Posted in: Uncategorized

It was late morning and the students in Anne Killian-Russo’s fifth-grade class were in good spirits.

You could feel the energy in the air as the mid-day breaks for lunch and recess approached. But it was not quite time for that yet.

Killian-Russo reached for a Tibetan singing bowl, sent out a soothing tone and in a calm voice settled her class into serenity. They then proceeded into one last lesson for the morning. This was an example of Cooperstown Central School’s Mindfulness Program in action a year ago.

Anne Killian-Russo taps the Tibetan singing bowlEducation is really just a reflection of society as a whole. We love our trends. What everyone seems to be doing one day, is passé the next.  But is Mindfulness just a trend, or is it something that is providing lasting benefits for children at school and at home?

Parent Today also explored  Mindfulness last year and provided an overview of what it is and what it’s potential benefits are.

The Cooperstown CSD Mindfulness Committee utilizes the Mindful Schools program and curriculum. The program has this definition on its website: Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Studies show this can lead to positive outcomes in stress physiology, interpersonal interactions and cognitive control. Studies have also shown it leads to an improved sense of well-being, self-regulation and attention.

The anecdotal evidence from Cooperstown suggests there has been lasting interest among teachers in implementing mindfulness in the classroom and success for students. There are even parents involved in the Mindfulness Steering Committee at Cooperstown CSD. This year, students have also joined the committee.

What are teachers saying about Mindfulness today?

“I do Mindfulness with my 11th grade honors students and the feedback so far is positive. Most students have said they didn’t realize they needed the five minutes until we don’t do it for a day or two. They then realize that they look forward to the time in class.” – English teacher Rebecca Burk-Sciallo

“Sharing a cup of tea with friends and family can be a wonderful time to sit back and connect with those we love.  It can also be a great way to teach Mindfulness. In sixth grade we end our Mondays with our very own tea party, based on the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.  Each student has a job: putting flowers in the vase, putting tea in pot, setting out tea cups and a plate of cookies.  We all sit down and one student passes out a cookies and another offers a cube of sugar. Manners are important and no one may drink or eat until everyone is seated. As we enjoy our tea, we take turns talking about our weekend adventures. When we are finished, students clean their cups and put them on the shelf. It is a special time when we practice Mindful eating, listening, heartfulness and gratitude.” – Licensed Teaching Assistant, JoAnn Gardner

“One thing that I do with Mindfulness that has been really successful is our outdoor journaling time. We go out to the nature trails, or sometimes just out to a field on campus. The kids find a spot of their own by themselves. They cannot sit near classmates. It is a time for them to just be out in nature, reflect, use their senses, to just ‘be,’ and then write.  They are encouraged to start out with some mindful moments, to slow down their day, and get their tranquility on.  Now that the kids have gotten into this routine of having alone, quiet time in the outdoors, they have come to ask for it.  They take it very seriously. This is remarkable for 11 and 12-year-olds. I think this is really a reflection of how fast paced all of our lives are, and how much we need mindfulness in our days.” – Sixth-grade teacher Diana Garcia

What are students saying about Mindfulness today?

“My main reason for wanting to join the Mindfulness Steering Committee was that I enjoyed Mindfulness lessons in class last year and wanted to advocate for having a more of a mindful influence in school for the future as I feel it is very beneficial to students.” – Kate Trosset, 11th grade.

“I wanted to be a part of the program in order to help bring Mindfulness into part of the curriculum. With all the stress and anxiety that high school students deal with on a daily basis, it is important to be able to take a mindful moment each day. I believe that mindfulness is a great way to keep students focused and happier. I am hoping that the program will grow into an important part of the school’s curriculum and that all of the teachers will try to incorporate it into their lesson plans. I am looking forward to hopefully having a space devoted to mindfulness within the school where students and teachers are able to go in order to get away from the stress of classes.” – Delilah Griger, 11th grade.

“I am hoping that the Mindfulness program can begin to change and improve the environment of pressure and stress created at school. I am very glad to be a part of this initiative to introduce useful tools to the student body that have a major impact on one’s mindset. It is very important to me that all of my piers have a chance to experience mindfulness and hopefully use it to cultivate a more peaceful and positive outlook in many aspects of their lives.” – Genevieve Landy, 11th grade.

“I am a huge supporter of Mindfulness. I try to devote at least ten minutes each day to a mindful moment. I find that this helps manage my stress and has taught me how to remain in myself. Mindfulness focuses a lot on not allowing your emotions to control you, without suppressing them. This, I feel, is the most difficult, but the most important aspect of Mindfulness. You shouldn’t push away what you feel, but you cannot let these feelings push you to a bad place. I want to teach others the ways of mindfulness, hopefully through an afterschool program or a Mindful Space in our school.” – Kai Wasson, 11th grade.

Life in the year 2017 can be hectic. And for most of us, it’s probably a safe bet that 2018 will offer more of the same. Based on what these teachers and students have to say, I am really thinking about gathering my kids together to ring a Tibetan singing bowl, settle down for a Japanese tea ceremony and afterward have each of us spend some solo time with a journal. But I bet even just one of these activities would be a huge step toward serenity amidst our daily chaos.

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