Mindful Management: Rethinking our Approach to Classroom Management

 

In my first year of teaching I chose not to apply for jobs. Instead I decided to do casual relief teaching and work on my classroom management skills.

Most relief teaching days were fantastic but some days the students really gave me a run for my money. Learning the strategies, tools and tips that help to gain and maintain students attention took time. Then there were the days that involved sending the odd child to the principal’s office only to find out later they never went.

After years of being out of the classroom, I returned to teaching in 2016 to dip my toe in the water with relief teaching.

New Beginnings New Focus

I had a new focus on the days when I played the role of the casual relief teacher. It felt like role play because I noticed how fabulously, knowledgeable and outstanding today’s teachers are. Their practice had evolved immensely in my absence. I decided that until I was up to speed I will probably continue to feel like ‘I’m faking it until I make it’.

However, to focus on every area would have driven me crazy. I decided to focus on what I knew, which was mindfulness, and incorporate it into this new context. My personal learning intention centred around something I called: Mindful Management.

Mindful Management is classroom management based on mindfulness techniques. I went back to books I had read over the years and found new material to create short tuning in activities that supported students to be present and focused.

It also occurred to me that some mindfulness activities would work better at different points in the day and for various grade levels.

This is what I have found so far…

It works!

This is why I think Mindful Management works…

Incorporating mindful moments throughout the day helped me to be present. As I said earlier, coming back to the classroom after having children, the fear that I was behind the times, when it came to current practice could have taken over. It reminded me of when I first started out as a teacher.

Bringing it back to the breath and the present moment helped the students and I to refocus. I was then able to explain things in a way that made sense and students could refresh, restart and be active listeners.

Using Mindful management techniques is as much for teacher as it is for students. Mindfulness isn’t an activity where the teacher sits back and observes. It is an invitation to BE HERE NOW. When teachers take the time to experience the present moment fully with their students the energy in the room shifts.

What does a day using Mindful Management strategies look like?

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Grade Prep (first year of schooling)

9am- Belly breathing– 5 deep slow breaths down into your belly through your nose. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Follow the link to find out why we start with the breath.

9:40 Hands on hearts –call and response How do we stop? Hands up top. Where do we start? Hands on heart. Time for a breath break- 3 deep belly breaths. This will be the cue throughout the day to get the students to stop and listen for instructions.

11:30- Breathe in good thoughts, Breathe out unhappy experiences– This is a mindful movement exercise that teaches students we have power over our thinking.

  • Children are in a circle.
  • Hang down to your toes, knees slightly bent, breathe in a good thought, following the breath your hands slowly move up your body above your head.
  • On the exhale we turn our bodies to face the outside of the circle and using our arms we imagine that the bad thought or experience that happened at recess is in our hands and we are throwing it out of the circle.

We do this activity 3 times.

*I then ask if there are students who still feel like they need to talk about any situation that happened and I write their names down and let them know I will see them at some point when everyone is working. 

12:20- Incorporate a short, 5 -10 minute, movement exercise or game that is based on what they are learning in that session which gets kids out of their heads into their bodies.

1:15-During lunch eating time practice active listening. One of the prep classes I was in does show and tell. Active listening is when we listen attentively to the speaker. Then after they finish talking we think of a question at the end of their talk. As adults we often spend our time thinking about our response rather than truly listening to what someone is saying. 

2:30- Mindful Storytelling Session.

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We all Chime in.

Grade 2-3

9:00- Belly breathing– see description above.

9:40: We all Chime in: When the teacher strikes a triangle (or any instrument which has resonance, see Mindful Listening for more examples.) students are encourage to put their hands up when they have noticed the sound has stopped. This will be the cue throughout the day to get the students to stop and listen for instructions.

10:00- Mindful movements – A movement and/or stretching sequence that gets the blood flowing and shakes out stuck energy that can emerge as silliness or undesirable behavior.

11:30- Door of disturbance– There are lots of things that can happen in a student’s day by this point. Students close their eyes and imagine a door. While looking at the door they think of something that is bothering them, an incident at recess, or in the morning. They imagine that thought is on a piece of paper. They crumple it up, open the door and throw it out the door. If they have another they repeat the activity. Finally, at the end they close the door on those experiences.

12:20- Incorporate a short, 5 -10 minute, movement exercise or game that is based on what they are learning in that session which gets kids out of their heads into their bodies.

1:15-During lunch eating time- Mindful eating– We are going to see how long we can go with thinking and eating mindfully. Both feet on the ground, sitting up straight, we are going to focus on chewing our food.  Notice how it smells, how it tastes, how it feels in your mouth as you chew slowly,  etc. Only think about the food. I like to turn this into a game by timing them an selecting a mindful master to be on the look out for the best Mindful eaters.

2:30-Mindful Storytelling through Drama movement and dance.

For teachers wanting to know the benefits of incorporating more mindfulness, movement and drama into your school day, please see my post Mindful Storytelling: What the Research Says.

The greatest benefit mindfulness has had on my life is the peace it has created with in me. At any point in my day I can choose to re-start. By actively planning for how I will do that I can show up with more presence and therefore I have access to a more calm and creative approach to situations that arise.

Wishing you a week filled with presence, peace and mindful moments.

Cathy

P.S. I can see that there is probably more to be said about the importance of mindful movement exercises throughout the school day. Watch this space for a future post on this important topic.

 

 

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