I had a great start to my program at Footscray City Primary School. We danced,we moved, we filled up our friend’s buckets with feathery kindness and we morphed into our favourite things. However, the activity that made all the difference was relaxation!
The first couple of sessions went to plan so perfectly that it lulled me into a false sense of mindful bliss. Then wham! Lesson number 3 hit!
I am grateful for three reasons: Firstly, I have a list of activities that I can slot in if something isn’t working. Secondly, mindfulness takes time but every class demonstrated level three effort with Mindful ‘belly’ breathing. Finally, this lesson helped me to remember that in the prep classes, with students who just started school, less words (quick, clear concise instruction) are required. It reminded me of a wonderful mentor of mine who used to say “Get off the Stage” when my instructions went on for a bit too long.
To get the students attention, at different points in the lesson, I use a set of small cymbals. This is the cue to stop and take 3 mindful belly breaths. This was the absolute saving grace in every lesson. It allowed the students and I time to reset and I could change the direction of the lesson in that moment.
Each class had a different vibration. I mean it! Some were more relaxed and focused and others were humming with activity. These little guys needed a massive break but the intensity they created together meant that they just couldn’t make that choice together collectively.
Typically, I finish with guided relaxation but with the energetic classes I did my relaxation activity earlier and longer than the other classes. Next week, with these students I will start the lesson with a guided relaxation.
Surprisingly, the energetic cohorts responded in the most amazing way to the relaxation!
They embraced stillness like well-trained monks. I must say it was, with the promise of a present (a feather), so there was a bit of external motivation. After time, they will realise that relaxation feels good and external motivation won’t be necessary.
When I saw that they were relaxed and embracing the stillness I would drop a feather on them. When students noticed they were getting a feather the look of wonder and excitement in their eyes, as they watched it drift down towards them, was truly beautiful.
Dynamic Kids and Student Dynamics
Knowing the student dynamic of a class is important for creating the best experience for students. I have a couple from each class that can’t sit still. This has a spill on effect with the others. Now that I know this, I can put them in charge of setting up things while I am talking to the other students at the start of the lesson. Moving doesn’t mean they aren’t listening it just means this is how they role. I am hoping that if they are given a task to focus on they will be able to be present in a way that helps them feel connected and useful.
I recognise this can be tricky…As a classroom teacher I found it distracting, when children were moving around the room while I was explaining something. However, it is unrealistic and unhelpful to the development of some children to expect that they must sit still and listen, when it just isn’t possible for them to do so, especially in a new environment.
Another Interesting Element
There were children who chose not to take part. At no point, did I force them to do any of the activities. I have comfy spots around the room where reluctant kids can relax. Each of them took part when they felt comfortable.
I also gave each student their own special piece of material (we call their home). This is their own safe space that they can return too at any point in the lesson. The reluctant students really enjoyed, having their own spot and easily embraced the relaxation activity.
Try this weeks relaxation activity at home or in class!
Relaxation is so wonderful for everyone! For kids that are always moving, their little nervous systems need a breather.
Parents: Put on some relaxing music and take a mindful break with your little person. Lying side by side on the floor imagine your body is sinking into the floor, as each body part softens and relaxes. You can use the following set up statements: My/your head is now soft and relaxed. Repeat this statement using face, neck shoulders and upper back arms, hands, lower back and hips, legs, ankles, feet. Feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper into the floor.
Teachers: Be present with your students for this by sitting on the floor and taking a well-deserved breather with them.I know you may be tempted to do planning, or all the other things on your never ending list of things to do, but trust me your body will thank you. Encourage the students to lie down. You could also take part by walking mindfully around the room and use the set up statements above. For younger students, use bubbles, feathers, a magic mindfulness wand, etc. to let students know you have seen their stillness.
In closing in my life, I never let a plan get in the way of a good story. Lots of fantastic stories played out this week and I met roughly 160 new little teachers so I imagine there’s plenty more to come.
Wishing you and yours a relaxing week filled with fun and mindful moments.
P.s. Here’s the music I used for this week’s relaxation.