Inspiring Pedagogy: “Traditionally, educators have found that much of their communication with children involves directing them – giving instructions, telling children what to do, and correcting their behaviour – rather than really connecting with them in a meaningful way. However, an approach that emphasizes listening, responding to, and building on child-initiated communication and conversation can be a more effective way to promote children’s language acquisition and their development of social skills, empathetic understanding, and ability to pay attention.” (HDLH, p. 41)
I collaborated with Edane Padme, Certified Yoga Instructor at Padme Kids Yoga to deliver a Mindfulness Workshop for the students.
I absolutely loved how she so passionately sought to have the students embody mindfulness, it was very important for her that the students before sharing mindfulness practices with the children to have an experiential understanding of mindfulness through their own practice. I also agree that once we begin to develop our own practice, we will see how it impacts our classroom and our relationships with children more intentionally.
The more we practice coming back to the present with kind awareness, the easier it actually is to be present — a vital quality for educators. As educators we make more decisions during the course of the work day, and the demands of the classroom require us to be able to have simultaneously both expansive and focused attention.
Role-model the calming strategies to ensure the children understand the process and are successful.
I believe mindfulness can enable us to connect deeply with ourselves so in turn we can authentically connect with others.
Classrooms that practice mindfulness activities such as breathing exercises, sensory explorations, guided imagery, yoga, and spa like music, show reduced stress and anxiety, better mood, and improved choice making, impulse control, attention and memory (all executive functions!)
Educators adapt expectations based on the individual needs and personalities of the children. For example, shortened wait times or steps for younger children, or longer wait times for the children who have a stronger ability at self-regulation.
Whether you call it “brain breaks”, “time-in”, “yoga”, “meditation”, or “mindfulness,” participation enables children to develop an awareness of their inner state and the ability to soothe and refresh themselves. Every time we support children in consciously resetting and recharging their nervous systems there’s an investment in a more thoughtful, harmonious, and self-regulated classroom.
Educators are consistently explaining consequences in a calm manner. For example, calmly explain that hitting hurts and redirect the child to an alternate activity.
Some ideas I have come across to support self-regulation in the classroom:
Start the day with a silent or guided breathing or meditation technique that slows everyone’s inner speed and invites observation of sensations.
- Direct children to: (steps adapted from Dr. Reggie Melrose)
a. connect /ground to earth (imagine being a tree or mountain)
b. rest into the support of chair or floor (give in to gravity)
c. breathe fully and slowly (in and out the nose)
d. visualize something or someone they love (imaginary or real)
e. notice how the previous steps shift their inner sensations (what happened, where?)
- Explore and identify physical and emotional sensations as part of social-emotional learning to help children build an awareness of their internal states and how to observe, name and manage them. This process develops mindfulness and self-regulation because children are harnessing the overlapping social –emotional brain and the regulatory.
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
Pebble meditation is a groundbreaking and completely unique technique to introduce children to the calming practice of meditation. Developed by Zen master, best selling author, and peace Nobel Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh, A Handful of Quiet contains complete instructions for pebble meditation designed to involve children in a hands-on and creative way that touches on their interconnection with nature. Whether practiced alone or with the whole class, pebble meditation can help relieve stress, increase concentration, nourish gratitude, and can help children deal with difficult emotions.
Mindful Pebble Experience
For the meditation activity, a pebble is chosen to represent four things in nature: a flower, a mountain, water, and space. Each natural item represents feelings and thoughts that one may want to channel during meditation and by holding the pebble.
Flower pebble: fresh, playful, joyful; the feeling of child-like freedom and peace.
Mountain pebble: strength, confidence, empowerment.
Water pebble: calm, peaceful, reflective.
Space pebble: free (i.e. from from worry, free from pain), still, quiet.
Educators reinforce positive behaviours in the children. We acknowledge and support the positive behaviours exhibited by the children.
A finished glitter jar can serve as a visual timer for other practices, such as breathing practices. For example, you can shake the jar and say: “Let’s do some mindful breaths until the glitter settles.” Some families use the jar as a “calm-down jar,” to mark and measure calm-down time. Ideally, the entire family can use the calm-down jar together when there is a conflict: “We are all upset with lots of thoughts and feelings rights now. So let’s all take a break until the glitter in the calm-down jar has settled and then start talking again.”
A glitter jar can serve as a visual timer for a breathing practice. You can shake the jar and say: “Let’s do some mindful breaths until the glitter settles.”
Let the child pick their favourite breathing buddy [stuffed animal or pebble] to use. Have the child lay on the ground facing up with the Breathing Buddy on top of them over their stomach. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away.
We are aware of the different personalities within the group and are able to anticipate situations before they arise.
To continue to build strong neural pathways for self-regulation, remember the 5 R’s:
- Regularity – Schedule time to practice daily
- Repetition – Builds neural pathways that become habits
- Reflection – Noticing sensations strengthens neural pathways
- Research – Support kids in becoming prescriptive with which tools work best for them
- Reach Out to Families – Share tools with parents/ care-givers to use at home