Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mindfulness Meditation in Middle School

This past June faculty at my school were treated to a presentation on mindfulness, and much of what we learned in that hour really resonated with me. I made it one of my summer projects to learn more about mindfulness and mindfulness meditations, and discovered quite a few apps and articles that inspired me to pursue the idea further. Throughout my summer vacation I found myself using these guided meditations to clear my mind or relax before bed, and it was immediately clear that there might be a way to incorporate them into my classroom. 

Last week I told my 5th Graders we would occasionally do a mindfulness practice, and many were already familiar with what this meant, eager to share their own examples from home. For our first meditation I used my favorite mindfulness app, Stop, Breathe & Think by Tools for Peace. I told my students they could sit at their desks or lay down somewhere else in the room, and while some stayed seated many chose to lean against a bookcase or stretch out on their desks or on the floor. I was impressed with how quickly these nine and ten year olds engaged with the quiet, introspective work of mindfulness. There were a few giggles to begin with, but a gentle reminder that they were disrupting the calm was all it took, and a minute in the room was silent and peaceful. 

At the end of that first, short meditation, many of my students said their bodies felt relaxed or their minds calm, and I was delighted today when a few of them asked to do another meditation and the rest chimed in with enthusiastic agreement. One of my favorite things about doing these practices with my class is that I, like them, get the chance to breathe deeply and refocus my mind in the middle of a busy day. It really feels like a critical part of our day - a chance to incorporate some wellness and self-care into our school experience. 

In addition to continuing this practice with my homeroom, I'd also like to explore using Stop, Breathe & Think's "Mindful Breathing" meditation (which comes in 3, 5, 10 or 20 minute versions) as a pre-writing exercise in my English classes. More on that once I've had a chance to try it out, though this article from the Atlantic leaves me feeling confident it will be valuable for my students!