"A growing body of scientific research supports what contemplatives have known for
centuries: mindfulness and meditation develop a set of life skills that allow children,
teens, and parents to relate to what's happening with and around them with more wisdom
and compassion." Mindful Games Introduction
On Friday and Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend a two-day conference with Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of The Mindful Child and Mindful Games. I am so excited to share what I've learned with my students and classroom parents. I plan on implementing many more activities and games throughout the day. My eyes were further opened to the value of mindfulness in teaching and learning. While I've been using a 3-9 minute meditation each morning as a way to calm our busy minds and become more focused, Mindfulness (with a capital M) is actually an all-encompassing, innate quality of life that teaches the ABC's - attention, balance, and compassion. Themes include acceptance, self compassion, kindness, appreciation, an open mind, an awareness that everything changes, and knowledge that everything is connected. I thought that November was a perfect month to practice being appreciative and thankful, so I will start with that.
One of the things I found interesting was how many teachers expressed frustration with the fact that they continually have to "prove" that mindfulness and meditation are good for students and can be fit any school philosophy - in fact, many participants were there on their own dime, and had to take a day off without pay (or take a vacation day). Again, deep gratitude filled me to work for a school that really gets it, and supports this crucial part of child development.
Life skills taught by a mindfulness practice include focusing, quieting, seeing, reframing, caring, and connection. I believe these skills are just as important as academic skills, and go hand-in-hand with allowing children to blossom and to become their best selves. I was very pleased (and teary) to receive an email from a parent who expressed gratitude for the leadership, caring, and connection exhibited from the children when her own child read in front of the class for the very first time. He was nervous, but the flood of sweet appreciation and attention from his classmates had him visibly relaxing within a few minutes. It is these instances that remind me that the amount of time we spend on personal and social development is worth it - it deepens our learning because it makes it okay to fail, encourages us to try again, and strengthens our bond with each other so we can take more chances. We are safe within the walls of the classroom.
I highly recommend the two books mentioned above - they are not written specifically for teachers - in fact, they are more for parents and children to explore together. I also want to thank each classroom parent who has been kind enough to join us in the morning for our meditation routine. I will continue to start each day in this special way, and invite you all to join us whenever your schedule allows.