Last year’s admin suggested my co-counselor and I run a book study related to SEL as a way of increasing effective SEL practices among our faculty. New admin is less into this idea (read: not going to give us money to buy the books and encourage faculty to do it) but before they came on board, I spent the summer previewing books and jotting down ideas to facilitate talks with our teachers. One of the books I made it all the way through, and thought was great, was Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness In and Out of the Classroom by Meena Srinivasan.
For those of you looking for a quick review, here’s my take away in a nut shell:
The first two sections of the book are really strong and accessible. The first is encouraging and gives specific advice for educators developing their own mindful practices. The second is on collaborating with fellow faculty on becoming more mindful and modeling these practices for students. It’s an easy read and you certainly feel compelled to become more mindful and to develop mindfulness in your students. The last third of the book includes specific lessons to use with students; this part was far less useful for me because it is decidedly for middle/upper grades and, especially with our large EL population, not applicable to my school. For teachers interested in mindfulness for themselves and their students however, the first two parts of this book are worthwhile.
I struggle with mindfulness because it is so completely counterintuitive to the way my mind automatically works. Though the author never states this explicitly, one of my take-aways personally is this:
You have to believe that you will be more productive living in the present and taking the time to be mindful than you would be thinking about the past and future all the time.
Every day (ok, maybe every other day), I try to shift my thinking in that direction. My natural tendency is to stress and to by a mental time traveler. My mindfulness is a work in progress. Now on to more of the nitty gritty of what I found, chapter highlights, and some suggestions for discussion questions if you use this book. This isn’t nice or neat or clean, but it’s what my brain focused on as I read through each chapter. It won’t make a ton of sense if you’re not reading the book, but if you are, it may be a helpful starting point to creating a book study with your faculty. Or if you’re still deciding whether or not to read it, these jots might sway you one way or another!
-Discuss this quote (my favorite!) from page 18: I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. -Haim Ginott
-Gotta do it yourself first
-The more you do it, the easier it becomes (muscle)
-Respond vs. react
-When do you think you could be more mindful?
-What would you want to get out of being more mindful?
-What would you want your students to get from you being more mindful?
-What would you like from your students to get out of themselves being more mindful?
-Make an action plan for daily sitting practice (when, where, how long, accountability)
-When/what are some ‘mindless’ times of the day you can do mindful breathing in? (bathroom, cutting lamination, etc.)
-How/when will you know that your students need a physical relaxation/mindfulness break?
-Mindful eating could be an effective way to introduce this concept to students and gain their investment. What are some foods you could use? (mini marshmallows, blueberries, grapes, chocolate)
-The author’s concept of ‘which seeds will you water’ is much like the concept of ‘which wolf will you feed?’ How can might this play out in your classroom?
-How can you model BCOOL?
-Modeling is crucial; educators are surrogate parents and we co-regulate with students
-What is one way you need to practice what you preach?
-How can we model empathy to our students? (for example, ‘think alouds’ during interactive read alouds)
-How are you already practicing mindfulness at school?
-We often view our interconnectedness as a negative (“They don’t _____ and so now ______.”). How can we view it more positively?
-What could gratitude journaling look like in an elementary classroom?
-A little mantra for beginning mindfulness practice with a work group, to help prepare everyone for the difficult task that is mindfulness: “Believe that it’s possible to emerge refreshed, surprised, and less burdened than when we came.” (Center for Courage and Renewal)
Part 3 (teaching mindfulness to kiddos)
-Focus on an object for 30 seconds (increase time each session), tally number of times your mind goes elsewhere
-What could mindful hallway transitions look like?
-Tie gratitude to ELA: what nouns, proper nouns, and verbs are we thankful for?
-Take the prospective of another: what would they be thankful for?
-THINK before you speak
-pg. 51 The author outlines her and her partner’s boundaries regarding technology use. What do you think of them? What boundaries would you want to put in place for yourself?
-Mediation strategy: 1) share positive qualities you’ve seen in the other, 2) apologize, 3) share your own hurt, 4) ask for support
-Pebble meditations: Flower/Fresh (I feel fresh, energetic, joyful, and playful), Mountain/Solid (I feel solid, strong, and confident), Still Water/Reflection (I feel calm, still, quiet, and focused.), Space/Free (I feel free, light, and relaxed) Which pebble resonates with you?
-All types of weather surround a mountain and yet it always remains a mountain!
Will this book change your life? No. But if you’re an educator trying to become more mindful yourself and wishing to help develop mindfulness in your students, this is is a good read.