For many teachers and children going back to school after the summer holidays this year may be full of uncertainties. They may find a new timetable, new routines, in some cases smaller classes than usual, new classmates, a different teacher, a new classroom or even be attending school in a different building. Their classrooms may look different from before with new desks and chairs and also wider spaces between desks. Some students may be experiencing a variety of emotions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as anxiety, stress or low mood or – in some cases – over-excitement. Some students may need more time to adapt to the new school routine and others may be ready to return to school as normal. Teachers are looking for ways to support the rebuilding of friendships and social engagements and support their students with approaches and strategies to improving their physical and mental wellbeing.
Many teachers are easing the transition from the summer holidays to school routines by using techniques which help students bring their attention to the present and also help students feel less anxious and accept the new reality of their school and these changes to their daily routine. Mindfulness can help.
What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non -judgmentally,”
What skills can mindfulness bring me as a teacher?
In the Pocket Guide to Mindfulness, Pearson 2019, teacher and Mindfulness expert at No More Shoulds, Amy Malloy, says ‘Mindfulness can help with paying attention, Focus and Concentration, Observation without judgement, acceptance and self-compassion, stress management and performance and productivity’.
How can mindfulness help young learners?
Research shows that regular mindfulness practice can help young learners’ emotional wellbeing, improve concentration, help positive sleep habits, enhance students’ ability to manage emotions and reduce psychological distress and give them strategies for staying calm in stressful or worrying situations. It can help children engage their attention so they are more aware of what is happening around them, and so they learn better and develop mindful habits which could help them on their journey through life.
Fundamentals of Mindfulness
The first step to introducing mindfulness approaches in your classroom as a teacher is to begin to practice mindfulness yourself. It is widely accepted that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. As teachers, it is important to take care of yourself first, and practising mindfulness every day is one way to help.
So where can you start? There are many ways to do this. The publication Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Professor Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman, Piatkus 2011 can be a good place to begin.
Pearson Academy also offers a 20-hour Fundamentals of Mindfulness introductory course for adults in English or in Italian by Pearson Mindfulness Lead Ashley Lodge on the fundamentals of mindfulness. The aim of this online four-week course is to provide you with an understanding of what mindfulness is and how it works and to introduce 10-15 minutes of daily mindfulness practice. The course themes cover
1 Coming off automatic pilot
2 Coming back to the body
3 Moving away from striving
4 Relating to thoughts differently
The course trains you to introduce formal practice into your daily life and also informal practice into your day, for example being mindful, paying attention, not being on auto pilot, mindful walking, mindful eating.
For more information about the Pearson Academy Fundamentals to Mindfulness course by Ashley Lodge
Helping children to express their worries
So how can we help our children at the beginning of the school year? In her Guide Mindfulness activities to help children cope with stress in the Pearson Primary Academy Resources, Amy Malloy says ‘many children may lack the language to express what they are feeling or even to recognize it’. In the guide you can find practical ideas and suggestions to use with children to help them express their worries, mindfully and with support, like the one that follows.
Breath activity: worry bubbles
1 Sit together and invite your child to put their palms together.
2 Invite them to take a big breath in. As they breathe in, they can draw their palms further apart, spreading their fingers as they imagine blowing up a big bubble between their hands.
3 Invite them to whisper a worry in the bubble.
4 Invite them to blow the breath out nice and slowly. As they breathe out, they can imagine blowing the bubble (and the worry) away with a big sigh.
5 Twinkle the fingers back down to the lap, and start again, either with the same worry or a new one.
To access the Pearson Primary Academy free resources and Amy Malloy’s Guide to Mindfulness activities to help children cope with stress