Reposted for the benefit of your students and your own well-being: Studies indicate that routines are essential for promoting healthy human development. Everyday routines at home might actually be helping your child learn to speak and think! Routines in the classroom are just as important. Epically, if you are trying to develop a mindful classroom and an optimal environment for learning.
The following quote, taken from the Living Montessori Newsletter, nicely summarizes the importance of routine and how to establish them. “Routine is invisible by its nature; whatever you repeat will become your norm. If you repeat bad habits they will become second nature, if you repeat good ones, they too, will become “routine.” Repetition is repetition, and your brain doesn’t know the difference unless you make a conscious effort to eliminate the bad habits and replace them with solid tactics.”
Let’s look at some of my tactics for creating a mindful classroom:
- “Drop in”(meditate) at least once before teaching, even if it’s for sixty-seconds. Find your breath before the doors open and it will be easier to create a calm atmosphere. If you lose track of your personal practice let the classroom routine become your own. There should be no shame in letting your students know that you need this as much as they do. After all, it is probably the only time in everyone’s busy day to slow down and just simply be.
- Do your best to not shush the students as they enter the room. Sometimes I pick one student and ask him or her to count to ten with me. If the class isn’t quiet by the time we hit ten I re-open the doors and ask the class to please exit and return in a mindful manner. I know this method seems antiquated, however if done in a non-judgmental way, framing it in terms of “practice,” it works quite well.
- Stand still and hold the chimes or the singing bowl. I expect my class to open up notebooks and binders and write down the day’s learning target from the board, then put down pencils and sit for anywhere from sixty to ninety-seconds, with closed eyes and a straight back. I meditate along with them, only opening one eye on occasion, just to see how many kids are dropping in. Inevitably there will be those who are goofing around, but this typical kid behavior is balanced out by the magic of having even a few who are as still as statues, being mindful, and planting seeds for a life full of peaceful moments.
- Check in with your class. I use popsicle sticks with student’s names on them so that I can randomly call upon students. After the second chime, the one that signals the eyes to open, I like to simply ask individuals chosen how they’re feeling, or what their experience was like while in meditation. This random sharing out is invaluable; it honors student voice, and transforms the classroom into a social/emotional safe haven. (For more on creating a safe classroom space click this link.)
- Modify the routine after it is established. Let a student lead the meditation on occasion, and allow another student to man the chimes or singing bowl. We are all in this together, and sharing the responsibility of creating a mindful environment with your students creates ownership of the practice.
What are your tactics for creating a more mindful and safe classroom environment? I would love to hear about your routines and insights. Thanks for reading and for sharing. Stay tuned for part 3 of developing a more mindful classroom.
Nicholas Philliou, 7th grade humanities teacher in Durango, Colorado