Teachers are turning to the practice as a simple way to restore calm to the classroom, help students find some quiet space, and build self-regulation skills. Some teachers say their personal mindfulness practicehas helped them respond more calmly to students and helps them keep perspective.
“This isn’t about calming down,” said Sam Himelstein, a clinical psychologist, trainer and author who has spent most of his career working with incarcerated youth. “Calming down is great and it is a skill that youth can get better at. But if we’re talking about mindfulness, at its core, we are just talking about being present with whatever it is.”
Larry Rosenberg the dog-mind versus the lion-mind.
Reacting with the mind of a lion allows a person to say, “I’m angry right now,” and that little bit of metacognitive space between the person and the thought allows them to choose how to respond.
TRAUMA SENSITIVE MINDFULNESS
Students don’t take the activity seriously
Students are triggered by silence because it feels like a storm is brewing, so they don’t want to be quiet
Students feel too many requests are made of them without the requisite trust being built up
Students exhibit avoidance behavior
Guidelines for teachers using mindfulness:
Don’t force it
Don’t focus on the logistics like sitting with eyes closed
Somatic awareness, like counting breaths, could be a good place to start. “There’s different types of awareness. Sometimes we’re really aware of what’s going on in the mind and sometimes we’re more aware of what’s going on in the body,” Himelstein said.
Think about the child’s window of tolerance and whether he is already triggered or not. “It’s good to strike when the iron is cold in a lot of these cases,” Himelstein said.
Cultivating a trauma-informed classroom is much harder when educators themselves are burnt out. Building relationships, not reacting defensively to student behavior and taking time to listen to students can feel nearly impossible if the adult is barely making it through the day.
several categories of self-care, according to Himelstein:
Regular cultivation of relaxation response (3Rs): things like watching TV, going into nature, getting a massage.
Effortful training: These are things like more sustained meditation or exercise where the payoff comes over a longer time period.
Creativity: something that gives purpose and adds vibrancy to life. Writing, reading, painting or other passions are examples.
Advocacy: everything from learning to say “No” (set boundaries), to working at a higher level to impact policy or structural change.