As soon as I saw Finding calm, focus and joy through mindfulness in the classroom on the list of sessions to attend last month at the AISA conference in Nairobi, I immediately knew I needed to sign up. I have a lively, fun class this year – but we still need to work on strategies for impulse control. My hope was that teaching them about mindfulness would help them become more aware of their emotions, which could then help them make better choices.

The first session, lead by Robyn Harwood (@rsharwood1), started out with a great analogy for understanding mindfulness from Mindful Schools. Normally, when people get a stimulus – especially one that invokes a strong emotion – they react. With mindfulness, one can create space between the stimulus and what they do. That space  allows them to respond instead of react.


Graphic from Mindful Schools


When I described this graphic to my second graders, we focused on the difference between reacting and responding. One student defined the word react as, “when you do something back at something or someone.” To respond is to weigh your options and make a choice that makes sense. Everyone in my class said that at least once they had reacted to a problem and felt sorry for what they had done later. It was easy for them to agree that it is better to respond than to react, but how can we make sure that happens?


Awesome breathing bubble from Calm. Sign up here to get the app for free if you are a teacher.
  1. Take three mindful breaths. My students and I practiced taking three deep mindful breaths, putting a hand on our tummy or chest to feel the breath going in and out. The first time we practiced, most students said they felt relaxed, some sleepy, others ready to focus. 

    How to solve a small problem from
  2. Think about what is a good decision. My school uses Kelso’s Choices, so they were clear on what good decisions they should be making, they just don’t always make the space to do so. Taking three breaths allows students to think about appropriate choices to make, instead of reacting out of anger or frustration.


The Results

Within the first week of doing mindful breathing with the class and talking about using the mindful breathing to make good choices, I was surprised to find that the first people it made an impact on wasn’t the students I considered most impulsive, but my most sensitive students. They told me stories like, “The teacher ran out of stickers and I was the only one who didn’t get one. I was about to cry when I took three mindful breaths and I though, ‘I can get stickers next time.’” Or “My friend didn’t want to sit with me at lunch and I got mad and then I took three mindful breaths and asked if she wanted to play with me at recess instead.”

My class added in the example of how this could work to the graphic from Mindful Schools.

The mindful breathing allowed students to think about the whole picture and respond in the most appropriate way that they could. In these examples, students realized that it wasn’t really worth it to get too upset. I am really excited to see how my students will continue to grow as I continue to teach them about mindfulness and learn more about it myself.

Do you have any experience teaching mindfulness to your students? Please comment below! For more helpful resources on mindfulness, click here.

– Stephanie Groshell @SGroshell

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