Who out there is feeling stressed in the classroom? Who is seeing and feeling the stress and anxiety of our students? Who is seeing and feeling the stress and anxiety of colleagues? I can almost see all of your heads nodding and hear the resounding YES! ME! ALL. THE. TIME.
Now, I don’t have a magic wand to take all of that stress, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation away, but I do have a small but impactful way to help slow down this stress, bring us back to the moment, and just give ourselves and our students a break. It is as simple as pausing and intentionally breathing! I know that can be easier said than done, but I encourage you to try it!
Ding! The intercom starts, and Ms. Scirpo’s voice can be heard…..
”Hi Everyone! It’s time for the Mindful Moment. Let’s stop what we’re doing, turn off our voices, put down anything you may be holding, and get into a comfortable seated breathing position. Check in with your body, sitting up tall with a nice straight back, relaxed shoulders and both hands resting on your legs. Let’s close our eyes if that feels comfortable and take 3 breaths together, in and out of our noses.”
As I prompt the slow belly breath in through the nose, out through the nose, I feel joy hearing the deep inhalations and exhalations of my sweet little kindergarteners sitting behind me. I also can’t help but notice the absolute silence outside of my room, permeating the entire school. A sweet, brief-but-impactful moment of solidarity and love that ends with the same words “the good in me sees the good in you”…honoring ourselves and those around us and our need and right to slow down and breathe ourselves into a place of presence, focus, and community.
To back up a few steps: I did not just one day start going over the intercom, expecting all to follow along. In the Fall of 2019, my principal and I met and were so excited to start rolling out this mindful moment. She supported me by providing coverage for pockets of time, allowing me to visit every classroom of students and staff to introduce mindfulness with a quick demonstration and time to practice deep, slow breathing together. In every class, I was met with faces locking eyes on me, hungry to feel more relaxed and be given permission to just take a break from everything. Because I have a passion for mindfulness, my heart swelled with the overwhelming positive reactions to everything. We practiced the mindful moment, and students and staff expressed excitement for it to begin schoolwide.
Following the first week of mindful moments, I received numerous emails from teachers thanking me, expressing how surprised they were to see most, if not all, students taking part, and also how relaxed and refocused they themselves felt after 1-3 minutes of pausing and breathing. That is all it takes!! A few intentional breaths to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and reset.
Students started stopping me in the hall asking what time the mindful moment was and telling me that they couldn’t wait! I also have had numerous parents report that their child has come home teaching the family breaths and even doing a mindful moment of their own. Every time my class stops to breathe together, I am met with calm bodies and regained focus.
I may never know how many students this has impacted, but I do know that I have felt the impacts on my own well-being enough to want to share it with others. I take many moments a day to continually reset myself, and I have found it is the best way to tackle the unpredictable and ongoing stress that has become inevitable as an educator. We may have no say or control over our class sizes or the always-changing demands laid on us, but one thing we all have control of is our breath and our awareness to know when we need to stop, sit, and breathe our way back to being ok, even if just for a moment.
Providing a school-wide mindful moment is an amazing way to teach children the power of their breath and ability to pause and reset as well. It’s a superpower of sorts that they will have for their entire lifetime. It is also an incredible way to come together as a community, validating our need to pause and just breathe. If a schoolwide moment isn’t in the cards for your community, any educator could do this in their classroom, as many times a day as needed. We spend 1-3 minutes doing this and that is it! Give it a try and at the very least, you and your students are taking a much needed break together.
If you would like ideas about how to incorporate breathwork and mindfulness into your classrooms, check out Yoga 4 Classrooms — you can start by downloading some of the free classroom activity cards. And please feel free comment below if you want additional support! The good in me sees the good in all of you.