“Be here now, now be here.”
At the beginning of the school year, all of the middle school teachers met to discuss a few ways that we could work together as a team and help the students succeed. One of the ideas that we brought up was finding ways to incorporate mindfulness—the practice of taking some time for quiet reflection and “being in the moment”—into our classrooms. One of the high school English teachers had already been bringing mindfulness into the classrooms by having the students start each class period with three minutes of mindfulness. If they chose to, students could meditate, breathe to a count of four (or whatever number they chose), or just sit silently without interacting with others around them. The only rules were to avoid talking/making unnecessary noises, and to not use phones or other devices.
Together, the middle school teachers all agreed on trying to set aside at least a minute in the beginning of class for quiet mindfulness, dubbed the Mindful Minute. Each teacher has worked to make this process his/her own. Some teachers do guided breathing exercises or have students listen to relaxing music. Ms. Rosa, my mentor teacher, does 30 minutes of mindfulness once a month with each of her 7th grade classes, beginning each session with some guided meditation videos and then having the students finish the rest of the 30 minutes in silence.
As I took over the 8th Grade, I wanted to keep the Mindful Minute in the classroom because it helped students to calm down and transition into class time. However, as the weeks went on, settling into the Mindful Minute and maintaining the silence needed for mindfulness was becoming more and more of a challenge. Eventually, I realized that something was not working, and our Mindful Minute practice was not being utilized effectively. So, as a class, we took a vote. Every student in class during the vote anonymously submitted their feelings about the Mindful Minute, what they liked and disliked, and what they would change about it if they could. Overall, the majority of students really liked the Mindful Minute and wanted to keep it as part of our classroom routine, but realized that we needed to make some changes to make it work. This led to a meaningful conversation during the next class, where the students and I had a great discussion about what we wanted out of a Mindful Minute, settling on a longer period of mindfulness on Mondays called Mindful Mondays.
Mindful Mondays have 3-5 minutes of mindfulness at the beginning of class, as well as a quote or short video giving some helpful hints for how to stay mindful throughout the week. During the rest of the week, we have regular Mindful Minutes, but the students and I have come to a point where we have made the Mindful Minute work for us. I consider this to be one of our greatest examples of growth as a classroom community.