It is mid-March and WOW are things ramping up at home and in the classroom. Talk about cabin fever!! I don’t blame them, as I think we are all feeling the need for sunshine, warmth and outdoor activity.
Movement and exercise is essential to a healthy mind space. Fresh outdoor air is a natural relaxant for many of us, too. It is no wonder that those of us in the chilly U.S. are feeling the restless winter blues.
If your home or classroom is anything like mine, you can feel the energy that is wound so tightly in the little bodies of our loved ones. They are ready to run free...but the weather just hasn’t quite cooperated for that yet. Rather we feel the energy level tides rise up high. And with all of that energy, despite the songs, dances, jumping jacks and mindful practices that we do, there is still so much zest that is left flowing; often uncontrollably. Because of this, it can come out sideways. Behaviors that are not typical for your kiddos will start to rear their ugly heads. As the teacher or parent mixed into the chaos, you may find yourself extinguishing mini fires all over the place due to these heightened emotions.
Today was that day for me. Both at home and in the classroom. This is the day that I had to engage my best “POWER POSTURE.” The talking was continuous, the bodies were energized, and the self-help skills were MIA. Maybe your challenging day was yesterday or maybe it will come tomorrow. Whenever it is, know that there is help. And that help lies inside of you.
It is your posture.
This posture is two-fold. It is in the way that you physically hold your body while standing or sitting, how you carry yourself. It is also in how you approach or deal with a situation. Combine the two in a mindful way and you can survive without losing it! (I can speak from experience! haha)
Tips to engage Power Posture on challenging days:
*shoulders back, chin up
Posture of the Mind:
*step away from the situation to avoid a knee-jerk reaction
*take a few deep belly breaths and lengthen the exhale upon release
*accept that this stressful moment is just that-a moment that can be released
*reflect on how you’ve responded to such behaviors in the past and apply what you learned.
Once your Power Posture is engaged, you can take on anything--even a roomful of energetic bunnies rustling around! And remember...this too shall pass. Stand tall, speak strong (yet calm) and be a role model for a mindful, caring response to a stressful situation.
Universal Pre-Kindergarten Teacher: Do you like our mindful time?
“Yes, because we get to close our eyes and my mind relaxes. I’m not worried about anything.” ~Boy, Age 5
“Yeah I like it when we lay down in a comfortable position. Sometimes when we lay down we think of silly things. My body feels rested afterwards. I can learn more that way.”~Girl, Age 5
“Yes, I like that you can lay down or sit up. I like the calming music (it’s like the music I do ballet with). It is quiet so it helps me relax. It helps my mind think of the ocean and feel good. Sometimes I dream.”~Girl, Age 4.
The necessary hot topic right now relates to the epidemic of gun violence, particularly in schools. The NPR released an article called, Here’s How to Prevent the Next School Shooting, Experts Say which addresses taking a more “public health approach” within school settings. I have to agree with many of the points in the article; in particular cultivating a more positive, accepting and preventative school climate.
As a teacher of 12+ years, I can speak with validation to the daily experiences within a high-stress professional environment that we call school. It is often overlooked by the public. Not only are teachers responsible for researching and developing lesson plans that will ensure individualized academic growth to meet state and federal standards, engaging in and applying new skills learned in required professional development, managing student behavior and relationships, but we are also responsible for making student safety our number one priority. Without safety, nothing else can be accomplished. Safety comes in the form of verbal, emotional and physical safety. As hard as we may try to establish a culture of respect, responsibility, collaboration and kindness in our classroom, it all starts within the individual. Whether you are the staff member or the student, I believe that you must respect yourself, be kind to yourself and value yourself before positive, balanced relationships with others can be obtained.
Questions for my peer educators-How well are you taking care of you? Do you take time to relax? EVERYDAY? To feel silly? To not feel so worried? To feel like you are at peace by the ocean? To dream? What the 4 and 5 year olds feel is possible for you, too. By lowering your own stress levels, think about the positive effect it can (and does) have on your kiddos. Carve out a few minutes for yourself each day. Zone out and just be one with you.
Better yet, set a goal to start a little mindful time each day with your students. Do an inventory of how they feel or what they think about “mindfulness” before starting (Day 1) and then again after 30 days. I have no doubt that your findings would be astounding. Will it be perfect? Of course not. But I am confident that you will see growth in their positive mindsets.
If a crazy Pre-Kindergarten day happens to go by and we forget “Mindful Time,” a child will remind us of that fact before the end of the day arrives. I am sharing this because I believe that this is so telling. The FACT that our youngest students can verbalize the importance of taking time to just BE confirms that we are establishing core qualities of balanced, kind and responsible minds of the future. This is what we need to model. This is what we need to teach. Once this is established and underway, positive relationships and experiences will naturally fall into place. Just walk into our room any day, and you will witness how these little people go out of their way to help one another and to make each other feel accepted. Self-care. Self-love. Friends, this could be the key to the prevention of violence in our schools and in our society.
Questions To Sit With for a Moment: How many times a day do you interact with your personal handheld device? Think about how many of those times are observed by your children. Are the number of times eerily close?
Mine sure can be...especially when unstructured and traveling.
Often, an adult's response to boredom is to grab the closest handheld device and get lost in the world at our fingertips. What is it that we are inadvertantly teaching our children then?
Warm sunshine, new experiences, new environments...and technology.
Last week I took the wild plunge to travel alone with my minis (2 year old twins) from New York to my parent’s home in Florida. Our flight travel time was easily 8 hours each way. With many hours of potential boredom, I have no shame in saying that you are darn right that technology saved my sanity while traveling!! Their Kindles became their BFFs in the airports and on the airplanes. Did we take breaks? Of course. But they ate up every minute while on them. As did I (music, reading and social media). It was like a day full of all the sweetest candy that you could imagine.
Handheld screen time was also flowing during periodic quiet times at Mimi & Papa’s house.
And then came sleeping in a new place. Despite pooling all of the ingredients for the "perfect" restful sleep (sunshine, daytime swimming, playground, Disney World, evening walks and evening swims, bedtime stories…), the recipe didn’t go as planned. Their mini minds were wide awake when their heads hit the pillow. This engaged “Go to Sleep” Plan B with head rubs, back rubs and singing. The ladies remained wide-eyed and bushy tailed. Reluctantly, I buckled under tired pressure and out came the Kindles as Plan C. They used them until they fell asleep. A great decision? Umm...no. But in the moment, a mom’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.
After the much needed Vitamin D and “familyfix” getaway, we returned to daily life here in NY. We tried to return to the established limitations on technology, but a hard lesson was learned. It was going to take twice as much work to return their expectations and understanding back to the 20 minutes (maybe) a day of handheld screen time. If experiences at home aren’t meeting their stimulation needs, out cries, “Mama, can I have a Kindle?” I expected this and honestly thought that it would just be at home battles to work through. However, a scarier societal habit found comfort in their minds. They learned to use their handheld devices just as we do as adults; as a tool in response to boredom. This has led to a whole new level of impulsive demands in public.
Once I realized what was happening, I took a deep breath and accepted that the habit breaking must start with me, and then they can follow. The three of us built this vacation habit together so we must break it down together. True, they are only two. But I believe that their level of understanding is much more than we can imagine which means leading by example. I will have to be more conscious about when and why my personal technology makes an appearance, which will hopefully (insert finger crossing here!!) help their bored desires transition from being technogically reactive to being more peaceful.
A Few Ideas for Purposeful Technology Use (On Vacation or At Home)
~Learn to Classify Technology Time Like Centers in a Classroom~
*Literacy Time: Kids-ABC/phonics games, eBooks Adults-puzzles, eBooks (have I mentioned that the minis know almost every letter and most sounds? That’s right and they are two. I attribute some of the success to technology’s ability to reinforce parent/caretaker taught skills)
*Math Time: Kids-numeracy apps and games Adults-financial/bill paying
*Art/Creative Sharing Time: Kids-look at family photos & videos, drawing apps Adults-social media, creative apps
*Music & Dance Time: Kids & Adults-find new artists to enjoy together and let the music flow
*Free Choice Time: Kids & Adults-limited free choice time
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I'm obsessed. This is fabulous. LOVE that you are doing this. The new way of being a student forces us to think outside the box and approach how we teach more dynamically.
~Derek, Father of 2 and Elementary School Principal
Just a girl with a dream to collectively build a healthy mind space for children, while creating a healthier mind space for ourselves.
Copyright Healthy Mind Space 2019