All of the techniques mentioned below are ones I have used throughout my teaching career throughout the education sector and can be adapted to suit all teachers and students. There are many more to discover and you’ll find that the more you try these, the more you will find your own exercises.
Be present: Encourage all to be fully present in each moment. Notice what you hear, see, smell, taste and can touch. Notice how you feel in that moment. Notice the beauty around you.
Name it to tame it: Through being self-aware and knowing which thoughts and feelings are arising in each moment and situation, we can take control and allow ourselves space to respond rather than react.
It’s ok to not be ok: This is a phrase employed now within mental health and it is certainly true. However, teachers and school staff need to model this to students to show them how true it is. Take away any judgement and simply allow yourselves and each other to be and feel whatever arises in that moment.
It’s ok not to know the answer: Currently, we are all connected in not knowing what is going to happen, how things will progress or how school will be in the near future. Admitting to a student that you also don’t know, may not provide the answer or reassurance they wish for however it shows that not knowing is ok too. The way forward can be discovered and navigated together.
Mindful/Compassionate listening: Everyone wants and needs to be heard. Practice compassionate listening where all are listened to fully and heard no matter how difficult that may be. Encourage students to listen to each other and teach them compassionate listening by not wanting to offer answers or solutions but simply allowing them to talk and express their thoughts and feelings however they need to.
See the individual: Every student and teacher will have experienced lockdown completely differently and that can be compassionately acknowledged. Through being encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings and to be accepted for those, all will feel acknowledged.
Build silence/ quiet into the day/lesson: Embrace moments where teachers and students can find space within their day through quiet/ silence.
Reset: Take a moment to breathe and reset. The teacher can lead and model this by encouraging students to take a breath between activities/ tasks etc or when they enter or leave the room.
Gratitude practices: Encourage students to look for the positives and things they are grateful for throughout the day that they may share at the end of the day. Once they start being grateful, they will notice more and more the positives throughout the day and also want to offer them to others.
Get outside: Notice the beauty of nature through mindful walks which focus on their environment and bringing them into the present moment.
Kindness: Model kindness throughout the whole school staff as well as towards students and students to each other. This can be led by teachers and/or students and will bring many quick benefits to all involved.
Humour: By being in the present moment more and appreciating it all then we can see and experience the humour in each situation. Allow the fun in and the lightness in interactions.
S = Stop: whatever you’re doing, just pause
T = Take a breath and follow it coming in and going out if it helps, say ‘in’ as you’re breathing in and ‘out’ as you let it go
O = Observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Name them if that will help and observe how the body feels.
P = Proceed mindfully. Is there something you need to move into the next moment? Can a chat with a friend help? Do you need a drink of water? Will fresh air help?
A teacher can show this to students talking them through each part and then also modelling it in class and students can model that to each other, sharing what they are doing and trusting that it’s ok to STOP when needed.
There are many benefits in practising Mindfulness and Compassion in schools and these apply to all adults and young people. I have included some of them below, however there are many more and I encourage you to find them.
- Improved behaviour
- Improved personal and professional interactions
- Improved performance in lessons and achievement
- Greater confidence and self-esteem
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- More positivity