If This, Then That: Teacher Tips for Helping All Kids Get Excited About Mindfulness
Updated: Jan 31, 2019
I will never forget the first 10 minutes of my first day of teaching. There is nothing quite like the feeling of looking out at 48 sets of eyes staring at you waiting for your next move. I had put in hours of practice during student teaching, but suddenly the weight of being the sole adult in a sea of little bodies hit me. I would have committed to a thousand hours of lunch duty to have someone talking in my ear to let me know what to say or do.
What I realized sooner rather than later was that there is no magic formula in teaching—other than teacher + coffee = love. What I did learn is that you can start to fill up your teacher toolbox with tools to help your day go as smooth as that first sip of coffee in the morning.
Mind Yeti has become one of the go-to tools in my toolbox. I have paid my dues in trying out new calming tools: counting down, quiet reading, turning off the lights, and—let’s be completely honest—bribing, errrr, highly encouraging, with any kind of incentive I could. However, what all of these were missing was the chance for kids to take ownership over their emotions and the chance to empower themselves.
I have found Mind Yeti to be most useful at the beginning of the day to set a positive and calm tone for the day, and after transitions (particularly after high energy moments in the day for the kids, such as PE). When we made our classroom charter, the students shared the way they wanted to feel at school. What I found is that an overwhelming amount of students used the words “calm” and “relaxed”. Students (and let’s be real, adults too!) deeply desire the chance to feel in control at school. Mind Yeti is a tool that both teachers and students can use in order to achieve that.
Mind Yeti, similar to any well thought out and thoroughly planned lesson, works great right away for some students, but can be a challenge for other students to access. When students encounter a new idea or concept, it can feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Just like a lesson we teach, we shouldn’t let students stay in a place of being unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Similar to teaching math skills, teaching students the skills for how to be successful with Mind Yeti is essential.
Below are some scenarios that I have encountered with students using Mind Yeti for the first time, and suggestions for what to do if these situations arise.
If students are visibly disengaged (playing with things in desk, eye rolling, etc.), then…
Try asking a student in your class with a high amount of social influence to share what they do during Mind Yeti. Have them talk about what works for them such as: keeping their eyes shut, focusing on one spot, sitting on the floor.
If students are fidgeting and moving in their chairs an excessive amount during Mind Yeti, then…
Before each new session, invite students to try a new strategy for sitting. Giving students a wide variety of options for sitting might empower them and give them a buy in. Be specific! Tell them they could try:
Sitting on the floor
Having their palms facing up on their legs
Crossing their arms on their tables
Scooting their chairs back from their desks to give them space
Choosing one thing in the room to look at
Closing their eyes
If students say it’s not working, then…
Remember that sometimes students do not have the ability to monitor how they feel before Mind Yeti and how they feel after. Chances are they never stopped to monitor their mood/energy level to begin with! Take time before Mind Yeti to give students a chance to share how they are feeling, or give them set-aside time to self assess. Give the same amount of time after the session, and invite student to share their successes.
What is my biggest Mind Yeti strategy? Just like anything in teaching: MODEL, MODEL, MODEL! If kids see that you find this valuable, they will want to mimic you and be a part of what you’re doing. Be vulnerable and share your own positive experiences with the students. The more normalized it is for them, the higher the buy in!
Most of all? Enjoy! This is not one more thing to add to your plate. What teachers actually have plates anyway? We all know we’re eating lunch out of Tupperware containers in the hallway most days. View Mind Yeti as a time to calm yourself and students so that you can all leave school excited to come back the next day!