As a proud “on and off participant” in various yoga type programs over the last seventeen years, I set a goal of bringing some zen into my classroom this year. Zen and middle school don’t always mix though, since zen is more about letting go of control than repeatedly reminding 12-year-olds to “close their eyes and stop playing with their pencil bag zipper for the love of Pete!” But here are a couple of practices I’ve put into motion which give me hope for the future.
We start each week with a dose of Calm. Calm.com that is. As Tamara, our guide, explains, our emotions are sometimes like a glitter globe that has been shaken- with thoughts and emotions swirling around uncontrollably. When we take the time to sit and be still, it allows that maelstrom of thought and emotion glitter to settle down, and the water of our minds to be clear again. Calm.com spent the summer offering free memberships to educators in a drive to improve the state of our children’s mental health (and maybe teachers’ mental health as well?) and I am so glad to have jumped at the opportunity. Tamara’s voice is a familiar and calming one to the students in A103, and has moved up in the ranks of those most calming to me as well- behind those of my parents, of course, and about even with that of my Indian dentist. (“Deeep brrreath, my dearrr.” Ahhhhhh. But I digress.)
Despite the occasional zipper sound and adolescents making faces at each other, we have stuck with this and the kids anticipate and ask for it should I not start a Monday with it right away. Our first weeks were spent using the exercises specifically geared toward my student age group and we since have moved on to the “Daily Dose of Calm” provided by the app. I find myself with new knowledge and things to think about after each session, and fingers crossed, the kids do as well.
The other practice I have implemented has been requiring a “password” to enter the room. Posted in the hallway outside of the door are several password options, and I stand at the door at the beginning of each class acknowledging the passwords given. What is the password, you say? That’s the best part. The list contains several positive affirmations such as “I can achieve with effort,” “I am part of the whole,” “I will try my best today,” and “I am learning.” Multiple times a day, my kids are saying these things out loud- about themselves! And on the off chance I am called away for something, students will take passwords from each other! Adolescents say nice things about themselves to other adolescents!
I could not be more pleased with how this new part of my class routine is working out. I am really seeing and acknowledging each child as they enter the room, I confirm their affirmation in some way, and they are getting into a habit of positive self talk!
As we left for holiday break, I asked for their password suggestions to incorporate into our list for the new year. That has turned out to be the biggest affirmation of this process of all. They asked if they had to do just one or if they could do more! They suggested things like:
- I make this class better.
- I am loved.
- I am worthy.
- I am confident in myself
- I keep trying when I don’t succeed right away.
- I will accomplish today.
- I am lit at learning. 😆
If that isn’t proof of self-love soaking in, then I don’t know what is! -A