At 3pm, are we teachers supposed to be absolutely wiped out? Is it normal for the kids to be falling asleep at their desks or bouncing off the walls (or more commonly, each other)? Is reflecting on the day and realising half your time was spent resolving conflicts, only one lesson was properly completed, and you can count the number of meltdowns that occurred today on two hands, a daily occurrence?
It doesn't have to be.
Yes, kids are naturally FULL of beans.
True, we don't have any say over what food goes into their body, and we all know the joys of a sugar crash.
Of course, many personalities might clash.
And yes, we don't have any control over what goes on at home.
All of these things can play a huge role in the emotional environment of the classroom. But by establishing your class as a safe, calm, mindful zone from the get-go and building upon it every day, you can have a huge positive impact on your children in and outside of school.
Better yet, it doesn't have to take up more than 10 minutes of teaching time each day.
Here are 6 steps to a calmer classroom that you can start implementing tomorrow!
1. Entry breaths
As students walk through the classroom door in the morning (and after recess and lunch), make it a habit to take a deep breath in as they walk to their desk, and a deep breath out as they put their things on the table. Take a deep breath in as they walk to the stack of chairs, and a deep breath out as they carry a chair back to their desk. Taking one or two huge breaths before the day even starts is a gentle reminder that this classroom is safe, calm, and a place where you are in control of your own thoughts and emotions. Deep breaths reduce stress, get blood pumping oxygen around the body more efficiently, and can increase confidence.
2. Mindful morning activity
Most classes have those 10-15 minutes before instructional time starts each morning. Use these minutes to encourage gratitude with a simple sentence + picture: 'Today I am grateful for...'. If students are very young, have their parents help them read and trace an 'I am' statement on whiteboards, such as 'I am a great learner' or 'I am loved'. For older children, encourage them to write a paragraph about their perfect day, or how they'd like today to go. Feeling positive emotions in the morning 'opens' your brain up to receiving more information, deeper thinking, and better thought processing.
3. Pre-work posing
This is great for younger kids! If you're about to give your students a test, challenge them by trying something new, or if they're doing something independently for the first time, try some pre-work posing. Tell them to be Superman (chin high, hands clenched, arms out high as if flying, stretched long and tall) because they're confident, strong, and can do anything they put their mind to. Or, they could be Wonder Woman (chin high, hands on hips, chest out, legs just wider than hip width). Whichever makes them feel powerful. Standing in these kinds of positions help our bodies feel great! Try it yourself (slouch, then SUPERMAN!).
For kids and adults of any age, encourage them all to give you the biggest, cheesiest grin possible, because smiling (even when you don't want to) makes our brain think there's a feel-good party going on, and it can change your mood in seconds!
4. Post-exercise cool downs
If you're coming in from Phys Ed, recess, or lunch, try this to calm the class:
Pop a guided meditation on. I love using the GoNoodle website. Get students to lie on the ground, listen and follow along with the meditation, breathe deeply, and bring their focus back to the now.
Find a meditation track on Youtube, and allow the students to colour mindfully for 10 minutes. Zentangles, mandalas, and other intricate colouring pictures are perfect for this. Check out my resources on teacherspayteachers.com: - Growth Mindset Mindfulness Bookmarks - 'I am' Mindfulness Bookmarks - Mindfulness Bookmarks (no text)
5. Chill zone
We all have meltdowns from time to time, when stress takes firm hold. That's okay. Have a safe, semi-private corner in your classroom where a student can take 5 minutes to cool down and re-focus. Use a trusty sand timer to time their stay within the chill zone. Have a variety of sensory items or activities for the students to use, an iPad and headphones with short meditations loaded on, prompt cards that will remind students how they can help themselves regulate their emotions, pencils and paper to write their feelings out, and anything else you think might help the students within your class. A calm, mindful classroom isn't just about teaching mindfulness, it's also about allowing students space to just 'be' when they truly need it.
6. Three Good Things
Finish your day with a discussion about three good things that happened during the day. Simply ask the question to the group, 'What are three good things that happened today?' and encourage students to share. This is a very simple reminder that so many good things happen at school every day. It switches their mindset from focusing on the not-so-good things that happened, to the good things. It's a beautiful reminder that our classroom is a safe, calm, happy place to be.
Most of these things you can introduce during your next school day. Some (like the Chill Zone) may take a little longer to organise, but you can at least introduce the concept now.
It's important that you don't let these small but impactful habits slide. Be consistent. Be the example. Do what it takes to create a calm classroom.
And if you have a bad day? Aim for improvement tomorrow. It's not the end of the world. But if you slowly begin to have more good days than bad, you'll know it's making a difference.
You're making a difference.
Thank you so much for having a read, and committing to be the change you wish to see in your classroom.
Love & Happiness
P.S Do you know someone who could really benefit from reading this? To give them the motivation and push they need to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of the young people around them? Share this post with them. Even if they don't embrace it straight away, you've done your part. Thank you.
The next step:
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