As a teacher I can confirm that we do have ‘eyes on the back of our heads’ (we see everything our students are up to!) but unfortunately, we haven’t quite learned the talent of mind-reading. We don’t know everything going in our students’ lives, but these events directly contribute to their (lack of) performance inside the classroom. Mental health and wellness have become crucial components of many yearly action plans in schools across Canada. With the concerning number of students reporting stress, anxiety or other mental wellness issues, some school boards are taking action through the implementation of mindfulness programs.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention and being present in the moment. Mindfulness activities range from breathing exercises to listening to music. One school in Vancouver even offers tai chi to elementary students! In a nutshell, mindfulness is essentially giving students and teachers the opportunity to take a break and have some quiet time to reflect.
In 2013, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) introduced meditation lessons to Grade 9 students at Dr Norman Bethune CI. Known as The Mindfulness Project, this workshop was led by classroom teachers and carried out in six workshops over two months. The students at Bethune practiced breathing, body scans and other strategies to assist them cope with daily pressures. The students’ response to the program at Bethune was extremely positive. The project’s organizers received a TDSB Award of Excellence 2014 and the workshop has since been extended to all Grade 9s in the school district.
In January 2015, a mindfulness program co-developed by actress Goldie Hawn was tested as a control study with 99 Grade 4 and 5 students in Coquitlam, BC. Known as MindUp, the students were taught social, emotional and mindfulness skills with activities that included mindful tasting, listening to music and “brain breaks.” The results from the study were also extremely positive. The children exhibited less stress, more optimism and even showed improvements in their math abilities. The MindUp program now partners with schools in Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Vancouver, West Vancouver and York using 15 lessons to help teach students how to be mindfully engaged.
Another mindfulness project at a school in San Francisco has seen some exceptional changes in their students. Visitacion Valley Middle School implemented meditation in 2007, with twelve minute ‘quiet times’ to start and end each day. Since then, the school’s truancy and suspension rates have decreased by more than half while the state of California’s rates have continued to climb.
With my own students, I’ve found that by allowing my students some time to get themselves into a positive and calm headspace ready to learn, they’re more engaged and happier.
Here are a few mindfulness activities, some that we use with our students, that you can use at home to introduce mindfulness to your child:
Whichever mindfulness activities you choose to introduce your child, just remember these tips:
Most importantly, feel free to get creative and have fun exploring quiet time together!
Please note: Teachers to Go is now offering sessions in the comfort of your own home (in-person or online) with a teacher certified in mindfulness for children. They will design tailored lessons for your child to practice mindfulness and promote self-confidence. For more information please contact us.
People who display resilience, or ‘grit’, can overcome challenges and failures. They aren’t devastated by setbacks and are able to get back up and try again. Having grit means to have confidence. It is an incredibly important life skill for children to have when facing difficulties at school or throughout their lives. Gritty children are also more likely to perform better, and be happier, at school. So how do you build a gritty child? Here are some tips:
1. Read about grit. From Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go to The Little Engine that Could, there are so many options to teach your child about perseverance. Check out this website for more examples: https://www.noodle.com/articles/10-picture-books-that-teach-grit When you’re reading with them, ask your child to make connections to their life, the world, and other books they’ve read. This will enable them to see the possibility of making those fictional stories a reality.
2. Discuss examples of gritty famous people or others they know who have overcame setbacks. Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Jim Carrey are just a few examples. Talk about the barriers they encountered and what they did to overcome it. You might notice a common theme that positive mindset and self talk goes a long way!
3. Develop your child’s interests. Find things that fascinate and excite them and foster it. Talk to them about your passions and discuss your goals together. Passionate people also tend to be resilient.
4. Practice. The best way to learn is to not succeed the first time. Failure can be a good thing for children. The whole process from experiencing the setback, accepting it, reflecting on what went wrong and revising your plan to try again is all part of building grit. Let your child make their own choices, even if you know it’s not right, and then help them work through their mistake and motivate them to try again. Encourage your child to communicate when they’re feeling discouraged and strategies to break through the barriers. Permitting your child to experience failure is challenging as parents since our instinct is to protect them from disappointment in any form. But teaching your child how to manage these situations effectively is crucial to building resiliency.
5. Praise their effort over ability. If you praise their determination over the abilities they were born with, this will encourage them to put in the hard work and grit rather than the belief they can coast by on their innate abilities.
6. Lead by example. Teach your child about the importance and rewards that come with hard work. Share any examples you may have had in your own life from failing and persevering. Modeling this resiliency in your own life will build their confidence to feel like they can take on anything.