On Tuesday mornings, we begin our All School Meeting with a morning message and a mindful minute. A second grade classroom ambassador reads the message and then prompts the other students to gather themselves in a “mindful body,” sitting tall and proud, yet relaxed. They then suggest something to think about, like the feeling of being in a favorite place, or with a special friend or family member. The second grader rings the bell, beginning a minute of quiet, and then asks a younger friend to ring the bell to close the moment. Even our youngest students embrace this moment of peace, even if it is a little more difficult to sit still for a full minute. The children all enjoy the challenge of staying so quiet that you can hear the bell reverberate throughout the gym, and raise their hands when they no longer hear the tone.
This may seem like a simple moment of silence, but it is powerful. You can feel the energy shift in the room, and you can see the expressions on students’ and teachers’ faces relax and soften. The entire group is more engaged and prepared for the meeting.
Neurobiologist Dr. Dan Siegel explains that mindfulness promotes mental health and well being, by cultivating integrative fibers, helping us regulate executive functions, emotions, attention and behavior. Practicing mindfulness also helps us connect with each other and become more aware of ourselves and our relationships with others.
Mindfulness means something different to preschoolers and primary students. Preschoolers are new to the practice and know how to take deep breaths and sit quietly for a minute or so. Junior kindergarten and kindergarten students can sit for a bit longer and understand that mindfulness is a way of paying attention to themselves and what is going on around them. Having had more guidance and practice, first and second graders recognize mindfulness as a tool that they can utilize to to be aware of their own emotions, to center and calm themselves and to achieve focus. Primary students have shared that they use mindfulness at home to help themselves fall asleep, to calm themselves when feeling anxious or upset, and to overcome disappointments like losing a baseball game.
Ask your child how to practice mindfulness and try it as a family at home!