With a sense of exasperation, I surveyed the room. Thirty wriggling, giggling, sniggering seven-year olds, fresh from break time – cheeks flushed and hair wild. By this point, I was ready to try anything to calm this high- spirited, boy heavy group of Year 2s – herding cats would have been a far simpler task.
Taking a deep breath, I rang the attention bell and displayed a large, capitalised word on the board. Twenty little voices carefully sounded out “M-I-N-D-F-U-L-N-E-S-S” in chorus. The other ten hadn’t even noticed the bell ring. After all, it did usually take twenty minutes to bring them down to earth after a fifteen-minute spell in the playground.
“What’s mindfulness?” asked one particularly curious young lady.
“I’m glad you asked,” I replied with false confidence.
Let me briefly set the scene. I had been asked to cover a ‘challenging’ class for a half term and, at this point, was on day three. Many of the children, whilst bright and confident, were also loud and disruptive meaning that lessons were constantly being interrupted and vital learning time was being wasted. I had tried the usual behaviour management methods but, thus far, to no avail.
In a bid to improve my mental health, during a period of stress, I had began to practice mindfulness. Could this be the solution to my problem? Surely, it was worth a try…
I explained to the children that, twice a day, we would “find time to be kind to our mind” and today was the beginning of the journey. We practised various sitting positions to find the most comfortable (legs crossed, hands in laps, eyes closed) and I put on a special programme from www.smilingmind.au where a deep, relaxing, Australian voice gently guided us through the process.
To say I was surprised by the transformation in the class would be an understatement. Despite some initial reluctance from some, after two days the class were calmer. They threw themselves into the activity of mindfulness with enthusiasm and a maturity beyond their years. Just one ten-minute session in the morning and another after lunch and the class began to show empathy, motivation, self-confidence and an ability to settle quickly to the task required.
With an alarmingly high number of young children suffering from mental health problems, it is never too early to teach our children the art of mindfulness. In this day and age, with phones, games consoles and activities every night after school, our children are forgetting how to ‘just be in the moment’ and this life skill is as important as anything else taught in school.