Professional development and teaching go hand in hand. Educators are constantly evolving, changing, and incorporating the latest studies and practices for the betterment of their students. Among the topics that are high on the list are both mindfulness and self-care in the classroom. In a recent Facebook Live event, hosts and sixth-grade teaching partners Kayla Dessert and Aliceson Brandt gave some great tips on how to bring mindfulness and self-care—for both students and teachers—into the classroom.
Along the way, fourth-grade teacher Nichole Watson and behavior specialist Michelle Harrison joined in to offer additional ideas. Then they invited viewers to add their own wisdom. Here’s a handy list of those amazing tricks to encourage mindfulness for students. We hope they bring you more calmness and clarity in the upcoming school year.
1. Bring on the glitter.
I have a glitter jar that our school counselor made. I shake it and sit it down. The kids watch closely, noticing when the glitter stops. —Katie
2. Take just a minute.
I do mindfulness minutes. We take a few minutes for students to reflect on their mental space before class starts. Then they can share with the teacher or express it in writing for themselves. —Grace
3. Introduce mindfulness with a book.
I read the book Lemonade Hurricane to introduce mindfulness to my kids. We also do five minutes of meditation each day to breathe and focus ourselves. —Anna
4. Use a visual to help with breathing.
We use finger breathing. We start at our pinky and trace each finger. As we go up, we breathe in, and as we trace down, we breathe out. It works well. —MaKayla
5. Have a go-to tool students know.
I use a spiral maze, which the kids color. When it’s time to wind down, I ask the kids to take out their spiral boards and trace the spiral maze back and forth until they feel their bodies and minds calm down. —Monica
6. Try Wellness Wednesdays.
I’ve been using mindfulness in my classroom for the past four years. I teach mindfulness very specifically during our morning meeting time, which I call Wellness Wednesdays. One way I do this is by using a Hoberman sphere. As the sphere expands, students breathe in, and as it goes back in, they breathe out. —Aliceson
7. Try a chime for attentive listening.
I ring a chime, and the students focus on it. Then they raise their hand when they hear the ringing stop. This really helps with focus and attentive listening. —Aliceson
8. Turn it into a game.
I use these cards called Mindful Games, which you can get on Amazon. There are lots of good options in there for breathing, attentive listening, and focusing. —Aliceson
Mindfulness for Teachers
9. Go on a walk to recenter yourself.
For teachers, doing something as small as just taking a walk can be a big help when trying to be mindful and do self-care. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just take five to 10 minutes for yourself. It can be helpful to resetting your day. —Chanel
10. Take time to color.
We have a large coloring poster and colored pencils in our teachers’ lounge for anyone to join in when they can. It’s a great way to free your mind and color for a couple of minutes. —Kim
11. Write down your goals and successes.
I do a five-minute journal app every day where I write three specific things to be grateful for in the morning. Then in the afternoon, I write three things that went well. I also add a photo each day, so I’m always looking for something pretty or inspiring. —Julie
12. Download an app to try.
13. Find books to learn more.
I really like the book The Way of Mindful Education. It begins with how to start your own practice. Then it gives you tips on how to work with kids. It also comes with a workbook. —Michelle
Self-Care for Students
14. Talk about feelings.
Our students share with each other how they feel each morning and why they feel that way. We talk about how we can care about each other and help each other have a great day. It’s emotional awareness. —Rosean
15. Tackle emotional literacy.
I taught emotional literacy to my students. Each week, my second graders learned a new word and its meaning. They drew a picture depicting the word and used it in a sentence. At the end of the year, we created a book of all the words we learned. The best part was how appreciative the parents were since their children were better able to communicate what they were truly feeling. —Anna
16. Try a slow start.
I teach kindergarten and love a slow start. We have a free-choice morning activity. This allows students to talk to each other, have breakfast, and talk to me before we start our calendar time. —Raquel
17. Be culturally responsive.
When we think about self-care, there’s gotta be a way to bring equity into the discussion, because our students’ needs will be as diverse as they are. Give power and enable kids who might come from different backgrounds and cultures to see themselves in your curriculum. —Nichole
18. Pay attention to your students’ needs.
I think the best strategy I use is just being attentive to the engagements of the students—all of them at once and students as individuals. Do we need a brain break? Do we need to breathe? What about music? Do we need humor? Being consistently in tune is key. —Christina
19. Try all the things.
There are so many different things to try. It can be brain breaks or maybe GoNoodle. It can be flexible seating. We have to empower kids and then listen and respond to what they need. —Nichole
20. Stretch before, during, and after tests.
One thing that helps my middle schoolers is to take a guided stretch before, during, and after a test. Some get so tensed up with test anxiety. Gently and calmly having them roll their shoulders, rolls their wrists, and breathe full, slow breaths helps them recenter. One minute is all it takes. —Jennifer
21. Try using a sentence frame.
I like to use a sentence frame with my students. The sentence frame might be: How can we take care of you today? Or, what do you need in order to be your best self? This is a hard question for many students to answer. —Nichole
Self-Care for Teachers
22. Say “no” sometimes.
Say “no” to something extra that someone asks you to do. I always say “yes,” but sometimes you have to say “no.” Do all the things that you need to do, but it is OK to say “no” sometimes. —Kayla
23. Leave work on time (when possible).
As a teacher, I try my hardest to remember self-care and leave work at work when possible. It helped me tremendously last year, so I hope I can continue it. —Brittany
24. Join a teacher challenge.
We created something called a teacher fitness challenge where we connected hundreds of teachers all across the United States to support each other in their self-care journey. There were challenges we’d do each month. And it was a great way to remind each other to take care of ourselves. —Kayla
25. Have an accountability partner.
Have a teaching partner nearby so you both know you can step out to take a few deep breaths if needed—it really prevents a lot of anxiety. —Mary
26. Leave your teacher bag at school one day a week.
Leave it at school. You don’t want to be carrying that heavy thing around anyway. Or if you grade papers on your computer, try to keep it closed at least one night a week. —Kayla
27. Embrace the power of exercise.
My goal this year is to make exercise a priority. I fell off the bandwagon last year as things became stressful and definitely felt the effects on my own state of self-care. —Kristina
28. Treat yourself once in a while.
Treat yourself to something special once a month. It doesn’t have to be big. It can be a manicure, pedicure, special coffee, or even just a movie. Find something to treat yourself with. —Kayla
29. Take a break for you.
In times of chaos, I take time to enjoy my lunch in the classroom with the light off and calming music playing in the background. As an introvert, it’s a much-needed moment to pause, be mindful, and prepare for the afternoon ahead. —Angelina
30. Remember the basics.
Teacher self-care is so important, so make sure to get enough sleep, drink water, and eat healthy, nourishing foods. When things get really stressful, these are some of the firsts things to go. —Becky
Do you have tips to develop mindfulness for students? Share them on our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group.