“Did you take three deep breaths, Mrs. Robbins?”
“Thanks for reminding me. Will you take them with me?” Everyone stops talking, and we all take three deep breaths. Refreshed and focused, we are ready to start class.
I know that I am not alone in feeling like I always have a to-do list running through my mind. With so much to accomplish and remember, it’s hard to be fully present in all of my interactions, yet I know how important it is to give each student my full attention. Students as well can feel stretched thin and anxious, especially given that they have to make quick transitions between a variety of classes and activities all day long. With these factors in mind, I made it one of my goals this year to take three deep breaths before each class. I discussed my goals with my classes and posted reminders around my room. Now, my students remind me to take my deep breaths at the start of class. My eighth grade class in particular has come to rely on this brief hiatus from the busyness of the day. As we take our deep breaths together, I can feel the tension in the room dissipate. The chatter and clamor ceases for those few moments.
During the second trimester, I also lead a yoga club on Wednesdays and Fridays. I am a certified yoga instructor, having done my 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2012. In 2017, I also did a series of online courses with Mindful Schools. I usually do a slow flow or restorative class with a long savasana — or rest pose — at the end. The students look noticeably different leaving the yoga session than they did entering. When we come to a seated position after the savasana and their eyes flutter open, they often give me blissful and grateful smiles. Rarely in the day do we make room for rest, and the students appreciate this chance to be still.
My personal meditation practice still has a long way to go, but by making the simple goal of taking these deep breaths and by sharing yoga with the Middle School, I hope to model mindfulness and encourage the girls to become more aware of their own mental and emotional states.