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Self-Awareness + Student Success: Mindfulness in Practice at GUS

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Cultivating self-awareness, confidence, and emotional intelligence are essential to a child’s success in school. We are teaching children how the brain and body work together as well as  healthy habits and lifelong skills for coping with stress. GUS second graders benefit from practicing yoga and mindfulness as part of their daily routine, which directly supports and enhances the second grade social-emotional curriculum. Mindfulness techniques encourage our second graders to explore and practice different strategies to cope with stress and heightened emotions. Throughout the year students engage with classmates and take turns leading activities, such as chair meditation, guided meditation, building cairns, partner yoga, yoga sequences, aromatherapy, breathing routines, and mindful walking.  

Last month we introduced emotional freedom techniques (EFT), also known as tapping. Students tap on acupressure points to help release anxiety and stress. Second graders practice this engaging technique at the end of our day during closing circle. Tapping is a significant tool for highlighting positive emotions and eliminating any negative emotions from the day.  Since students are now comfortable with tapping, they use it as a strategy to refocus after a social issue, a frustrating experience, or a worry. One student commented, “I like tapping because it is calming and relaxing. It helps me when I am hyper.” Another student reported, “I like tapping because whenever I am worried, I just do my tapping. It helps me!”

Our latest mindfulness technique is using the power of positive thoughts by creating realistic affirmations. Using positive self-talk is an integral part of our social-emotional curriculum and affirmations are the perfect way to practice and promote self-compassion. Affirmations help children develop and speak to themselves in kind and positive ways.  After reading Louise Hay’s book I Think, I Am, GUS second graders engaged in a lively discussion about the power of using positive language and created beautiful illustrations. When we practiced saying our affirmations into a mirror, students quickly realized that they can create positive thoughts through repetition. Repeating affirmations can increase a child’s happiness and confidence.

We often share our mindfulness activities with our seventh grader partners during their life skills class. Our students taught the seventh graders about the power of affirmations, and they are creating them too! Our hope is that affirmations will help children develop a positive and healthy foundation and be able to turn any negative thoughts or emotions into optimistic thoughts and feelings. Words and thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and as a result, our second grade students are happy and positive. Comments from students: “I repeated my affirmation louder and louder in my mind and I scored a goal!” “Affirmations make me feel confident!” “I love drawing the pictures for affirmations because it gives me a positive mind!”

The effects of our mindfulness activities extend far beyond our second grade classroom. In addition to inspiring our seventh grade partners, our practice has had positive and profound effects on our students’ families. Parents (and even grandparents!) send us pictures of their children meditating and report that their children have taught them yoga, breathing techniques, and tapping. Parents often share that their child led them in a yoga class followed by a guided meditation. We hope our students carry these experiences with them throughout their lives and build the basic foundation for a healthy mind, body, and spirit.