Over the last year, I’ve had several people ask me about my social learning curriculum. It often starts with a question like “How do you get your kids to stop tattling?” or “My kids just don’t seem to care. How do you get your students to self reflect so that they make better choices?” Then, after a brief discussion about mindfulness, I will get asked, “Can you come and DO mindfulness in my classroom?”
Mindfulness is not a quick fix, it’s a whole philosophy. I saw a need for teachers and kids to be able to learn this important set of concepts with more ease. This is how the Interactive Mindful Notebook idea came about.
As a teacher, you have to really want change. You have to really believe in mindfulness to be successful in the implementation.
What is mindfulness? I explain it like this: Mindfulness is an acute awareness of the here and now. It’s being aware of yourself, your surroundings, your feelings, your senses and of those around you. It’s the awareness of how you are feeling and how you can make yourself feel better or to silently celebrate these good feelings and pass them on to others in kind and gentle ways.
As teachers, we deal with enormous stress. It is such a busy, all consuming job. Embracing mindfulness starts with you. SO many teachers I know are burnt out or on the road to being burnt out. Why? Well only they would know their personal situation but a lot of it has to deal with the class that you have, the busy nature of your personal life (maybe you have small kids) and all the little things that teachers have to deal with day after day.
I would suggest many people live their life on auto-pilot.
How can you change that? By stopping and reflecting. By carving out ME time. By slowing down. By asking yourself “Do I really need to get that done right now?”, “Why am I teaching that?”, “Is there a more effective way to teach that where I can facilitate the learning and not be directly teaching all the time?”
Once you have changed your mindset, you will be amazed at the engagement of the students. Students feel your stress.
I got to thinking about how I could come in and “do” mindfulness with a class for a couple of sessions and have teachers carry on. I needed something tangible and not philosophical so that teachers could implement the program right away. I decided to create an Interactive Mindful Notebook.
This notebook is suitable for 2nd-5th grade. (I have used it with 1st grade and it worked well, it just takes a little longer for students to cut and paste.)
Here is a reflection about self. It is done at the beginning. Kids will often write about things they think they are good at like “I am a good runner”. At the end of the unit, I suggest doing it again.
By the end, we hope that they will see things like “I am kind” as one of the best things about themselves.
Students will learn to recognize and acknowledge that their 5 senses play a big role in their self awareness and the development of mindfulness.
Once students have become aware of their own feelings and habits etc, we can turn to others’ feelings. For younger students maybe the people who help in your school may be a great place to start. You can turn it to people in your family, your friends or whatever is appropriate for your grade level.
There are three different varieties of pictures for the section on Growing My Character for different age levels. If you need a poster set to help you to teach (in kid friendly language) what these character traits mean, you may like this poster set that I created.
It’s important that students see their growth. This notebook will help them do that. The final section is on Growth Mindset. There are lesson suggestions to help you teach this. Kids really respond well to the “growth mindset” philosophy. Once they learn to recognize that they may have a fixed mindset about something, they become more able to change it into a “can do” mindset which helps them to learn.