As a children’s yoga and mindfulness educator I enter each lesson with a plan in mind, but there is also a grand scheme, my ultimate purpose for exploring this work with children. It’s my view that these life skills are a basic right of education, that there are certain underpinnings to what I’m trying to impart – self regulation strategies, attention training, nurturing of positive traits – and this purpose drives everything I do with my students. My deepest hope is our conversations together will transfer to their everyday life outside of the room we practice in. I’m always looking for ways they can communicate their learning and in turn I can gauge to what extent they are applying the yoga lessons to their moment to moment experiences. In teacher jargon, I’m assessing the learning outcome.
I ask them questions routinely. We write in journals. We tell the stories of how we used our yoga and mindfulness at home and at school on a routine basis. Sometimes it’s just nice to make an event out of it.
Let The Kids Take the Stage
Whenever possible I let kids lead the class. From kindergarten through fifth grade, students routinely lead our beginning of class ritual that entails mindful breathing and sun salutations. It is always such a rich opportunity when I take time to allow the kids to put their learning into their own words. Teaching someone else is the last concrete step in integration of new learning. They try it on and I get to assess. Their unfailing pride is the added bonus. I recently put this task to work with a culminating project for our gratitude unit. During the month of November we spent several weeks on gratitude. We inquired and experimented with these basic questions:
- What does it mean to practice gratitude?
- Where might we practice gratitude?
- How do we feel during the gratitude practice? After?
- Why then is it important to practice gratitude?
- What do the experts say?
- What is it like when we let gratitude stick around for more than a moment and savor it?
We picked an opportune time to share this important topic with a wider audience — a whole school assembly the day before Thanksgiving! Parents were in abundance. 500 plus students and teachers joined in the student lead practices. One student reported “Normally we do mindful breathing with 25 girls. But today we did it in the assembly with more than 540 people and it felt really relaxing. I felt like it was only 25 of us again. It felt like it was a really small crowd. Inside I felt really relaxed and good. It felt like I was alone and with the group doing mindful breathing.”