Easing Into Mindfulness in the IB PYP

[caption id="attachment_10297" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Meet Karen Myrick, certified mindfulness practitioner and IB PYP teacher.[/caption]

I am thrilled to have Karen Myrick, IB PYP teacher and certified mindfulness coach, as my guest writer for this article. I met Karen through Instagram @themindfulteacher.co, as she shared her strategies for introducing a mindfulness practice into her classroom.

Karen has since developed many resources for bringing this important self-management sub-skill into our daily classroom routines. As important, she has also developed mindfulness supports specifically for us as teachers.

Ask yourself, how much do you actually model a mindfulness practice as much as you model being a lifelong learner and inquirer?

As you read through Karen's story, I have no doubt you may be able to relate to some parts of her story. If youre looking for a mindfulness practice to help you on a personal level, as well as some simple and easy to implement practices to take back to your classroom, please do read on and stay tuned for next week's insight too.

How it All Began

I’m standing in the hallway outside my classroom after the morning break for what feels like the 100th time that week. I have two emotionally charged 10 year old boys yelling at each other about a shared experience on the football pitch. Each has their own version of what happened, each their own perspective. I’m questioning my life choices as right now my career feels less like teaching and more like crowd control.  

In 2018, the Enhanced PYP added Mindfulness as a subsection to the Approaches to Learning Skills, under Self Management, along with perseverance, emotional management, self-motivation and resilience.

In the fall of 2019, I was given the opportunity to attend a workshop about a school in the suburbs of Gothenburg, Sweden, who piloted a Mindfulness in Schools project. The results presented were fascinating, and encouraging, and I wanted to know more about how this practice could help my students and myself.  My curiosity led me to becoming a certified mindfulness instructor. The practice ended up being so transformative for me, and I began to wonder, “What impact could a practice like this have on my students?” So I did some additional training in Mindfulness in Schools, and began incorporating these skills and strategies in my classroom. The result? I will never not do it. Since my training in 2019, I have been using mindfulness as a daily practice for both myself and my students. 

What is Mindfulness? (and what it is not)

Mindfulness is defined by: the awareness that comes from being in the present moment, with intention and without judgment. In practice, this can look like connecting to our senses, our breath or paying attention to the experience of what we are doing in the present moment. Mindfulness is not about clearing our minds of all thoughts, but rather, noticing the thoughts that are present, without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness is not sitting in mediation for hours on end with a goal of reaching nirvana, nor is it a religious practice. The state of being present does not belong to any one religion, but is a universal human experience.  With the advancement of technology, science is now able to prove what monks and meditators have known for centuries; mindfulness is good for us. Neuroplasticity, an exciting and relatively new area in neuroscience, is the brain's ability to change and adapt due to experience. Yes, that’s right. Our brains are malleable and through experiences, like practicing mindfulness,  we are able to “rewire” our brains.

Why does this matter?

The benefits of practicing mindfulness are many and well-documented. In an article published by Harvard University, the benefits for practicing mindfulness in schools, with children included:

  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Improved behaviour
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Better self control
  • Higher levels of compassion for others

When we look at the Primary Years Program, specifically at the Approaches to Learning, there is a focus on teaching children social skills and emotional management. With the classes I have had over the last four years where I have incorporated mindfulness as a daily practice, I can really attest to the findings of the above mentioned Harvard study.

The Importance of the Teacher’s Own Practice

A word about the importance of a teacher's own personal mindfulness practice. Just as it would be challenging (if not impossible) to teach yoga without any personal yoga practice, the same holds true for mindfulness. It’s unrealistic to expect students to manage their emotions, if their teacher can’t. Teaching is a wonderful and rewarding profession. It is also challenging and often emotionally and physically draining. If teachers don’t look after themselves, it can have both short term and longer term negative impacts on their well-being.  Students are not able to learn as well from a dysregulated teacher. As is true for many other aspects in the classroom, children learn more through modeling, than through instruction. Show them, don’t tell them. I don’t know where I would be without my own personal mindfulness practice. Thanks to these incredible tools, I find myself able to stay calm and grounded in most storms.  Mindfulness for Teachers I am passionate about sharing this incredible practice with as many teachers as possible, so they too can bring this practice to themselves and their students. I have created a Mindfulness for Teachers course where I help teachers develop their own personal mindfulness practice, so they can begin to reap all the amazing, science-backed benefits that the practice has to offer.

But what does a classroom mindfulness practice look like in a PYP classroom? In part 2 of this blog, I will share with you how mindfulness looks in my own classroom, and how you can get started with your own practice. You can connect to part 2 right here. We will also explore the importance of a teacher’s own practice, and the connection between regulated teachers and regulated students.  Until then, please do reach out to me through my website, themindfulteacher.co,  or via Instagram @themindfulteacher.co




50% Complete

Be sure to subscribe to PYPteachingtools.com for practical strategies, hands on ideas and classroom ready tools for your inquiry-based classroom.