Putting Mindfulness into Practice in the IB PYP

My guest writer this week continues with her ideas for developing a mindfulness practice in schools as part of the IB PYP Self management Skills. Karen Myrick is a PYP Mentor at the International School of the Gothenburg Region in Sweden and holds a Head of Department position where she works with the development of the ATL Skills. In addition to her 20 years of experience teaching in the IB PYP, Karen is a certified Mindfulness Instructor, has a passion for student and teacher well-being, and has developed mindfulness courses for teachers, and mindfulness resources for the classroom, which help teachers bring this amazing, science-backed practice to their students. She has presented at the Toddle SEL Pop Up event in July 2021, the IB Virtual Conference in October 2021, and most recently at the Nordic Network of International Schools Conference in Copenhagen. You can link to Karen's website, themindfulteacher.co,  here. 

[caption id="attachment_10598" align="alignnone" width="756"] Targeting the skills within self management and social skills, this bundle offers collaborative activities to develop these crucial skills.[/caption]

If you missed part one, where Karen chats about easing into our own mindfulness practice, you can catch up with that here. 

 Establish A Mindfulness Routine We practice at the same time everyday. My students know that when they come in from first break (recess), the lights to the classroom are off and they will automatically find their place. Some choose to sit in their seat, some move their chairs to face a window or wall, others choose to lay down on the floor.  A student  is responsible for putting the “Shhh, Mindfulness in Progress” sign on the door. We have established this practice as an important part of our learning day. 

There is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. My students are learning what is right for them. They are learning to make choices for themselves and their well-being. As long as we are all being respectful of each other, most choices for how to practice are allowed.  The students are then guided through a mindfulness meditation or guided visualization. It can be anywhere from 5-8 minutes. Afterwards, we have a brief reflection session. The reflection is as, if not more, important than the practice itself. Here’s why: When our students get the chance to practice putting words to their feelings and emotions, these feelings and emotions become more manageable, especially in times of stress. In the words of Dr. Dan Seigel, author of the book The Whole Brain Child, “You gotta name it, to tame it.”

When our students get the chance to practice putting words to their feelings and emotions, these feelings and emotions become more manageable, especially in times of stress.

  Real Student Stories  Across the years, I have had many instances where the children have been struggling with one form of another. For example: I have had a student in my class who was having difficulties managing their emotions and found it especially difficult to maintain control when angry. This often resulted in ripping up work, yelling at friends, and refusing to participate in classroom activities.  This came to a pinnacle when this child was involved in a conflict with another student on the football pitch.  All signs of raised emotion were visible: red in the face, fists clenched in anger and all round tension. Thanks to our classroom mindfulness practice, this student had some tools and strategies to help to calm down. Once calm, we were able to discuss what had happened. In the end, this child was able to shake hands with the other student, apologize for their behaviour and graciously accepted the apology of the other student. The icing on the ckae was when this student walked over to our classroom Feelings poster and quietly said, “I feel proud”.  This child, who had struggled with these emotions, was able to:

  • Use strategies to reduce stress and anxiety (emotional management)
  • Take responsibility for one’s own actions (emotional management)
  • Manage anger and resolve conflict  (emotional management)

Another example you may be able to relate to:  After a short Self Compassion practice, a 9 year old student reflected that they found the practice difficult. When I asked why and to go deeper, they explained that that morning they had been in a fight with a younger sibling and thus found it challenging to show self-compassion.  This student identified the feeling “guilty”.   This kind of self awareness and ability to recognize their own emotions is at a level of maturity that many struggle to obtain, certainly as teenagers and even as adults. This child was able to: 

  • Be aware of own and others’ emotions.
  • Develop ability to communicate emotions

Reflection? How do they share and document? Photos of reflections in journals and other ways (from my classroom resource) These resources can be found in my 14 Week Mindful Classroom Program. This is an incredible tool for any classroom, enabling teachers to effortlessly bring the practice of mindfulness to their students.  I have so many wonderful stories of student’s reflections, emotional growth and perseverance, and I keep them all written down as evidence that amazing practice works. Interestingly, and maybe unsurprisingly, the children who seem to benefit most from the practice are those who are most resistant to it. I have a feeling it’s the same for adults.  I would like to finish this article with one of my favourite quotes. It comes from John Kabat-Zinn, an American Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and founder of world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic. 

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

For me, mindfulness is the surfboard. It’s what I hold on to when the waves come. Let’s empower our students and ourselves with tools and strategies so the next wave doesn’t knock us off our feet.  If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, and how a mindfulness practice can help you and your students, please consider joining my next Mindfulness for Teachers course.  

Don't forget to watch this video with easy and practical ideas to implement into ANY classroom:

Mindfulness in the Classroom - An IB PYP SKILL

[caption id="attachment_10320" align="alignnone" width="948"] Classroom-ready strategies for developing a mindfulness practice.[/caption]

Peace, Karen P.S. For more ideas and classroom ready techniques, follow Karen on Instagram @themindfulteacher.co

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