Making space to listen: Teaching well-being and mindfulness in the classroom.

For too many years, our society lived with a
view that children should be seen and not heard. Without listening to children and understanding children’s own views about their quality of life – how can we ever expect to improve the lives of children and young people?

The Children’s Society. 2015. The Good Childhood Report. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/TheGoodChildhoodReport2015.pdf. [Accessed 16 March 2017].

 

Well-being and mindfulness are discussed more frequently now in the media and in education and educators are more aware of the benefits teaching these can have to students. However, curriculum commitments and school timetables can sometimes allow little room for teaching these soft skills and so they can sadly be the first thing to drop off the timetable when times get busy.

In my classroom I try to commit to supporting student well-being by setting aside one lesson a week which focuses on something linked to well-being and mindfulness. This does mean that a curriculum lesson gets put off another day, but my opinion is that student welfare and happiness is more important than teaching them the next lesson on the plan. My weekly sessions stem from the Worry box I have in my classroom. Students can anonymously write in this box, sharing a worry they have or a problem which is going on, knowing that I will read them and then we will discuss them as a class together in order to find a solution. The problem remains from an anonymous writer (although as a teacher you can tell who wrote the note from the handwriting!) and it means that everyone benefits from helping to solve the problem, creating a sense of togetherness and a community approach. It also means that the students effectively do my planning for me and I am supporting them with exactly what they need at the time they need it.

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The structure of these sessions varies but usually looks something like this:

  1. 5 mins mindfulness meditation using a YouTube guided meditation video.
  2. Warm-up game linked to what we will be talking about.
  3. Present the problem. Either just verbally, with a teacher let drama or a video.
  4. Paired/group discussions for solutions.
  5. Share ideas and evaluate the successes of each.
  6. Role play out the solution.

A recent document from Public Health England pointed to the value in a whole school approach to well-being, and noted the usefulness of a combination of taught skills as well as those learnt through the ‘hidden’ curriculum (Public Health England, 2014). I agree that values of honesty, happiness, being healthy etc., are often touched on in assemblies and expectations within school, but teachers should also be addressing these explicitly within the classroom too. The problem is, teachers experience pressure to keep on top of curriculum requirements, testing and assessment, which can lead to dropping lessons which are viewed as less important to a child’s attainment. It would be nice to see schools protecting a set amount of time each week specifically for teaching well-being and mindfulness to students, in addition to the planned PSHE lesson for that week. A top down approach is needed in order for teachers to be able to fulfil this important need, without worrying about how it might impact on their timetable or other lessons.

I am still new to mindfulness and am learning as I go, so I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got experience in this area and can point me in the direction of any other resources which could help.

I’ve found these few resources really helpful:

 

References:

 

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