mindfulness in the classroom: for them, for me, for the world

This past summer, I took the course “Mindful Educator Essentials” from Mindful Schools. I knew from personal experience the power of mindfulness to steady myself, as well as to benefit students coming from traumatized backgrounds. But I was also looking ahead.

My future students–now my current students–would largely represent the opposite demographics of my entire teaching experience: wealthy, advantaged, political, prominent. And those kiddos have parents in the same category. And with such privilege comes an enormous amount of weight: the strongest drive to get the best grades and the most extracurricular sports and activities to get into the elit-est schools. Just typing that sentence stresses me out, much less living beneath its sagging reality on a daily basis.

Screenshot (5)
On the left: all the mindful practices I’ve incorporated so far in my classes. On the right: the guidance for “metta mindfulness” we are practicing this week.

And so, in an effort to provide my students with tools–and also because I like a classroom that feels like home for the heart and not just school for the mind–I’ve incorporated mindful moments everyday since the beginning of the school year. It is entirely new for me; yet it also feels uniquely ancient. And no, it isn’t exactly the Mindful Schools curriculum; however–better–it is that plus what works for me minus what is cumbersome adapted to the personalities of the students seated in front of me, breathing next to me. So much so that on a regular basis I hear:

Miss, aren’t we going to do mindfulness today?

I really need a mindful moment right now.

Guess what Miss, I did mindfulness before my game!

Um, yes please to all that teacher-soul-goodness.

This week, in alignment with the school’s kindness drive, I introduced the practice of metta mindfulness which offers loads of benefits. Metta mindfulness entails a dance of breath and phrases offering goodwill, starting first with ourselves, and then extending outwardly to those we love, those of neutral interest, those with whom we have contention, and eventually the whole world. At first, we only started with ourselves and with those we love. But today, with hands on our hearts, I prompted those who felt comfortable to call to mind someone with whom they have tension: an ex-friend, a challenging family member, or a politician.

Afterward I checked in with kiddos about their experiences. I asked about the level of difficulty in offering goodwill to someone with whom they feel tension.

One kiddo’s brief, but passionate, response said enough:

Yeah. Temer.

And never have I felt so connected to a kiddo. Because here I was:

Yeah. Trump.

It is no secret I am no fan of Trump. But today, I mustered up all the deepest parts of me to send him goodwill:

May you be safe.

May you be healthy.

May you be happy.

May you leave with ease.

And while parts of me revolted, screeching NO to such an offer of goodwill to someone I just… well…

the light in me, the love in me, the peace in me recognized that in my vitriol disdain for “the other,” I contribute to the problem.

In conclusion, I mindfully surrender to Martin Luther King Jr’s words: