by Nancy Lee
Nancy Lee is a 4th grade teacher at Cerritos Elementary School. She has been conducting a 12-week program of mindfulness training, ”Mindfulness Matters,” as part of a University of Southern California research study. The training is for grades 3-5. Nancy attended, her first Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conference this year, in San Diego. The following is an essay that she wrote after her first day back in the classroom.
The day began with the hustle and bustle of the morning chaos. The students filed into the classroom, chatting away, getting reacquainted with their classmates. But something was different. I was different. In the ruckus, I silently walked to the front of the room, sat in my teacher chair and chimed the bells: Once, the class looked at me and slowed into their seats; twice, they stopped shuffling through backpacks and mingling with friends; three times, they silenced themselves and focused on me. I began by inviting them to take a mindful posture and to check into the moment. I proceeded to guide them through the 3 minute breathing space. Two minutes into the breathing space, my chronic tardier walked into class. Before walking in, he hesitated at the door, then tiptoed to the front of the room and gently laid the tardy slip on my desk, silently walked to his seat and joined us in the breathing. Normally, he would prance into the room, wave the tardy slip at me as if he was proud of being late, then proceed to his seat only to begin talking to his seat partner. Something about the stillness of the room made him aware of the fact that he was tardy. I don’t pray for miracles, but I hope he is on time tomorrow.
I followed my class in after recess, walked slowly and deliberately to the front of the room, but before I could reach for the bells, the class silenced themselves, without anyone having to monitor anyone. Then I heard the voice of my tardier from the back of the room, “Ring the bells, Mrs. Lee.” I told them, “The chiming of the bells is a reminder to help us come into the present moment, but you did not need the bells. You did it all on your own.”
After school, I began the Mindfulness Matters session with the 3 minute breathing space as I have done. But something was different. I was different. After the breathing space, one of the participants (one that most teachers would agree needs mindfulness) said to me, “Mrs. Lee, you said different things today.” I commended him for noticing. Then another student said, “You didn’t read from the binder today.” That was correct. I was able to set aside the script and guide the practice through my own experience and feelings, and the students noticed.
The same participant then said to me, “I have a new pencil and I was mindfully looking at it.” “What did you notice about your pencil?’ I inquired. He proceeded to describe the pencil in great detail to the class. How appropriate that was. Today’s lesson was about seeing things mindfully.
It took 11 sessions, but I have finally learned to take off my teacher hat.
Save the Date February 7-9, 2014 Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research in a new location at the Paradise Point Hotel, San Diego, CA.