The Complete Teacher


Short breaks help students and teachers find their calm

Posted by Karabo Kgophane on 28 October 2021 2:45 PM SAST
Karabo Kgophane photo

The pandemic has been challenging for teachers and students, and while we’ve shown a growth mindset and amazing resilience, continuing to navigate through these uncertain times can cause both mental and physical fatigue.

Tapping into "PAUSE", Practice Awareness and Understanding Self Exercises can create calm in the classroom and life amid the chaos. By practising mental wellness exercises as a class, you and your students can benefit from improved mental and physical health, coping skills, and a positive outlook. Making small changes can mean more success as the year winds down rewire your brain and develop new habits.

Stress can spread quickly in a workplace or classroom, so it is important to carve out peaceful moments throughout the day. Begin your day by sitting up in bed and taking a few deep breaths. Place one hand on your heart; be aware and grateful for as it beats.

Put the other hand on your belly and take a full, deep breath in through your nose. Slowly exhale through your mouth. Notice the rise and fall of your body. Feel the warm air travel over your lips. Be aware of your body relaxing as you add a personal and positive affirmation .

Around noon, try to create a calming moment as you repeat this process by yourself. Close your door to avoid distractions. If possible, play some soft music, dim the lights, and focus on your inhale and exhale. Take some time to be mindful and grateful. 

Practice your breathing again at the end of the day when your head finally hits the pillow. This time, imagine any negative thoughts, fear, or doubts being carried away as you exhale slowly. On the inhales, visualize a smile, a laugh, or a positive moment from your day. Show yourself understanding, patience, and compassion.

Calm moments for students.
Check-ins and connections: Check-ins are important all day long, but especially as students enter class. Greeting each student gives us a chance to get a quick read on their well-being and helps them feel safe and welcomed. Mornings are the perfect time for a One Word share. Before you begin this activity, instruct students on how they’ll choose their words. Ideas can include identifying one emotion, colour, or movie character.

Begin by leading your class in a minute of breathing, modelling each inhales and exhales. During the second minute, direct your class to scan their bodies from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet: Giving verbal cues, ask your students to relax their eyes, mouth, and neck. Continue slowly as you bring focus to their arms, hands, back, legs, and feet. Taking deep breaths and scanning our bodies develops self-awareness. The third minute is the time for students to select the word they’d like to share. Allowing students to share their one word and discuss the deeper meaning of each other’s words grows listening skills, social awareness, and empathy.

Through group practice, we mentor an independent coping tool for students to calm their bodies and express how they’re feeling in a moment of frustration, worry, or anger. This three-minute activity is worth the investment and will build our emotional vocabulary, as well as stronger connections and relationships.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness is simply being present, but it’s not simply done. Our ability to be in the moment requires opportunities to pause and slow down together and individually. Time and tools are important here. A small area set aside to reset with dimmed lighting, music, and cosy seating can serve as a retreat. This inviting space can give students and teachers a chance to pause in groups or alone and can include colouring or handling sensory sand. Depending on space and student needs, be sure to predetermine when and how to make this space available.

By Connie Morris

Source: Edutopio

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