A First Grader Teaches Meditation To Her Schoolmates
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
A First Grader Teaches Meditation To Her SchoolmatesA Heart Centered Approach To Learning
It's not uncommon to hear the phrases, "Are you paying attention?” or "Pay attention!" in our daily lives. Walk into any American school and you will certainly hear one of those phrases used several times a day. You may also hear these words in your own home or coming directly from your mouth. But what does pay attention actually mean? I am a public school teacher who teaches from the heart instead of a book. I don’t necessarily follow all of the rules, but I certainly get the best from all of my students. I create a peaceful climate so that my students can focus on one thing at a time. When you step into my room, you always smell a hint of aromatherapy, the lighting is soft and warm, there is peaceful music in the background and the kids move through the class in sync with their environment and their peers throughout the day. We use affirmations, do mirror work, write I Statements, do yoga stretches, color mandalas, and yes, of course we meditate. We do all of this because I never want to ask my students if they are paying attention. Instead, I simply ask them if they are being mindful and they come right back to the present moment.
For years I have been ridiculed for my daily practices because my classroom is different. Yet times are changing and my colleagues are finally beginning to see that my children excel in academics not because of what I am teaching, but rather how I prepare my students to learn. I believe that to teach effectively you must touch their hearts long before you begin to teach their minds. Honestly, my students are their absolute best because I teach them 7 essentials, beginning with how to quiet their minds.
I Go Out on a Limb
My heart centered approach to education has guided me to create character education programs, and I lead a team (of both teachers and students) in our building to deliver these programs. Each month we present a character trait to the school along with a lesson through a school-wide assembly. After a recent holiday break, several teachers were noticing a lack of respect and responsibility in the classroom and throughout the school. We met as a committee to discuss our upcoming character education lesson and instead of focusing on the typical respect or responsibility lessons, I chose to go out on a limb and asked the team to consider teaching mindfulness.
It was clear to me that if the children were not being respectful and responsible, then they were simply thinking of other things and not in the present moment. For the first time in a long time, I saw a clear path to bridge my classroom teaching to our whole building. We acknowledged that we could all use a lesson in mindfulness because of the busy, fast-paced society we live in that makes constant demands on both children and adults, and we knew it was the right trait to teach.
We began to write the lesson and I turned to the team and said, “You know, I’m going to have to teach meditation.” Of course, a few members were concerned about the word meditation but I told them not to fret because in my classroom we simply called it Going to Our Happy Place.
The night before the assembly I was excited to present and a bit nervous that the staff would not be receptive. It took me a while to fall asleep because of my reservations and then I woke up around 3 AM and I knew what had to be done. Every day in my classroom, my students have “mindful time.” During this time we quiet our minds; we take a mindful walk, color mandalas, practice yoga or go to our happy place. When we meditate, I have a student who always asks to lead the meditation because she has memorized my words and also likes to take charge! I remembered Avery at 3 AM and knew in an instant that she should be the one to teach our students and staff how to go to their “happy place.”
And a Little Child Will Lead Them
The next morning at school I asked Avery if she would like to lead the school to their happy place during the assembly. I explained that she would be doing this in front of approximately 600 people including the faculty. She smiled a big smile, hopped up and down a few times, and replied with a resounding YES! We walked down to the assembly and I proceeded to present the lesson on mindfulness. Then, the magic happened. I introduced Avery to the school and told them that she was going to teach them how to go to their happy place as a means to quieting the mind.
Avery proudly stepped up and took the microphone without reservation. The soft music began to play and she opened the meditation by saying, “Take a deep breath in through your nose and release it slowly through your mouth.” I watched her in awe as she spoke slowly and deliberately, then I turned to the audience and noticed that every person in that audience was in the present moment. You could literally hear a pin drop in our auditorium. But more important was the energy—it was pure love.
I felt tears well up in my eyes as I watched her shine in all of her magnificence. I remember thinking, “Wow, she’s amazing!” I then looked out into the audience once more and realized that Avery—my little 1st grader—was leading her generation. She was teaching them to quiet their minds so that they could all be their very best. I felt humbled, honored and blessed as I realized the true importance of the 7 Essentials that I teach.
I have created a message of hope and a manual for change in my new book, Ignite the Light: Empowering Children and Adults to Be Their Absolute Best. I teach 7 simple essentials to create strong foundations in our youth and repair and strengthen our own foundation. Quieting the mind is just one of those critical essentials.
Whether you are a parent, teacher or member of society, it's vital to understand that our children—the future generation—are learning from us 24/7. And if we can teach them 7 simple essentials, we will not only create a strong foundation for them during childhood, but perhaps repair and strengthen our own foundations. The most incredible aspect of all of this is that by carefully guiding our children, we not only educate and enlighten them, but we also empower them to change the world for the better.