Richmondmom.com: Practicing Mindfulness in the Classroom and at Home

Kindergarten teacher Maddy Hargis wrote about mindfulness for Richmondmom.com.
Written by: Madeline Hargis

     “Let us begin with a mindful moment.” This statement is heard in my kindergarten class every day. About five years ago, I heard about using mindfulness in the classroom. Like many, I was hesitant at first. I felt I was strong in classroom management, I had a rapport with my class and I was following my school character development program. What could mindfulness bring to the classroom?
     The more I heard about the word mindfulness the more I wanted to learn. I am a strong believer that you need to practice what you preach or in this case teach thus, I decided to start investigating and creating a conversation with my friends and colleagues. The more I learned, the more I was hooked and underwent the journey of adding mindfulness into my life.
     Mindfulness is knowing what is happening right now. Achieving this ultimate goal seemed daunting, but the advice I kept on receiving from my mentors was to keep trying and practicing. I started my journey of mindfulness through mindful apps and taking an online class. After taking a class on mindfulness I noticed that I started to be more aware of others and myself. I was able to understand why I feel the way I feel and was able to face and understand the daily stresses my job and life brought me. As I looked at life differently, I realized that it made me a better teacher, colleague and friend. I then took my knowledge into the classroom and the results have been astonishing.
     Through planned lessons on mindfulness, the girls have become more focused, self-aware and emotionally balanced. Mindful breathing is the first step in centering yourself. The breath allows you to clear your mind and become aware of your thoughts, feelings and your surroundings. The girls begin their guided mindfulness lessons with breathing, but then we talk about different areas of mindfulness such as: gratitude, heartfulness, mindful listening, mindful walking, and mindful eating. We have created gratitude journals where the girls send kind thoughts to people and animals and write or draw what they are grateful for.
     As teachers, our goal is not only to teach the core academics but also to teach and model to our students characteristics such as compassion, pride, honesty, confidence and respect. Due to mindfulness I have seen a difference in my students in the way they speak to each other, treat themselves and have a stronger work ethic. I recently overheard a student after running into a friend say, “My body was going too fast and I ran into you. I am sorry.” And when a student selflessly shared with another student her response was “Wow, you were practicing heartfulness, that made me feel good.” I encourage the girls to use language such as giving your body and brain a break and ask questions such as are you listening to your mind and body?
     Mindfulness works for families with children of all ages. It can be as easy as taking a mindful walk and noticing what you see or as complex as setting a timer and having your children quietly and focus on their breath and what they notice. A way to add mindfulness in your family’s is through bedtime routines. Take time to have your children close their eyes as they lay in bed and focus on the different parts of their body and how they feel. This will not only promote awareness, but also allow your child to quiet their mind and body.
     Mindfulness is a lifestyle, and you need to be willing to put in the time and energy, but it will only benefit you. The biggest change I have seen in the classroom is that the girls have the ability to stop and be in their own space. With our lives so busy, we rush from one thing to the next. Mindfulness allows them to have ownership in having a peaceful mind, which is a gift. My hope is that they continue to use these tools in the future as they grow and face life.

Madeline Hargis is a Kindergarten teacher at St. Catherine’s School. Originally from New Jersey, Richmond is now her home. She also is a Middle School field hockey and lacrosse coach and an advisor for Kappa Alpha Theta at University of Richmond. She enjoys boating, being outside, yoga and enjoying her family and friends.
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