This new school year I started having the students take mini yoga and meditation breaks as early on as possible in my 6th grade class. The response is always enthusiastic. Kids love doing yoga and meditation. They think it’s cool and they like the challenge. After completing my Yoga Teacher Training this summer with Ananda Yoga, I’ve decided to start a weekly yoga club after-school. I am grateful for the support of our new principal, who is willing to fund the project. The club will start in late October and I will post an update on this blog as it progresses.
In the mean time I’ve found a very successful way of expanding our meditation time in our classroom. This summer I participated in the New Tomorrow Summer Camp at Ananda Meditation Retreat and watched Nitai Deranja lead families, with children as young as five, through a series of classes on meditation and yogic principles. (see his blog for lesson plans) http://laughterisjoy.wordpress.com/dalai-lama-children-meditation-and-patanjali/
Nitai showed how using a bell to mark the passing of time while children meditate lets them bring their focus back to calmness. In our class we are aiming at meditating regularly for 15 minutes. The students easily meditate for 5 minutes at a time so far and I am confident that they will reach 15 in no time. Ringing the bell at intervals seems to work like magic. They love the challenge and I can see that their little shoulders relax and they are less tense at the end of our sessions.
It’s, also, interesting to see which activities from last year naturally continue this school year. One obvious activity is the Personal Excellence Qualities. (see Sept. 22, 2012 blog) That seems to be the heart of my attempt at using EFL principles in a public school setting. It’s such a natural extension of the values that we are trying to instill in our middle school students. It’s also a focus for me as a teacher. It reminds me to expand these qualities in myself. We put up our Personal Excellence board right away and had the students pick personal qualities that they wanted to work on to be their true best selves. We are also identifying these qualities in the characters in our stories and novels. This time I started out the year asking right away if they knew of anyone who exhibited all the high qualities on our board. It was interesting to see that the replies were much the same as last year. The students mentioned God, people like Martin Luther King Jr., and again many said their mom, which was very sweet.