Classroom Resources for Unplanned Moments

As teachers we know that we always need to be prepared for the unexpected. Carefully planned lessons are often interrupted by unavoidable disruptions and we are left with time that has not been planned for, an extra 10 minutes after a fire drill, a canceled prep time, or that 15 minutes before lunch when your students have lost their “steam.”  There are lots of ways teachers can fill in this gap time, for instance, having students finish work they have they haven’t completed, doing a read aloud, even watching a movie or video. Every teacher has their own toolbox for moments like this.  As a Mindfulness Educator, I started to think of ways to use these “gap” moments to  practice mindful awareness in fun and creative ways. 
 
 Here are a few of my favorite:
Spread the Love- Compliment Project
In this activity students take turns being in the “hot seat” while their classmates write compliments on the board behind them. This activity only takes about 5 to 10 minutes per student, which means it would be something you could squeeze into the end of a class period. Be sure though, if you start this project you will eventually have time to get to each student in class.
Watch here 
Pass the Cup
This is a fun mindful game to sharpen concentration, practice empathy, and build your classroom community. Students are asked to silently pass a cup full of water without spilling. The first round tends to build confidence, but as you play you can increase the challenge. The second time you play try doing it with eyes closed. 
 
Watch here to learn more about this game.
The Slow Race
The slow race is game where you and your students see who can walk the SLOWEST across a room. You can make it fun by being silly and enjoying the competition of who can be slowest. This is a great game to use when kids need to calm themselves down or when they’re overwhelmed and distracted. The slow race can help them feel more centered and grounded. It will help them slow down.The key is to keep it simple, lighthearted, and fun.
The slow race should last no more than 3 minutes.
Gravity Glue
Explore the work of the artist Michael Grab. Have students watch as he creates amazing sculptures out of rocks. As he builds the sculptures you and your students can notice how focused and calm he is as he works. You might ask how frustration would affect his work.

 

Watch here

Be Kind

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”  Wendy Mass
Someone cuts you off in traffic on your way to work.  An employee behind a desk becomes impatient and rude.  An argument escalates with a coworker.  We’ve all been there.  We have all had those situations that make us irritable.  What do we do next?
Our minds become entangled in negativity when we start obsessing about poor behavior directed towards us in a given situation.  We judge and convict based on our limited knowledge of the scene we encounter.  At times we adopt someone else’s perspective as our own or criticize our fellow man.  Then what happens?  We react, verbalize our opinions and magnify unfavorable outcomes for those who are already hurting.
The truth is we are all trying to find our way through this world.  Our paths and experiences might be different, but we have all stood in the midst of adversity wondering how to move forward.  We have all acted responding to emotions and events intensifying into uncharacteristic behavior.  Every single person wishes they could have a “do over” for at least one specific conversation or event in their lives.   This is all repressed when we are consumed by our own worlds.  We forget that everyone else has their own world, too.
Mindfulness helps retrain the brain to create pathways for self-compassion and empathy for others.  Reflection on daily situations that cause disappointment, anger or fear can help shift perspective, perhaps even allowing us to see from another’s point of view.  Regular practice of embracing understanding can make space for forgiveness, allow healing, and even serve as a catalyst for growth.  After all, the meaningful question is never “What mistakes did I/they make?” but is instead “What did WE learn from it?”
We are all human; we all make mistakes.  Remembering this and acting with kindness may remove some of the bitterness and sting for those who need it most.

The Silent Breakfast Club

A good friend has recently become an empty nester and is trying to eat all her meals in silence. No TV. No music. No books. (Not even spiritual books or magazines.) And she’s been really enjoying the practice. So she invited me to become a member of the “Silent Breakfast Club.” So far we are the only members, but the concept is to sit in our respective homes, at whatever time we deem to be appropriate and mindfully consume our breakfast. She speaks eloquently about employing all her senses; the heat of the ceramic mug of tea in her hands, the smell of the strawberries, or toast, the beautiful spring morning light.
I was hooked before she finished the description. Day 1 of my journey in the Silent Breakfast Club was not a failure, but hardly the miracle of mindfulness promoted. My actual response was:  “Well I’m going to have to do a few things like clean my windows, dust and get a clock for the kitchen that isn’t so damn loud.”  But I persevered the next day, moving to a different room that was possibly less dirty. The window facing the sun was smudged, but right outside a pair of birds was building a nest. It has been amazing to watch the construction. So I’m starting to feel like the silent breakfast, and mindful eating is good for me, and I’m getting good at it.
Blue the pony having lunch

 

At this time of year, when the grass is growing, but the paddock is mud, I tether our pony to the clothesline and let him enjoy the buffet that is our back lawn. So yesterday we lunched together, me with a salad, and him with the grass. I decided to extend my silent breakfast to lunch and while quietly eating my mind rambled: “That pony has barely come up for air. Look at him, his head is glued to the ground eating the grass as fast as he can.” Then I looked down and my plate was empty. I ate my entire lunch without tasting a bite while silently scolding a pony. Hunh. It’s my ego at work- thinking I’m getting “good” at mindful eating.
I love it when the universe whacks me with the realization that I am a messy mortal, a mindful novice, and I should stop judging and continue practicing.

You Have A Superpower

mindfulness superpower

The Mindful MBA

When I started my MBA program at W.P. Carey, I didn’t have a full appreciation for the onslaught of fear, uncertainty and insecurity I would experience. The constant grind of prioritizing (read: adulting) and re-prioritizing (read: frantic, absurd amounts of list making) is truly indescribable.

But I was prepared… because I have a super power.

I started practicing mindfulness in 2013, and since then, my practice has experienced so many different phases. I’ve read books upon books and journals until my eyes were bleary. Podcasts, apps and technology galore. Lots of Oprah and lots of Chopra. Headspace, Insight Timer, you name it. (Nothing works better for classes than Inner Explorer).

In my program, mindfulness helps me to stay focused and shows me the light and silver linings I would otherwise miss. If you’re a planner, you probably know what I mean when I say we planners can worry, anticipate, over-analyze and hyperventilate with the best of ’em.

Mindfulness gives us (especially the planners) space. It gives us room to breath. It shows us that extra 4.5 minutes we were looking for sandwiched between meetings. It allows you to be comfortable asking yourself, “Do I really need to rush on this?” It also makes you more effective in the times when the answer to that question is “Yes.”

BYOS (Build Your Own Superpower)

Whenever I realize I’ve dropped off from my usual mindfulness regime, I try to come up with ways to build it back in like my own personal little Hoover dam. Hopefully these tips will help you build your own dam:

1. Tiny habits. Use a tiny habit to remind you when you need to practice.
2. Visualize. Set your phone screen saver or lap top or something you see every day to a quote or picture that reminds you to practice.
3. EVERY. DAY. Just do it. Just sit and breath.
4. Forgive yourself. Have compassion when you miss a day. Mindfulness is a lifestyle change, just like working out or flossing your teeth. You have to love yourself enough to do it, and you have to love yourself when you forget.
5. It’s not the length that matters. Trust me. Even if it’s only 16 seconds. Sometimes, it’s the intention that is the most important piece.