Beth Maloney on episode 160 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast
From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis
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Teacher Beth Maloney helps students set goals for behavior and other techniques that improve Social Emotional Learning and student success. Learn 5 tips for integrating mindfulness into your classroom.
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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. All comments in the shaded green box are my own. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.
5 Ways to Integrate Mindfulness in the Classroom
Vicki: So today we’re at NNSTOY, the National Network for State Teachers of the Year. You can check out their website at nnstoy.org, and we have Beth Maloney @DaringToTeach with us who was the Arizona 2014 Teacher of the Year.
Now Beth, one thing that’s important to you in your fifth grade classroom is mindfulness. And today you’re going to give us five ways to incorporate mindfulness into the classroom. So, what’s your first way?
#1 Teach Children Metacognitive Techniques
Beth: Well my first way is to teach children the power of their brains through metacognition, which of course is teaching children to think about how they’re thinking actually works. So the way I do that is to demonstrate that often in my classroom. When I’m doing a re-aloud I might tell my kids what my brain is thinking while I am reading something out loud to them, kind of demonstrating my flow of metacognition so that they can start to tune into their own brains.
I think that links to mindfulness because I feel like a lot of times our kids come in. We don’t know always what their home situations are like. We don’t know if they’ve just had a stressful situation with a sibling on the way to school. I found that there were barriers getting in the way of teaching academic content. Really using these mindful techniques kind of helps me break those barriers with the kids.
Metacognition is really the first strategy to do, to help them learn about how their own brain works, how their own thoughts flow and paying attention to those thoughts. That’s really the first step in teaching kids how to be more mindful in the classroom and in life in general.
Vicki: And it brings such power to the classroom, because if we say, “OK everybody,” and you step back and you say, “I’m thinking this. I’m seeing your body language, and I’m thinking this.” Then they’ll start doing it too, and it just kind of makes the conversation different, doesn’t it?”
Beth: It really does, and I think especially any middle school or high school teachers – we know that their brains are different when they’re in that stage of life. Their amygdalas are huge, they’re so regulated by their emotions at that point and time in their lives that I think it really behooves us as teachers to help them reflect on what that means to them and understand that this is a part of life. But you can reflect on your own thinking, reflect and be mindful of yourself and your thinking, and that’s a powerful tool to give to kids.
#2 Use Movement in the Classroom
Vicki: Fantastic. What’s our second?
Beth: The second tip is really bringing movement into the classroom. I’m a big believer in not a lot of sitting. We sit for more than ten minutes, and we start to have muscles — you know, our melatonin is pooling in our calves, wanting us to go to sleep.
So I’m a big believer in stretching breaks, deep breathing breaks, and yoga breaks. Some teachers might hear yoga and say, “OK, that is not for me.”
But something that any teacher can do is just have your kids sit in their chairs or on the floor, feet flat, backs against the chairs, and just have them put their hands on their bellies. Have them blow up their lungs like a balloon, and then let it collapse back in.
And just like even three deep breaths in and out will bring such a change to the climate of your classroom. It’s really an underutilized tool. My kids started to ask for, and you know it’s working when they ask for it in the classroom. I started with the deep belly breaths. We moved on to, you know, tree pose – something very easy, very light yoga, I call it.
But that really kind of stretching, breathing, small movements together really sets such a different tone for your classroom.
Vicki: And for teachers that have classes that change, I watch and see if the body language of my kids is stressed out. They call it – you know, I don’t call it yoga – they’ll say, “I want to do that breathing thing. I’m stressed out.” You know, and that’s great.
#3 Teach Children How to Be Mindful using Stop, Think and Breathe App
OK, what’s our third?
Beth: The third tip is… I instituted Mindful Mondays, starting last year. I use an app called “Stop, Think, and Breathe” which is a meditation app, but I really refer to it as just mindfulness. It asks the kids to stop what they’re doing, sit quietly, and it guides them through. I let the kids choose whichever one they feel like doing that day.
There are some for feeling joyful. There are some for feeling sad. They’re each kind of individual, and it’s a great free app. My kids started using it on their own devices and anecdotally informed me that it helped them go to sleep at night. It’s helped them be more mindful in their home life. They’ve shared it with their parents. And it’s free, and it’s also on the web too, so it’s very powerful tool.
#4 Teach Children to Make Goals for their Bodies and Minds
Vicki: Fantastic. OK, what’s our fourth?
Beth: Number four I would say is utilizing goal at least one of our goals in our classroom setting in your classroom. A lot of us use goal setting for academic goals, even for some social goals and things like that. I like to use at least one of our goals for how our kids are doing, mindfully. How are they doing on setting a tone for their bodies and their minds?
So that would be something that I’ll ask my kids to do at the beginning of the year. How do you connect your mind and your body? My kids will really reflect on that. By the end of the year, they hopefully have some real positive movements going forward as far as how their brains and bodies are connected.
Vicki: So what would be an example of a goal?
Beth: That’s a great question. I think one thing that I often see with my particular population of students is that they get really stressed out. This is not really what you would expect from ten and eleven-year-olds. But they do, they do get stressed out in their academic life, in their home life, in their social life.
So one particular goal might be not stressing out, not losing their temper with a sibling or parent or teacher. And I always like that one because you can see real growth come from that goal. And it could start out as, “I don’t want to lose my temper and get stressed out – for one solid day.” And then we’ll stretch that goal, you know, and then it’s “For a week I won’t get stressed and lose my temper.” And by the end of the year, we’ll see real growth with that and I really attribute mindfulness to that.
Vicki: That is such a great idea! I’m sitting here thinking, “We teach kids how to get pumped up. We teach them how to get revved up. We teach them how to get excited.” And we do all this stuff to get them up, up, up, up up – And when do we say…? (Deep breath.) “Here’s how you calm down.”
Beth: I used this with my own personal child, so I know that it works in the home life. (Laughs)
#5 Teach Children to Reflect
Vicki: (laughs) What’s our fifth?
Beth: Fifth I would say is teaching kids to reflect, to take time – quiet time is beneficial for all of us – but take time to reflect on where they are. How are they feeling internally, because we know that it often manifests externally in their relationship with others and in their relationship with their teachers.
So simply taking the time to sit quietly and reflect on, “How have I been doing on my goals? Am I succeeding in my goals? Do I need to walk my goals back a little bit?” But simply taking the time to reflect with kids and really teaching them what that looks like.
As a teacher, I had to learn how to reflect on my teaching, how to reflect on my mindfulness. I think there’s a lot of benefit in teaching students how to be reflective in their life.
Vicki: So quickly as we end, what are the benefits that teachers can expect when you integrate mindfulness into your classroom?
Beth: You know, anecdotally, I would tell you that the classroom climate is markedly different after I teach them these techniques. We’re much more peaceful. Our conversations can go deeper because they feel safer in our environment. I feel like we achieve our goals that much faster as a class because we’ve built this layer of trust in that we’re all achieving mindfulness. Not only them but me as well. That’s important.
Vicki: So teachers, you have five ways to incorporate mindfulness from Beth Maloney. These are some fantastic ideas. I’m really thinking about helping my students set goals that are different. Not just amp up goals, but settle down goals. It just makes so much sense, and I don’t know why I haven’t seen it before, but that’s what happens when we learn and build our PLN. Now Beth’s in mine, and she’s just an exciting person. I hope you’ll check the Show Notes and follow her in all of her spaces.
Get out there and take some time to be mindful today.
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford
Bio as submitted
I am Beth Maloney, the 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year. I currently teach 5th grade in Surprise, Arizona. I am a National Board Certified Teacher and a candidate support provider. I am the proud president and one of the “Founding Mothers” of the Arizona National Board Certified Teacher Network. I am a member of the Teacher Solutions Team, a Lead Teacher Champions Fellow, and a doctoral student. I also blog for Stories from School. I have enjoyed classroom teaching for 18 years and have previously taught kindergarten and third grade.
I have a loving husband and beautiful daughter, along with a menagerie of animals at our home in sunny Surprise.
I am available for informational and uplifting speeches, breakout sessions at conferences, and panel discussions for teachers, schools, school districts, business/community groups and more.
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