One question we get often is along the lines of “will mindfulness really  work for my students?” While every student, classroom, and school is different, there is ample research showing the benefits of mindfulness on youth and adults alike.  Like any classroom intervention, there are ways to differentiate and make accommodations to meet the needs of different students. With this blog series, we’ll provide teachers with tips on making mindfulness an inclusive practice in your classroom. 

Provide students with mindfulness options. 
When bringing mindfulness into your classroom, explicitly tell students they can choose to participate or do something else (such as observing, putting their head down, or reading quietly). If they choose to participate, again offer them choice in closing their eyes or keeping them open. As a trauma-informed best practice, if they choose to close their eyes, let them know that you will keep your eyes open. Along these same lines, allow students to pick their own seats for mindfulness such as with their backs on a wall, laying down on the carpet, or staying at their desk. This is a trauma-informed mindfulness practice to give students power and choice when determining where they would like to sit for a moment. Some students with sensory processing disorders and some who have experienced trauma may not like to have their backs towards the door. 

Provide options and always, always remind students mindfulness is optional. 

Consider your students’ backgrounds and needs.
While this may seem obvious, make sure you have a sense of your students, their backgrounds, and their needs. Some classroom interventions might work great for some students, like dimming the lights when working with students with sensory processing disorders to reduce overstimulation. However, this same practice of dimming the lights may be a trigger for a student who has experienced childhood trauma. Mindfulness activities that ask students to hold their breath may help calm a student’s nervous system while others may create a sense of panic. Bottom line, know what helps and what triggers your students. 

Additionally, knowing what your students are interested in and enjoy will make your mindfulness activities more fun. A common breathing technique called Ocean Breath can help students focus and relieve stress. This same breath can be taught as a Darth Vader breath to students who enjoy Star Wars. Adding in fun connections to students’ interests will only increase participation and enthusiasm for the mindfulness you bring.

Create a mindfulness routine.
While offering choice, flexible seating, and accommodations is key, structure and routine and equally as critical in creating an inclusive classroom.  As a trauma-informed mindfulness approach, start with a set time during your day when students can expect to be doing and learning mindfulness. This can be a few moments in the morning during check-in or maybe after lunchtime when the classroom energy is high. As students get more comfortable with mindfulness in their schedule, add some breathing and calming activities throughout the day. Some personal favorite times are before and after transitions to specials!

Stay tuned for more tips on inclusive mindfulness. Have your own ideas and best practices to share? Email us at info@empoweringeducation.org for a chance to be featured in next month’s newsletter.