Simple Tools to Help Teachers and Students Find Their Calm
The pandemic has been challenging for all of us, and even as we remain creative and resilient and dedicated, these uncertain times can make us - and our students - feel mentally and physically worn out.
Learning to practice self-care as a habit can help improve coping skills and mental health.
Here are a few techniques to try as we settle into another atypical school year.
Practice being present
Mindfulness is a catch word these days, and with good reason. It’s a way of being in the world, the ability to pay attention to the present moment, the here and now. There’s a growing body of research pointing to the effectiveness of mindful practices on our ability— both adults and children—to pay better attention, make thoughtful decisions and calm ourselves down. Our ability to be in the moment requires opportunities to pause and slow down together and individually.
“Judaism at its core is about being intentional and fully present in each moment, and as such, mindfulness is a powerful technique to promote increased emotional understanding and an inclination to act in a kind way," according to the Let’s Discover Kindness Teacher’s Edition.
Try these simple and short mindfulness activities with students in preschool through middle grade, developed by Katie Rein, an educator at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue School who has worked intensively with children from preschool through teens around the world.
- One Minute Mindfulness - A simple and effective activity to ease tension and reset, in one minute. And the only materials you need are your hands! Download the activity here.
- Senses Scan - Use your five senses to refocus and take a pause to reset. Download the activity here.
- Guided Prayer Words - A breathing activity while focusing on posture. Download the activity here.
Or practice with children the techniques in these short videos by Nancy Siegel, an educational consultant specializing in mindfulness education for both adults and children.
For children to stop and feel their beating heart is an offering of gratitude. Teaching them this from a young age is a powerful gift that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
Layers of Sound
This listening game piques kids' curiosity. It also helps them become more aware of the sounds they hear around them, encouraging them to be more present, calm, and relaxed.
Unwrap your own personal gifts
There’s no time like the present to dedicate your time, energy, and resources to improving what you’re already good at. In her book, Oy Vey! Isn't a Strategy: 25 Solutions for Personal and Professional Success, author Deborah Grayson Riegel suggests that each of us “came into this world with a rainbow of natural colors that we once honored and delighted in before we were saddled with the responsibilities of adulthood. … Many of us don’t give ourselves the gift of time or attention to see who we are when we are at our best, using the strengths we were born with—or that we’ve developed over time.
Click here for an action planner from Oy Vey! Isn't a Strategy to help you identify your natural gifts and begin to honor your true self.
Follow your curiosity
We spend so much time teaching others. But as Batsheva Frankel writes in The Jewish Educator’s Companion, “Find time to continue your own personal Jewish learning—an eternal and inspiring process. The more we stay connected to our passion, the more we have to give.”
Fill someone else’s bucket
Take a quiet moment to send a note of appreciation to a teacher or colleague thanking them for inspiring you or telling them what you admire about them. They’ll come back from break with a smile on their face.
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