Mindful Moments

I have historically seen a rise in behavioral issues and lack of motivation in my own classroom around this time of year.  My students have been dealing with the usual academic pressures, as well as unease in their lives outside of school.  Negativity and defeatism can spread like wildfire, and it is important to be proactive and consistent in keeping our students and schools positive and motivated.

I introduced something called “Mindful Moments” with my classes.  Essentially, the process goes something like this:

  1. Sit with your feet flat on the floor, and back straight.  Hands can be in your lap or on the table, clasped or unclasped, but they should be empty.  
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Think about your day so far, or how you would like your day to look.  Set a positive intention for the day, or decide on a positive goal you would like to accomplish.  Your goal could be something personal, small, large, or something that could affect our greater community.  
  4. When you are ready, open your eyes.

Mindful Moments take about 30 seconds to 1 minute out of your instructional time.  They help build upon students’ social-emotional education by having them set goals, take much-needed brain breaks, and have a time to reset their ways of thinking into more positive outlooks.  They can be done anytime; usually I do them at the start of each class, but I have also introduced the process as something to do whenever you are feeling stressed or anxious, or whenever you need a mental break.  

Mindful Moments don’t have to stop in your classroom – they work for teachers just as well!

How do you introduce mindfulness in your classroom?  How do you support your students’ social and emotional needs?

How Your Hallways Can Educate

As an art educator, part of my responsibilities is to display a continuously rotating exhibition of student artwork.  It takes a lot of time to make everything look nice, fit well within the bulletin board space, and really showcase each student’s hard work.  And yes, it is disheartening when many people don’t stop and take a look.

That’s why I like to create interactive displays.  They may take a little more time to put together, but the benefits reaped are worth it.

Interactive displays engage the viewer to actively participate.  The displays may include anything from “please touch” sections, QR codes to scan with your smart phone, flip-able questions and answers, and even spaces to write responses and encouragement.  Each interactive display is able to educate other students, teachers, parents, and the community about the topics or skills that students have learned in your classroom.  As a result, (and because they are just so darn fun!), more visitors tend to stop, look at, and play around with your displays, and people become excited to see what you’ll do for the next one!

Interactive displays are not just limited to student art displays.  Showcasing a math project?  Put a few of the equations up for viewers to solve.  Student reports on ancient civilizations going up on the cork strip?  Have students create a visual mural for the wall setting the scene, complete with QR codes that link to more information about the culture.  A world language class studying restaurant vocabulary could have a mini cafe set up with labels on items in French or Spanish!

What are some interactive displays that have been created at your school?  What feedback have you gotten about interactive displays?



The Power of Peer Observation

Sometimes the best way teachers can learn and improve is by observing each other.  So why aren’t we doing it more often?

When someone enters a classroom for an observation, even the most veteran teachers can get nervous.  No one wants to feel scrutinized or appear less than at our best, especially in front of our colleagues.  To ameliorate this reluctance towards peer observation, the first step is to make the practice commonplace.  We must foster a community of open-doors and low-risk observation to truly create a positive and productive learning experience for both observer and observee.  (The bonus of this practice is that it makes those higher-stakes evaluative observations seem a little less nerve-wracking too!)

To begin this transformation, try recruiting a few teachers who are willing to invite others into their classroom hold “open houses” where other teachers can come and observe.  Hold professional development sessions to create observation protocols so that teachers know what to expect, look for, and reflect upon throughout the observation process.  Teachers can take the first steps by asking trusted peers to observe specific lessons for certain objectives – classroom management, student engagement, learning group dynamics, etc.

Does your school foster peer observations?  What can you do to help create this within your school community?