Spring semester 2019 notes:

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  1. Classroom lesson about changing patterns & response.

We started with a mindfulness discussion about the freedom to pause before responding using Victor Frankl’s quote Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Then students visualized a situation in which there was a stimulus that led to an automatic reaction. Students rewound the scene to the moment right before the reaction and visualized their body sensations, facial expression, emotions and practiced seeing the situation as an observer. Students did an anchor breathing practice while they visualized how they might respond if there had paused beforehand.

The poem “Autobiography in Five Chapter by Portia Nelson” was read to students and they were asked to discuss with a partner the metaphor of the “hole in the sidewalk”.

Then, we did a ball-throwing activity to show how changing patterns can change the energy of a situation. The activity is called “group juggle“. The objective is to throw the ball to each student and then to remember the pattern afterward. We first used one ball and then tried to add a couple more. The second and third balls are juggled in the same way so that there are several patterns going on at the same time. Students in one middle school class couldn’t add the second pattern so we just did several patterns with one ball. The older class was able to do two simultaneous patterns successfully. When a third ball (pattern) was added it became too hard and the patterns fell apart (couldn’t remember who threw to whom).

We discussed what this felt like, why it was so hard to add another pattern, to remember the patterns, to focus, and what the metaphor of changing patterns is about. Students then wrote a timed journal writing about what today’s activities.

2. In a high school class, the topic of the lesson was mind wandering and distractions. A TedTalk video, How to Tame Your Wandering Mind” by Amishi Jha, was shown which explains how mindfulness practice can help us learn to focus under pressure and limit mind wandering. Then, two article were read by students on the topics of multi-tasking or task switching. (Kent State University and Stanford News) In these article, results of different studies indicated that our mind can only really focus on one task at at time and that multi-tasking actually impairs our mind’s memory. Students discussed the articles together and then wrote a journal writing reflecting on the topics.

3. From Heart of Teaching Mindfulness workshop in May at Mountain Cloud Zen Center: group cluster activity where we wander or amble around silently in mindful walking. Someone stops and another person stops next to the first person. Pretty soon several people stop and organically, silently form either a circle, lines or clump. Then, someone decides to start walking again and others follow until the next person decides to stop and so forth. This is a really interesting activity because of the group communicating in silence. Apparently it can be used with youth and I’m excited to try in my classrooms.

4. Also from the May workshop, a triad conversation to practice active listening and observing. Instead of the traditional diad conversation, the triad style is where one person speaks for up to 5 minutes while the 2nd person listens silently and the 3rd person observes the speaker and listener. Next step is the active listener comments on what he/she heard the speaker explain (5 minutes) and the final step is the observer comments on what was observed of the other 2 people (3 minutes). The addition of the “observer” is an interesting twist because there is the opportunity for the speaker and listener to get feedback on what the observer noticed or experienced.

5. During this semester, I found myself more strict about closing eyes. I really wanted students to try it and I felt that if I focused on it, encouraging them to try it for part of the practice, that they would realize it is safe. Next year I will mention it but I won’t force it. This semester was also challenging in that I got 3 new students mid-year and they did not have the prior practice in mindfulness that the rest of the class had and they disrupted the flow of things. I also found myself getting upset and aggitated by these new students. Next year I will model using mindfulness at random times when I sense my heightened mood so that students will see in “in action.”

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