It has been almost three months since my Teen Leadership course ended where I introduced my students to a few mindfulness practices. I had been wondering if the learning had really “stuck” or if in their very busy lives my students had forgotten their experience.
As an instructional coach I visit classrooms weekly and a couple of weeks ago I was in a colleague’s room where her students were working on individual projects. As I walked around and visited with students, one of them who also had taken my Teen Leadership class talked about her frustration with a computer program she was trying to use that kept messing up. She spoke of how she just wanted to throw the computer, but then she went to the anchor breathing technique from Teen Leadership and described how she used it to regain control of her emotions.
Needless to say I was excited to hear that she was using mindfulness techniques and they were helping her. But then another student in the room said, “Yeah, I use the deep breathing you taught us most nights to be able to go to sleep.” This got me thinking, “Is this an isolated incident or is the mindfulness experience so positive that students are choosing to implement the practices into their lives?” I decided to send an email out to my former students and the response was encouraging. After three months this is what a few of them had to say:
“The anchored breathing and deep relaxation have helped me when I’m stressed about homework and when I have to talk in front of a large group of people.”
“Deep breathing helped when I wanted to yell at my siblings because they really frustrate me and when I want to talk back to my mom. I just take a deep breath and then I don’t.”
“I use the gratitude reflection. Although I don’t do this every day, at least twice a week I journal and write down some of the things that I am grateful for. It reminds me of all of the good in my life that I am thankful for and even the bad that I am thankful for as well.”
“I used to get anywhere from 12 hours of sleep on the weekends to 2 hours of sleep minimum on a school night. Currently, I’ve been able to sleep roughly 8 hours a night (using the deep relaxation technique), which has noticeably increased my health.”
One of the reasons teaching isn’t an easy job is that the hard work we put into what we do often does not bear fruit until long after the students have left our classrooms. This is not so with mindfulness. My experience has shown me how quickly we can have an impact. I attended a national conference two weeks ago and one of the sessions I went to was led by Tim Elmore. He is an author and international speaker on Generation Z (those born 2001 or later). He gave us a crash course on this generation and included the fact that Generation Z faces unprecedented mental health issues. His presentation was very good and made me think, how can we not feel obligated to equip them with healthy strategies to deal with stress and help them to be more gentle with themselves?
I’ve decided to end each blog with a challenge to my readers. This week’s challenge: as you interact with students (or others) over the next week, what behaviors do you notice that tell you they are undergoing a lot of stress? If you asked your students how much stress they experience in a day or how often they’re stressed during a week, what would they say? Their answers might shock you. And they also might prompt you to make a difference where you can.