It’s the start of the school year. Hey, no smell of new textbooks, no bulletin boards to decorate, no lockers to assign, no bells and the patter of hundreds of pairs of shoes clattering down the hallways. This year is quiet. Buildings at rest. Teachers and students at home, each in our own little spaces, connecting via . . . what seems like magic . . . our bodies and voices broadcast as little bits of numeric data, miraculously appearing on the screen in front of us. How do we humanize this experience? How do we create a sense of togetherness and community? How do we energize tired bodies and tired minds? Join Amy Edelstein for an exploration of - S.P.A.C.E. - 5 practices you can work with to create a more conscious classroom. Put these in your toolbox to help set up the most welcoming virtual atmosphere and to use as touchstones throughout the year.
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S.P.A.C.E. - 5 Practices to Start the School Year Mindfully
with Amy Edelstein
[00:00:00] Hello. Welcome to the Conscious Classroom podcast. This is our first podcast for this school year. My name is Amy Edelstein and we are going to talk about some very practical skills and tools for starting school digitally. We're on audio now, and you're probably working in a video classroom . . . challenging. I know. So let's take a moment. Pull our chairs closer in a metaphorical sense and lean in so we can work together to help figure out how to create community and build shared agreements to break the ice and to lighten up the atmosphere as we begin school in a virtual environment.
[00:01:01] In working with teachers all week, I asked them what's on their mind. Most of the teachers who I spoke with said, how am I going to connect with my students digitally? How am I going to be able to manage all of the expectations of digital coursework and digital lesson plans? And how am I going to debrief when I can't run into the break room and see my colleagues from down the hall and just share what worked or share what didn't work and just get a little pick me up during the day? If those things are on your mind, you're not alone. Over the course of this year, I am going to share as many tools as possible to create not just the best possible environment we can create with the limitations we have, but something extraordinary, something unexpected, something that taps into our creativity and our shared human desire for connection, for being together, for supporting each other.
[00:02:19] Let's start with a short gratitude practice. You can start your school year this way with your students. You can start your school days this way with yourself as you sit down in front of your computer and get ready to log on.
[00:02:40] Take your seat. Notice your weight on the chair. Notice where your hands are touching or if your hands are clasped together.
[00:02:50] Can you feel the warmth of finger on finger? Are they resting on your thighs? Can you feel the smoothness of your clothes underneath your palms?
[00:03:05] Are your hands on a chair or your desk? Is the surface hard or cool?
[00:03:16] Notice your weight on the chair. How gravity is pulling you down.
[00:03:26] Notice your spine reaching up tall.
[00:03:32] Take a deep inhalation, nourishing your body with oxygen, allowing your mind to settle. And take a deep exhalation pouring the air out from the top of your lungs all the way down to the wide base of your lungs. Take another deep inhalation in. And another deep exhalation out. Now, think of three small things that you appreciated today. Just today. Something you appreciated when you woke up. Whether you are in a good mood or not, whether you are nervous about class or not as you woke up. Aside from any other feelings. Notice one thing that you appreciate about the people you live with, about your home.
[00:04:59] About the space around here.
[00:05:12] Bring to mind everything in your day before this moment. And find two other things in your day that you appreciate.
[00:05:28] Notice if just searching for those things brings a little smile to your face.
[00:05:39] Take another deep breath in. As if you could drink in the appreciation and exhale out.
[00:05:54] Merging that gratitude with the oxygen in the air around you. Another deep breath in.
[00:06:08] Taking in that sense of gratitude, that appreciation. Those little bits of joy. And exhaling that appreciation, gratitude and joy out. Just filling the little environment just around you with that sense.
[00:06:34] Thanks and well being.
[00:06:42] And you can bring your attention back.
[00:06:49] Notice how just a very short little practice like that shifts your attention from bigger problems that you may have.
[00:07:00] To the little opportunities for gratitude that always exist in our day.
[00:07:06] If we look for them and if we don't insist that they have to be the biggest part of our experience, we just have to notice that they're there.
[00:07:18] Welcome them and appreciate them.
[00:07:27] Now for the rest of this session, I want to talk about a way of organizing your thoughts and your shared agreements using the acronym space. These are orienting principles for yourself and for your students, these are actions that you can use. There are also attitudes that you can have your students discuss. I found that this acronym works really well. It's easy to remember. And it really connects with our mindfulness practice of creating space, creating objectivity, creating room to see the positive that we may have overlooked.
[00:08:18] So s stands for setting this space.
[00:08:24] So what does that mean to set the space? So it means that we are intentionally creating the environment around us.
[00:08:34] You do that in your physical classroom with the colors, with the pictures you put on the wall, with the reminders, with the inspirational posters, you're always setting this space in a physical classroom. Doing that in a virtual classroom takes a little bit more effort. You can still do it with your wallpaper or your background or some slides that you show.
[00:09:01] You can also do it in your attitude, welcoming the students to class, even though it's virtual. Welcome to class. Good to see you. I hope you had a good morning. I'm glad you're here. Setting this space with ease. If students are looking a little bit confused, distracted, overwhelmed, say, "allow yourself to arrive just like we're in school and you stumble down the hall and you grab books from your locker and take a moment to settle. Take a moment to settle now that we're here".
[00:09:43] We're all together. And we're all focused on the same thing. You can see have your students use their senses to orient themselves, setting the space, even though we're all in different physical locations, we can all use our five senses. Ask your students, what are the sounds they hear in the room? Let's do it now together. Notice the sounds in your physical space. Not just my voice, but the other sounds, the residual sounds, the ambient sounds, the louder sounds of the building, the room, the house, the outside.
[00:10:36] Now, notice the smells. Every environment has its own smell, even if that smell is really feels like a temperature, it's cool, it's clean or it's stuffy and musty.
[00:10:53] What's the smell in your environment?
[00:10:58] What's the temperature and the texture?
[00:11:07] And now notice one object whose shape you find pleasing or whose color you find pleasing to scan around your room. Notice that object that captures your eye.
[00:11:28] Now, bring your attention back.
[00:11:33] Doing a short space setting exercise allows students to feel grounded and centered, even though they're in separate environments. It allows them to all do an activity where they're using their senses, using the same senses you can share together.
[00:11:57] You can put students in groups to share what they noticed, or you can simply move on, allowing that setting the space to be the orienting touchstone for the start of a lesson.
[00:12:15] The second principle for setting space for our space classroom orienting principles is participating with curiosity. So we want to be aware of our surroundings. We want to be anchored in our surroundings. And then we want to participate together and with each other, with curiosity, asking the students, what did you notice about your experience?
[00:12:49] What was unexpected? How do you feel afterwards? Are you less distracted?
[00:12:58] Are you curious about what your classmates experienced?
[00:13:03] Do you want to share what you observed or felt or discovered?
[00:13:11] The attitude of participation with curiosity asks the students to be engaged with their experience.
[00:13:20] You can have all of them chat - it's easier virtually than in a classroom, they can all type in at the same time one interesting thing they noticed about that little exercise. So you're setting the tone. You're creating the environment for curiosity and for learning, not for passive listening and consuming. Our job as educators is to inspire and ignite curiosity and with the digital medium. We want to encourage that even more than we might in a in a physical classroom.
[00:14:04] Knowing that watching a screen can lead to passivity so you want to invite all your students to chat one interesting thing they noticed about their experience, one smell they noticed when sound they noticed.
[00:14:22] Now, the third principal of this space classroom orientation principal is being aware and accepting. We're actively paying attention to our experience. You're inviting the students to pay attention to their experience. Some of their experience might not be that pleasant.
[00:14:47] It's a time of a lot of unrest, a lot of insecurity, unsure, students are unsure of how to navigate, how to move forward.
[00:15:01] And you want to encourage them to be aware and awake to their experience.
[00:15:06] As teachers, we want to be aware and awake to our experience and we want to be accepting of it. We have to accept reality as it is, however unpleasant or unnerving it might be. We have to be able to embrace reality as it is, because that's the solid ground that we can move from.
[00:15:35] How do we get our students to accept a reality that's challenging? Well, one way is to use somatic skills to use some touch.
[00:15:48] Let's do some cross body tapping.
[00:15:51] This is a very easy, simple and malleable tool that you can use that really helps students integrate uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings so that they can feel at home and centered in their body.
[00:16:11] Take your right hand and tap your left shoulder. Take your left hand. Tap your right shoulder. Just go back and forth. Please do this with me so you experience it.
[00:16:25] Right hand to left shoulder of left hand to right shoulder, just tapping back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
[00:16:38] Now take your right hand to your left knee. Left hand to right knee. Back and forth and back and forth.
[00:16:49] With your students, you can do this for a good minute. Crossing the body and tapping.
[00:17:01] You can tap to your elbows, right hand to left elbow.
[00:17:07] You can tap, tap your knees, tap to your feet.
[00:17:13] Tap across your back.
[00:17:16] Gentle, swaying, cross, body touching.
[00:17:22] You'll help the students calm center and integrate without needing to do any explanation, just a gentle movement. That kind of movement also really helps activate and stimulate the brain, encourage awakeness in your students. We all get tired when we're on endless video calls and they do, too. Integrating a little bit of movement like that, helps students to be aware. Helps students to integrate and accept.
[00:18:12] The next part of space has to do with creating community. What are some ways that we can create community when we're in this virtual environment? Well, there are fun things that you can do that invite students to participate and to connect with each other.
[00:18:41] If you ask your students to have always have some water handy so they can drink water and keep themselves hydrated, not forget about their bodies. So if that's customary in your classroom, you can have them take a sip of water and pass their water bottle to and then they call out a student and then that student lifts their water bottle, takes a sip and passes it to another student.
[00:19:09] And that way you can travel around the screen where each student calls on another student. And it is something simple and everyone feels surprisingly close and connected. If you don't have a water bottle, you can use up a pen, pass your pen and invite the students to pass one to the next to the next until each student has been called on. Now, it usually happens about halfway through as everyone forgets who's been called on and who hasn't. So you can ask the students, anyone who hasn't received the water bottle yet, to type their name in the chat. And then the next student up can call on them. These are little simple tools, but they really work. Creating community in a virtual world is something we all have to learn together.
[00:20:19] The final element of SPACE is examining your discoveries. And this is something that you're, as a teacher, always getting your students to do.
[00:20:31] Inviting them to engage with whatever subject matter it is, whether it's literature, history, mathematics or science. What have they discovered?
[00:20:46] So with social emotional learning and a focus on mindful awareness, you invite your students to examine not just the subject matter that they learn that they're learning, but the quality of their experience.
[00:21:07] So examine when you first came to class. What was your experience in the middle of class? Did your experience change at the end of class? How did you feel?
[00:21:21] Do you need to get up and shake your body? Do you need to do a five minute dance it out in place? Do you need a drink of water?
[00:21:33] Do you need to stretch your eyes? What do you notice about your experience?
[00:21:41] Did you get to discuss something or chat with a student that you had never met before?
[00:21:52] What did you learn about yourself?
[00:21:58] Invite them to have a very small self reflection journal so that it's their own discovery notebook about their own insides. It's not just the place where they take notes in your classroom, but it's where they are able to record and start developing that sense of of being a scientist of their experience, looking for discoveries, looking for newness, looking for gratitude.
[00:22:31] You can give them a sentence stem to complete: Today I discovered I was grateful for __________ and have them finish the sentence stem.
[00:22:49] S.P.A.C.E. It's a helpful acronym, Set the space. Participate with curiosity. Be aware and accepting. Create community and Examine your discoveries.
[00:23:11] Let's do a short closing mindfulness practice.
[00:23:19] Allowing yourself to sit tall, your spine tall, head balancing at the top of your neck.
[00:23:39] Feel your own weight as the wealth and richness of your life's experience.
[00:23:52] Feel a treasure chest of inner understandings, insights and care.
[00:24:12] Bring to mind all of your students in your class.
[00:24:18] The ones you find an easy rapport with, the ones you know you'll have to work harder to connect with over the year.
[00:24:35] Take a deep breath in and exhale.
[00:24:45] Keeping all your students in mind. Appreciating what it's like to come together in class.
[00:25:17] And extend these wishes to all your students as a whole.
[00:25:27] May each of us find something to be grateful for each day.
[00:25:39] May each of us love learning and find your own talents this year.
[00:25:56] May you each feel safe and welcome in my class. And may you realize that you are respected and valued and cared for.
[00:26:29] Send them all that wish.
[00:26:46] And now bring yourself to mind. And with the same affection and care and desire to uplift and support send yourself this wish:
[00:27:09] May I be at ease with the challenges.
[00:27:21] May I recognize the small things I'm grateful for.
[00:27:34] May I experience how much my students trust and care.
[00:27:55] And may I always be surrounded by love and kindness.
[00:28:11] Send yourself these wishes.
[00:28:22] Wishes for your own well-being.
[00:28:36] Allow affection and appreciation to fill you with lightness, energy and ease.
[00:29:01] And as we bring this meditation to a close. Know that I'm here to support you through this school year.
[00:29:12] Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast series. I'm going to be broadcasting as frequently as I can with very specific tools and practices to help all of us be the best educators we can possibly be and to bring as much joy into the world and into our own lives as we possibly can be.
[00:29:38] Be well. Take care. And I look forward to talking with you next time.