The Conscious Classroom

Choice: Helping Students Believe in Themselves

February 16, 2021 Episode 33
The Conscious Classroom
Choice: Helping Students Believe in Themselves
Show Notes Transcript

Giving students choice over many small activities and decisions in the classroom sets a tone of respect, appreciation, value, and collaboration. Any classroom has an inherent power dynamic. Teachers with good classroom presence command authority and provide wholesome structure. And, they also are able to facilitate an environment of choice and buy in that feels safe to students. When an environment is safe, stable, reliable -- and collaborative, students experience a sense of positive self-esteem. They learn to value their choices and their experience. Mindfulness activities are a perfect container in which to nurture these important qualities, by giving students choice. As always, we will a little practice together. Enjoy!

Support the show

The Conscious Classroom was honored by Feedspot in their Top 100 Classroom Podcasts! Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed the episode, please leave a review and share the love and insight with others.

Visit Inner Strength Education for more on the great work of the Conscious Classroom.

Want to train to teach mindfulness, compassion, and systems thinking to students? Study anytime virtually or join the next cohort. More information at The Conscious Classroom.

Read the award-winning, Amazon bestseller about this work The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System for Transforming the Teenage Mind.

Welcome to the conscious classroom podcast, where we're exploring tools and perspectives that support educators and anyone who works with teens to create more conscious, supportive, and enriching learning environments. I'm your host, Amy Edelstein, and I'll be sharing transformative insights and easy-to-implement classroom supports.

That is all drawn from mindful awareness and systems thinking the themes we'll discuss are designed to improve your joy and fulfilment in your work and increase your impact on the world we share. Let's get on with this next episode. Hello and

Welcome to the conscious C. My name is Amy Edelstein. Today, we're gonna talk about choice. We're gonna talk about the importance of empowering students with a choice of giving them more choices and of using the tools of mindful awareness to help them realize a degree of choice that they may not have even appreciated that they had before.

So let's start with the sense of. Agency autonomy, self-respect, and experiencing that sense of being respected by others. We all wanna feel respected and empowered. We all wanna feel like those we respect and care about, and those who are in a position, of authority, trust us to value.  and our feelings about things and being willing to listen and care about the choices that we make are very important for students, obviously, in the classroom, you know, the power dynamics are set.

The teacher is the authority. They give grades, they hold discipline, they start and end things and they have the information that they impart. How do we help students feel like the classroom is collaborative learning? Whereas teachers, maintain authority and discipline and structure, which provides safety.

It helps students be able to trust. If the teacher doesn't have enough authority, then students feel at sea. They don't feel that the environment is safe. So having that strong. A clear set of expectations and boundaries are set by the teachers. So very important, but for students to feel like their voice matters, we wanna create a collaborative learning environment.

We wanna create an environment where we're all investigating the process of discovery. We're all listening deeply to each other. We're all leaning in and. From creative ways to think, to experience and problem solve mindful awareness is a perfect tool to use, to empower that sense of, egalitarianism while maintaining authority, our inner experience is our own.

So when we close our eyes and allow ourselves to be still. Any one of us may experience a type of stillness that we can describe very differently than the person sitting next to us who experienced stillness. Do we feel it in our bodies? Do we feel it as a colour? Do we feel it as music? Do our thoughts, settle down, do our thoughts, turn to happier times what happens.

We can explore that together. And each student's contribution and choice of words and choice of imagery are valued. And simply because we happen to be the teachers of the classroom and the holding space in the meditation, doesn't change the importance of the student's own experience. So the choice of how we relate to our practice is important to inculcate in students.

They can choose their own words. If you find that your, your teaching various mindful awareness practices and the students seem to always repeat your own words in describing their experience, then there's not enough, range. Being encouraged. There's not enough range of experience and choice overexpression.

So if you seem to start hearing your own words, being parroted back to you and describing a feeling of being still or calm or happy or relaxed, start looking for nuance and challenge the students to choose words that they haven't used before challenging the students to find new. Ways to describe calm or peace or stillness using different senses.

How would you describe the feeling of calm using the sense door of smell? How would you describe the feeling of being loved using the sense of touch instead of the sense of feeling? Encourage that curiosity and that engagement and that sense of autonomy over their expression and interpretation, you're stimulating their imagination and you're also teaching them to value their process.

And for students to be able to experience a sense of choice over how they're describing their inner.  rather than trying to get it right. It is a sense of self-value self-esteem and self-respect that will serve them their entire lives.

Now specifically, of course, you can give your students a choice. What would you like to practice today? Would you like to do a thought bubble sound or love and kind? Oh, there are 32 students in the class. I need at least six to weigh in. I usually go for a good 20%. And if I don't get 20%, I will call on, on different students.

And I'll say, okay, we've got three breaths. We've got one thought bubble. Let's hear from a few more. Let's make sure that that is what everyone, the majority of students is choosing. Maybe we'll do it. The other one at the end of the day, maybe we'll do the other one tomorrow, but we make sure to communicate that students' choices are valued.

That they must express themselves. And we must be choosing to listen to more voices than the one or two that always speak up.

so choosing which meditation to practice, and choosing how to express themselves are very important aspects of, creating this sense of differentiation and value and autonomy.

The other way that we can give students choice is by choosing the order of how we do things. Would you like to hear the explanation first or would you like to dive straight into the practice and experience it and then discuss what it is? As a teacher, we may have our habits. We may like to explain first and demonstrate second, explain first and do the activity second.

Or we may like to give students an experiential immersion before we discuss how and why that particular mindfulness practice can.  so sometimes with love and kindness, it's just great to dive straight in. You can start the session that way and then explore. What, how do you think this could help? What do you think this is for?

Do you think this could even have an impact on your brain? What

would you be? Cur you know, what are you curious about?

Is there someone particular that came to mind that you weren't expecting?

Did you enjoy choosing who you were thinking about when you were sending wishes of love and kindness? Once you start putting attention.  on the ways that you can give students choice, the ways you can invite their words the ways you can invite their experience you'll start seeing options everywhere for it.

Now the beauty of mindfulness practice is that we're all following. Very simple, easy instructions.  we're all exploring our own experience, not the right experience, not the textbook experience, but our own experience.

Students need to learn how to even identify their own experiences. And often adults do too, to identify why they're feeling, what they're feeling or what, what the difference. Between a feeling of agitation today and a feeling of agitation yesterday,

what are the different practices that help create a sense of well-being? And isn't it interesting? One works one day and one doesn't work the next day

using freeform journal and self-reflection questions. Can be taught as part of mindfulness and then incorporated into your lesson plans. When students get to free form and write about their thoughts, they start to experience a sense of greater acceptance of themselves as they are. And that's also the power of choice and validation.

They're not conforming to the right answer. They're uncovering and discovering and expressing and articulating not for anyone else to see or to like not. So they gain social credibility and value, but simply for themselves. And while the internet has done incredible things to help. AR articulate and express ourselves and art forms are no longer for the few who have access to studios, but for anyone who has access to a smartphone, that's a beautiful thing, but what happens often, for young people's creativity, as they're looking for outside validation and affirmation, rather than.

Valuing their sense of choice and expression and creativity and discovery. All these things are so linked. Well, we can't separate them. One from another.

Another way to build in choice with the mindfulness discussions and the peer group discussions on the practices is to ask students how they wanna discuss. Do you wanna be in groups of three, four or five? Do you wanna have it. Does anyone start or do you wanna have the person who starts be the person whose name begins closest to the front of the alphabet?

Do you wanna choose a note-taker? Do you want me to assign one? All of those procedural process questions or decisions. That often gets made by the teacher simply because its expedient can be used to offer little moments of buy-in little moments of choice so that students feel like they're, co-creating the environment.

And when they're co-creating the environment, they're more apt to speak up and part.

and those little choices, whether you do groups of three, four, or five to a teacher, don't matter. But for a student, then they feel like their preferences have had a place. And when their preferences have how to place, they feel closer to the teacher, to each other and to the whole process of what you're learning.

In the digital age with, with so many classrooms, only meeting virtually this year, as all of my classrooms are only meeting virtually this year. It is hard to get buy-in. I use the chat function all the time and I will call on individuals by name and just say, okay, Chevon just put it in the chat. Okay.

Daniel. What do you think? Put it in the chat? I still only have three people. I need four, five more. Okay. Kylie, Brianna to mirror. Add you're, add your comments to the chat so we can get a sense of the whole. So always like pointing to where you're going, making it inviting to participate, not forcing them to.

have their voice down, but saying, you know, we need to see what the whole class feels like. Does everyone agree? Well, let's hear from three, four or five more people. Let's see. Maybe it's just the first two who felt calm. Maybe everyone else felt sleepy. Did you feel sleepy? I felt sleepy. What was that mindfulness practice like for you?

Keep building in. Possibilities to express possibilities, to articulate as a teacher, also as an educator, it's good for the students and it's good for the classroom. And also in these days where we just feel so burnt out, there are so many demands. Every time we go to do something, we have to set up five steps of a new online account or learn a new piece of software to rebuild the curricula that we've been teaching for years.

And it's just so much work in that sense that your students are co-creating and inviting themselves into the process of the classroom helps remove burdens from your shoulders. And then you feel like you're not the only one. And with mindfulness, even though you want your students to engage with the practices, the.

It can be important because of trauma because of anxiety to give students a way to feel a little differently about the practice. We're gonna do a body scan. For those of you who feel uncomfortable doing the body scan, feel like you're gonna fall asleep, doing a body scan. You can draw a picture of the. I, you can draw a stick figure or you can draw a lifelike figure and colour in with your pencil, or if you have any markers colour in different, different sensations into the body that you, you coloured, you can also use your self-reflection journal and you can write out feelings as I guide you through the meditation.

give them choice because we often can't see our students. They may not have cameras on. We need to find ways to allow those students who are having a hard time who are feeling too anxious to practice the mindfulness you're doing, who are distracted or worried. Give them something else that feels like a more accessible activity.

allow them to reach for something that they can grasp. We do that as teachers all the time in the classroom, we walk around, and we see who's able to respond. Who's not, we come up with alternative inroads just on, on the spur of the moment because we see that a student isn't quite grasping or isn't quite able for whatever reason to engage in the activity, we've set.

when videos are off, we're just guessing. So I'm gonna walk through two different mindfulness practices right now, and I'm gonna offer you a choice with both of them. So you can feel into a way that you can empower your students, and extend trust and respect for their process. And their preferences enrich your teaching and the classroom practice of mindfulness together.

So let's start with a breath meditation in this meditation. There are three ways that you can observe yours. , you can either notice it at the tip of your nose as the air goes in and the air goes out, or you can rest one hand on your lungs and one hand on your belly

and notice how your lungs move in and out as the air goes in and the air goes.

or you can use breathing hands. So rest your hands, just a couple of inches above your lap. And when you inhale, it's like sex it's like blowing up a balloon, allowing your hands to float away from each other. And when you exhale, allow your hands to float towards each other. And as we do mindful breathing, you can watch your hands floating.

on the exhale floating out on the inhale, expanding on the inhale, coming near each other on the exhale.

So you can practice any of these ways. Choose the style that you wanna practice. And once you choose, stick with it, give it a chance. And tomorrow you can always choose a different way to practice.

So let's begin,

bring yourself into a comfortable seated position with your spine tall and your vertebrae stacked and your head just balanced at the top of your neck. So balanced. So in alignment that it's almost waiting.

Notice gravity pulling you into the chair in the chair, holding you up, notice the floor firm under your feet,

and now choose how you wanna practice, noticing the air, the tip of yours. Resting your hands on your belly, your lungs, or watching your breathing hands.

I'm gonna give you guidance for the breathing hands, but you can do whichever style you'd like to

begin now, noticing your whole body head to.  notice your whole body feeling it,

and now bring your attention to your breath

and on your next inhalation. As you breathe in, notice your hands floating away from each other. Expanding with the inhalation and on your natural exhalation, allow the hands to come towards each other, gently floating back,

inhaling at your own pace and exhaling at your own.

Allowing the breath to be just as it wants to be. And you just rest your attention on your hands, floating out as you inhale and your hands flowing back towards each other, as you exhale. Resting your attention is easy and simply noticing

be easy,

connecting with your breath.

The little movements you notice the temperature thought and feeling,

letting your hands float out on the inhalation, letting your hands float back on the exhalation.

Now as you begin to bring your attention back, notice, and sing any shifts in your experience.

Begin to observe the shapes and objects in the room around you, wiggling your fingers and toes and bringing your attention fully back from that focus.

As you invite the students to explore their experience. Ex you can find out how many students chose hands. How many students chose to watch just the air going in and out? How many students chose to rest their hands on their lungs and their belly.  continually affirming that choice was there. Those options were there and any were acceptable.

And in our final demonstration of choice, the love and kindness, of course, is a very. A powerful one, because it's so personal and the students feel so connected to it. Who would you like to send love and kindness to? Would you like to send it to somebody you care about? Would you like to send it to yourself?

Would you like to send it to somebody you don't know? Well, would you like to send them to somebody you're irritated with have them.

Who will be the recipients of their good wishes and care? Would you like to choose one person? Would you like to choose a group of people? Would you like to choose an animal or a pet?

and then make sure you get enough voices and choose that one for the day. And once you choose which category. We're gonna send our good wishes to invite the students, to each person to give a good wish. If they're 30 or 40 students in the class, it can get a little unwieldy, but get at least eight, because that will give you a couple of opportunities and ways to work.

Those good wishes into.  the practice that you extend.

Let's close with love and kindness by sending good wishes to ourselves and good wishes to all of those we know who work with youth.

may I be patient with myself and my class,

may I be loving of myself? And those I work with

may I be supportive? Of myself with so many things I'm learning.

And may I always experience calm, kindness, and

care. Take a few moments to send yourself any other good wishes. You would like to extend to yourself, support, understanding, compassion, admiration, respect, and love.

and now let's picture all of the St

and now let's picture all of the educators.  all of the people we know who work with youth and let's send them this wish.

May we all be patient with ourselves and our teaching?

May we all feel valued? For the encouragement, we bring to our students and youth,

may we all be supported by our colleagues and peers? And may we always be surrounded by the atmosphere? Of care, compassion and respect.

Bring to mind all of the educators, you know, all of

those who give of themselves to inspire growth and creativity.

Send them any wishes including yourself

and we can close with that. Take care of yourself. Stay self, stay healthy. And I look forward to our next session. Thank you for listening to the conscious classroom. I'm your host, Amy Edelstein. Please check out the show notes on inner strength and for links and more information. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend and pass the love on see you next time.