I’ve worked with Lisa Harrison in the Special Education department for over five years. As an RSP teacher (Resource Service Provider), she is passionate about helping students with autism overcome social obstacles to be able to communicate feelings and develop the skills necessary for friendship. This year, Lisa has utilized a mindfulness practice in her 6th period resource class. But let me take a moment to describe the class: Imagine a room full of wiggly high schoolers, during a 6th period class who are supposed to be completing homework, and then imagine asking them to pause for ten minutes and breathe.
On the last day of school this year, I had the opportunity to interview Lisa and ask her 5 questions about mindfulness in the classroom.
* I recorded the interview on my iPhone, while excited students finished with finals celebrated outside the classroom. You can listen here, or read below!
What inspired you to bring mindfulness into the classroom?
At the start of the interview, Lisa referenced a PD we had before the school year a couple of years ago where representatives from Goldie Hawn’s Mind-Up program came in and talked to teachers. She was interested in how the program
“helps develop student’s potential brain [thinking process] and the ability to calm themselves.”
What were your biggest fears about trying to introduce this practice to students?
“The biggest fear was whether or not I could get the students’ buy-in. Once I started it with one of my classes, I went gung-ho and realized that not everyone’s comfortable sitting there with their eyes closed, so I kind of had to adjust.”
What did you do to adapt?
“I looked at different programs to see what they were doing. Some of the programs require more teaching. Some of them are with all of the senses and that was tough to do in a resource class so I had to adapt and just go to the breathing techniques.”
How has the practice impacted you as a teacher, or how do you think it has impacted the students?
“It’s helped me quite a bit to get grounded and ready for the chaos that can be sixth period. I think it’s helped the kids too, because the kids come in, after doing it all year, some of the kids come in looking forward to it.”
What advice would you give other teachers that might be interested in sharing mindfulness with their students?
“I would say research the different programs and do what you’re comfortable with. Rushing into it, telling people ‘sit down! Be quiet! Don’t move! isn’t conducive to relaxation. There’s so many different ways to come at it, you can do the breathing which is more like a meditation. You can do the senses and have them listen to something and focus on something. You can do body scans. There are just so many different options.”
As a special education teacher, I can attest to the numerous distractions and extreme issues that students can walk into the classroom with-and this is not always visible to people around the student. While some students exhibit behaviors that tell the teacher something isn’t right in life, other students can shut down completely, or put on the “I’m fine” face. I truly appreciate teachers like Lisa who are brave enough to take valuable class time and teach students skills and tools that let them feel in control of how to react and get through challenges in life.