I didn't expect today to be emotional for me. But when I finally had all of my students sitting in a circle, I found a lump forming in my throat. I started by thanking them for investing whatever they could at that time and being willing to try out the experience. Then, I handed over a new bell to their teacher, Tracey Menard, so the class could practice mindfulness in my absence. She led us through one minute of light mindfulness, which drew some giggles from the class. I told them I would send along a script so they could take turns leading one another.
A week earlier, I scoured the snowy beach for smooth rocks to give as worry stones. I wanted them to have a physical anchor to remind them of the mindfulness practice. As they pulled the rock from the bucket, they each shared a takeaway from the course. Things like, "pausing when I am stressed...noticing my emotions...taking a breath...paying attention." The real depth came in the course evaluations. There, they shared how important the practice had become to them:
"I use mindfulness when I’m having a bad day. I use what I’ve learned in this class. Mostly being aware of my surroundings."
"I think I can use it to help with my anxiety because I struggle with it a lot."
"I am really thankful for you teaching me about mindfulness because I really run away from my problems and now I can just stop and breath and think about what I do, so thank you so much."
"I really enjoyed it. The past month or so has been so tough with me ...and every Tuesday and Thursday when you come in, I really like forward to it because it makes me feel 10 times better."
I created an infographic to share some of the highlights from the evaluation below:
Not everything was positive. There are those three students who did not connect with the practice, and one who had concerns about my delivery. It has always been hard for me as a teacher, especially back when I was in the classroom, to let go of those "failures." It's hard to hear the tough feedback without blaming myself or making the whole experience about the few students with whom I did not connect. But part of my work has been to allow myself to really soak in the good and hear the critical without drowning in it. So I continue my own practice.
At the end of the day, there were so many sweet stories shared, and as I exited Ms. Menard's classroom to Adele's "Hello," with students singing me out from various corners of the room, I couldn't help but feel the love. I can't help but feel the love.
Update: Portland Public Schools posted about our work on their website in a post "DHS STUDENTS LEARN ‘MINDFULNESS,’ SHARE IT WITH OTHER STUDENTS"