Growing minds are all different. Everyone is different. Everyone. There are simply no two people who are the same. My mother’s identical twin is different from her, even if just in the most slightest of ways. Every student in my primary school classes over the years are all little original human beings. They are in the process of being shaped by the world. They bring with them their own story. And there we sit as a combined group, almost a family of sorts, spending hours upon hours and most days together. Just me and their growing minds.
The Good That Comes From The Bad
I was having a tough time at one point this year. At the beginning of my teaching career I would have hidden behind a strong front. Played nothing other than the positive supportive teacher. I feel like I’ve softened over the past few years and opposed to my usual big smile and deflection of questions I spoke the honest truth to my students. “I’m going through a rough time at the moment. I know someone who is sad because they lost a great friend and it’s made me sad too”. The honesty felt raw yet nice. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to find the eight and nine year olds in front of me calm and supportive. In retrospect I think I expected them to feel nervous or uneasy to see their teacher, or an adult of any sort, feeling upset and in need of their support.
It made me realise how we enjoy teaching younger people the amazing things in life. But when it comes to the not so great times, we give them space and leave them to figure it out for themselves. Sure we may talk about feeling sad, but I decided I could show them how different people work through these moments in life.
Show, Don’t Tell
When I am upset, I explained, I like to clear my mind and meditate. I don’t like to push the sadness away but I find a spot for it in me – next to the happy spot, the excited spot and the relaxed spot – and I allow myself to feel them all when the time is right. I asked if my students would like to accompany me as I meditate to make myself feel better. We began meditating at the beginning of each day. Every morning we would put on some music and I would take them on a visual journey. Some days we walked through rainforests, some days we were floating on the ocean, other days we were laying on clouds looking down on ourselves. A few times we took a mental journey searching inside ourselves, flowing with our breath and feeling the beating of our hearts.
I was skeptical to start. Come on, getting twenty five kids to lay or sit still for more than a minute! Good luck. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how keen they were to try. How open they were to experiencing meditation. How caring they were to accept that this was something that meant a lot to me. Even those who felt disinterested would spend the five minutes politely lying still and resting, letting their eyes wander around the room or out the window. Within weeks five minutes every morning turned into ten, then fifteen. Parents began to comment, discussing how calm their kids were and even sharing reports of finding their children meditating alone in their bedrooms at home.
The Good That Comes From The Good
I came across a study discussed by Norman Rosenthal in the article ‘Using Meditation to Help Close the Achievement Gap’ published in the NY Times. The study aimed to find whether meditative processes boost students’ learning – which they found it overwhelmingly did. However, they also discovered the amazing positive impacts mediating has on students at a deeper level. “This was evident within my own students. Their emotional well being, their self-confidence, even their greater understanding and interaction with their conscious mind, were all positively impacted.
And from here… the ripple effect flows. Such positive gains at this level become the foundations to achievement in all other aspects of life; academics, social, behavioural… the list goes on. Growing minds aren’t limited to cognitive intelligence, but emotional intelligence on a broad and inclusive scale. It’s amazing to think something so calm, simple and easy to implement can have such wondrous results, especially for those growing minds in my class.
Growing minds are all different. Everyone is different. Everyone.
I enjoyed sharing this part of me with my students. Showing them that it is okay to be sad. We all have various ways to deal with these moments in life. Whether my students continue with our daily meditation for a few weeks or long after the year we shared is over – or maybe even not at all – I am glad because those people and those experiences were part of my healing process. Those experiences have given me new fond memories which I can visit whenever I need. From which I can use to fill up that happy spot inside.