Mindfulness in the Classroom

January 26, 2016 DBT, School No Comments

Practicing mindfulness in the classroom has helped both my teaching process and my students ability to learn.  My name is Jacob Grimm and I am the science teacher here at Sunrise Academy. I love teaching the girls here at our DBT Treatment Center.

I am often privy to many unconventional and often obscure questions in my science classes on a daily basis. I have fielded questions ranging from, what plant is this, what kind of bug bit my arm, am I tired because of my therapy, to questions like, when are you having kids or why on earth do you work here? Well, I do not always have a good answer because I often do not know. For instance, I am not an entomologist who studies bugs nor do I have an answer to the chemistry that is going on in their developing minds at this time in their life. There is one question though that I can always answer right away. I know exactly why I work here.

I was doing construction after graduation; I had received both my teaching license and my diploma in Biology and Chemistry. What a wonderful break I was having from academia, working in the hot sun and mindlessly stacking bricks and block while mixing bucket after bucket of mortar for assembly. Out of the blue, I get a phone call from an acquaintance, the principal at the time, asking me if I would like to put my education to good use and teach science at a school for girls. Needless to say I was very happy to land a job in my field and use my diploma, as many of my friends who graduated were not. I could not have been more surprised to show up on my first day and realize what I had gotten myself into. I had blindly walked into a world of Oppositional Defiance Disorder or ODD, Self-harm, Emotional Behaviors, Impulsivity, Interpersonal Problems, Borderline Disorder and Bi-Polar. Needless to say, my one class on teaching students in the classroom with special circumstances and needs did not even come close to preparing me for this.

I was in luck! The therapists and training at Sunrise Academy came to my rescue. They have taught me the DBT skills to help not only understand my students but to teach them in a secure and understanding environment while providing validation in their therapeutic struggles.

For those of you who do not know what exactly DBT is I will give you a quick overview of the basics. Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT is the idea that two people can have opposing views on the same situation and both can be right. That there is more than one way to solve a problem or as my grandfather would have put it “there is more than one way to skin a cat”. One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned in my training of DBT is to use the idea of mindfulness in the classroom. As a man of science, I am usually using my reasonable mind while in the same moment most of my students are in their emotional mind. As you can imagine it is very hard to teach on the opposites. I like to use mindfulness to get the students and myself on the same page.

Mindfulness in the Classroom

I like to practice mindfulness in the classroom. It helps me to think in a more emotional mind and the students to think in a more reasonable mind. Here are some mindfulness techniques I like to use at the beginning of class.  It only takes a minute or two and it can help a great deal to improve the communication in the classroom and in the process create a better more understanding learning environment. So this is how it works,

  1. I and all the students in the class get into a comfortable position.
  2. We listen to relaxing music (just type in mindfulness in YouTube) and we focus on one thing like breathing.
  3. Your mind will wander so you consciously bring your thoughts back to breathing and focus only on that.
  4. You can do many other things as well. For example, my students love this one, use a small piece of candy and focus on the candy in your mouth without actually eating it.
  5. You can look at a paragraph and find a word and focus on the word only and not read the paragraph.

The goal is to center your thinking without acting on your emotions. So I use it as often as you can imagine, teenage girls will get your emotions running wild, especially your anger and irritation. Try using mindfulness if your emotional mind is taking over or try it if your rational mind is taking over. You may find that this simple technique can help you to relate better to the person that you are talking to, be it your child, parents, coworker or siblings. If I can make it work trust me so can you!

Written by Jacob Grimm Science Teacher Sunrise Academy.