Governor Abbott has officially closed all schools in Texas till at least April 3rd. Many people expect closures to be extended beyond that, whether it’s from state-wide mandate or the decisions of local districts.
Texas school districts are doing an incredible job of stepping up to the challenge and helping families cope. Social media posts are showcasing the quick thinking and hard work of administrators, educators, and school employees everywhere. Communities rely on schools for so much—meals, for example—and everyone is doing their best to continue to provide the social services that families rely on. Teachers are creating online classrooms and readying themselves for the long haul of distance education, no small feat even in our tech laden society, especially considering that despite the ubiquitous presence of internet connections and high tech devices, there are still lots of families who don’t have access to that world.
Predictably, social media is also aflutter with updates from parents attesting that homeschooling ain’t no joke. Lots of people are suddenly reeling with the realization that teaching is hard. And I think it’s fair to say that present circumstances are only making lots of things harder. Whether you are practicing social distancing, self-quarantining for further safety, or on outright lockdown, the world feels upside down and inside out. And within this weird new world, many of us are trying to maintain normalcy, doing our best to be both a parent and a teacher to our kids.
So we’d like to help today by sharing some Jedi Mind Tricks from someone who excels in teaching children how to manage both their behaviors and their emotions.
Padmaja Sarathy has written two guides to help teachers and parents with the challenges of children’s emotional behaviors. Her P.R.E.V.E.N.T. Problem Behaviors guide is a how-to in addressing problem behaviors and deterring them in the first place using pro-active strategies. Padmaja’s newest guide, Mindfulness-based Practices for Developing Brains, takes this work a step further by promoting calmness, concentration, and coping skills. These are skills that homeschooling parents across the globe might be longing for right about now.
Read on for more information from Padmaja about her newest guide and consider how it might be helpful to you as we all adjust to new routines, new responsibilities, and new roles.
Mindfulness-based Practices for Developing Brains: Cultivating Calmness, Concentration and Coping Skills by Padmaja Sarathy
- Tell us about the Mindfulness guide. What is the goal of the guide and why did you decide to write it?
In all of the roles I have played working as a teacher, as a diagnostician testing children and guiding teachers as a special education supervisor and as an educational consultant visiting hundreds of classrooms, I have seen students experiencing anxiety and stress navigating the multiple and complex pressures of the school day. They need the skills calm down and gain confidence. Some exhibit difficulty paying attention and need to be able to control their mind from wandering and learn to self-regulate. Then, there are those who exhibit behavioral challenge in exercising impulse control, reacting to situations automatically instead of being reflective. They need to gain the skills required to exercise impulse control and calm down.
My purpose in writing this guide is to enable teachers and schools (and also families) to easily pursue and implement a mindfulness-based training because we know the evidence from research shows that mindfulness-based practices help to alleviate stress, improve students’ self-regulation and attentional control and strengthen social-emotional development besides boosting academic performance. With consistent practice of mindfulness-based calming practices educators will discover that it results in calmer classrooms and minimizes instructional disruptions.
- What are some special features of this guide that makes it easy to implement the mindfulness program?
First and foremost, the guide is very easy to follow and grasp for educators new to mindfulness. It presents the ‘what, why and how’ of mindfulness practice, identifying what mindfulness-based training is, why it is beneficial for the developing brains in just less than 6 pages.
The guide breaks down mindfulness-based practices in three different sets of activities –– Mindful Breathing, Mindful Movement, and Mindful Positivity –– with all of them can be easily incorporated into the school day. Another advantage is its accessibility to children across all aspects of diversity ––age, culture, economic, gender, learning needs, etc.
Second, the guide offers educators step-by-step instructions aided with pictorial illustrations to train students to practice mindfulness-related activities.
Third, and most importantly, the mindfulness activities illustrated in this guide can be adopted within their existing instructional framework and requiring minimal additional resources.
With regular practice, mindfulness will ultimately enable students to cultivate calmness, develop their concentration and self-regulation skills leading to desirable behavioral and academic outcomes.
Ready to try this at home? Start with Super Brain Yoga!
Super Brain Yoga is a yoga-based movement activity integrating breathing, physical exercise, and combining a cross-lateral movement to connect the right and left hemisphere of the brain. (In a pilot study (Kok Sui, 2005), a group of students with autism who experienced severe delays in communication and cognition and exhibited behavior difficulties saw positive results from using this technique. Within a brief period of practicing ‘Super Brain’ yoga, students displayed marked improvements in focus, ability to register sensory inputs, able to go through their tasks more calmly and were engaged in less negative behaviors.) Also, both students and adults will find Super Brain yoga a lot of fun, engaging, and challenging at the same time.
Step-by-step by instructions for super brain yoga with illustrations are available at the following link: https://www.wikihow.life/Do-Superbrain-Yoga. Many YouTube videos are also available.
The Mindfulness-based Practices for Developing Brains: Cultivating Calmness, Concentration and Coping Skills guide can be a real game-changer for everyone during the next few weeks. Check it out here!
ED311 will be bringing you more from Padmaja Sarathy and some of our other authors and presenters in the coming weeks. We aim to provide you with helpful information and tools that you can use in this new chapter of education, resources that can be useful to both parents and educators.
Please stay safe and healthy, Friends!