Planting Peace Through Mindfulness Practices

Posted on July 12, 2018


Teacher Research: Mindfulness Artifact Survey July 2018

Today I’m going to take the first pass at artifact analysis. I’ll examine the collection of items before me, in physical form in a crate with hanging files, and in a number of open tabs in my web browser at the top of the screen, and I’ll think about my research question: “What happens when we practice mindfulness in ELA?”

What will I find among the artifacts I have collected? What insights, discoveries, and new questions await me? With anticipation and enthusiasm, I dive into the documents to see what I can learn. The collection of artifacts includes:

  1. 1 Appreciation Award. “And this concludes our practice” from IB students, acknowledging mindfulness practice in my classes.
  2. 5 Thank-You Notes
  1. From an EMWP Colleague who has begun daily mindfulness practices
  2. From the Student Leadership group
  3. From a former IB student (SR)
  4. From 2 current IB students (JRs)
  1. Article. “This Is Your Student’s Brain on Trauma” by Mary Ellen Flannery in the Winter 2017 issue of NEAToday. The article explains the brain science on trauma and the positive role that calming practices and technologies, such as mindfulness, a calming corner, sensory awareness exercises, calming jars, play-doh, and others can have on students who are having difficulty with emotions, attention, and/or learning.

Readers are invited to download NEA’s “Teaching Children from Poverty and Trauma” handbook, so “NEA members also can know the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of trauma-informed education. And what works for students with trauma also works for non-traumatized students, too.”

  1. An undated page of reflections on the links between PBIS, (Positive-Behavior-Intervention-Systems/PRIDE), and mindfulness–and wondering how to interest other teachers in trying it.
  2. Caring Friend Reflections from ELA9 21 September 2017
  3. Data Collection: Reactions to Sober Breathing Practice (#5) in ELA9, 26 September 2017.

Question: Do you think this practice could help you manage stress?

Answers Yes No Neutral/Unsure
52 Students Surveyed 26 15 11
  1. Student reflections on the role that reading can play in helping students empathize with others, 17 November 2017.
  2. A research notebook that I keep on my desk at school. It is much-neglected this year. I have only written on 27 pages, and I haven’t stayed up-to-date on the Table of Contents, so I take a few minutes to read, title, and list each entry to see what’s in there.
  3. Getting to Know and Love Your Brain hand-out from the MindUP curriculum; it explains the brain science of stress and introduces brian structure and function in stress reactions. I have it as a poster, but a participant found it online in the InsideOut workshop last August.
  4. Links to Interesting Resources Related to Mindfulness

Why Does Nature Make Us Feel Better? on SciShow Psych

9 Guidelines for Teaching Trauma-Informed Mindfulness To Teens

This Breathing Exercise Can Calm You Down in a Few Minutes

Episode 6: Ten Steps to Resilience in a Chaotic Climate (by former student, Aimee Lewis, and Laura Schmidt)

  1. Student Documents, including letters students wrote to the building’s PBIS committee, to try to convince other teachers to learn about how mindfulness can help students have the self-control that PBIS tries to nurture in students–and help them feel better. Other documents include reflections and unsolicited comments in assignments.
  2. Emails. There are several emails from others on the subject of mindfulness, including email exchanges with counselors and the special education coordinator expressing my support of their learning/using mindfulness and inviting collaboration. There are emails the students and former students send with links to videos, practices, and information about mindfulness “sightings” in the wider world outside the classroom.

There is one very special email from a student who rejected mindfulness as a ninth grader but who requests it regularly, in addition to the twice-weekly scheduled practices, as an eleventh grader. She reminded us all that she had been so disruptive during a mindfulness practice in ninth grade that I asked her to wait in the hall while the rest of us did it. She, and we, had a good laugh about good times and the old days. There may be other emails of interest, but those are the ones that I know exist and that I can find. I’m taking a break from work email for the summer, so I might be surprised when I look.

What Have I Learned From the Artifacts?

Looking through this collection of artifacts, I find myself smiling at fond, mindful memories made with the members of my classroom community. Along with pleasant feelings, I am hit with a powerful realization: that by practicing mindfulness together–students, teachers, and community members–we are increasing the peace in the world! In a society with so much conflict, hate, and pain, I feel a sense of joy rising in me. I’ve been planting peace, and it’s blossoming within me and those around me!

Peace-making is good work, important work, honorable work. I am humbled and grateful at the ways that incorporating mindfulness practices in high school ELA classes has allowed me to contribute to the great human project of planting peace.

Uh-oh, I’m talking about what it means to be human, rather than “hard data,” something that is frowned upon in some educational research, but I teach literature, one of the humanities, and although popular opinion might hold that the main questions driving the ELA curriculum are about the forms and structures of language, the REAL question at the heart of English Language Arts is, “How do people explore the human condition through language?”

I’ve faced some criticism for incorporating mindfulness practices in my classes by individuals who think that it’s “out of my lane as an English teacher,” but my own experiences and those of my students show that far more positive effects are caused by practicing mindfulness–as individuals, alone, and as a community together–than drawbacks. For me, there is nothing more precious to the well-being of humanity than peace.

As I dig deeper into individual artifacts, I’ll look for other insights and discoveries, and I’ll explore the patterns, intersections, and questions that arise on closer inspection.

And when school starts in the fall, I will, wholeheartedly, embrace and celebrate the work I do in planting seeds of peace with mindfulness.