“It is vital that when educating our children’s brains we do not neglect to educate their hearts.”
– Dalai Lama
Several years ago, the Italian teacher at my school attended a professional development training called the Calm Classroom. She returned to school geeked and eager to school me how to teach mindfulness to children.
She shared her handouts with me. There were many 30-second to two-minute deep breathing and concentration techniques used to foster and maintain a peaceful classroom. The purpose was to educate children on how to slow down and pay attention.
We thumbed through the activities and landed on a favorite.
It is called Bell Focus.
The bell leader rotates daily. That student is in charge of ringing the bell and guiding the short, calming exercise.
It goes a little something like this (in French):
Close your eyes.
Make a bubble around yourself and tie it under your feet.
Fill the bubble with your favorite color. Think about the leader in you.
Breathe in and repeat to yourself, “I am calm.”
Breathe out and repeat to yourself, “I am here.”
Listen to the sound of the bell.
The bell reverberates. In and out, the students breathe deeply. They try to center themselves and prepare their minds and bodies for French class. They concentrate on the sound of the bell as it fades to silence.
The leader says: Notice how you feel.
Slowly open your eyes.
Initially, it was part loved and part ignored (or part circus, depending on your point of view). Some students giggled instead of closing their eyes, others layed back on the rug wiggling and poking their friends (we sit on the floor in the primary classes).
Clearly, there was a buy-in period for the students to commit to the calm. I modeled and we practiced.
Maintenant, they beg for it. Yes, some still take the moment to goof off. They are children. But most resemble mini-yogis.
Moi? I crave the bell focus. The breathing reduces my stress and allows me to re-set specific intentions geared toward each class I am about to teach. I like the call to start fresh every 40 minutes.
La Petite Pause: The bell focus technique can stabilize the mind. My aim is for students to internalize the pause between the stimulus and the response. As Viktor Frankl says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I hope the bell is a start.