One of the components of Mindful School's approach to teaching mindfulness is the idea of heartfulness or letting our hearts lead us into more caring connection, especially during interactions that feel more challenging. The theme of heartfulness supported me in being able to shift a dynamic with one of my students who challenged me this year.
Success with this student has been slow and hard won. Whereas I am used to gaining traction with most students in a relatively short period of time, progress with this little guy was slow. A successful day with him for the first several of months of school looked like having him being willing to keep his camera and mic on. For a teacher who is used to having most of her students enjoy their time with me, I had struggled to connect. Mindfulness, or paying attention with compassion and curiosity, helped me slowly shift what felt like a struggle into opportunities to express curiosity and to slowly draw out this little guy's interest and enthusiasm.
A teacher's miracle follows:
Prior to meeting this particular student online, I had a rare window of time to ground myself and set intentions for our time together. This student has been behind in his ability to read and write, so I have felt pressure to help him catch up. I shared compassion with myself for this feeling of pressure, released it and extended grace to him. He has plenty of time to learn these things. I set an intention to shift the goal of our time together to simply having fun and connecting. Let the literacy pieces fall where they may.
When he joined the session, I was surprised to see his camera on. I noted this small win. He had a slight scowl on his face and I took a moment to offer some care and curiosity about what was happening for him. Rather than let my frequent annoyance at his "sour attitude" spill into my responses, I noted all of these thoughts and stuck with curiosity. Simple questions. Wonderings. Reflections. I managed to get him talking about something he was looking forward to.
I noted this rare show of enthusiasm and relished it.
I shared my reformed goal for us for the rest of the year: to have FUN and hope that our fun supports his learning. His countenance softened. I asked him to share something that had brought him joy. He chose silly cat videos and asked how to spell "silly."
I savored the small spelling win.
Half way through this extraordinarily long video, I paused for a check-in, noting our time. I asked him if he felt like he needed help with his classwork for the week, thinking aloud that now might be a good time to shift gears and preemptively agreeing that we could save some time at the end to return to the cat video.
He reluctantly agreed. I complimented his willingness to care for his future self.
We got further into his classwork than we ever have. With 10 minutes left of our session, another check-in. I haven't forgotten about the cat video and also we are only 3 questions away from finishing his assignment. He has been following along while I read questions about a short video we watched, patiently willing to talk about the ocean; learning new keywords, making inferences, practicing critical thinking, making connections, sharing stories, and even doodling while I shared morphological observations on his jam board.
Low and behold: he chose to finish his work with me so he didn't have to return to finish it later, sacrificing the completion of the cat video.
"Wow! What a responsible choice."
We finish his questions and he is elated with himself. He is actually smiling and I can see the smile because his camera is on! Holy mindful mother of all things! I will save this magical moment in my memory bank as a reminder of the power of how cultivating heartfulness in myself can help build caring connection with my students.
If your learner has been struggling with reading, writing or executive function skills, perhaps weekly virtual Literacy Labs 1:1 sessions might be a good option. Please reach out with questions or to attend an information session.