Mindfulness is a tool that teachers can use to enhance the effectiveness of their classroom environment. Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which we focus on being intensely aware of what we’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.
Let’s break that down for a moment:
- Mindfulness brings our attention to our senses
- Mindfulness brings our attention to our feelings
- Mindfulness allows us to perceive without interpretation or judgment.
How can mindfulness enhance the Montessori classroom environment? Simply put, this mindset allows both guides and learners to lock their attention into absorbing the present moment. The prepared environment will be attended to with this perspective and the children, possessing Absorbent Minds, will be able to fully immerse themselves in their learning experience.
Mindful Attention to Sensorial Experiences
The Montessori Method is founded on the assumption that our littlest learners soak up knowledge about the world via the five senses, and particularly through their sense of touch. When we foster an environment conducive for learning, we allow them to become naturally mindful. We can take that a step further by explicitly teaching mindfulness as a skill.
Mindfulness and Social-Emotional Learning
Dr. Montessori’s curriculum is, at its end, a peace curriculum. She believed that the purpose of education is to work towards a more peaceful world. Inspiring empathy and compassion for others is part of what guides must impart upon their students. This begins with being able to identify our own emotions, and teachers often have just as much learning to do in this area as do the kids.
Letting Go of Judgment
Mindfulness brings us to the present moment, both within and without of ourselves, without any sort of interpretation or judgment. For example, if we are feeling sad, we don’t need to start analyzing what made us feel sad or try to “fix” the emotion. We simply perceive what is.
What does this have to do with Montessori? In the first place, removing judgment from our communications with our students is part of teaching respectfully, but it is not always easy. If we grew up with a traditional education and upbringing, it’s hard to make the paradigm shift to nonjudgmental perception. And even if we learn not to rely on negative feedback tools like punishment or shame, that’s not enough. We also must train ourselves out of praising our students for doing a “good job”. Mindfulness helps us communicate what we notice about our kids’ work, actions, or words, without telling them that these things are “bad” OR “good”.
Mindfulness also helps children refrain from judging their own academic performance. We can teach this through modeling with our own language. When a child presents us with a drawing, for example, we may take ahold of it and quietly study it for a minute or so. We should describe the colors and lines we see aloud, without assuming what the drawing is meant to represent. Similarly, instead of asking what the drawing or parts of the drawing is, we say to the child, “Tell me about it,” and listen mindfully to their description.
Incorporating Mindfulness into the Montessori Classroom
There are many fun ways to get your students more in tune with their sensory experience. One fun game is the Sensory Guessing Game.
To play the Sensory Guessing Game, choose an object, such as a box of raisins. Blindfolded, have students listen to the sound of the raisin box shaking and guess aloud what it might be. Next, allow them to hold the box of raisins and guess again. Next allow them to open the box (or do this for them) and smell what’s inside. Lastly, take off the blindfolds and enjoy a mindful snack!