by Steffi Eger, Art Instructor @ The Lotus School
I am always looking for interesting projects to bring into my classroom: new projects that push my students’ thinking; tweaked projects that put an unexpected twist on a previous project; or new combinations of old ideas that present new problems to solve. As The Lotus School is grounded in the practice of mindfulness, I am also eager to learn new ways to help my students implement their mindfulness practice in our daily classroom culture.
On a very cold Saturday morning in January, I drove to Kutztown University to join the other Pennsylvania Art Educators Association members who had set aside that time to learn about mindful journaling. After assembling our own journals to use throughout the session, an art teacher from Fleetwood Area High School led us in several exercises that combine art with mindfulness. The exercises emphasized point of view and observation, breathing and metaphor, attending to our senses and “single-tasking.” As a group of educators, we participated in the mindfulness activities and then discussed the ways that we could incorporate them into our own classrooms.
There are many studies that show evidence of the benefits of both journaling and mindfulness. At The Lotus School, we are in tune with these benefits and have structured our programming around them: increased memory, decreased stress and anxiety, higher self-confidence, greater self-awareness, increased empathy, and better overall health. We are committed to creating a school where students are equipped with the tools that will help them meet any challenge with confidence and resilience as they go through school and beyond into careers.
Mindfulness practices are an important part of our school because they work. We have recently made time for formal mentoring within our school day. Our plan is to create a journal that will be used on a daily basis during our mentoring time. This journal will include short exercises that will give our students many ways to practice mindfulness every day. With repetition and variety of the practice, each student will find the methods that work best for them and be able to implement those methods at any time they need in any place they need. After using the journal for their time with us at The Lotus School, whether one year or four, those mindfulness practices will be a part of their toolkit when they face a difficult moment later on in college or at work. By implementing mindful journaling, we know that our students will move forward grounded in their present moment and able to deal with the challenges that they face.
I am grateful for the morning that I spent gaining some new ideas that we will be able to pass on to students at The Lotus School.
Presence is more than just being there.