Danielle Mahoney Kertes is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and Literacy Coach at P.S. 212 in Jackson Heights, NY, for grades Pre-K through 5.
I scan the cute faces of my Pre-K students and can clearly see that their energy is all over the place.
We do a few “Spiderman Breaths”. “Breathe in, bring your fists to your chest. Breathe out, slowly, extending your arms, shooting out your webs whoosh! In, out. In, out.” Now we are smiling, breathing, moving together at a similar speed.
Settled in a bit, the kids know what’s coming next. It’s June, we’ve come a long way since I first started teaching mindfulness and yoga to this bright, energetic group. Most of them have turned five by now, but I remind myself that some are still only four. I check in with my own nervous system. I notice anxiety, nervousness, excitement and concern. I bring my attention to my feet and then my breath. Someone will be chosen to lead the class in a short mindful breathing activity. I have a system in place, but it doesn’t matter. They can’t hold in their desire to lead. “It’s my turn!” yells a child to the right of me. “Hey! I want to ring the bell!” screams another voice. Self doubt creeps back in along with the voices of adults who have said, “Pre-K kids can’t practice mindfulness!” I check in with myself again: ankles crossed underneath me, breath moving in and out of my belly. “You can do this,” I gently remind myself, “They’ve got this.”
We pass the bell to the assigned leader. “Please put on your mindful bodies.” There’s shuffling and a flutter of small adjustments to spines, necks, heads and knees. “Please let your eyes close.” The bell rings. For a brief moment, the bustle of energy settles again. It’s quiet and still in the room. Eighteen bodies have found a way to ground themselves: listening, noticing, breathing. When the sound of the bell fades, hands quickly fly up in the air to prove that they’ve been listening, the whole time.
The leader holds the mallet in his tiny hands and is asked to check in. “Notice how you feel right now,” I prompt. Inquiring eyes glance up into the air as if to find the answer in a thought. “Happy,” says the leader, in a quiet voice. Each student takes the mallet to report their noticings into “the microphone.” We’ve been working on noticing feelings all year and it’s clear to me that their vocabulary is growing. Responses range from excited to sad, angry to happy. Then the next child takes the mallet. She looks to her left and to her right. She smiles. “Proud of my friends,” she reports. I check in with myself again: I’m welling up with emotion — awe, gratitude and pride. Before I can get too lost in all of this, the mallet passes to the next child and I’m quickly brought back to this moment, this new, amazing, ever-changing moment filled with so much kindness, curiosity and love.
Danielle started practicing mindfulness by taking our Mindfulness Fundamentals course, and she is certified by Mindful Schools’ Year-Long Certification program. She has been weaving mindfulness practice into her work with students in Pre-K through 5th grade since 2013. You can read more about Danielle’s work here, visit her website, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.