I’ve been teaching for 15 years, had my own class for 8, and had a student teacher every chance that I’m offered one.
Some teachers never seem to volunteer to share their classroom, but I think that an important aspect of being in such a vital profession is contributing towards its next generation. Occasionally people complain of lacklustre student teachers, but perhaps I’ve just been fortunate to work with a string of motivated, passionate and good-humoured student teachers who match (or put up with) my somewhat relaxed style of classroom management and personal organisation.
Apart from having someone to shake my head at when students say and do hilarious things, student teachers bring new ideas to my room and my teaching and today was a terrific example.
Ellena, is a fourth-year student studying at RMIT, and is with me for three weeks. Confident, competent and at ease in the classroom, Ellena asked to do some mindfulness activities with the class and I was all for it. Recently we’ve begun a focus on mindfulness at my school, led by one of the year six teachers. So far we’ve primarily used an app called Smiling Minds, which has a calm voice and quiet music to relax to and focus one’s thoughts.
Ellena wanted to try something new, and shared her idea, sparked by this book:
She explained the session to the students before lunch and then in the afternoon we walked around to the front garden area of the school and the students found their own spaces and followed the instructions.
First they were to observe their environment and look at the materials available. They could use whatever they found to create a mandala. Ellena had shown them some images online to give them a bit of inspiration, but assured the students that whatever they wanted to create was fine. The main idea was to focus on the task and get into the moment. I lost no time finding my own space and was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the students found their own place to begin. Some wandered around and picked up bits and pieces, but most became focused super quickly and were clearly getting right into the zen of it.
I loved it. Getting immersed in creative tasks is something I do pretty frequently anyhow, but being surrounded by children doing the same thing was quite magical.
Ellena walked around and took photos and one of the students suggested taking some pictures with an app we’re all enjoying right now – a kaleidoscope camera. Just one purple flower produced an amazing result.
After a while the students wandered a little and quietly whispered their appreciation of each other’s work. It was all over far too soon for anyone’s liking, but I’m hoping the students take this idea away and do it sometimes by themselves, or share it with their siblings.
The activity also provided good opportunities to consider pretty high-level concepts, such as the transitory nature of art and creation. We discussed the fact that our art was a process that we enjoyed in the moment but would probably be completely gone by the next day (or almost immediately, in the case of a few pieces that were stepped on accidentally). We’ve been talking a lot about resilience this term and the students whose work was destroyed were quite sanguine about it, which surprised and impressed me. Perhaps the kids were just too calm and happy to be bothered getting upset.
I know the session took a weight off my shoulders. Getting to play alongside my class is a rare joy and I was buzzing for the rest of the afternoon, the recent sensation of being a bit stressed and overloaded had dissipated and I felt refreshed.
So thanks, Ellena. And thanks to all the other funny, clever, generous and adaptable people who’ve shared my classroom over the last decade or so. I’ve appreciated every one of you!
I know what I’ll be doing on my next trip to the beach … or maybe just the next sunny day I spend in my backyard.