I just stumbled across a reader comment from early last year by a teacher in Massachusetts, Camille Napier Bernstein, who begins each day with a “stillness” exercise for the first few minutes each day in her classroom. The students are not only receptive, but sometimes enthusiastic about how valuable it has become to them.
She has written about her successes with the practice. An excerpt:
I teach in a public school. You might wonder if the practice has caused controversy. Certainly, my first two years were fraught with worry that a student might misinterpret the practice to his parents, and I doggedly corrected students who called it “karma” or “some weird Buddhist crap.” A number of parents over the years have thanked me for teaching their kids “an important life skill,” and a few offered, preemptively, to defend me should a problem arise.
The school and community have so supported the practice that I was recently awarded a grant through the local Education Foundation to run a meditation group at the high school.
Students have told me repeatedly that they come to depend on Stillness. On days I am particularly rushed, I might launch into some directions, but they always pull me back: “You forgot ‘peace time!” or “What about Stillness, Mrs. B?” or, my favorite, “Can we do 20 minutes today? I really need it.”
In recent years, I’ve broadened our practice, allowing every six weeks or so an extended period of 20 minutes, sometimes silent, sometimes with a guided full-body scan. And as a reward at the end of the year, I’ve invited my sister-in-law, a yoga teacher, to lead each class in some soothing poses.
Students have told me that they use stillness on the bus before football games, in the middle of the lunchroom when someone “said something stupid that made me want to punch him out,” and at night when they can’t sleep. They regularly download the songs I play or make me cds of music they think will work well. They return after graduation to say they’ve taken yoga or mediation classes at college. The biggest compliment I’ve ever received was when a tough guy – you know the type, too cool for school and always ready to challenge authority – re-emerged after a 20-minute session mumbling dreamily, “Mrs. B., you have the best voice.”
His friends razzed him mercifully, but he was stalwart in defending Stillness: “Dude, shut up! I am so chillaxed after that. We should have a whole class of just her talking about that ‘blue healing breath’ or whatever that thing is.”
See her full article for much more.