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  • Writer's pictureMusic with Ms. P

Mindful Moments in the Music Room

As musicians we spend a lot of time tuning our instruments, but how often are we intentionally tuning our brains, bodies and emotions?

This year I changed how I begin class in 1st - 4th grade. Instead of starting with a hello song or rhythm warmup, now we start music with a mindful moment. Sometimes that looks like meditation, sometimes we tap different parts of the body; other times it's a guided mindfulness practice or breathing exercise. For the past two quarters, I’ve chosen a new technique every 3-4 four weeks. This allows students to get familiar with the practice and know what to expect when they walk in the room, but also enough variation to keep them interested and engaged.

At first, I was really nervous that the kids wouldn’t get it, would be bored or would refuse. To my surprise and delight, literally every student that’s walked through my doors has engaged with the process on some level. Every time I introduce a new technique, I remind my students that it’s 100% their choice to participate. If they don’t want to, they are welcome to sit silently and take some deep breaths - who doesn’t need to just chill sometimes?

I also regularly remind them of the benefits of tuning into their brains, bodies and breath AND give examples of other times throughout the day when they may find these practices useful. Is your little sister getting on your nerves? Go to your room and do some square breathing until you calm down. Are you nervous about your math test at the end of the day? Try tapping the 9 meridians points on your body to get rid of that anxiety. Did you have an argument with a friend? Give yourself some butterfly hugs until you feel like you’re ready to apologize and make things right.

Not only does our mindful moment help my students, it helps me, too. I’m a recovering perfectionist and control freak. These issues have caused me to live in fight or flight for most of my career in the classroom. I’m also high energy, because I’m passionate and excited about my work. When you mix perfectionism, control issues, passion and energy - you get a ton of hypervigilance, chronic stress and a very deregulated nervous system.

After a decade of that anguish, I knew something had to change this year. My awesome, caring and supportive therapist is the person who suggested I start my music classes with a mindfulness practice - thank you, Kerry! - and the results have been incredible. The three greatest benefits I’ve noticed are: a major decrease in hypervigilance and anxiety; an increased capacity to stay calm when triggered by a student; and, my favorite: I’m having more fun at work.

You know that eduspeak saying: The teacher controls the weather in the room? Well, there is actual science behind that cliche. Whether we like it or not, when we are in a room with others, our nervous systems co-regulate - and energy speaks much louder than words. If my nervous system is deregulated when a new class walks in for music, my students will feel that stressful, fearful energy which in turn will activate their own fear and stress responses. Conversely, when my nervous system is regulated, I can help kids to co-regulate with my relaxed, chill, peaceful energy.

Starting class with a mindful moment ensures that we all start music with a calm, clean slate and I’m so excited to share these practices with you! Stay tuned….. My first #tunedintuesday drops Tuesday, Dec 7th on instagram @musicwithms_p!

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