Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
It started with an 8 am class. On a Monday. Following an icy, congested drive to campus and a classroom walk-run Hollywood style: cape-flying coat, computer bag slapping legs, mug sloshing coffee down sleeves. Out of breath, hand on the classroom door knob, lungs gulped an inhale and, involuntarily, expanded the inhale into a slow, full exhale of . . . relief. Inside the classroom, students wore their disrupted early morning routines much the same. We were not ready for the day’s lesson, not quite yet.
We’ve become time-constrained multitaskers; and yet, the learning brain works best when focused on the now and immediate. A 30-second diaphragmatic (deep) breathing all-class routine serves students and instructor in preparing and maintaining productive brain power throughout the learning hour. Thirty seconds focuses students and instructor by addressing distractions aka what happened before class in a visceral, physical manner and prepares everyone for the next hour’s critical thinking.
Take a SIP of this: The 30-Second Deep Breathe
Some instructors start their teaching time before the class hour begins by making chit-chat with students, joking, setting up equipment, and answering questions, while students arrive in waves: the early birds, the on-timers, and the come latelys. No matter the day’s planned lesson, there’s an expectation that when “learning” or “teaching” begins, a proverbial bell rings to mark our full mental engagement.
Fill the hour. Fill the notebooks. Ready, set, go.
What this assumes is instructor and students are fully engaged, plugged in the moment their bodies take up classroom space. Instructors may need a reset to give the same lecture to a new audience, or switch gears from research or admin work to teaching. Students need to shed stress from the previous class test or wake up more fully. Increasingly likely with our constant availability, everyone may need to move forward from communications with friends, family, coworkers, supervisors, doctors, dog walkers, repairmen, etc. We’re humans engaging in a day’s journey filled with physicalities, emotions, distractions, conflicts, and personal and professional deadlines.
Structured deep breathing physically and mentally regroups students and instructor. Everyone becomes aware of their own physical need to breathe exactly in that moment. Deep breathing time-outs are useful for energizing discussion lulls, reducing production anxieties (students’ and instructor’s), redirecting tension from behavioral situations, and moving the body as well as the mind in an otherwise body-static situational environment.
A breathing time-out is an interdisciplinary, secular moment, applicable to any one in any field of study in any classroom environment and student support service. Classroom management studies, conference panels, and employee wellness programs propagate discussions and trainings on short diaphragmatic breathing.
Students will come to expect, even anticipate, a 30-second breather. On-time attendance increases as students “get to class” faster, knowing they’re rewarded with a focused unstressed moment of self-care. To lead students through a 30-second deep breathe:
- Begin by asking everyone to unplug. Students close or turn over electronic devices. You also step away from the laptop, smartphone, or projector.
- Suggest students look down or around at an inanimate object or close their eyes.
- Remind them that getting comfortable can take many forms – they might put both feet equi-distant on the floor; they might sit straight; they might do a small stretch.
- If you feel comfortable, lead students through a series of inhales and exhales. Otherwise, offer the options to breath intentionally on their own, to stretch, or to sit quietly without actively thinking.
- Ask students to lead the class through a 30-second deep breathe. Encourage their creativity and leadership skills to include small stretching.
Still Thirsty? Take another SIP of Supporting Anxious Students
- Cho H, Ryu S, Noh J, Lee J. (2016). “The Effectiveness of Daily Mindful Breathing Practices on Test Anxiety of Students,” PLoS One.
- David, D. S. (2009). Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything. Sommerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.
- Puddicombe, A. (2012). All It Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes. TEDTalks web site.
- Thompson, B. (2017). Teaching with Tenderness: Toward an Embodied Practice. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Related SIPs that present teaching practices related to mindfulness and de-stressed learning include:
- SIP 3.8 Designing Classes to Accommodate Diverse Students’ Out-of-Class Obligations
- SIP 5.11 Minimizing Anxiety for Better Learning
- SIP 4.4 Managing Feelings of Frustration Toward Students
- SIP 4.7 Making the Most of Class Arrival Time
- SIP 6.15 Helping Students Practice Self-Care
- SIP 8.5 The Beginner’s Mind
- SIP 9.6 Supporting Anxious Students
Visit The Well at http://sites.msudenver.edu/sips/ for more great ideas and resources for Strong Instructional Practices in your higher education classroom!