Holly Brown is a third-year elementary band teacher in Connecticut. Ms. Brown teaches band to 4th and 5th students at three different schools within her district. She participated in the 5-day Mindfulness Workshop at IU and is currently enrolled in the MBWP Teacher Training Program.
Senior year of high school. Gym class. This was where my first introduction to meditation took place.
As seniors, we were given options about which gym units we would like to participate in. During one marking period, the options included yoga.
Most of my friends chose this option so I decided to go along with them and I had my first, albeit brief, introduction to the practice of meditation. While we just touched on the subject it was enough to make me intrigued.
Fast forward to my junior year of undergraduate studies. I was trying to tie up any loose ends I had missed in terms of general education credits and the physical education credit was one of the few I had left. I took a look to see which P.E. courses would fit into the crazy schedule of a music education major. My options were a badminton class that met from 7-9pm or tai chi class that magically met at 10am and did not conflict with any other music courses. I chose tai chi and unexpectedly had my second introduction to meditation.
We tried to have class outside as much as possible, however one day toward the end of the semester, we has a snow/sleet storm that caused us to go inside. The professor took this opportunity to dive a little deeper into meditation and had us complete an eating meditation. It took us 25 minutes to eat a raisin. I left the class wondering what I had just done. ‘Who takes 25 minutes to eat a raisin? Where did this professor get this from? How did this relate to the meditation practices I learned about in high school and had seen in the media? Etc.’ All these thoughts were racing through my head so I began to research.
While I continued to learn about meditation casually on my own, I started to hear the word mindfulness come up in my education courses and in conversation with professors and colleagues. I decided to take the initiative to see if anyone was doing research in the connections between mindfulness and music and ended up stumbling upon this very blog. I read anything and everything I could and subscribed so I could see when new content was added.
As a new teacher, I was learning all about the trials and tribulations of the education world. On top of that, I felt that while noticing the stressors in my own life I was also sympathizing with the stressors of my students because I was not far removed from those same stressors.I was trying to find some way to at least reduce the impact that it was having in my classroom.
In November 2016, I saw a tweet by Frank Diaz, a music professor at Indiana University, about a mindfulness workshop being hosted at IU the following July. I was thrilled about the prospect of learning from the person I had been following so I registered as soon as I could. I had no idea what I would encounter but I went in with the hope that it would give me ideas about how I could improve my teaching practice and my classroom environment. When July came around I boarded a plane bound for Indiana so I could finally have the chance to dive into mindfulness.
The week of studying was intense. It made me more aware of my thoughts, actions, and perceptions of myself and others, but also made me ruminate on those topics in a non-judgmental manner. It was new, challenging, and exciting at the same time. We started learning techniques and types of meditative practices. Then we would discuss how they could be incorporated pedagogically into our individual teaching settings. I was able to share my ideas and receive feedback in a comforting environment from educators with varying perspectives. In the end, I walked away feeling refreshed and excited about my new perspectives on teaching. I flew back to Connecticut and began a private practice routine and started finalizing plans on how to incorporate my new learning into my pedagogical repertoire.
While I am still learning and have had both success and missteps, in terms of implementation, the passion and intrigued that was ignited as a senior in high school has not diminished, but instead has grown. I am eager to continue to learn, grown, and see where this journey takes me and my students.