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NYC Helpline: How To: Manage Your Classroom
Meditative Minute: One Way to Start Class
Nell Scharff

"We are constantly on the go, rushing from class to class.  Every time we enter a class it's work, work, work.  MM  is pretty fun.  It's a minute to relax, calm your nerves, and get yourself together.  And I believe that minute is very needed."

"Sometimes you come into a class and five seconds later the teacher starts talking and saying stuff to take notes on but you miss part of it because there isn't even a minute to just get ready and relaxed.  MM lets us get ready and write the homework down."

"I think MM  is very peaceful.  It lets everyone get a chance to breathe and settle down.  It helps teachers relax a little bit too."

---7th Graders reflecting on having a Meditative Minute

I got the idea for "meditative minute" [MM] from a student-teacher I worked with years ago who began each class (she taught 11th grade) with one full minute of silent reflection.  At first, I thought this was a little hokey and I wondered if my students would laugh.  But they didn't!  On the contrary, they seemed to fall into and soak up the silence, as if it were exactly what they'd wanted and needed.  Sitting in silence with them, I realized how rare quiet, reflective moments are in schools.  It seems teachers and students are always running and rushing, with never a moment to catch our breath.

"Meditative Minute," as I've come to call it, has become my standard and preferred way to begin class with seventh-grade students.  (I've used it at times with older students, but not as a general rule.)  My primary reason for implementing MM is that it helps with classroom management; we begin class quietly, calmly, and on the same page.  A second but related reason is that it provides a brief but meaningful respite for both students and for me.  A third and also related benefit is that shared moments of silence help build community-but only if the idea of MM is communicated in the spirit of relaxation and community and not as a punitive measure.   

Although I always feel a little silly, I introduced MM on the very first day of class, before any behavior problems have begun.  I introduce it as a fun, quirky thing we're going to try.  I tell my students that they can do anything that is totally silent, including sitting still, closing their eyes, or copying down their homework--but that they absolutely cannot talk; this is, I explain, our "sacred time."  (I say this with a smile on my face, making fun of myself as I go.)   I've found it's very important that I then do what I've asked my students to do--that I am still and silent for the minute, despite the temptation to use that time to take attendance or to take care of random business.

A quiet minute at the start of class could be introduced and accomplished quite differently by different teachers.  No strategy works unless it feels consistent, in a fundamental way, with the teacher's personality.  I have found, however, that the investment of this very small amount of time pays off!  It just so happens that the students quoted above are from an extremely boisterous 7th grade class that meets right after lunch, and that MM has become a critical, effective classroom management technique.  I knew I was onto something good last week when I suggested that we skip MM one day and the class spontaneously said "No!" They've come to see MM as their own -- not as something imposed from above. 


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