If you walk into the special education resource classroom at Centennial Elementary you will find students highly engaged and smiling during their small group lesson with Mrs. Genesee Lemon, special education teacher, who uses mindfulness techniques to empower students.
Lemon is a standout teacher who incorporates 2-4 minutes of mindfulness techniques into her everyday lessons to set her students up for success during group time. “When my students come to my group they are often working on the skills that are most difficult for them. It is crucial that we get them in their optimal learning zone where they are open and ready to challenge themselves as learners,” Lemon said.
According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
From work to home, mindfulness can be beneficial for all ages and in all areas of life. Lemon uses mindfulness in her personal life and that inspired her to incorporate it into her work with students. “It makes a huge difference in my own life when I am grounded and in connection with my feelings and needs and I want to share that skill with my students,” Lemon said.
Integrating mindfulness into lesson plans doesn’t take a lot of time, but makes a big impact on student learning. Lemon incorporates different mindfulness techniques (breathing, movement, imagery) in hopes that her students will find a practice or strategy that works for them. She hopes the strategies that students learn will carry over to the general education setting and at home when students become dysregulated, stressed, or frustrated.
Exploring different mindfulness strategies can be fun and engaging for students. Lemon shared that she teaches students a new mindfulness activity 2-4 times a week and then gives them opportunities to choose and implement the strategies that work for them the other days of the week. “I have an anchor chart where we keep track of the mindfulness strategies we have learned with pictures as symbols (since many of my students are still working on becoming confident readers) that way they can access that resource whenever they need it.”
There are many resources available for those who want to incorporate mindfulness into their own classrooms. Lemon uses mindful cards that have descriptions and illustrations to guide the practice. She uses the following mindful cards: Mindful Kids and Little Renegades, but there are many other options that can be found online. Lemon also reads books about mindfulness to her students. Here is a link to some great books to read with students about mindfulness.
Lemon has been with the district for over 12 years and has worked as an autism team specialist, and has taught preschool, kindergarten and special education. She has a background in human development and family studies, as well as early childhood education. She earned her masters in special education and educational equity. Her favorite thing about being a teacher is helping her students feel successful in an area that was previously difficult for them. “I want all my students to know that they are worthy and valuable no matter what is easy or difficult for them,” Lemon said.
As you can imagine, after teaching for so many years Lemon has many favorite teaching moments, but it’s the little things that add up for her. Lemon shared, “Seeing a student who is now greeting others when they were too afraid to speak, or seeing the student who can now blend words, and the student who understands regrouping after math group, make all the difference for me. I love that I get to be a part of the lightbulb moments with my students.”