Calming the Wild Beast

The children come in the door of the music room. One child is angry at a classmate for cutting in line. Another was hurt at P.E. and has a scraped knee and a leaky bag of ice. Two girls can’t sit next to each other without constantly talking. Three children are simply exhausted from the rigors of the day, or perhaps not enough sleep the night before. It’s a normal day in the music room.

How about this… try this simple focusing message and see if all those discordant energies can be brought into alignment.

“When we’re outside, our bodies are large and moving and full of energy. Let’s bring our bodies into this room, and make them smaller and quiet. Our voices outside are loud and yelling, let’s bring them into this room, and make them smaller and quiet. Our minds outside are as big as the playground. They’ve been thinking about friends and lunch and homework. Let’s bring them into this room, and make them smaller and focused.”

These simple words might possibly transform a class of wriggly, disconnected children into a quiet and calm group of children who are all sitting on the floor, looking at you. Class can now begin.  ~ Liz

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5 Responses

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  1. I agree so much with this column. I have had such great success using an opening and closing verse that the children recite chorally. It’s the same for the whole year, and the kids know that when it’s done, it’s time to work. When the closing verse is over, it’s time to head back to class.

  2. Liz

    Jake – an opening and closing ritual with young children sounds like a great idea. Our students are hit with so many transitions that a familiar routine is comforting.

  3. I love this. Thank you for sharing. The Orff process is liberating in terms of mindfulness, we live it! When we’re present, we’re engaged in a wonderful transfer of energy between child and teacher. We are all in it together. Having the ritual helps.

    In our classes, I play a chime and we practice breathing with the chime, in and out together. When we can breathe and be together, we can make music together. I’ve also started a modified metta mediation when the children are argumentative with each other or antsy. We all sit still and think about our selves, how we want to be heard, we want to feel important, and we don’t want to be embarrassed, then I take out it to our best friend, a person we know, a person we don’t know, and then, a person who sometimes we have a hard time understanding or getting along with, for they too want to be heard, want to feel important, and want to have friends, and not be embarrassed.

    The students open their eyes and see each other as people, all together. It helps! It was especially effective with the 5th-8th graders.

    Thanks for sharing these great things on your blog!

  4. Liz

    Michelle, thanks for adding to the conversation. I love your phrase, “a wonderful transfer of energy between child and teacher.” When things are flowing, that’s how I experience teaching. I also love the way you have adapted the metta practice for your students, bringing it home to the issues that affect them – wanting to be heard, etc. Thanks!

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