New Year, New Attitude: Leading your students into the New Year

Do your students have an attitude? Of course they do, but the question is – have you helped them develop a positive one? One that will lead them to a successful, happy life, or are they on a default mode and automatic reaction?
The best time to start this is moving into the New Year and when planning your term one classes.

How often do you see students skulk into class, dragging their heels? How often do you scan the room to be met with a sea of lethargic teens or fidgeting tweens? And do you ever wish there was a better answer to motivating, energising, calming or dealing with negative behaviour in class?
The answer lies not in focussing on what the students need to do, which is merely a symptom, but on developing the attitude that leads to it.

Follow these steps with your class to achieve a successful and happy year together.

Step 1: Choose Your Attitude
Take the opportunity every class to choose the attitude that you want to embody that class. If you don’t choose the attitude, the mind goes into default mode and the little voice in your head will choose for you. As a teacher this can sound like, “I’m tired,” “What if they don’t like me,” “I’m worried I won’t have control of the class,” “Is my lesson plan good enough.” For children that little voice can sound like, “I don’t want to, “ “It’s too hard, “ “I can’t, “ “No one likes me,” “I can’t be bothered,” “I’m not good enough.”
Rather than having this dialogue going on throughout the class, create a positive attitude together, one that can change depending on the activities of the class. Ones I like are: excited, happy, grateful, kind, generous, loving, confident, calm, peaceful.

Step 2: Build Awareness
In order to be the attitude we created in step one, we must continually generate it throughout the class and this comes through the practice of being aware of our attitude moment by moment.
One of the best ways to do this is to start the class with a practice of thought and emotion awareness. For little children this can be a 1 minute practice and my favourite is called the weather report.
Have your class sit for 1 minute and close their eyes. Tell them to notice how they feel and relate it to the weather. Ask, “How do you feel right now? Do you feel like sunshine, rain, a cloudy day, a thunderstorm, a rainbow.” If they can sit still for one more minute, have them extend this by watching the thoughts in their minds like clouds drifting across the sky. They can notice if they are fixated on one thought, or thinking about an event in the future or an anxiety about the past.
This practice will set them up to either create their attitude for the class or have them aware of how they are feeling and have been feeling and most likely the attitude that went with it.
Throughout the class build in moments for awareness of how the students are feeling and what they are thinking. It can be as simple as asking them during a rest pose, “notice what you are thinking of right now.”

Step 3: The Opportunity of Choice
Because we have developed an awareness of attitude throughout the class, it gives us an option of choice.
While we don’t have control over what thought pops into our mind or the attitude that will be created by that thought, what we do have control of is the moment to moment power of overriding that default mode with a new conscious chosen attitude.
So, every time you ask the students to become aware of how they are feeling, they have the opportunity to replace it with the attitude they created at the beginning of the class.

Step 4: Lock it in With Action
Once we have chosen our attitude, the last step is to commit to action that would naturally follow that attitude. Confident would show up as trying a new pose for the first time, or an inversion or backbend perhaps. Excitement would look like jumping up when it is time to do standing postures. Calm would appear as not getting frustrated when a pose is difficult, lying completely still in savasana, or not getting angry or upset when the answer is no.

Teach your students awareness of their thoughts and feelings in class and they will have the ability to do this anywhere. Teach your students to create and have control of their attitude and they will have control of their future.

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