Mindful breathing is helping tamariki stay calm and focused at Laingholm Primary School.

Year 6 teacher Claire Cheeseman works in a collaborative space with another teacher who does a lot of the mindful/brain function learning. Their classes practise focused breathing for three or four minutes every block - at the start of the day, right after morning tea, lunch, and when doing sports activities.

“It’s absolutely invaluable for the children. It’s calming and gets them ready and focused for the lesson ahead.”

She has noticed a change in behaviour of some of the tamariki who were struggling.

"We have some tamariki whose behaviour can be an issue, but the focused breathing calms and settles them."

The children remind her about focused breathing if she forgets to do it.

They also use the Mind Up Curriculum by Goldie Hawn to teach tamariki about how the brain and body work.

"It's really easy, there's a book for juniors and a book for seniors."

The picture book “Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” is another tool the children enjoy, along with mindful colouring. They even did Zoom mindful colouring during lockdown.

Claire says the more you practice focused breathing, the more you see the benefits.

"It's really good at refocusing the class and teachers after we have had a grumble or growl. It helps us all let it go."

Claire also organises wellbeing activities for staff. She says that at the end of term one, the team were quite low so to give them a lift she organised for staff to do something for another member of staff – it could be anything they wanted.

"Some did lolly jars, baking, plants or vouchers, it was really lovely.”

Claire says some of the changes brought about by COVID have had a positive impact on staff, such as fewer staff meetings. 

"The school still ticks over, nothing stops because we haven't had a staff meeting. You can get ideas and thoughts from people by having a quick conversation or by email."

Claire's advice to other schools who want to introduce focused breathing is to pick a time that suits you and that you can stick to and keep it short and sweet.

“You’ll see the benefits without a doubt in a short space of time.”

Sparklers is another wellbeing tool she had embraced.

"I use their resources all the time, they’re invaluable. I love it and share it with other staff.”

What makes Sparklers so good is they are time efficient which is invaluable to teachers, says Claire.

"Sparklers get to the point quickly, you don’t have to spend hours reading and trying to get information. The links are all there."

She says making a Te Whare Tapa Whā mosaic for her classroom wall has been a great way to get tamariki to think about all the things that help them feel good.