About Lee-Ann Meredith

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao Tzu Lee-Ann Meredith is a second grade teacher, author, Department Chairperson and education advocate who has spent the duration of her time in public education at John B. Murphy Elementary School in inner city Chicago. Often characterized as funny, dynamic, and an independent innovator, Lee-Ann cites her idol as Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Fluent in a wide range in instructional strategies for the elementary level, Lee-Ann is dedicated to being an advocate for children everywhere by implementing 'cutting edge' strategies to increase student achievement. Some of the issues that she spearhead included: promoting literacy throughout the building, leading community meetings to advocate for full day kindergarten for all students and helping implement the Responsive Classroom strategies throughout the school. In addition to working closely with the curriculum, she also had the honor to supervise (and mentor into teaching positions) numerous student teachers and practicum students from various post-secondary institutions around the Chicago area such as: Erikson Institute, National Louis, DePaul. Northeaster Illinois, Roosevelt, and North Park Universities.

“I am going to teach you a super power.”

I said this to over twenty classes last week, from first through seventh grades. I am covering for an art and music teacher on leave for the next several weeks. I certainly can cover the art portion without any trouble. I can sing, so we will muddle through the music portion. This position, however, is giving me a chance to do something I’ve been dreaming of teaching: mindful meditation.

This summer, I thought a lot about how to teach meditation to grade school students. It is something I passionately want to do. I wondered how would it look? Where would I start? What did I want them to take away from learning this skill? I had used several meditation techniques in my second grade classroom, but they were just little nuggets dropped in the day.

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An art and music classroom seemed like a perfect spot to teach these lessons. First, it is a way to settle students when they come into the huge classroom. Many children don’t transition well and this is a calming way to get set to learn. Second, it clears the debris and chatter of the mind and allows the kids to be more creative. Finally, I get to practice my mindfulness four or five times a day.

I am fortunate to be substitute teaching at the school where I used to teach. I discussed teaching meditation with a few teacher friends before school started. Everyone was excited about the idea. In fact, every single teacher I have talked to about it since school began has been enthusiastic. The most common response was, “Teach me, so we can use it in our room.” I knew it was going to be accepted when the principal dropped in for poster boards and stayed to learn the breathing techniques I taught the first day. (My fellow teachers should thank me for this.)

Sonia Choquette, my favorite intuition teacher, calls meditation a super power. I love this image. I asked the kids to shut their eyes and picture their favorite superhero eating dinner or sitting on the couch, watching TV. There comes that moment when the hero knows he has to switch on his powers. There is a small flash of time where the hero reflects inward before the intention of heroics takes hold. I explain that this is the superhero clearing the mind of the day-to-day and focusing on the power within. He (or she) is pushing the mind’s noise away. There is no mental discussion. To paraphrase Yoda, “There is no think. There is only do.”

We have finished the second week of school. So far, I have taught about 400 students different cleansing breaths. This week, we will add one more breath and begin to sit for just a minute or two. I will teach them my favorite strategy for what to do when the chatter in your mind starts. I just wonder, “What will I think of next?” That usually allows that thought to float off. If my mind is overworking, I think that phrase a lot. We will see where the kids and I go to next. I have so many ideas that sound fun yet grounding. I will let my heart lead me.

My dream is to create my own business going into classrooms sharing this skill. This substitute teaching assignment has given me the opportunity to “work it.” The kids are responsive. The quiet is deep and the air is calm. It makes me so happy to see them settle into the meditation because they want this super power: the power to let quiet their minds and go of their stress.

What do I hope they learn from this? I hope they learn to worry less. I hope they learn to become more focused and grounded when that is required of them. What I wish for the most, however, is that they learn to hear their heart’s voice.

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