Ciji Thurman

2nd and 3rd Grade Teacher

Hardin County Schools

Rineyville, Kentucky

One January evening, Ciji Thurman joined a small group of educators for a community conversation about restoring one’s practice and classroom in the new year. The discussion focused on mindfulness strategies that students and teachers can use to become more in tune with their feelings, recenter, and move forward.

Among the strategies that were shared, facilitate Diarra Imani suggested an activity she calls “Ball It Up.” Ciji felt this activity would resonate with her 2nd and 3rd grade scholars and decided to give it a try in her classroom. This is her account of how she approached the lesson.

Putting a Name to Our Thoughts and Emotions

I started this learning experience with talking to students about empathy and sympathy, and what they both mean. I then had students write down all the negative things that have been said or done to them (even things they have said to themselves). We spoke about how it felt to write those things down and what feelings they had then, and now.

Next, I had them flip their paper over and do the same but write things they said or did to others that might have been “ugly.” We spoke about how those words and actions could have made the other person feel.

Moving Forward with A Fresh Outlook

In order to clean the slate, we talked about how they can’t change the past, but they can control their future. We ruled, tore, and balled up those papers. As we did, we said we were “throwing away the old.” Finally, each student took all their pieces, dunked them in the trash can and when they did they had to say, “I am ___ (insert a positive word that describes them).”

Lastly, we took a deep breath in to take in the positive, and breath out to release the negative.