Teachers of New Jersey: Raymond Roe, Westover Elementary, Toms River, NJ
I have been teaching for many years, and I always asked the question, ‘how can we as educators make our students’ world better?’ As a teacher, what is my role in making their world a better place? And, really, it starts with my own students. I had taken a course on meditation, and I really saw the potential in it, and so I took more courses. I saw how meditation helped me to calm my mind, to calm my body, and it became a part of my life. And I saw the potential for the classroom.
I got a jar full of glitter. And in class I will swirl it up until all the glitter goes around and then it all floats to the bottom. As you watch it, it slows your mind, and everything becomes clear. It is a process that eases the amygdala and the hippocampus, which are your fight and flight parts of your brain. You want to ease that fight and flight so that your prefrontal cortex takes over. When you do that, your body will react naturally to the relaxation. I always tell my students, relax your forehead, unclench your jaw and let your shoulders slump. And when my students do that, they actually say, ‘Oh, yeah.’ And they can feel the difference. I have it in the tech lab because that’s my room, and I teach them to not turn their heads when somebody comes in because students come into the classroom at different times. So I teach them not to turn their head. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. They’re going to come in, they’re going to sit, but don’t worry about what they’re doing. Don’t worry about what they’re wearing, you know, don’t engage with them. Focus on what’s best for you right now. And that’s the perfect little seed to start them.
I am so happy when my students share how they implemented the techniques I have taught them in their day-to-day lives. I actually had a student who was such a sweetie. He came from a very tough home. His parents were very combative. But he had been coming to my meditation classes consistently. And I was like, ‘Hey, buddy, how are things going?’ Then he told me, ‘My parents got in a fight the other day, and I knew it didn’t have to do with me. So I went up into my room and I meditated for about five to seven minutes. And by the time I had calmed myself, I was ready to rejoin them, as their fight was already over.’ I got to tears when he told me. It is so beautiful to me when they implement the mediation themselves. I have given them the tools to do something beautiful. It’s really beautiful: something so simple, but so important just allows them to control a little bit of their world.
Interview by Gregory Andrus
Portraits of the Jersey Shore