Why Mindfulness in the Classroom?

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Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure to work with Collaboroo ( https://www.collaboroo.com ) and presenting two free online workshops, Mindfulness for Teachers ( https://youtu.be/geshpfZyApQ ) and Mindfulness in the Classroom ( https://youtu.be/L9s3xT8wuP0 ).

Mindfulness is a life-long skill that is important for ourselves and our children for good mental-health and well-being. This is not a strategy that is for a specific group of children in this modern high pressure education system. All people who partake in mindfulness are rewarded with a way of better dealing with the stresses of life.

However, for our most vulnerable children, mindfulness can become a life-line.
I believe that J.G. Larochette from Growing Mindfulness In Education ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/290873981368847/?fref=ts ), sums up the importance of Mindfulness for Teachers and Mindfulness in the Classroom.

As we are naturally wired for survival, we have mirror neurons that are wired to reflect what we see. This while very important for real survival moments is very destructive in many other situations. Take being a classroom teacher as an example. If you have students who have a lot of trauma or chronic stress they are more likely to not feel safe in their own bodies and their behaviors will follow that. If a teachers mirror neurons start to become default mode he or she will begin to mirror stress, chaos, and be in fight, flight, freeze mode as a defense mechanism. This will then cause the whole classroom environment to be chaotic and escalate trauma and stress. However if the teacher is able to stay self-aware, present, regulated, connected, and keep activity in the prefrontal cortex, over time students will begin to mirror that. In other words, educators can actually be a mindful mirror that will change the classroom learning environment. This isn’t easy at all but it is beyond needed especially in schools where students have deep trauma. #BeaMindfulMirror”

Where to begin? Why not start with the two recorded workshops by Collaboroo:
Mindfulness for Teachers ( https://youtu.be/geshpfZyApQ ) and Mindfulness in the Classroom ( https://youtu.be/L9s3xT8wuP0 ).

Have a read across this blog ( www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com ) for a number of strategies for both teachers and children and start trying a few.

You can also find more than 100 Ideas for Mindfulness In The Classroom in my book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom, that can be found on Bloomsbury here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/100-ideas-for-primary-teachers-mindfulness-in-the-classroom-9781472944955/ or on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ideas-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness/dp/147294495X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522490100&sr=1-1&keywords=tammie+prince

Let Mindfulness begin with you!

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Mindful Refocus

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There can sometimes be a misconception about mindfulness. Some people believe that mindfulness is a way of escaping from stress or a way of keeping stress away from you. This is untrue.

Mindfulness will not become some magical shield from stress in your life. No matter how little stress we may have in our lives, our brains will always perceive the most stressful event, no matter how small, as being extremely stressful. Mindfulness gives you the tools to deal with the stress of life.

The key to mindfulness is not getting rid of stress, it is learning how to react to stress.

Even with the best will in the world, our lives get taken over by life. We begin the morning with good intentions; we meditate, we take mindful moments while we brush our teeth and make our tea. But, as our day gets into full swing, our old habits set in and our reptilian brains take over. We react without thought or purpose. Our cortisol levels rise and rise until we are an exhausted heap of human mess.

So, what can you do about that?

Mindful Refocus

Mindful Refocus allows you to return your awareness to the present moment. In order to give myself a frequent reminder, I choose a mindful object.

Once you are dressed for the day, choose an object you are wearing to be your mindful object. It can be a ring, your id badge, necklace, tie, shoes, your watch, a button on your shirt, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is something you will see several times.

During the day, at any point you notice your mindful object, touch it, and complete a Mindful Refocus.

This simple meditation takes only seconds. But, it gives mindful focus for those few seconds and calms the mind so that you can be the best person possible.

Mindful Refocus Activities:

1- Deep Breathing– Take three, deep mindful breaths paying attention to the air flowing in and out your body.

2- Sound Meditation– Close your eyes for a moment, stop and listen to the sounds around you. Focus on the pitch, vibration through your body or distance of the sound.

3- Colour Meditation– Choose a colour that you will decide to notice. Take a deep breath and notice five things with that colour.

4- Shoulder Relaxation– Breath deeply and, on the exhale, allow your shoulders to drop towards the floor as if someone is pressing them downward. Repeat a few times, noticing how your body feels as your shoulders relax.

5- Count Backwards– Take a deep breath and count backwards from 60. Concentrate just on the counting, allowing your body to relax more with each number.

Always remember that mindfulness is not about getting rid stress but how we react to the stress.

Find more mindfulness strategies for children and adults here: www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or for more ideas for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury. More information can be found here.

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Guest Blog: Empowering Question Meditation by Gill Hancock

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About the Author: Gill Hancock is a KS1 practitioner, working in an International school. With 20 years experience of KS1, KS2 and KS3 students, Gill firmly believes in the practice of mindfulness to empower students to think about the present moment in the ever increasing pace of modern life.

Gill tried out Empowering Question Meditation with her class with these results.

Asking questions can help to ground and focus our minds to support our development of emotional intelligence. I asked a year 1 class what they really liked about themselves and why brought some very interesting responses.

“I am brave because it makes me feel good to stand up for my friends.”

“I am kind because I can help people.”

“I am a risk taker with my learning and this helps my brain.”

“I like that I can focus to learn new things.”

“I am an exerciser and this makes my body healthy.”

“I am strong so I can help my mum and dad with jobs.”

“I am a super swimmer so I can soon swim without water wings.”

Follow Gill on Twitter @GillHanock

Find out about how to use Empowering Question Meditation or other mindfulness ideas at www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or in the book by Tammie Prince, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom published by Bloomsbury.

Book Review by Kerry Macfarlane – 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom

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Note: This is a book review written by  Kerry Macfarlane who is a Primary
Teacher, Specialist Leader and PSHE/Mental Wellbeing Lead at Corpus Christi Primary School, Bournemouth. You can follow Kerry on Twitter ‪@KAB21MAC‬.

If you’re looking for ways to develop mindfulness in the primary classroom, this book has it all! Loaded with a wealth of inspired ideas, activities and tips, ‘Mindfulness in the Classroom’ is a superb toolkit, full of mindful practices designed to support children’s mental health in a simple, manageable way within the classroom.

The impact of mindfulness is a growing area of interest in supporting children’s well-being. In my experience, equipping children with a repertoire of skills and strategies to use mindful practice enables them to manage their feelings, especially their ability to cope with stress and anxiety to achieve a state of calm. This book offers practical ways to support children’s skills of emotional self-management through a variety of engaging and accessible mindful practices.

Tammie’s activity ideas are easy to implement, effective take-aways for any primary classroom practitioner. Among my favourites are Mind Jar Meditation, Body Scan, Yoga practice, Random Acts of Kindness and the Gratitude Jar.

Congratulations to Tammie on producing such a fabulous gem of a book to inspire mindfulness within and beyond the primary classroom for both children and teachers.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom is written by Tammie Prince and published by Bloomsbury. You can find more information on the book and where you can order the book here.

Mindfulness In the Classroom Guest Blog- Breathing Buddies

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Guest Blogger:  Lesley Ravenscroft, Central Regional Coordinator for the Thrive Approach

“When you breathe in, you inspire; when you don’t breathe, you expire.” (Apocryphal answer to a biology exam question). 

Breathing is natural, right? Our body does it largely without our conscious awareness. We become aware of it during some situations. I often find myself non-consciously holding my breath during underwater scenes in movies; I nearly died during ‘Finding Dory’!

Moreover, inhabiting perception and being able to recognise our bodily sensations are a first base for the physicality of emotional regulation. It is even more important to teach this when we are working with traumatised children who may, of necessity, have had to de-sensitise themselves from feelings due to toxic stress. They may be less sensitive to the social engagement of others and less able to tolerate and integrate strong feelings such as fear.

We would conceptualise fear as an instinctive response to threats to survival. For mammals, this includes separation from a care-giver as our survival depends on the Adult–Child relationship.  Our senses pick up sensory cues, then our amygdala scans the incoming sensory information and, if we have come to associate those cues with threat, the amygdala triggers the fight/flight or freeze responses. In the hyper-aroused flight response, we experience a racing heart, sweating, sick feeling, deeper breathing. This is mediated by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. In the hypo-aroused freeze response, we experienced foggy thinking or confusion, numbness, dissociation, shallow breathing, slow heart-beat. This is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system. It involves the release of opioids and acetyl-choline.

We cannot underestimate the importance of breathing – particularly a long out-breath – for calming and regulating these systems. This is because the Vagus nerve acts like a brake on the heart every time we breath out. This means that the longer the out-breath, the more active the brake and the slower our heart-beat. Controlled breathing can override the fight, flight, or freeze response set off by the amygdala and enable mindful behaviour.

Breathing Buddies (aka Teddy Bear Belly Breathing) can help small people calm their nervous system and have giggles with a Transition Object in school, or it is even a great way of calming before reading a story at bedtime.

In a school, children are invited to bring a favourite teddy/stuffie (or I have even seen a favourite fire truck!) into school. They can play with it and snuggle it and then lie down comfortably on their backs with the teddy on their tummy, near their naval. Offer cushions and pillows for them to find a comfy position with arms and legs placed outstretched. The idea is to make them aware of their breathing, so ask them to breathe in so that their buddy goes up as you count to three and down for the count of three, giving their buddy an ‘up and down’ ride. Ask them to notice how their tummy feels with their buddy on it at different parts of the cycle. “Feel how your tummy is pushing on the bear.” The point is to repeat the breathing rhythm and to do this to regulate any child who is dysregulated by separation or the thought of the school day ahead. They can pretend that their teddy is real and that they are rocking it to sleep. Play along by saying things like, “I can hear a bear snoring; I think you have sent it to sleep!”

Once regulated, the teddies may accompany the children to class or even stay around a special teddy bears’ tea party table to keep them safe, though as Transition Objects, the child needs easy access. Breathing Buddies can be repeated for any transition and before home time too. Many children are not too sure of time and building this into routines can provide very clear signposts to the passage of the day.

Other types of regulated breathing could be introduced by blowing bubbles or by blowing on cuts and grazes, all the while fostering a longer out-breath to act as a regulator and slow the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

Ultimately, if the children are used to doing mindful breathing as part of their daily routine, they can be prompted to use it during a crisis as part of self-regulation. Breathing “…as if they were giving teddy a ride…” is great for steadying and grounding the alarmed mind. Of course, mindful strategies must be held within a safe and responsive relationship to be truly successful, so enjoy those relationships with the small people and their Breathing Buddies.

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 About the Author:  Lesley has worked in teaching for thirty years, starting with 4-7 year-olds and, most recently spent 19 years as a SENCO in a mainstream secondary school. She wishes she had known about the Thrive Approach earlier. She can be contacted on Lesley.Ravenscroft@thriveapproach.com

Find out about other breathing strategies at Mindfulness in the Classroom- Breathing or in Part 1 of the book on Breathing by Tammie Prince, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers:  Mindfulness in the Classroom published by Bloomsbury.

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100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom

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This week is the release of my book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom, published by Bloomsbury. On the 19th October 2017, copies will hit the letterboxes of everyone who pre-ordered and the next step of my journey in supporting Mindfulness development in schools will begin.

The idea regarding the development of Mindfulness in the Classroom was not born out of the desire to write a book. It grew out of a frustration regarding a lack of mental health support for children and staff. My own research and development of Mindfulness in myself has grown from those first small steps to this blog, www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com, promotion of mental health on Twitter ( @Ed_Tmprince ), Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ) and now the book.

The foundation of the book is to integrate Mindfulness as part of the school day, taking into account the needs of the class and aiming to develop positive mental health skills for ALL children in the class, including ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. Also, a key priority of this book (as has been with the blog) is that the strategies cost no to little money to implement and that it compliments the blog.

Initial reviews have been extremely positive.

“Full of practical activities, there is something for everyone here – even the sceptic. With clear links to different curriculum areas, mindful practice can easily be embedded using the ideas in this book. A great starters’ guide to mindfulness.” –  Aidan Severs, Member of Primary School Senior Leadership Team, @theboycanteach

“This is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to weave mindfulness into the fabric of their primary classroom and practice. Full of practical, ready-to-go ideas, and so simple to use, it’s a must-read for the mindful teacher.” –  Sam Collins, Teacher and Founder of Schoolwell, @samschoolstuff

“The ideas and suggestions in this book are easy for any teacher to use and adapt, regardless of how long they have been practicing mindfulness. We thoroughly enjoy the variety of activities and use them both in whole school and class mindfulness sessions. A wonderful resource that should be part of every classroom.” –  Ellen Glynn, Mindfulness Coordinator

You can order the book now in most countries. Here are some links:

Bloomsbury (UK)- https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/100-ideas-for-primary-teachers-mindfulness-in-the-classroom-9781472944955/

Amazon (UK)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ideas-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness/dp/147294495X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507960609&sr=1-1&keywords=tammie+prince

Amazon (USA)- https://www.amazon.com/100-Ideas-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness/dp/147294495X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507960662&sr=8-1&keywords=tammie+prince

Fishpond (Australia)- https://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/100-Ideas-for-Primary-Teachers-Tammie-Prince/9781472944955

Book Depository (worldwide)- https://www.bookdepository.com/100-Ideas-for-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness-Classroom-Tammie-Prince/9781472944955

Get your book today and let me know what you think!

Inhale… Exhale… And begin!