Talking Heads: Tammie Prince

This week I shared my thoughts on leadership with Talking Heads. If you are an educator and considering going into leadership, this is a great place to read what practicing leaders have to say.

Here are my thoughts. Click on the Talking Heads link below for the full article.

Talking Heads

Leadership Biography

Name: Tammie Prince

Phase: Primary

Sector: Maintained

Region: Yorkshire

Years Served in Education: 26 years

Years Served as a Headteacher: 9 years (I have just started my second headship in April.)

Leadership Journey:

  • Went to university in USA and taught there for 10 years.
  • Hillside Primary School, Leeds- EYFS/KS1 Leader
  • Bankside Primary School, Leeds- AHT
  • Kinsley Primary School, Wakefield- DHT
  • Green Lane Primary Academy, Leeds- Principal
    • Designated NLE (continues)
    • Led Teaching School Alliance
    • Executive Principal
  • Newlands Primary School, Wakefield- Headteacher
    • Continuing as NLE
  • Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration: There are far too many to name.  I tend to look at all leaders and take what I think is the best from them all to make my own style.

Twitter Handle: @Ed_Tmprince

Blog: educationsvoice.wordpress.com

Leadership Reflections

Why did I become a teacher?

Like most teachers, my desire to become an educator sprung from my love of learning. My fascination with the way…

View original post 1,125 more words

A Mindful Ofsted -Top 5 Tips

IMG_0513

Just the word OFSTED, uttered in a whisper, can set the heart rate rising across an English school. ( Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. However, it is also synonymous with the inspection regime that grades schools from outstanding to inadequate.) Even the mentioning of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI), sends some of us into a cold sweat. The fight or flight impulse is strong and causes countless amount of stress for educators up and down the country.

I applied to become the Headteacher of my new school knowing that Ofsted was imminent. It was discussed when I viewed the school for the first time. It was discussed when I interviewed for the job. It was discussed when we decided I would start earlier than expected in order to get a head start on getting a grip on what the school needed and putting plans into place sooner rather than later. It was the journey I had chosen to take.

None the less, when we received that 11 am call informing me that the inspectors were going to be visiting the next day, I had to say that I had a few moments of shock. You see, it was day 11 of my new headship. Not only was it day 11 but it was also SATs Week (UK national standardised testing for primary schools) and we had an EYFS (Early Years and Foundation Stage) moderation of final assessments scheduled for the Friday.

What followed was typical for spending the next 21 hours preparing for the visit with gathering documents, discussing details with governors and prepping staff. But, the most important thing was preparing myself.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for a Mindful Ofsted.

#1
Prepare before you have to prepare.- Developing your own understanding of mindfulness and use of mindfulness practice allows you to automatically shift into Mindful gear when you get the call. A good way to begin Mindfulness Development is to try a number of mindfulness strategies over a period of time. Why not try #MonthOfMindfulness which is 30 days of 30 simple mindfulness strategies? They can be found HERE.

#2
Learn to Breathe!– Learn how to use breathing techniques to trick yourself into a state of calm. You can learn more HERE. After, you receive the call, allow yourself a few minutes to just clear your mind and breathe, focusing on the breath as the cool air enters your lungs and the feel of the warm air as you exhale. Allow yourself relax. This is important for you and your team. Continue to have those moments of solitude before, during and after the inspection.

#3
Meditate – Ensure you have a favourite guided meditation ready to use when the time comes. My favourite for these kind of occasions is a nice walk on the beach which can be found HERE. Allow yourself to have this time to yourself before the day begins and again at the end of the day as go to bed.

#4
Keep Hydrated– We all know that we function best when we are hydrated. Ensure that you have a jug of fresh water is on your desk with your favourite glass. Then, make sure you drink it! Use this Water Meditation to enhance your Calmness.
Water Meditation
– Pour yourself a glass of plain water. (It can have ice.)
– Sit down with your water and allow yourself to be aware of drinking the water.
– Take a sip. Allow the sip to linger in the mouth. Notice the temperature of the liquid against your tongue, cheeks, gums and palate. What can you taste? Is there a sweetness, bitterness, acidic or even slightly salty taste?
– Notice the sensations of the water being swallowed and flowing down your throat and into your stomach.
– Continue to be mindful of each sip; allowing yourself to be in the very present moment of drinking your water.

#5
STOP!- 10 Second Mindfulness
This is a simple but effective strategy to refocus our attention.
S– Stop what you are doing.

T– Take a deep breathe. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for a count of one and exhale for a count of 8.

O– Observe what is happening around you at this moment.

P– Proceed with what you were doing.
Do this as often as you need during the day. Those few mindful moments can change your reaction to what is happening around you leading to a better positive response that changes the course of events.

Conclusion:

The key to surviving an inspection is to stay in control of your emotions rather than letting them control you. Your team will feed off of your reactions and follow your lead. If you stay calm, they will be calmer.  Also, by being mindful, we can be more clear about what we want inspectors to see and know about your school.

The end result for me was a positive one, mainly because I felt in control of a situation that was out of my control. I realise that not all inspections can or will be positive. However, by using mindfulness strategies before, during and after will put you in control of your own health and well being during a stressful time.

So now, BREATHE and carry mindfully on.

Mindful Listening – Top Tips For Leaders

IMG_0239

During the day, whether you are the Headteacher, class teacher or office manager, you have many conversations. These conversations with children and adults range from fleeting to lengthy and form important parts of our lives.

Using Mindful Listening strategies can make those conversations more positive and productive. The strategies are not difficult; but, they may take some practice.

Mindful Listening Top Tips for Leaders

1- STOP! What people want from these conversations is to be listened to with full interest and intention. Take a deep breath, look them in the eye and LIsTEN to what they are saying. Don’t allow your mind to wonder and don’t start formulating a response before they finish talking. To them, what they have to say is extremely important and, many times, they don’t expect a full answer straight away and will usually appreciate the pause that will be required to formulate your response when they are finished talking.

2- CONTROL– Control your reactions. Notice your body’s response to what is being said, particularly if what is being said goes against your own feelings about the situation. Notice any rise in your own stress levels and take action immediately. Take deep steady breaths, relax your shoulders and continue to focus on what is being said.

3- NO PROMISES – Never make any promise you are not perfectly sure you can keep. Promises are an easy out of difficult conversations or situations. However, broken promises can destroy trust and make your life as a leader more difficult. What you can promise is that you will continue to listen to them, consider their opinion and make decisions based on what is best for the needs of the children. If you do make a promise, ensure that you follow through!

4- PROCESS– After conversations, allow yourself a moment to process what had been said between the people involved, make your plan of action and then allow the conversation to be put to bed. Obsessing over conversations will not do you or anyone else any good. It will not change what was said and steal time from your busy day. If you find yourself obsessing, take a Mindful Minute and then proceed.

Remember, that, as a leader, you will not make everyone happy with your decisions. However, they will respect those decisions if they know they have been listened to and given the time for consideration.

Take a deep breath, hold it and then exhale slowly. You can do this!

2017 – The Year of Mindfulness

design

I find it interesting that a random date can have so much significance. Why should the 1st January mark the beginning of a new year, the beginning of fresh starts or a difference of such significance that copious amounts of sparkly beverages and loud fireworks blast into the air?

We should treat each new day with the same exuberance and positive outlook that we use to celebrate a new year on a calendar.

Earlier this week I shared my Mindful New Year’s Resolutions. Life is not easy. As we go about our lives, it can feel like a roller coaster. Some days are exciting, peaceful and perfectly awe inspiring and other days plunge us to the very edge of insanity. Taking control of the ride takes daily practice, even for the most experienced.

Even for the most experienced mindfulness practitioners, a refreshing of mindfulness practice can bring us deeper peace and control of our emotions.

So, let’s kick start 2017 and work on developing our own mindfulness so that we can be models for others around us.

#MonthOfMindfulness Challenge will only take a few minutes a day. There will be some tasks that you take to easily and there will be others that will not suit you. That is ok. This is about opening up and building your toolkit of mindfulness strategies.

The #MonthOfMindfulness Challenge can be started on ANY day. So, don’t worry if you don’t begin on 1st January. Just begin on Day 1 and take it one day at a time!

Share the strategies with others, document your progress and give yourself permission to be more mindful in 2017.

Follow me on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/

You can also email me at EVMindfulness@outlook.com .

Prepare Now for a New Year of Mindfulness

image

Ok, so you had the best of intentions to start the academic year mindfully. After a restful summer, you were determined to be mindful. But, before you knew it, you were knee deep in teaching, marking and new policies, all thoughts of mindfulness went out the window.

It happens! That is ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Make the development of your own mindfulness and the mindfulness of your class your New Years Resolution.

But, we all know that doing anything cold turkey can be counter productive. So, in preparation for the new Mindful year, get in a little mindfulness practice. Over five days, complete a new part.

Part 1 – Shoulder Relaxation

Part 2 – Mindful Object Meditation

Part 3 – Morning Mindfulnes

Part 4  – STOP Meditation

Part 5 – Meditation

Then, in January, join me for a #MonthOfMindfulness. Keep active in your thoughts and conversations mindfulness strategies. Like all things it takes practice and nurturing. Even if you have practiced mindfulness for a while, refreshing your practice will support your mental well being as well as the mental well being if your class and family.

 

Stress, Mindfulness and My Story

image

Introduction

Over the last few weeks, people have asked me to recount my own road to mindfulness and what impact it has had on my life. I was fine telling my story to individuals. But, the thought of putting it down in black and white was very scary. The thought had my heart begin to race and tension build in my jaw and shoulders. I am fortunate that I recognised the anxiety quickly, breathed deeply and did a quick meditation followed by reflecting on the reasons this caused me anxiety.

I came to the conclusion that I have grown up in a society that can sometimes see the admission of the effects of stress as a weakness. Did I actually want people to see me weak in any way? In my role as a headteacher/principal, I felt I needed to be the strong foundation supporting others so they can do the best that they could for the children they taught. I then realised that to be that strong foundation, I must also be a good model and sharing my story may also lead others in the education profession to seeking better ways of dealing with the relentless stress we are under everyday.

So, here is my story!

Before

I have always been an intense person; striving to be the very best I could be and applying myself with relentless pressure to do better and improve. I remember with great clarity getting my first stomach ulcer at 11 years old in the run up to the state standardised end of year tests. So, how I dealt with stress has been very ingrained.

Before Mindfulness:
– I did not sleep well at night. Waking at 2 am was the norm. The thoughts would swirl in my head on long, endless loops. They would force me out of bed and I would send and answer emails at this crazy hour in the hopes that by putting them into words they would leave me alone. All I ever got was new swirling thoughts to take their place!

– I was on a constant adrenaline high! I was on constant high alert; reacting to the smallest things or the biggest things with equal passion. I began to read into things when there was nothing to read. I became paranoid! Everything was about me and it all was not good. I took even the challenges in education as a personal attack on me!

– I had developed high blood pressure. That adrenaline high was keeping my BP at a constant high level risking my health and damaging my immune system.

– I was having panic attacks nearly on a daily basis and many times it was happening several times a day. My self confidence was plummeting.

– I replayed difficult conversations over and over in my head. I analysed it for hours or days. I dwelled in the emotions of the conversations that seemed to get bigger and bigger with each rehashing!

– I cried A LOT! I cried driving to work. I cried going home. I cried when I was upset. I cried when I was happy. I cried when I was scared. I cried and didn’t even know why I was crying! I had begun to laugh less. The world was turning grey.

– About a year ago, I took an online stress test. I scored 35/40.

You see, after seven years of headship/principalship, the pressures were interfering with my own mental health and well being. Stress is part of the job when you are in leadership and I think, in some ways, I thrive on that stress. I enjoy solving problems and seeing things differently. I am also passionate about education and have a deep ethos in educating the whole child.

However, in the current ever changing education climate, it was becoming harder and harder to keep the wave of stress overwhelming my own mental health. The never ending  “To Do” list had me on, what felt like, a never ending roller coaster at warp speed.

After

So, as you can see, I needed to do SOMETHING! I just wanted to stop the millions of thoughts flying through my every waking moment!

I started with guided meditations and, as I began to see the positive impact that it was having on me, I did more research into WHY it was working and I found and began practicing many other strategies. As the time has gone on, I have realised the mindfulness is just part and parcel of my daily life and it has made a HUGE difference; enough for people who haven’t seen me for a while to make comment on the changes.

What has changed?

– I sleep! Waking up at 2 am is a thing of the past! I still wake up earlier than most people, 5 am, but I don’t wake up with swirling thoughts. This is only an hour before the time I need to get up. Instead of filling the time with emails, I fill it with meditation and reading research on mental health and how mindfulness works.

– The constant adrenaline rush has ceased! The peacefulness of a resting body and mind wraps me like a warm blanket. I am content. Then, when an adrenaline rush does occur as it should from time to time, my reactions are appropriate, proportionate and clear.

– I went to the doctor last week and my BP was perfect! Enough said.

– I remember the last panic attack I had. It was back in September. Over a few months they had become less and less. But, this one I remember clearly. I wear it like a badge of honour as I was able to take control of it completely. Now, I recognise the warning signs and take immediate mindful action. In the beginning, I had to do at least 30 minute meditations. Now, I usually only takes a few deep breathes. I feel confident and happy about life!

– I stopped dwelling on those difficult conversations. I will repeat them if required to inform others. But, I don’t dwell in the emotions. I allow them to drift out of my thoughts like a cloud floating in the sky.

– I stopped crying! I can’t remember a time in my entire life that crying hasn’t been a sign of ANY of my emotions. For me, this is significant! Now, I laugh and laugh and laugh some more!

– I took an online stress test today. I scored 7/40!

What do I do on a day to day basis?

– I do at least 10 minutes of guided meditations most days. I miss it on the days I don’t do them. I call them my mini-holidays/vacations. They are varied from visualisations to body scans, muscle relaxations, claiming, etc.

– On days that I am finding particularly more challenging, I do longer guided meditations; particularly in the evenings to ensure I sleep well.

– At various points in the day, I just do a quick scan over my body to notice any tension and do deep breathing exercises like a One Minute meditation or practice STOP. I practice all of the things I outline in the A Teacher’s Mindfulness series and in the Mindful Leadership posts.

image

– I practice gratitude! I identify all of the positives in the day and ensure that on my way home I list these in my mind. Every day has a positive. So, I dwell on that!

-I take the time to notice small things; like the colours of the sunset or of a flower, the smell of the air after it rains or the taste of the chocolate I am eating. I just NOTICE the moment.

– I do a lot of Mindful Doodling. I love it!

– I have meditation music playing in the background while I am working.

– I research, write about and talk about mindfulness! I share my knowledge and experience.

There! You have it! This is my story. I will be forever grateful for finding Mindfulness. It hasn’t stopped the thinking. But, I have found a way of controlling the thoughts rather than the thoughts controlling me.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Laughter

laughter2

About ten years ago I was appointed as a Deputy Head Teacher of a school that was in the mist of massive and constant change. The school had persistent and changing challenges which generated a great amount of stress. During that time, I did learned a lot. It shaped my leadership style in ways that a less challenging school would never have done.

laughter1

 I was lucky enough to have an amazing Acting Head Teacher (AHT) at the time and together we tackled more obstacles in one day than most schools tackled in a week or even a month. The work was exhausting! But, the AHT and I had an interesting way of relieving the stress and not letting the challenges get to us, we LAUGHED!

I never laughed so hard than I did on some of the hardest days at this school. It wasn’t those soft little giggles. It was full on, wet your pants, coming deep from the belly and not letting you catch your breath kind of laughs. I am sure those laughs rang through the corridors, much to the disturbance of some of the staff.

On one occasion, a teacher at the end of his career and fed up with the changes happening around him, told the two of us off during a staff meeting for our laughter. He couldn’t understand what we had to laugh about. We quickly told him that we HAD to laugh because, if we didn’t, we would cry. This, of course, was proceeded by our loud laughter ahd his stern look!

Laughter was a lesson I happily took with me to my headship a year later. I was determined that our school would be a school filled with laughter as I knew that laughter brought more laughter and with that a happy attitude can be born even in the most dire times.

So, you can imagine my immense joy when I came across the amazing act of Laughter Yoga!

The website http://laughteryoga.org/english/home states, “It intends to generate mindfulness wherein people become aware of others and become more considerate and selfless. The laughter exercises are in fact less physical in nature and more of a social benefit as engaging with people is an enjoyable thing and leads to a network of sharing and caring people.”  

Laughter Yoga itself is simple, it encompasses clapping, playful exercises, deep breathing and, of course, laughter. The creator, Dr Madan Katari, explains the basic exercise along with variations in this video:

He has identified the benefits of laughter through scientific research as:

-Good Mood and More Laughter: Endorphins are release almost immediately upon the commencement of laughter.

-Healthy Exercise to Beat Stress: Laughter Yoga is like an aerobic exercise.

-Health Benefits: Reduces the stress and strengthens the immune system.

-Quality of Life: Laughter is a positive energy which helps people to connect with other people quickly and improves relationships.

-Positive Attitude in Challenging Times : Laughter helps to create a positive mental state to deal with negative situations and negative people. It gives hope and optimism to cope with difficult times.

People who have tried the exercises say that the fake laughter quickly turns into real laughter. The infectious quality of the ring of laughter begets more laughter. Once again, positivity begets positivity.

Somehow, my AHT and I instinctively knew that, in order to survive the challenges we faced, we HAD to laugh. We had cultivated a strong mindfulness strategy that still rings through the corridors of my school today.

This is a wonderfully fun way to develop mindfulness in your classroom, your school and in your life!

So, what are you waiting for? Let the laughter ring!