Mindful Art Appreciation- Mindfulness in the Classroom

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According to the “Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017”, published by NHS Digital, one in eight (12.8%) of children and young people aged between five and 19, surveyed in England in 2017, had a mental disorder.

We need to be clear, the development of mindfulness strategies will not make stress in our lives disappear or cure the pressures in our lives.  However, it will give us the tools that we can access to find a moment of calm that allows us to react more positively to the stresses we face. 

Giving these tools to our children gives our children a chance to cope with life and take control of their emotions.

Art, the creation and appreciation, is something that gives many people moments of mindfulness.  Helping children to practice Mindful Appreciation of Art places another tool in their Positive Mental Health Tool Kit.

Mindful Appreciation of Art in the Classroom- How to Guide

-Select a piece of art.  It can be a drawing, painting, photograph or sculpture.  It can be a picture of a piece of art or it can be the actual piece of art.

-Play a selection of meditation music for the length of time you want the children to meditate. Usually this is one minute per year of age, ie 6 years old= 6 minutes

-Children are to sit or stand comfortably and take three deep belly breaths.

-They are to look at the artwork, focusing on the centre of the design while still breathing at a steady rate.

-Gently guide the children in a soft voice, letting them know it is ok for their gaze to wonder to other parts of the art, noticing the designs, colours and ways the lines meet each other. As the meditation comes towards the end, encourage them to focus back on the centre.

-In the last 30 seconds of the meditation, have the children close their eyes and get them to recreated the design in their mind, continuing even, steady breaths.

-Complete the meditation with three deep mindful belly breaths

Note:  Once taught,  you can use this strategy when you actually go to an art museum.

Find more mindfulness strategies can be found in the books:

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom,  

50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness or on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com

…. and Breathe! A Mindful School Community

It may seem that I have been a bit quiet over the last few months.

As a full time Headteacher (Principal) in a school filled with challenges and in need of lots of TLC, I can easily become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job.

I tend to throw my whole self into the needs of my school. My passion is deep and I fight tooth and nail for what is right for the children of my school.

I am lucky. I am not alone in my passion. I am surrounded by a group of people (staff and governors) that are equally passionate about what we are doing to change life chances for children. But, we need to take care of one another.

Top Tips for Being a Mindful Member Of a School Community

1- SMILE!

Smiling can change our brain, through this powerful feedback loop. Every day your brain keeps track of your smiles. It knows how often you’ve smiled and which overall emotional state you are in.

On average, children smile over 400 times a day. Whilst happy adults still smile 40-50 times a day, the average, however, is only about 20 times.

So, be mindful of your smiles. They are good for you and good for others.

2- CRY!

I know that for some, crying is seen as a weakness. I don’t see it as a weakness. To me it is a sign of release. I admit, I am an emotional person; always have been. I cry when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am scared, when I am mad, when I am frustrated… I think you get the idea! Crying is a release. Crying allows you to be in this moment in time and release the built up anxiety stored in your body.

A good mindfully driven team understands that and allows each other to have those moments without judgement and with understanding.

3– Show Gratitude and Spread Kindness

Take opportunities to show gratitude and spread kindness. How this looks in each school community will be different depending on the dynamics. Basically, follow the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..” This can be as basic as a hug to as elaborate as a Basket Of Kindness (sharing basket).

4- Breathe!

Breathing is one of the most natural things a person can do and an automatic reflex that is hard wired in our brains. However, we sometimes actually forget to breathe! We hold our breathes as if this will freeze time or stop the inevitable from happening. But, the minute it takes to support a colleague in mindful breathing and a friendly reminder to BREATHE can change a situation and support more than anything else.

It becomes something like a secret code word.

5- STOP! 

What people want sometimes 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 an answer or response straight away and will usually appreciate the pause that will be required to formulate your response when they are finished talking or the ability to get their troubles off their chest.

Finally, REMEMBER…

Remember that there are no PERFECT people in the world and because there are no perfect people, we can all get caught up in our own passion and despair.; we all have our own battles. A good Mindful team is one that allows for imperfections and raises up those who that need that extra care.

OUR CHILDREN ARE LOOKING AT US AS THEIR MODELS. Be a GOOD one!

#PositivePostItDay 2019

Have you heard of Positive Post It Day? Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t. That is ok.

A few years ago, a young lady in Canada called Caitlin Haacke, decided to take a stand against bullying. She tells her story On Tedx here: http://youtu.be/cElB84gf6uc.

She single handily has started a movement of positivity that is sweeping the world. Her belief that positivity begets positivity that began as an anti-bullying campaign, has led to children and adults alike considering their words carefully and filling the world with kindness, love and appreciation.

The impact of this young lady’s simple idea can be seen in this news report, http://youtu.be/0zLteIn7IS0 and this compilation video of the positive post it notes written in one day, http://youtu.be/87RC1NQgPzQ.

I have been left in awe by the inspiring, clearly mindful activity of gratitude, that has begun. It fits very clearly within my Mindfulness in the Classroom series, particularly Gratitude. These little Random Acts of Kindness can spark a change and belief in the compassion of humankind.

In schools, this is a perfect circle time, PHSCE lesson or Mindfulness activity. In work places, it is a mindful activity that encourages good mental health and well being.

Thus, I purpose we all join Caitlin in her a Positive Post Its and declare together, Thursday 14th February 2019, #PositivePostItDay . (It seems fitting to celebrate this day on Valentine’s Day and as part of International Random Acts Of Kindness Week.)

How can you participate?

1- Share this post with others and tweet, Face Book, Instagram, Snap Chat, etc letting others know about the day. Get it out there! Let me know you are joining us.

2- On the day, no matter where you are (schools, work, businesses, home, online, etc), create and share Positive Post It Notes (Be sure to watch the videos if you want some ideas.). Stick the notes on the walls, windows, books, online social media feeds, ANYWHERE!

3- If you share them online, make sure you tag them as #PositivePostItDay. Let’s paper the world in positivity one post it note at a time!

Here is what #PositivePostItDay2016 looked like:

https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/positivepostitday-a-growing-mindfulness/

Time to stock up on Post It notes!

Children’s Mental Health Week

The week of 4th February 2019 is Children’s Mental Health Week.

This is championed in the UK by Place2Be https://www.place2be.org.uk supported by HRH Dutches of Cambridge.

We teach children how to write, read, add and subtract along with a whole host of other subjects. Those things are important towards helping them to be successful members of society.

However, if children don’t have the skills and strategies to cope with the stresses that come with the access and use of that knowledge and becoming members of society, they will not be as successful as they can be.

Together, whether we are parents, teachers, club/team leaders or the general public, we need to be actively engaged in giving our children the tools needed for a positive mental health now and in the future.

The development of mindfulness in children can support this positive mental health development.

A number of strategies can be found here for free: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-series/

Share your ideas and activities in the comments.

If you have missed the official week, that is ok. The development of positive mental health in children is for all year long and not just for one week.

Find more mindfulness strategies for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 11: Mindful Posture Exercise

Today, we are going to focus on your posture. By becoming aware of your posture gives you a chance to quickly be mindful.

Mindful Posture

– Several times during the day, bring your focus to your posture regardless if you are standing or sitting.

-Take a deep mindful breath as you straighten your spine and move your neck and head into a straight line as if their is a string above you pulling you straight.

– Notice any tension in your shoulders allowing them to relax and square with your spine.

– Take another deep, mindful breath and then proceed with the day.

Respond in the comments, tweet us @Ed_Tmprince or respond on our Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ with #MindfulFocusChallege and let us know how you found this strategy.

#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 7: The Movie Exercise

It is good for us to take more than a few minutes to break away from everyday life and movies are a good way to do this. I always find it relaxing to cuddle up on the sofa and turn on one of my favourite movies. Today, our mindful focus exercise is just that!

⁃ Seat yourself in a comfortable position with your favourite comfort items.

⁃ Select either a favourite movie or a new one you have been waiting to watch.

⁃ Take two deep, Mindful breaths and turn it on.

⁃ While watching a movie, pay attention to how you get engrossed in the movie.

⁃ Observe closely what emotions does that movie bring out in you and take a note of it.

⁃ Once the movie is over, take a few minutes to reflect on the movie and the emotions.

⁃ End with a few deep mindful breaths and proceed with your day.

Respond in the comments, tweet us @Ed_Tmprince or respond on our Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ with #MindfulFocusChallege and let us know how you found this strategy.

#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 3: The Hand Exercise

Today, is a simple mindfulness strategy that helps with mindful focus; The Hand Exercise. Items you need are simple. You just need your hands.

⁃ First, find a comfortable sitting or lying down position.

⁃ Take a few deep mindful breaths to help you relax.

⁃ Then, hold your hands tightly for about 10 seconds, squeezing tightly,and release them slowly.

⁃ Now, focus on how your hands feel; staying focused for as long as you can or until the feeling goes away.

⁃ Repeat 5 times

⁃ End with a few deep mindful breaths and proceed with your day.

If you find yourself becoming anxious during the day, give yourself a mindful break and repeat this strategy to help you find peace in your day.

Respond in the comments below, tweet us @Ed_Tmprince or respond on our Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ with #MindfulFocusChallege and let us know how you found this strategy.