A Teacher’s Mindfulness- A New Year Begins Part 3 Morning Mindfulness

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Getting your day off to a great, mindful start is important for a mindfully successful day.

Many times when I speak to people about practicing mindfulness, they say they “just don’t have time”. Actually, people who practice mindfulness express that they actually gain time over the day the more mindful they are during the day. The reduction of stress, the reduction of energy and time spent on the past/future thoughts and increased periods of calmness allows for more effective time management.

We need to consider how we can bring mindfulness into our morning routines that don’t require extra time or divert us from our normal routines.

Top Morning Mindfulness Tips:

Brushing Teeth

It is simple really. It is about being in the present moment from the preparation of your toothbrush to rinsing your mouth. Here are some prompts to be mindful of while you are going about this everyday task.

– How does your tooth brush feel in your hand? How does it weigh in your hand? Is the grip smooth or rough?
– How does the balance change when you put the toothpaste on the brush?
– Smell the toothpaste. What does it smell like?
– Begin brushing your teeth. How do the bristles feel against your teeth? Your tongue? Your cheek and gums?
– Notice the foaming of the toothpaste in our mouth and how it feels.
– Once finished, how does your tongue feel against your freshly brushed teeth? Can you still smell or taste the toothpaste? How you you feel now that your teeth are brushed?

Shower Meditation

Many people spend their time in the shower thinking about the day ahead. Instead, use this as a mindful time to become present in the moment.

Enter the shower with mindful intention.

-Take a few deep, mindful breaths as the steam begins to rise around your body.

– Allow the warm water to fall against your skin, paying attention to how the water feels on each part of your body, similar to a body scan.

– Then lather up your cloth, sponge or body scrubber and pay attention to the smell of the soap and the feel of the bubbles.

– Take time to notice the feel of the soap against your skin as you slowly clean your body.

– Finally, pay attention to the feel of water and soap you rinse off, paying attention to the sense of well being and warmth of the moment.

Washing Hands Meditation

When we wash our hands in warm water, it opens the blood vessels and tricks your brain out of a stressful state.

– When you go to wash your hands, be mindful of the sensation of the water and soap as your rub your palms, between your fingers and on top of your hands. Breath deeply allowing your breathing enhance the feel of water and soap.
– How does this moment feel?
– How is it making the rest of your body feel?

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.

Drink at least three glasses of water like this today.

 

#PositivePostItDay – A Growing Mindfulness

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I want to thank you right now. I want to thank you because you have taken this moment in time to read this post and, that alone, makes me happy and if you do not read even one more word, I still will feel deep gratitude.

Do you really know what gratitude is? Have you ever pondered the idea?

Gratitude is an emotional state of mind. To be gracious means to have an attitude towards life that gives us, as humans, a sense of rational and personal well-being. It is a strong feel good emotion that releases endorphins that relaxes the body and makes us feel happy. That is why positivity begets positivity! It is ADDICTIVE!

On Tuesday, people around the world celebrated #PositivePostItDay. The day began a few years ago by a young lady in Canada called Caitlin Haacke. After being bullied herself, she decided to take a stand against bullying. She single handily started the 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.

Gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness. Teaching children (and adults) to be thankful for the abundance in their lives as opposed to focusing on the actual material objects refocuses on emotions and feelings that raises self-confidence.

As Tuesday unfolded, I was filled with happiness seeing thousands and thousands of children and adults showing gratitude for each other and for themselves! The power of words has never been stronger.

@ecsaibel from Marin, CA, USA

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The children showed a depth of perception that went beyond the simple, “Thank you!”.

@LeeAraoz from Broadway Campus in Long Island, New York, USA

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People became creative and symbolic in their notes. Love and compassion were at the heart of what was happening across the schools.

@SaccoEric and @CCGSMS from Clifton-Clyde Grade and Middle School in Kansas, USA

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The emphasis was on building, not just a positive day, but a positive culture. A positive culture is not a one day wonder. It needs to be repeated over and over again.

@principalkubiak from Cordelia Hills Elementary School in Sonoma, CA, USA

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The magnitude of the number of positive notes began to get mind boggling! Children were not happy with writing just one note, they had to write several notes. It was snow balling; leaving everyone in its wake on a wave of happiness!

@tsschmidty and @HarborViewElem from Harbor View Elementary in Corona del Mar, CA

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 Everyone left these schools feeling valued, loved, cared for and worthy of being a part of the community.

 @Ed_Tmprince and @Green_Lane_PA from Green Lane Primary Academy in Garforth, England

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Over and over, the power of the words the children had for each other was overwhelming and powerful!

The effects began to spread past the school gates. Green Lane Primary Academy received one to two written compliments from parents nearly every day this week!

So, what now? We can’t have #PositivePostItDay every day, right? Or… can we?

OF COURSE WE CAN!

One child asked his mother on Wednesday if we could be positive that day as well.

It is important that we are teaching the children and ourselves that we need to be mindful of our gratitude. We need to remind ourselves how it felt on #PositivePostItDay and remember that WE made that happen with our own attitude. The attitude is what made the difference on that day!

As stated before, gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness. It is a perfect way to either start the journey of teaching children the lifelong skill in being mindful or to enhance mindfulness already being developed.

If you want to find out more about #PositivePostItDay read #PositivePostItDay. It really can be done on ANY day you want it to happen. Get other schools to join you and MAKE it happen!

If you want some simple ideas on how to keep that snowball rolling in the development of gratitude, read Mindfulness in the Classroom- Gratitude.

In the meantime, share your ideas in the comments section. I would love to hear about the impact showing gratitude has had on your school or your own lives.

Mindful Leadership in Education

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Leadership in general is a lonely position and leadership in education is no different.   Senior leadership is fraught with obstacles and, like never before, educational leadership is teetering on a tight rope trying to balance the needs of the children with the needs of the staff and then government throws in an unexpected detour!

Take a few minutes to watch this video.

Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Apple, Intel and Starbucks, to name a few, are advocates of mindfulness in the workplace and leadership. Successful leaders, like Evan Williams (Twitter co-founder) and William Ford (of Ford Motor Company), praise the benefit of mindfulness.

Janice Marturano, one of the pioneers in bringing mindfulness to corporations defines Mindful Leadership: “A mindful leader is someone who embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others.”

What is Focus?

Focus is the ability to stay present to what must be done right now and in this moment. You can’t be distracted by a wandering mind. It is the ability to identify that the mind is wandering and ensure that it comes back to the here and now.

The jumping of thoughts from the conversation you had first thing in the morning with the care taker, to the email that popped in your email a half hour ago about a meeting you have to attend next week, to the difficult conversation you will have to have with a parent at the end of the day, to… It is never ending and before you know it, the meeting you are currently sitting in has come to an end and you are really not sure what has been said.

What is Clarity?

Clarity is your ability to see things for what they are and with full awareness of the emotions we are having and not allowing those emotions to biases our decisions.

Experiences make us who we are; they shape our emotions, good or bad. We can react to situations, logical or not, because of these experiences. I personally do not like the use of standardised test to judge the teaching and learning of a school. It evokes very strong emotions and frequently gets me into a rant. However, I also know I must find clarity of those emotions or I could make some bad decisions that would be detrimental to the school.

What is Curiosity?

Curiosity is the ability to stay open-minded by truly listening to all viewpoints and ideas and not automatically making a default decision. We cannot just assume that what we have done before is right for this moment in time.

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got!

Sure, you may have been doing parents evening in a certain way since the dawn of man. The outline of the event was developed before technology became easily available and mothers seldom worked outside of the home. But, is this still effective? Do others have ideas? Listen and consider the possibilities.

What is Compassion?

Compassion is the ability to care for others, see different perspectives and make right decisions and take right actions for a person’s well-being.

As leaders, we can get caught up in our own thoughts and emotions. Sometimes things are not black and white. Being a compassionate leader is a humane thing to do. How YOU see things or would react to things is not the same as what another person may see or react. Surrounding yourself with other viewpoints allows you to gain a better perspective and better leader.

It can also mean being NICE!

How can I become a more mindful leader?

  1. Take a minute and breathe! Throughout the day, when you feel yourself becoming stress, uptight or upset, take a minute to centre yourself and breathe.
  2. One Minute Meditation
    1. Sit or stand comfortably
    2. Bring your attention to your breath
    3. Breathe naturally and count each inhale
    4. Focus your attention to your nostrils and notice the inhale and exhale of air
    5. Continue to count each breath until you reach one minute. This is roughly 15 breaths.
  3. Check In! Be fully present where you are listening to a member of your team, working on a strategic plan, having a meeting or preparing for a presentation. Take a breath and be in the moment; be present!
  4. Guided Meditation– Just 5 -15 minutes a day can start to train the mind to become calmer and gain greater focus and clarity. I like doing this first thing on a morning while the house is still quiet. However, others enjoy doing meditation at lunch time or on an evening just before going to sleep. You can find many guided meditations on Youtube for free. Here are a few:
    1. Guided Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief- https://youtu.be/Fpiw2hH-dlc
    2. 5 Minute Guided Meditation for Anxiety- https://youtu.be/MR57rug8NsM
    3. 5 Minute Miracle Guided Meditation- https://youtu.be/utfw-rJUvy4
    4. Positive Thinking Meditation- https://youtu.be/o0EQEiecSxs
    5. Ocean Escape- Guided Relaxation and Visualisation Meditation- https://youtu.be/vaHJ7WjKTaE
    6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation- https://youtu.be/PYsuvRNZfxE
    7. Sleep Meditations- These are longer and are to be listened to once you are in bed and ready to sleep.
      1. Guided Floating Meditation for Insomnia- https://youtu.be/S6jkW3AR9z4
      2. Floating Clouds Sleep Talk- https://youtu.be/JFf4vV5GKZ0
      3. Power Sleep Affirmations- https://youtu.be/pybN0TLnbbo
  5. Mindfulness Development- We have all trained to do the job we do, particularly in education, with most of us having a variety of degrees and years of education. So, it does make sense that we may also want to train in developing our own mindfulness.
    1. Apps for phones and tablets-Calm and Headspace offer free beginners sections on their apps that include daily meditations of various lengths and reminders for you to meditate.
    2. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programmes– These are usually online for 8 weeks or a two day weekend residential. There is a systematic learning of the scientific evidence of mindfulness as well as development of practice. There can be various costs involved with these programmes. However, there is a FREE 8 week online MBSR programme at http://palousemindfulness.com.
  6. Practise Gratitude– It seems like common sense, but consider how you can be a compassionate leader.
    1. Listen- Listening to what everyone has to say. That doesn’t mean that you will have to go with the consensus. It means that you get to hear and see different perspectives. This MAY change your decision or it MAY NOT. However, people will feel valued regarding to what they have to say.
    2. Do unto others what you would want them to do unto you.- Sure, you are the leader. But, how do you want to be treated? Can you treat them in the same way?
    3. Do fun or quirky things to show your appreciation! I personally enjoy doing a Lucky Dip Christmas Card Give Away at Christmas and an Easter Egg Hunt with prizes for Easter. It is the silly things that can make the greatest impact.
    4. Celebrate #PositivePostItDay- Find out more here:  https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/positivepostitday/

So, how in these stressful times, can Mindful Leadership make a difference?

  • It improves mental focus and mindful wandering.
  • It extends our attention span.
  • It discourages black and white thinking.
  • It assists in staying organised, managing time and setting priorities.
  • It lifts us from a constant, low level of panic and guilt.
  • It lowers wear and tear on our bodies.
  • It toughens immunity.
  • It improves mood and emotional stability.
  • It builds self-monitoring capacity.

You may be saying you just don’t have time for mindfulness. My question is to consider this; can you afford NOT to develop your mindfulness?

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Emotional Intelligence

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Some experts say that mindfulness is the foundation of emotional intelligence.

Google’s, Search Inside Yourself, programme looks at the latest research in neuroscience and ancient contemplative wisdom to help their leaders fight distraction and to grow emotional intelligence by being more present in the moment.

In the Google training, participants undergo attention and mindfulness training exercises designed to build emotional intelligences. Google believes that these skills are crucial for successful leadership and performance of its employees.

If Google, a highly successful multi-national business, puts this much significance on mindfulness and emotional intelligence, shouldn’t we, as educators, want to be developing these skills in all children to allow them to be successful as well?

Exactly what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is the capacity of individuals to recognize your own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

Then, the first step in developing emotional intelligence is to get children to understand that their emotions are valid. It is not bad to have emotions, good or bad. It is how they deal with and react to these emotions that makes a difference.

What are a few mindful strategies to develop emotional intelligence in children?

  • Talk about emotions like you talk about the weather- Often and every day!
    • What emotion are you feeling right now? How does it feel? Is this a good emotion to have in control? How can we change emotions?
  • Use Inside Out (The Movie)- Many teachers find this movie a useful resource for teaching about emotions and controlling emotions.  There are a lot of resources online that have been created by teachers and parents using the movie.  A couple of useful free resources are:
  • Track your emotions with a diary or chart
    •  Have the children track their emotions for the day or at a certain time each day. Discuss how they are feeling? How does their body feel? Why do they believe they are feeling this way? What can they do to change their emotion if they are not happy with the emotion?
  •  Guided Reading- During guided reading sessions, have the children identify the emotions of the characters. Questions: Have you ever felt these emotions? Can you relate or empathise to how they are feeling? What could they do to change their emotion?
  • Recognising Emotions- Emotion Card Activity
    • This helps children to accurately recognise and name their own emotions and is appropriate for both ASD, children that have problems with emotional awareness and all other children. Emotion Cards
    • Using an Emotion Thermometer- Free printable emotional thermometer pictograms- Emotion Thermometer

 

What have you found successful in your classroom?

Mindfulness in the Classroom- A Teacher’s Mindfulness

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School staff stress is at an all time high! Changes in curriculum and testing, children’s behaviour, workload impact and teacher shortages are jeopardising the mental health of teachers on a daily basis. Anxiety, depression and complete mental breakdowns are becoming common place. It becomes a vicious cycle; one that seems impossible to break.

We know the importance of teaching children good mentally healthy strategies and habits. But, how can teaching this to children impact our own well-being?

According to research conducted by Katherine Weare for the .b Mindfulness in Schools Project in association with University of Exeter, in her report named, Impacts on the Wellbeing and Performance of School Staff, identifies that staff that use mindfulness strategies have been shown to:

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Many of the strategies outlined in my previous posts in the Mindfulness in the Classroom series can be practiced just as easily by adults. Refreshing yourself about these mindfulness strategies and trying them yourself will give you a taster for what works best for you.

Mindfulness in the Classroom series

Mindfulness Starts Here

Mindful Colouring

Meditation

Gratitude

Breathing

Starfish Hand Meditation

Mindful Listening

Mindful Walking

Mind Jar Meditation

Yoga

Music

Mindful Eating

Emotional Intelligence

Mindful Doodling

Finger Labyrinths Meditation

I hear you moan, “But, I just don’t have time! “, “I have too many things to do!” or “I have too many things running through my head!”.

STOP! YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS IMPORTANT!

My favourite quote is, “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!” So, if what you are doing is leaving you stressed, anxious or depressed, then you have to do something different NOW!

Can you give yourself 5-10 minutes a day to be mindful?

Are YOU worth a few moments?

In addition to what has been outlined in previous posts, here are some other mindful techniques that can easily fit into your day.

Deep Breathing– This triggers the relaxation response. The key to deep breathing is ensuring the exhale is longer than the inhale. There is a nerve called the Vagus nerve that runs down the diaphragm that tells our brain to slow down the turn down the sympathetic nervous system (that releases stress hormones) and turn up the parasympathetic nervous system that supports the lowering of heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. This then calms us down. Top tip: On the exhale, ensure your shoulders relax.
-100 breathes technique– Breathe deeply 100 times, counting as you go. If this is too much, start off slowly with 10 breathes and add ten more each day or few days.
– 5 minute breathing– Set the timer on your phone and breathe deeply until the timer goes off.

Meditation– Meditation has shown to shrink the brain’s stress centre, the amygdaloid, and thickens the pre-frontal cortex that controls awareness, concentration and decision making. In short, the more you meditate the easier it becomes to meditate and find time for meditation.

Meditation does not require hours of sitting crossed legged while chanting. It does require you to be mindful of one present feeling.
– Everyday Activities– Simple everyday activities can become a meditation as long as you focus on the activity at hand; how it feels, how it smells, the sensations it brings, the sounds it makes. Examples: taking a shower, watching the kettle boil, drinking a cup of coffee/tea, brushing your teeth, sweeping the floor, putting on your clothes. Don’t multi task. Be mindful of the moment and allow other thoughts to float away.
– Guided meditations– There are many free guided meditations online in various lengths and with varying focus. There are also many free apps like Calm and Headspace. 5-10 minutes a day can mean saving hours of needless stress and anxiety that slows your pace.

Practising Gratitude– The act of kindness and gratitude triggers feelings of well-being. Remember, positivity begets positivity. Once you start to consciously show gratitude, it starts to become a good habit that happens naturally as that spiral of happiness feeds the cycle.
– #PositivePostItDay– Participate in things like #PositivePostItDay, Maybe make it your mission to do this everyday or once a week. An explaination can be found here: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/positivepostitday/
– Random Acts of Kindness- This brightens everyone’s day. It doesn’t have to cost.
– ABC Appreciation Meditation– Mentally go through the alphabet and name one thing you are grateful for that starts with that letter; A- air I breathe B- Bobby my son, etc.

Hand/Mind Connection– If you find yourself in a stressful moment and the breathing techniques or simple meditations are not helping, immerse your hand in warm water (or rub your hands together quickly to warm them up). This opens the blood vessels and tricks your brain out of a stressful state.

The key is to find an inner peace that allows you to be the best teacher possible. Mindfulness may be what you are looking for to have a work life balance during these stressful times.

How do you practise mindfulness for your own mental health?

UPDATE:

Having problems meditating?

Read the post : A Teacher’s Mindfulness- I Can’t Stop Thinking! 

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Music

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Some of our earliest memories may be of our mother or father singing to us as a child. It is likely to be one of the earliest memories for our parents having instinctively gone to song to calm a fussy infant down.

Music is very common in most cultures with traditional lullabies being passed down from generation to generation. It is therapeutic for the parent and child alike.

One conclusion made by some mental health clinicians is that the vibrations in music help to release the tension in the cells and organs, thus relaxing the body. Maybe this is why we can hear music in some of the oddest places; elevators/lifts, dentist offices, waiting rooms, etc. They are trying to keep us calm.

So, if music has the ability to support our calmness, then surely this can be used as a simple mindfulness technique used in the classroom. Playing low music in the background as the children transition to a new activity or as they work diligently on their maths problems and writing, might be a way to support behaviour management in the classroom while also supporting children’s learning. Some research even has shown that music can increase the speed at which children do their school work.

So, music in the classroom is something to consider.

If you do decide to use music in your classroom, you must be mindful of how music makes you feel and that some music may not be appropriate; especially music with deep base or high pitch sounds that may actually cause you to feel upset. Trying a variety of musical selections would be best in identifying which ones are best for you and your class. This can be easily achieved via doing a simple search on Youtube for “mindfulness music” or “meditation music”. They come in varying lengths, with some more suitable for children than others.

Some that I have come across on Youtube that children have found soothing are:

1 Hour Yoga Music: Yoga for Kids & Children, Meditation Music, Calming Soft Instrumental Music- https://youtu.be/Zd-ybxrTyvs

Relaxation For Children – Quiet, Music for Learning, Harmony & Positive – CUTE FOALS- https://youtu.be/DBNaIRZ3AIg

RELAXING YOGA MUSIC FOR KIDS In Classroom, Children, Kids Yoga Music & Meditation Music for children- https://youtu.be/jbe6R2lmvwY?list=RDuMyMPb-ix-E

While free can be good, there are some relaxing CDs and compilations that are good to use in the classroom. My favourite is called Yoga & Mindfulness- Music for Buddhist Meditation. But, there are loads out on the market with free samples to listen to so you can gage if they are appropriate.

Top Tip: I use the soothing music while children are coming into assembly. Once everyone is seated, I have all the children close their eyes and do deep breathing; there favourite is snake breathes. For those that have problems with the idea of closing their eyes, I have a soothing scene projected on the large screen to focus on while breathing. Then, at the end of the assembly, I do the same again as each class leaves the hall. Assemblies are calmer and more in control.

How do you use music in the classroom?

First Baby Steps!

“No dream is too big and no dreamer is too small.”- from the children’s movie TURBO

I went with my little boy today to see the movie TURBO. It was a great film and was filled with an inspirational story line to never give up on your dreams.

My academy has dreams. No matter how good we may get, we want to get better! It is as pure and simple as that. It is not always easy. However, we are always looking to improve. We know we must always look towards the future and identify ways to engage children.

Following our amazing CPD training last Monday, the academy has been working hard to develop a blog site. It is the first baby steps. It is our hope that, by the end of the year, blogging will be embedded across the academy and it is having a real impact on writing standards.

Our blog can be found at http://glpa.primaryblogger.co.uk . Every class has a blog, including me at http://principalsblog.primaryblogger.co.uk . Take a sneak peek! It will have a grand launch in a couple of weeks. So, get a chance to see it grow from the beginning.

As I said, this is only a baby step. However, I think I will enjoy this one grow up to out perform the parent.

Dream Big Dreams!