2017 Education’s Voice – Top 10 Mindfulness Posts

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It is at this time of the year that we can sit back and reflect on the year gone. For me, there have been many highs and a few lows. However, the one constant in my life has been this blog. Sharing mindfulness with others is always one that gives me peace and joy. This year I wrote 30 new posts. So, with excitement, I have looked over the data and can happily reveal the Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017.

#10100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom (the book): This Post is a bucket list ticker for me. It is about my book published by Bloomsbury, where it can be bought and a definite high point of 2017.

#9Mindfulness in the Classroom- Using Play Dough Part 1: Play Dough has been known for its therapeutic properties. The squishing and pounding, pinching and moulding provides a Kinesthetic/ kinaesthetic learning opportunity that can be used to enhance the development of mindfulness. This post gives you a simple recipe, how to do a Play Dough Meditation and how to make a mandala with Play Dough.

#8Teacher and Leader Mindfulness – Christmas Mindfulness: Christmas is a stressful time of the year for most people. Add 30+ Christmas happy children, several Christmas performances and Christmas parties on top of the normal day to day life of a teacher, and the Christmas time stress doubles. This post outlines four weekly challenges for Christmas to help calm the anxiety and stress of the season.

#7Teacher and Leader Mindfulness- A Mindful Ofsted- Top 5 Tips: This Post outlines how we can prepare before hand for a more mindful way that allows us to show our schools at their best.

#6Mindfulness in the Classroom- Colour Meditation: Refocusing without judgement is a positive mindful activity that allows children to take a breather, allow a moment to step back from the work and then continue in a mindful way that allows for maximum progress. This simple Colour Meditation allows for quick refocusing in the Classroom.

#5Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Assemblies: when developing mindfulness in a school, it is important that it becomes part and parcel of school life, this includes Assemblies. This post is filled with whole school mindfulness strategies to keep a school mindful.

#4Teacher and Leader Mindfulness – Holiday Mindfulness To Do List: Holidays/Vacations are important times (and much needed) for educators. There is no debate regarding the stress caused by working in schools. So, Taking holidays seriously as a time to recover and refresh is important. This To Do List helps get us back on the right track.

#3Mindfulness in the Classroom – Top Test Taking Tips: National testing is a part of education systems across the world. Every year, millions of children (and adults) sit down for timed, standardised tests. The anxiety levels hit an all time high. For some people, this adrenaline rush helps them. However, for many more, this stress doesn’t allow them to be at their best. These mindful tips can help make a difference and allow children to shine.

#2Mindfulness in the Classroom-Using Play Dough Part 2: who doesn’t like Play Dough? You can mash it, hit it, squish it and roll it. In this post, we look at how to use it as part of mindfulness development by making worry stones, finger labyrinths and stone towers.

#1Top Tips – Mindfulness and Tinnitus: This Post hit a need beyond just those in education. Tinnitus is a scared and annoying condition. There is no cure. Thus, those that suffer from Tinnitus have to learn to live with it and mindfulness is one way.

This is a fantastic and diverse list that I am proud of.

A special thanks go to family, friends and followers for indulging me and allowing me to share. I wish you and yours an amazing and mindful 2018!

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Book Review- 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework by Jenna Lucas

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Bloomsbury continues to add quality resources to their ever expanding education division with a book by Jenna Lucas in the #100Ideas series. The ageless topic of  homework is one that schools have been grappling with for many years. Parents hate it because it can be a fight at home and teachers hate it as it takes even more time to chase after it or mark it. As a Headteacher, I am constantly having to reflect on and balance the needs of all.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework is a little gem of a book that makes homework a practical, engaging activity for the whole family. Thus, homework doesn’t become a fight ending in tears but a fun exploration of the home and local environment that develops lifelong skills and embeds school learning experiences after school hours.

The book is divided into several sections: Student 5 a day, Literacy, Maths, Science, Topics, The arts, The outdoors, Technology, Finding out and Learning nuggets. Each with a wealth of ideas, teaching tips and bonus ideas.

While all the sections have quick and easily accessible homework ideas, I am particularly impressed with the Student 5 a day section with its emphasis on child wellbeing and development of very mindful skills. My favourite is Idea # 1- Student 5 a day!

Another bonus of the ideas is that most require little or no marking! Also, the Teaching Tips really do make it clear how to get the most out of the work the children produce.

The homework ideas can equally be good for in class activities and lessons allowing for great diversity in the use of the book.

Conclusion:
This is a great book for a teacher to have in her/his arsenal of resources to support the creative planning of teaching and learning.

To find out what Jenna says about her book, watch this video of my short interview with her recently at Bloomsbury offices.

You can follow Jenna on Twitter @JennaLucas81 and you can purchase her book on Bloomsbury here or on Amazon here.

 

A Teacher’s Mindfulness- Colour Meditation

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On my drive to or from work, I can find myself drifting off to the dealings of the day or the things I will need tomorrow. I replay conversations or have conversations that may happen in the future. Before you know it, I can’t remember the drive at all! Not only can this be dangerous, it can make me feel upset and unsettled intensifying the stress you are under.

Has this happened to you? More than likely, yes!

The key to mindfulness is not being in the present every moment of the day. That is not possible and not appropriate for a successful life; you do need some time to reflect in order to improve and prepare for the future. The key is being able to refocus yourself in the present at your will and not at the will of your meandering thoughts.

Refocusing without judgement is a positive mindful activity.

One way to remain focused on your drive is to give yourself a mindful task that allows you to be in the moment of driving home. (This can also be done even if you take the train, bus or even walk to work.)

The Colour Meditation is one way to keep focused.

Colour Meditation

– Choose a colour and decide to notice that colour during your travel time. Take the time to notice the objects and people wearing that colour. (I like to choose colours that I think will be more difficult to come across as it does make me really stay focused in the moment.)

– Have you noticed something or someone you have never noticed before? How many different things are you noticing? (I always surprise myself when I buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car EVERYWHERE!)

Make a mental note about this #mindfulmoment and congratulate yourself for being in the present.

With this mindful task, you may find that the world becomes more colourful.

Mindfulness in The Classroom – Mindful Singing

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Mindfulness is about allowing yourself to be in the moment. It is allowing yourself to accept this moment without judgement and wallow in the present.

When we are teaching children the important life skill of mindfulness, we should endeavour to show children that mindful moments are all around them and that, with a little consideration, can help them to relax and joy life more fully.

Something that we know brings joy to many people is the act of singing and, with it part of the curriculum, this is another way to bring mindfulness to the forefront in an integrated way.

Singing is made up of deep breaths and long exhales which is natural calming strategy. We also know that music itself can have meditative properties. Thus, with just a little tweaking, we can also develop a mindful technique that can calm and relax children while also bringing joy. Many people sing when they are happy. With the right songs, they can make you happy when you are sad.

How to do Mindful Singing:

– Begin by having children sit up comfortably with their hands in their laps. Then have them take three deep belly breaths bringing their attention to their breath.

– Explain to children that while they are singing to ensure nice, deep breaths are taken and focus on how the sound vibrates through their bodies as they sing. How does the sound feel in your mouth? Against your tongue? In your throat? In your chest? How does singing make you feel emotionally?

The key is to bring awareness to the moment of signing and bask in the joy of the sound without judgement.

Some mindful songs for children that reinforces mindfulness can be found here, http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv4br4i_TG6Z9LlEp0L545tr , or here:

Sing as if no one is watching!

A Teacher’s Mindfulness- A New Year Beginning Part 4 STOP Meditation

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Developing mindfulness has a lot to do with shifting of perspectives. We have some deeply laid neuropathways that allow us to fall into a habit of reactions. We don’t even realise we are reacting; we just do it. Those automatic responses more deeply ingrain responses; many which are negative or destructive to our own health and well-being.

when we are working with children, we can get easily caught up in their emotions, upset, anxiety and frustrations. A vicious cycle can put you on edge and creates reactions devoid of all mindfulness.

You need to focus on changing that perspective and challenging your response

So, if the day is starting to get on top of you, try this quick and easy strategy.

10 Second Mindfulness- STOP

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.

You may want to make a few copies of the photo with the acronym and put it in key places as a gentle reminder for giving yourself a mindful moment.

A Teacher’s Mindfulness- A New Year Begins Part 1 Shoulder Relaxation

imageEducation has an odd calendar.  When we talk about a “new year”, champagne, confetti and the lingering sounds of “Auld Lang Syne” are not echoing through the corridors. Instead, a “new year” means a classroom of new faces, coffee and the smell of dry erase markers. It is also a time of excitement and hope with additional stress and anxiety.

With only days left of the summer holidays instead of weeks, the signs  are already appearing.  Teachers waking up earlier, planning spread out across the dinning room table and worried looks appearing across faces.

But, this year will be different! Developing your own mindfulness will be good for your health and well-being and will support the health and well-being of your children.

Over the next few weeks, I will share some simple mindfulness strategies YOU can use in order to get your new year off to a mindful start.

Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences.

Many of us hold stress in our shoulders. As the day becomes more stressful, our shoulders become more tense and creep up towards our ears. It is like a primitive form of contracting our muscles to spring into the fight or flight mode. During the day, take a moment, without judgement, to relax your shoulders and accept the feeling of restfulness that accompanies the moment.

Shoulder Relaxation

– Breath deeply and, on the exhale, allow your shoulders to drop towards the floor as if someone is pressing them downward.

– Continue to breathe deeply for five breaths, allowing your shoulders to slightly rise on the inhale and then completely drop on the exhale.

– Recognise how the muscles feel in the shoulder and neck. Remember, do not judge the tension. Just recognise it is there and release the tension.

Do this at least five times during the day.

This is particularly useful technique to use when having to deal with situations that are escalating into an argument or emotional situation. I also encourage shoulder relaxation in basic deep breathing as part of the everyday practice.

 

Mindfulness In the Classroom- Mindful Handwriting

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The key to Mindfulness in the Classroom is that it really does become part and parcel of the class itself. It is not an add-on that takes extra time; but part of the everyday life and mindful learning. So, consideration needs to be made when we consider the curriculum we are bound to deliver and the life skill of mindfulness. This consideration makes you a good role model for your children as they can see that mindfulness can be part of adult life.

The practice of handwriting can be a very mindful activity as long as we take appropriate consideration to the task at hand. The rhythmic motion and repetition required for handwriting, particularly for joined-up/cursive handwriting, can lead to true focus on the present moment.

In addition, research by Indiana University has shown that the brain activity from freehand drawing action was stronger, firing off in three different areas, while the tracing and typing motions barely stimulated the brain at all.

So, Mindful Handwriting can truly develop the mindfulness development of the brain while also stimulating other areas that support academic development.

How to do Mindful Handwriting:

  • Play a selection of meditation music for the length of time you want the children practicing their handwriting.
  • Before picking up the pen/pencil, have the children sit up tall (as if they are a puppet with a string at the top of their head that is pulling them up straight)  with their hands in their laps or on the table/desk they are to take three deep belly breaths, having them focus only on their breathing.
  • Then, they are to begin writing. During the time, gently remind them to focus on the movement of the pen/pencil and the marks they are making. Encourage them to recognise the feel of the movement and the vibrations created as the pen/pencil causes friction with the paper. Encourage the same rhythmic breathing as the writing flows.
  • When the music ends, have the children put down their pen/pencil, put their hands in their laps/table/desk and take three deep belly breaths.

In the beginning, you may want to have the children discuss how they were feeling during the handwriting session.

This mindfulness strategy can easily be integrated into the handwriting expectations of your class or school with no additional time required during the normal day.