A Teacher’s Mindfulness – Mindful Daydreaming

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You may be thinking, ‘How can daydreaming be mindful?’. It doesn’t necessarily fit what we know about daydreaming.

What is daydreaming anyway? It is the state of consciousness that happens when our brain triggers a thought process that is not anchored in the immediate surroundings. It is usually pleasurable and takes us to a place that allows us to relax and be happy. On average, a daydream lasts only 14 seconds!

As children in school, we were likely told to “stop daydreaming” and it was seen as a waste of valuable school time. Along with other natural reflexes like sighing, we have tended to suppress a natural mindful strategy that helps us to relax.

We can make Mindful Daydreaming a part of our mindfulness practise by making the daydreams the object of the mindful focus.

When we are mindful of our daydreams, we are able to:

– Receive feedback on our own conscious or unconscious well- being. Our spontaneous daydreams can help us to know whether we are more positive or negative in the moment, depending on the emotions evoked by the daydream.
– Manipulate our thoughts allowing us to engage with our emotions without physical risk.
– Take a mini- holiday allowing us to explore places that bring us peace and relaxation. This may be a particular landscape, activity or alternative reality.

If we mindfully daydream, we are bringing focus, formality and purpose. Treat these daydreams as a meditation.
– Find a quiet place and sit or lie in a comfortable position where you will not be disturbed.
– You may want to set a timer to give a definite time to this meditation or you can use this as a bedtime meditation to fall into a peaceful sleep.
– Play soft meditation music and take deep, mindful breaths.
– Allow your mind to roam without any specific purpose.
– As the thoughts come through, pay attention to them but do not judge. Just note them and allow them to flow.

So, why not try it right now! Take a deep, mindful breath, close your eyes and allow yourself to take part in a daydream. Relax and let yourself drift off for a few moments. It is good for your health!

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Every Little Bit Counts

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This past week has been a busy one for many Primary schools across England. It is collectively known as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) Week for Year 6 children. The instructions for giving the tests are strict and must be given at specific times on specific days. Over a period of four days they take six different tests. Anyone who works in a primary school or is a parent of a Year 6 child, will know about the overwhelming stress that this puts on the children; particularly as they have become much harder over the last few years.

This year has been no different, except that I felt helpless with supporting the Year 6 children at my new school. The tests were scheduled for my third week of school! The school had not been teaching any of the strategies for mindfulness and it made me sad that I may not be able to help this group of children properly prepare themselves mentally to face the challenges the tests would present.

After some discussion with the class teacher, I decided to teach the children a few basic mindfulness strategies.

First, we discussed how they were feeling about the tests, considering the emotions that were attached to these feelings and how our body responds. Of course, what they told me was of no surprise; nervous, scared and anxious. We discussed how this was normal and then I explained what was happening in their body with the brain triggering stress hormones to set off the primitive “fight or flight” response. I then asked them if they would like to trick their mind and body into believing it was clam. They whole heartedly agreed.

We discussed three basic strategies:
(Click on each strategy to take you to details of the strategy.)

1- Basic Deep Mindful Breathing– Including the One Minute Meditation
2- Starfish Meditation– To support those more active and sensory based children
3- Guided Meditation, particularly Visualisation- We used The Magic Shell Meditation in full and used their “magic shells” each day of testing to hold on to their worries and concerns during the testing so the wouldn’t bother them.

During the testing week, in the morning before the tests began, I spent time on the first two days of the tests with the class, supporting them through some breathing and visualisation exercises they had learned. On day three and four, I was unable to do this because Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) decided it was time to inspect the school (In my third week at the school! This is were my own mindfulness was significantly used and is featured HERE.). However, the staff had paid close attention to my modelling and continued to use the strategies with the children the last two mornings.

The result?
I will let the children explain. (I received these letters and cards.)

Will this positively impact on their final results? I am not sure. It was only a few weeks. But, I do know that they have quickly learned a life long skill that has supported their mental health and well-being this past week and, with that success, many will continue to use the strategies as they move into secondary school.

Mindfulness, every little bit counts!

Prepare Now for a New Year of Mindfulness

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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.

 

Christmas Mindfulness – Task 3

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As it gets closer to Christmas, the manic scramble continues. For most schools, there is only about a week left until the Christmas holidays. The panic begins to set in as gifts still need to be bought and wrapped, planning sorted for the new year, data concluded for the term, Christmas parties had and the last of the Christmas performances completed.

At the end of the day, there are the tell tale signs of preparations with glitter sticking to every part of your clothes making you twinkle like a star, chocolate wrappers in your pockets crackling like a log fire and coffee stains that remind you of your lack of sleep you had the night before. You are tending to EVERYONE else except for yourself!

This week’s task is to look after yourself! Yes, that is right! In this season of giving, give yourself the gift of personal time. Every day ensure you do something for yourself. It can be as simple as a nice hot chocolate or a hot bubbly bath or it can be a few minutes reading, watching a movie or doing an extra meditation. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just find yourself some time, take some deep breaths and relax into your time.

Extra: Developing Mindfulness in the Classroom this month could also same your sanity. Why not try some simple strategies that will calm the children and bring the gift of mindfulness into their lives.

 

 

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- Mini Meditations

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Clinical psychologists from the University of Sheffield have discovered young children’s concentration in class can be significantly improved by introducing mindfulness sessions into their school timetable.

When we think of mindfulness, many times our thoughts go directly to formal meditations. Guided meditations can be an integral part of developing a mindfulness practice; but you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing their attention on the moment to moment sensations of individual activities. Doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention allows a person to slow down the process and be fully present in the moment as it unfolds and allowing recognition of all senses.

Two Informal Mindfulness Activities

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Building Stone Towers

Stone Tower Building is like a mini-meditation. It gives children the opportunity to be quiet, think and focus just on what they are doing. Their silent fixed attention is fully in the moment of balancing the stones.

Materials required:
– A collection of stones of different sizes, ensure that a large amount have some flatness on each side. But also include a variety of colours and roundness.
– A few pictures of stone towers so that children get the idea of the task and a challenge, “How many stones can you use to make a tower?”
– A place to do the building
– Optional: a camera so the child can take a picture of their tower or paper and pencils so they can make a sketch of their finished tower.

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Chopstick Challenge

This activity is a bit more advance require greater concentration and skill as they have to focus not on the balancing of objects to build a tower but to also manipulate chopsticks to move and stack the objects.

Materials required:

– I bought a ready made kit from The Works (http://www.theworks.co.uk/p/games-puzzles/wooden-chopstick-challenge/5052089164628).

-However, it would be easy to make your own kit which includes a set of chopsticks and small building blocks.
-A few pictures so that children get the idea of the task and a challenge, “How many blocks can you use to make a tower?”
– A place to do the building.

Top Tip for Both Activities

– Remind children to practice active, slow, deep breathing when they are stacking.
– To keep calm, remind the children that if the tower falls, to close their eyes, take three mindful breaths and start again.

Both of these activities require complete focus in the moment and supports the on-going development of mindfulness.

Press Play

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”
― Jay Asher

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I remember my first day of school. I was a five year old with hair pulled into pigtails on either side of my head. I was so excited as I carried my “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” snack box to my classroom. It was in the basement of an old three story school. The classroom was filled with wondrous things.

There was a long chalkboard on one side of the room with a long row of tables and a record player in the corner. The air smelled of damp chalk mixed with the fragrance of old kool-aid and oatmeal pies. Mrs Miller stood in the front of the class of eager eyed children and so my life in education began.

As I think about that classroom and look at the classrooms of my school, I note some of the similarities. There are no chalkboards. However, there are white marker boards. That smell of chalk dust is gone and it is replaces with the chemical smell of the erasable markers. The tables are still there. But, I notice that they are set up differently. There is a more collaborative feel to the environment. The record player is gone as well. There MIGHT be a CD player.

This is where the changes really begin. I notice the interactive boards in the front of class attached to the teacher’s laptop. On several tables I also see children working in collaboration on projects or research. There is an Ipad or two floating around the class and the class have their attention drawn to the board and the teacher from the next class over pops up on the screen. He begins to teach the children how to create their own animated video; encouraging them to have a go. The class teacher facilitates the learning, pausing the video and asking thought provoking questions. The children respond, make progress and collaborate in a way that would make Steve Jobs or Bill Gates proud!

This makes me think about how education has changed. The way I learned is a far cry from how children today learn. However, how I grew up is a far cry to how children are currently growing up.

For example, technology in my house while growing up consisted of the Clapper lamp that you clapped two times to turn off a light that was two inches from you and the child remote control which consisted of me standing next to the tv while my father called out, “Turn!”, so that I would turn the dial to the next channel, all ten of them! There were no mobile phones; we actually were on a party line! Who remembers them?! Digital clocks consisted of little plates flipping over to tell the time.

I could go on. I think you get the picture. So, because of this technology, our brains have been wired in a certain way and learning is a particular process not all that dissimilar from our own parent’s learning.

Fast forward to today. As soon as a child can sit up, they are learning how to manipulate technology! Within minutes, they learn how to make things happen on an iphone or ipad! I have seen two year old happily ‘reading’ a book, changing pages with the flick of a finger! How about the five year old creating a virtual world in Mindcraft? They know how to change channels on the tv with a remote control, flip through the 200+ channels, record a programme they like and pause to go to the toilet! Again, I could go on and on!

So, because of this technology, their brains ARE wired differently and the learning process IS different!

We can’t lament the change in the learning process. We can’t go back in time and MAKE children learn the way we did. It won’t happen! Should we even want to go back to the time of children sitting in rows while a teacher drones on about facts, telling off children for talking about their learning and insisting on only one way to do things ‘properly’!

We have children who are far more advanced in their learning than ever before. They ARE active learners. They know how to collaborate, discuss, imagine and create.

Our teachers have been reflective on this change and have been flexible in their own practice to support this change. They are becoming facilitators of this process and I have never been prouder of my profession Who have bravely and boldly held true to the needs of the children. It hasn’t been an easy job lately. However, our ethos supports our drive to stand up for our children.

Life is different. Our children are different. The future is an unwritten text that THEY have the responsibility to write. We can’t press the rewind button. It doesn’t exist! All we can do is be flexible to the change and press PLAY!

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein