…. 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!

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#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 4: The Smell Exercise


Our world is filled with an overwhelming number of sensory input. Today, we use our sense of smell to focus on ONE thing and consider our emotions during this Mindful Focus activity.

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

⁃ Choose a strong scent. It could be your perfume, coffee, an orange, spices, etc. The choices are endless.

⁃ Take two deep, Mindful breaths, play the music and close your eyes.

⁃ Now bring the scent to your nose and inhale deeply.

⁃ Pay attention to what that smell does to your nose or brain.

⁃ What feelings come to the surface?

⁃ Do you have any strong memories attached to the smell?

⁃ How does that make you feel?

⁃ 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.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Assemblies

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In my opinion, the development of Mindfulness should be a whole school initiative that sees the development of these life long skills by adults and children alike (and parents). It should be a part of the everyday life of the school and part of the school’s deeper ethos.

Whole School assemblies are a great way for the leaders of the school to use and model Mindfulness and emphasise the importance the practice has in your school. The use of basic mindfulness strategies can have positive impact on Assembly behaviour and continue calmness for children and staff following the Assembly. I have personally used the strategies with assemblies a big as 450-500 children.

Before using the strategies for the first time, set a basic ground rule.

Ground Rule:
If you choose not to take part in the mindful breathing, meditation or Follow Me game, they are to be respectful to all others who have chosen to partake and sit quietly. (This may have to be reminded a few times. But, the vast majority will take part and many who don’t at first Do eventually start participating or continue to be respectful.)

How do I use Mindfulness in Assemblies?

1- Meditation Music:  I ensure that meditation music is playing as the children come into the hall. The calm music sets the scene and expectations for the Assembly. (A variety of music can be found in the blog post Music or on my YouTube channel.) The expectation is silence. But, seldom do I have to remind the children of this expectation.

2- Follow Me game: It is similar to Simon Says without the verbal aspect. Children MUST be paying attention and following the hand movements you make. The hand movements are slow, deliberate movements that flow with the music being played. (The focused attention and concentration required for this activity is relaxing and puts children in the moment.)

3- Mindful Breathing: When the last class is being seated, the leader guides the children and staff through one of these breathing meditations:

– One Minute Meditation: You verbally guide the children through 15 deep mindful breaths (Various breathing techniques can be found here. However, the two that I am partial to for large assemblies are the basic breathing and the snake breaths.)

– Starfish Meditation: The strategy can be found here and is usually a whole school favourite.

4- Mindful Singing: 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. How to use this strategy can be found here.

Note: At anytime during the Assembly that the children seem to be becoming more talkative or less attentive, guiding everyone through a few deep mindful breaths usually settles everyone. Also, end the Assembly with either Mindful Singing or Mindful Breathing.

The content of the Assembly is now yours to choose.
I hope to share some of the assemblies we do this year that have a clear, direct or indirect focus on Mindfulness development.

Top tips:

– Be in the hall BEFORE the first class arrives. This works best when everything is in place and you are playing the music and playing Follow Me as they come in and sit down.
– Periodically, remind children of what they are doing, why and how it helps them.
– If you are still unclear about how this work, please let me know and I will help accordingly.

When children see adults using Mindfulness strategies successfully, they will see the value of these skills.

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

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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

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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!

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.