A Mindful Ofsted- 5 Top Tips Revisited

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.

This week I had the experience for the third time as a Headteacher. It was the 11th and 12th day of the new school year and only the second week of a brand new inspection framework. There were many unknowns in the process.

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.

New School Year Mindfulness “To Do List”

My school year started this week. For many in education, this week brings back a whole host of stress and anxiety. Some of it is self inflicted as we understand our awesome duty of care for the children in our schools. Some is inflicted by government demands, the sudden and rapid changes we face, extreme accountability and funding crisis.

How we tackle the year is important for both our own emotional well-being and the emotional well-being of our children. We can minimise some of our stresses. However, we need to accept that their will always be stress and, for a successful school year, we need to take control.

Learning to take several mindful moments during every day gives our minds periods of time during the day to recuperate. It allows us to be more considerate of our actions rather than those actions becoming unmindful reactions.

Stress, good and bad, is a part of life. It is part of the human condition. The key to a calmer, more peaceful life is how we react to these stresses.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to be mindful, it just takes practice and, sometimes, a few reminders. That is why I have come up with a Mindfulness To Do List that encompasses many different aspects of mindfulness.

–  Take one minute , close your eyes and breathe deeply. Do this several times a day.

– Observe your thoughts & feelings without judgement.

– Focus on the present moment and note one specific detail.

– Think of five things that you are thankful for in your life.

Make several copies of the photo reminder at the top of this post and place them in prominent places as your reminder to be mindful. Then ensure that you tick off ALL the things on the list EVERY day.

Remember, the most important step in educating children in developing their own mindfulness skills, is to be a model of mindfulness.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

Find more mindfulness strategies can be found in 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness or on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com

50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness

Mindfulness has a lot to do with understanding your emotions and using them to broaden your life experiences. Taking time to enjoy the moment.

Today, for me, is both a day of excitement and also one of being humbled.

Today is the release date of my new book, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness published by Featherstone-Bloomsbury and endorsed by Alistair Bryce-Clegg.

I am excited because I know and understand the importance of supporting the life skill of positive mental health and developing strategies in being able to deal with the stresses of life. If children learn positive strategies as a child, they are more likely to have those strategies more firmly embedded and used as an adult.

The blurb sums it up nicely.

“Introducing mindfulness in Early Years settings equips young children with life-long skills that develop as they mature.”

I am pleased that, “50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness features a range of activities that enable children to build awareness of their emotions, focus on the present and empathise more easily with others. From ideas to manage distractions to games for independence, this collection of ideas includes colourful photographs and easy-to-follow instructions, making it a fantastic resources to bring mindfulness into the Early Years.”

Why am I humbled? I am humbled because I get to share this with the people who are working with children every day; with people who truly care about making a difference in a child’s life now and in the future. I am humbled because you are the ones creating a positive legacy for our world.

The book 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness is part of a great series of books for Early Years education and can be purchased all over the world. Some purchase links are:

Bloomsbury: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/50-fantastic-ideas-for-mindfulness-9781472955227/

UK Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fantastic-Ideas-Mindfulness-Tammie-Prince/dp/1472955226

USA Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Ideas-Mindfulness-Tammie-Prince/dp/1472955226

Australia: https://www.booktopia.com.au/50-fantastic-ideas-for-mindfulness-tammie-prince/prod9781472955227.html

My first book is also available around the world, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom published by Bloomsbury. It can be found in English and Spanish around the world.

…. 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!

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.

Happy New Year!- Mindful Gratitude

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Gratitude (being thankful) is a fundamental component of mindfulness. To be thankful for the the abundance in our lives as opposed to focusing on the actual material objects is not always readily accepted in our society.

We are a world of moaners. Whinging and moaning about everything from the weather to government is a favourite pastime of the young and old alike. We focus on the bad and are surprised by the good. This leads to a vicious cycle of negativity which then becomes the focus of our attention and anything positive is seen a just a fluke or fleeting moment.

Today, we mark the last day of 2018. Tomorrow we awake to a fresh new year.
Together, let’s end and begin in a state of gratitude. Be mindful of what you have, focus on the feelings those things you do have evoke in you and be humbled by the fact that you are aware and able to take the time to contemplate the good in your life.

This year take some time to start a pattern of mindful gratitude.

Here are some Top Mindful Gratitude Strategies:

1- Guided Meditations: Some people have a hard time starting a practice of Mindful Gratitude. Our negative thoughts push away the positivity or we just don’t know where to begin. Start the day with a Guided Meditation for Gratitude. Allow the meditation to guide you through your exploration of gratitude. Here are some nice Gratitude Meditations: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv5Mxt47DEZaZ1s6Ps3L3tL6

2- Make a List… one thankful thought at a time. You don’t have to make a long list to develop gratitude. You don’t even need a fancy sheet of paper or notebook. Just start a list. Begin each day by writing one thing you are grateful for. You can make a rule that you always have to write something different or you can repeat things. It doesn’t matter. But, at the end of the year, you will have a list of 365 things that brighten your life.

3- Gratitude Jar: Get a Jar. Decorate it if you like. But, you don’t have to. Each week, write a little note with the date and what has made you grateful and put it in the jar. When you are feeling low, take out the jar and read your little notes and remember there is good in your life.

4- Thank You Notes/Cards: Each week, choose one person or group of people that have make a difference in your life (big or small). You can do this anonymously if you like. It doesn’t matter. Just write the note and ensure they get it. Expressing gratitude makes both you and the receiver feel better.

Life will not always be a bed of roses. There will always be a thorns along the way. How you react to those thorns will set the scene for your everyday life. Mindful gratitude reminds us to appreciate the scent of those roses.

Happy New Year!

  1. Find more mindfulness strategies for children and adults here: www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or for more ideas for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury. More information can be found here.

#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 14: Colour Meditation

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.

Today, we will focus using a reminder, Colour Meditation.

Colour Meditation

– Choose a colour and decide to notice that colour during the day. Take the time to notice the objects and people wearing that colour.

– Have your 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!)

This ends our #MindfulFocusChallenge. We hope you have been able to see how mindfulness can help you in your day to day life.

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.