Holiday Mindfulness To Do List

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Anyone who works in a school knows the full out relief of a long summer break. Day in and day out the strain of the overwhelming responsibility weighs on the shoulders of each person. Some loads are heavier than others but they all put a relentless stress during school time.

Most of us know all about this before we even enter the profession. We are warned and told the horror stories. However, over the years the stresses of continued curriculum changes, societal changes and ever increasing expectation and accountability puts our health and well-being at risk.

So, it is very important that we take the time during to summer break to look after ourselves and start developing habits that will support us through the rest of the year.

Summer Mindfulness To Do List

1- Gratitude– In the hustle and bustle of the school year, we can sometimes forget to bask in the success that have been achieved. Take some time to write out all the wonderful things you can think have happened this last year.

2- Meditations– Meditating is a habit. When forming a new habit you must:
* Set a Reminder– the trigger that initiates the behaviour. I suggest an alarm on your phone early in the day (after you know you will be awake but before you would go out for the day) that goes off daily.
* Make a Routine– when the alarm goes off stop whatever you are doing and begin your meditation. An overview of meditations can be found here.
* Reward– Once you have finished your meditation, smile and give yourself a mental pat on the back as you recognise how you are feeling in those first moments following the meditation.

A number of guided meditations can be found here:  https://tinyurl.com/EducationsVoiceMeditations

3- Mindful Walks– We all know that walks can clear the cobwebs and make use feel better. This holiday, when you take the walks, focus on one aspect of the walk. For example, decide on a colour you want to notice. As you walk, look for that colour. When you see it, use it as a reminder to take a deep mindful breath and focus on the object with the colour and the characteristics of that object. If other thoughts, like work, come to mind, allow them to float past you like a cloud and not allow yourself to wallow in the thought.

4- Learn Something New– Studies suggest that adult learning has a positive impact on self-esteem and self-efficacy when the learning provided meets the needs of the learner, and when the learner is at a stage in their life when they are ready and receptive to benefit from it. So, basically, if we learn something we want to learn and not because we have to learn it, the positive benefits support our well-being. What will you learn to do this holiday? Knitting, crocheting, making tissue flowers, baking?

5- #RAK – Pledge to do one Random Act of Kindness each day. It doesn’t need to be big. It could be to allow a car to go ahead of you in a traffic jam or it could be paying for the person behind you at the coffee shop. Maybe it is to give a lonely looking person a sincere smile or leaving little positive notes in high traffic areas a rays of sunshine for other people.

During this break, make your well-being a priority. No one can do it for you. YOU have to do it!

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Top Mindfulness Tips for Supply/Substitute Teachers

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Being a supply/substitute teacher is not an easy gig. Many times you are walking into an unknown classroom filled with children that may find Ann known teacher distressing or a license to test the behaviour waters. A supply/substitute teacher needs to have a tool kit of quick and easy ways to support calm across the classroom. Many mindfulness activities can do just that!

Here are my Top Mindfulness Tips for Supply/Substitute Teachers:

1- BREATHE! Within the first few minutes, teach the children how to do Deep Mindful Breathing. Start off by explaining you are teaching them how they can trick their brain to believe they are calm. Explain the science of this technique. The strategy can be found here.
(You could even tell them it is a secret trick and show them one of the themed Breathing strategies.)

2- MEDITATION MUSIC Have a USB drive that you have downloaded a significant number of meditation songs or, better yet, download a 3-4 hour meditation music compilation from YouTube. Keep the music handy to play in the background while children are doing independent work. It will help to keep a sense of calm. More about this strategy can be found here.

3- MINDFUL DOODLING  Children are usually told NOT to doodle. Explain to them that this Doodling is special and will help them to remember what they have been taught today (relaxes the mind to allow the learning make connections in the brain. Play the meditation music in the background. The strategy is explained here.

4- MINDFUL LISTENING Explain to the children that the Headteacher/Principal has a special mission for them today. When they hear a special bell ring, they are to stop, close their eyes and just silently listen to all the things they can hear inside and outside the classroom. Then when you say stop, they are to quietly write the sounds down and go back to work. At the end of the day, all the lists are collected and given to the Headteacher/Principal. (You must give to the Headteacher/Principal as the children WILL as them!) You can find a special bell here.

5- GRATITUDE Throughout the day, get the children to stop, take three mindful breaths and silently write one thing they are thankful for on their special GRATITUDE LIST. By the end of the day, the list will be long and filled with happy thoughts. Send it home with the children to share with their parents. More information on Mindful Gratitude can be found here.

Sometimes it is the simple things that have the greatest impact.

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.

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!

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!

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Mindful Facial Massages

 

DesignThe development of mindfulness has, at its heart, the reduction of stress hormone levels. Teaching children a number of Mindfulness strategies allows children to find the ones that best meets their needs and successfully reduces their stress and anxiety.

Massage and the power of touch is naturally relaxing and is a way to reduce these stress hormones. Maria Hernandez-Reid is a researcher at the Touch Research Institute. She says that the lowering of stress hormones not only reduces the feelings of anxiety but also supports a healthier immune system.

Here are some simple personal facial massages that children and adults can do to support their own mindfulness.

Before you begin:

– Ensure that hands have been washed well.
– Play gentle meditation music in the background.
– Sit or lay down comfortably.
– Take some deep mindful breaths to kick start the relaxation

Chin Massage
– Use your index and middle finger of each hand.
– Begin at the top of your jaw near your ears on both sides at the same time and move in a small circular motion five times.
– Move your fingers down the jaw line and move then in a circular motion five times.
– Repeat the motions as you move down the jaw bone towards the chin.
– At the point of the chin, use one set of fingers and repeat the circular motion five times.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Eyebrow Massage
– Use your thumb and index finger on each hand.
– Begin at the area between your eyebrows and softly pinch for a count of five.
– Move your fingers outwards over your eyebrows and, again, softly pinch for a count of fives.
– Repeat the motions as you move towards the temples.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Ear Massage
– Use your entire hand and cup the top of each of your ears and gently squeeze for a count of five.
– Move down the ears, continuing to gently squeeze for a count of five.
– Finish by placing your thumbs in the dent behind the bottom of your ear lobe (where it joins your face) and apply gentle pressure for a count of five.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Cat’s Whiskers Massage
– Use your three middle fingers of each hand and make a W.
– Place the fingers on either side of your mouth, applying gentle pressure.
– Gently sweep your fingers across the face with gentle pressure as if you were drawing cat’s whiskers.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

You can use one massage or a combination of massages. Try out a variety of ways to find what best fits you and your class.
Top tip: Encourage deep, even mindful breathing during all of the massages and have them focus on the feel of their fingers against their skin.

If you like this, try Mindful Head Massage.

Mindfulness In the Classroom – Spread Positivity!

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Sometimes, despite our best efforts in teaching children (and adults) about mindfulness, using mindfulness strategies and being mindful, we forget about it in the times of greatest distress unless it is truly embedded in our minds. This is why I believe it is important to have visual reminders that support that subliminal message to take control of our emotions and believe in ourselves.

This post is a simple one. It is filled with pictures that I have created over the last year that can be copied, saved and made into printable posters for your classroom and across the school. All I ask is that there is some acknowledgement that it came from Education’s Voice. Otherwise, use as is appropriate for you and your school.

Please note, some pictures are more appropriate for staff than children and we MUST NOT forget the adults in our schools! They need reminders as well.