Honored by Open Doors

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 8.04.35 PMLast week I got to visit two new classrooms and share the power of mindfulness.  I started Tuesday morning in a multiage 3/4 classroom where we started our journey by practicing the mindfulness of sound.  As a high school teacher it was such a different experience to work with 9 and 10 year olds.  Unlike high school students who are often skeptical, my elementary friends are more open to diving into a new experience and are just thrilled to have a visitor to their classroom.  They have been practicing over the last week and I look forward to see their growth when I visit again tomorrow to practice mindful breathing.

Later that Tuesday afternoon I was visiting a sophomore writing class who was preparing to begin the research paper process.  The teacher had mentioned that students seem to struggle with extended work time more and more each year and was hoping mindfulness could help with sustained attention.  The good news is that research is showing that it does.  My approach with adolescents always begins with relevance and a little neuroscience before we get to an exercise.  This is actually totally normal for this age group.  They need to know how it will impact their life and proof that it works.  After sharing this important information we did an exercise known as the 10 second count.  The exercise really does two important things.  It makes you aware that you have lost focus and then helps you refocus on the present moment.  The following day my colleague did the exercise again with her students at the beginning of the period and sent me a note saying, “I am seeing the results already and am so excited to have an actual strategy for them to use to refocus.” However,  we also learned  that if you don’t continue the practice it does lose its effectiveness.  Habits do take at least 21 days to form!

Two different classrooms with two different groups of students.  Two different experiences but both empowering young people to be self-aware so that they can maximize their potential.  I am lucky to be doing such work!

Challenge for the week:  Read an article on mindfulness and contemplate how it might help you and/or your students.

 

 

 

It’s Getting Exciting!!!

back to school conceptual creativity cube
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At the beginning of the school year, before students come back for classes, our district puts on two days of professional development for the staff and all 40 sessions are led by staff members.  It is so awesome to see colleagues embrace new leadership roles and the number of sessions offers so much choice.  One of the sessions that I led involved bringing mindfulness into the classroom.  I had colleagues from every building level in attendance.  My session involved discussing what mindfulness is and what it is not.  I spoke about the neuroscience behind mindfulness and even shared how mindfulness may have been part of the Thai soccer team surviving being trapped in the cave for two weeks.  The last part of my session allowed attendees to experience a mindfulness exercise.

At the end of the session I had multiple teachers, at all levels, approach me about visiting their classrooms and leading mindfulness exercises with their students.  I was fired up to say the least.  Now, fast forward to this past Friday.  My colleague who teaches Essentials of Communication in which students give several speeches had me come into three of her classes to explain mindfulness, how it could help with stage fright and to offer a mindfulness breathing experience.  The students were so receptive.  One talked with me after class about how helpful mindfulness had been for him and that schools should start this much earlier.  The good news is that we are starting earlier.

At the end of the day I was headed to our elementary building to discuss bringing mindfulness into a 3/4 multiage room.  Our first three sessions are planned with the door open to more in the future.  I can’t wait to have this experience with some of our younger students.  If I could have been empowered at a younger age to “anchor” myself through mindfulness practice I can’t imagine some of the storms I could have weathered in a more positive way.

Next time I will share my experience but in the mean time my challenge to you is to try to give one minute, just one minute per day, to your own mindfulness practice.  It takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  Let this week be your first seven!!

A couple of resources:

Mindfulness and How the Brain Works

Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Curriculum

Being Mindful of the New School Year

mindfulness_poster_UKWhere did summer go?  It seemed to fly by faster than ever most of the time.  I say most because as I took another mindfulness course I did practice being intentionally present multiple times and that allowed me to slow down time, even if it was just my perception.  I spent more time at school this summer than ever before but when I went to the pool once a week with my daughter or traveled to Colorado on family vacation I made sure to practice the tenets of mindfulness and it made ALL the difference.  I also did a better job of having a mindful sit each morning, sometimes even with my husband.  In a society that goes nonstop and creates chaos, I was able to slow it down and get more out of each moment!  Does it sound like something you would like to be able to do?

The course I took this summer was pretty amazing!  I learned more about the science of mindfulness and its history.  I also got an awesome curriculum to use with my own students and with students throughout our district at all grade levels.  One of the weekly assignments was to practice lessons from the curriculum.  For better or for worse my own children were recipients of the practice.  One lesson I did with my 10 year old daughter dealt with reaction vs. response.  It focused on how mindfulness could give you back control in an emotional situation.  We focused on using your breath as your anchor.  The cool thing is she got it!  She understood how mindfulness gives you the pause to determine your response instead of falling to a knee jerk reaction.  A 10 year old totally got it!!

Tomorrow I will facilitate a session on mindfulness with several of my colleagues as part of professional development.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous but my belief in the power of mindfulness propels me forward.  Mindfulness is about empowering people.  I am about empowering people so with a few butterflies in my stomach I look forward to sharing mindfulness with others in the hope that it will improve their quality of life as it has mine.

If you are interested in bringing mindfulness to your space feel free to contact me.

Going to the Next Level

tornado-supercell-evening-stockSo you might be wondering if I fell off the edge of the Earth since it has been so long since I last posted.  The answer is no but I did feel like I was at the vortex of a tornado as I wrapped up the end of the school year, my son’s baseball season began, daughter’s dance recitals took place and on and on!  Things seem to have settled down a bit and I have been able to focus again on my mindfulness journey.  What I did realize through the whirlwind is how my growing mindfulness practice allowed me to calm my mind in the craziness and be fully present for the experience.  Now, I would not be truthful if I said I did this all the time because I didn’t.  There were times when I was so busy thinking two steps ahead that I missed out.  However, I am getting better at it with practice.  Isn’t that what really works for everything, more practice?!

My practice continues with a new course from mindfulschools.org.  I am in week #1 of Educator Essentials where we begin by making sure that we can explain in our own words what mindfulness is and the goals of practicing it.  We are to practice our explanation on a few people so why not practice with my readers.  Here it goes:

Mindfulness is bringing awareness to your experience.  You do this on purpose, focusing on the present moment and doing so non-judgmentally.  By making yourself more aware of what is happening right now, in this moment, with no judgment call but rather just acknowledgment, a few good things happen.  First, you become more self-aware with thoughts like, “Wow, I didn’t know I really felt that way when this happened”.  In realizing and naming the emotion you are better able to regulate it.  That moment of focusing on the present moment gave you just enough pause between the stimulus and your response to think and thus control your knee-jerk impulse. By practicing mindfulness you get better at focusing your thinking making you more able to control your attention and become more aware of when your mind begins to wander.

So, what do you think?  Does my explanation help you better understand what mindfulness is and how you can benefit by its practice?  Might you want to make time in your day, even 5 minutes, to experience it?  Do you want this for your students?  I sure hope so!!  I am currently reading Marching Off the Map by Tim Elmore.  I highly recommend it! It is a book about Generation Z and how to inspire them.  In the first part of the book Tim gets the reader acquainted with this generation.  While they have many talents, they are also dealing with some real tough stuff.  He states that according to Dr. Michael Leahy, “Today’s typical high school student endures the same anxiety levels as a psychiatric patient did in the early 1950’s.”  Could mindfulness practices help them?

Over the next few weeks I will be learning a lot about mindfulness in the classroom and will also be practicing mindfulness myself.  I will share my learning and insights.  In the mean time:

This week’s challenge is to take something you do daily and bring mindfulness into it.  Focus your attention on the experience in the moment without judgment, just acknowledgment, and see what you notice.  I would love for you to post your experience so we can all learn from each other!

 

Growing Mindfulness in Myself & My School

Summer Vacation Beach

Like all teachers I am excited for summer to arrive.  However, my excitement is different this year.   I am definitely still looking forward to coffee time in the morning with my husband, taking my kids to the pool, and camping trips where we lose cell phone coverage but I also add to the list starting my next mindfulness course, planning further mindfulness implementation for my classroom in August, and solidifying a daily mindfulness practice.

Why the difference?  Because I am really starting to see how mindfulness is changing the lives of my students and that of my own.  A couple of important mile markers on my mindfulness journey have been reached since posting my last blog.  I finished my Mindfulness Fundamentals course from MindfulSchools.org and I have had my first round of sharing mindfulness practices in a core content classroom (math).  Yes, you read that correctly, math!  Along with these events I, along with three of my Teen Leadership students from first semester, were asked to speak to a leadership group in our community visiting the school district.  I was to explain my course and how it grew students to reach their potential.  My students were to discuss what impact the course had had on them and what they still practice even though the course is over.  We do a lot of important leadership development and social-emotional learning in the course but guess what 2 of the 3 said was the most significant part for them?  Yes, you guessed it, mindfulness practices.  If this is my students’ response how can I not be compelled to grow it?

Mindfulness is also growing me.  I now keep a gratitude journal which helps me to concentrate on the positive and see all the little things that matter in my life.  Each day I list things that I am grateful for.  It doesn’t take much of my time but has a significant impact on my attitude.  I also use mindfulness breathing to create a space between what happens to me and how I respond. Creating that space between a stimulus and my response gives me time to choose my words rather than blurting.  I’m hoping with such practice I am becoming a better teacher, mom, wife, person.

This week’s challenge:  Summer is coming so take some time to learn how mindfulness practice can grow you.  You might come back for the new school year a better version of yourself.  Here are a couple of links to launch from:

Starting Your Mindfulness Meditation Practice

How to Start Mindfulness Practice: A Guide for Beginners

 

 

It Really Does Make a Difference

makeadifferenceIt has been almost three months since my Teen Leadership course ended where I introduced my students to a few mindfulness practices.  I had been wondering if the learning had really “stuck” or if in their very busy lives my students had forgotten their experience.

As an instructional coach I visit classrooms weekly and a couple of weeks ago I was in a colleague’s room where her students were working on individual projects.  As I walked around and visited with students, one of them who also had taken my Teen Leadership class talked about her frustration with a computer program she was trying to use that kept messing up.  She spoke of how she just wanted to throw the computer, but then she went to the anchor breathing technique from Teen Leadership and described how she used it to regain control of her emotions.

Needless to say I was excited to hear that she was using mindfulness techniques and they were helping her.  But then another student in the room said, “Yeah, I use the deep breathing you taught us most nights to be able to go to sleep.”  This got me thinking, “Is this an isolated incident or is the mindfulness experience so positive that students are choosing to implement the practices into their lives?”  I decided to send an email out to my former students and the response was encouraging.  After three months this is what a few of them had to say:

“The anchored breathing and deep relaxation have helped me when I’m stressed about homework and when I have to talk in front of a large group of people.”

 “Deep breathing helped when I wanted to yell at my siblings because they really frustrate me and when I want to talk back to my mom.  I just take a deep breath and then I don’t.”

“I use the gratitude reflection. Although I don’t do this every day, at least twice a week I journal and write down some of the things that I am grateful for. It reminds me of all of the good in my life that I am thankful for and even the bad that I am thankful for as well.”

“I used to get anywhere from 12 hours of sleep on the weekends to 2 hours of sleep minimum on a school night. Currently, I’ve been able to sleep roughly 8 hours a night (using the deep relaxation technique), which has noticeably increased my health.”

One of the reasons teaching isn’t an easy job is that the hard work we put into what we do often does not bear fruit until long after the students have left our classrooms.  This is not so with mindfulness.  My experience has shown me how quickly we can have an impact.  I attended a national conference two weeks ago and one of the sessions I went to was led by Tim Elmore.  He is an author and international speaker on Generation Z (those born 2001 or later).  He gave us a crash course on this generation and included the fact that Generation Z faces unprecedented mental health issues.  His presentation was very good and made me think, how can we not feel obligated to equip them with healthy strategies to deal with stress and help them to be more gentle with themselves?

I’ve decided to end each blog with a challenge to my readers.  This week’s challenge: as you interact with students (or others) over the next week, what behaviors do you notice that tell you they are undergoing a lot of stress? If you asked your students how much stress they experience in a day or how often they’re stressed during a week, what would they say?  Their answers might shock you. And they also might prompt you to make a difference where you can.

And the Movement Begins

A couple of blogs ago I talked about presenting my learning on mindfulness in the classroom to my colleagues.  Shortly after that I had one of those colleagues, Jennifer, who is teaching her students about executive functions (paying attention, organizing and planning, initiating tasks and staying focused, regulating emotions, and self-monitoring) approach me about visiting her classroom to share a mindfulness exercise.  I can’t tell you how excited I was when she asked!  She was currently working with students on regulating emotions and felt, based on what I had shared, that mindfulness would be a good fit.

We set up a time to collaborate.  Collaboration is such a great thing, people share their knowledge with each other to create something greater than if you were to do it alone.  I was learning from Jennifer and she was learning from me.  The product would be one that could empower our students.  Awesome!  We decided that I would do a small piece on brain education and then I would explain what mindfulness was followed by providing an experience called anchor breathing.  While I knew it was a good exercise after having done it with my own class I was a little nervous because these were not “my” students.  I had not spent a semester building relational capacity with them.  Would Jennifer’s students be open to the experience?

After creating a plan which included some of the new material from my Mindfulness Fundamentals course, meeting again with Jennifer for feedback, and running through the lesson in my head multiple times the day arrived.  Honestly, I was kind of nervous but Jennifer’s students trusted me and became a receptive audience (pictured below is me leading the mindfulness session).  After the lesson I asked students to reflect individually on the experience and how they could see themselves using anchor breathing outside of the class.  Later that week Jennifer shared the students’ responses with me.  Here are a few things they said:

“Anchor breathing would be great to use before a test, a competition like wrestling, or before a job interview. It will help you relax and focus. The most important thing I learned from the  mindfulness activity was how to do anchor breathing, I just used it during a test today and it worked great.”

“Use it before tests, I think that because some tests get you so stressed out that just breathing and clearing your mind could help you.  I felt a little relieved (after the exercise) and had time to think about what I was going to do for the week and catch up on things. Thanks for showing me something so simple, it works.”
“The most important thing I learned from the mindfulness activity was to let thoughts come but then let them disappear on a leaf in a river kind of form so you don’t stress about something or think about something too long.  Thank you for showing me this because I will resort back to it in times of need like I did then.”
“I think that this was a great activity and that we should try and incorporate it before big major tests in all our classes.”
If you have read my previous blogs are you starting to see a trend?!  Mindfulness works and it doesn’t take long to realize it!  I met with Jennifer at the end of the week to get her feedback.  We talked about what she thought went really well and she suggested a few changes for the next time I might do this piece.  I asked her how she felt about the experience and she responded, “It was truly empowering to see what the executive function awareness of emotional control and the mindfulness information and strategy can do for all our students.  We will definitely put this into my academic classes at the end of April/early May.”
In my next blog I will share how students continue to use mindfulness months after learning about it in my class!

 

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