If you’ve been following my journey, you can probably already tell that I have a passion for promoting health & wellness through MINDFULNESS!
But… WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Chances are, if you stumbled on this blog, you have some sort of idea what mindfulness entails. But I’m going to simplify it for you! Because there are many interpretations of what mindfulness is and isn’t.
If we look up the definition of Mindfulness it notes:
“Mindfulness is the state of being consciously aware of something”
And quite literally, anything! It is focusing on one particular thing, whether that’s our breath or a part of our surroundings. Focusing on that one thing brings us into the present moment.
Yes, we can schedule certain mindfulness practices into our day, but we can also live each moment with a mindfulness mind set. Completing our daily tasks and going through daily events, mindfully!
We can eat mindfully by eliminating distractions. That means no watching TV or scrolling through our phones while we are trying to eat. Focusing solely on our food and enjoying it with all 5 of our senses.
We can go for a walk or a drive mindfully! By tuning out any conversations and focusing on the sights and sounds around you! Even the smells, if you are outside in nature.
We can even have mindful conversations. Putting our phones away, turning off music, and focusing solely on our heartfelt conversation. Active listening is a wonderful way to have a mindful conversation.
We can even do our work with mindfulness in mind. By breaking down our day and focusing on one aspect of the day at a time. Being fully present in whatever your task is.
Are you a Multi-Tasker?
Multitasking is not a mindful activity. Our minds are constantly flipping between tasks and we are most definitely unable to focus our attention on one item! Not to mention, multi-tasking is not productive (unless you are of course the 1% exception to this rule or a computer), often taking a lot longer to complete all of your to-do’s and getting them done without paying attention to the details.
Multi-tasking tends to lead us to our MONKEY MIND.
“Monkey mind” is a buddhist term that refers to being unsettled, distracted, restless, even confused. It is the OPPOSITE of true mindfulness.
Our goal is to calm and settle our monkey mind in order to live truly mindful lives.
So yes, mindfulness can be practiced at any time throughout your day. You can practice it anywhere, and with just about any activity (unless you’re combining activities, of course)!
The key is AWARENESS! Being aware of your thoughts and your monkey mind. Being able to pause and say:
“Okay, I’m thinking about the past or future right now, when I should really be focused on the present.”
Awareness can be challenging, but it can also be TRAINED. You can get better at becoming more self-aware. All it takes is a little bit of practice and some deliberate scheduling of mindfulness into your day.
I highly recommend training your awareness by purposefully adding mindful moments into your day, whether that is with mindful breathing, mindful eating, practicing gratitude, yoga, etc. The important thing is to find what works best for you.
By intently adding it into your day, you are settling your monkey mind, and training your brain to think in the present moment, all the time!
Read my follow up post for more ideas on HOW to schedule mindfulness into your day!
Well, I think we can all agree that the last few years have been anything but easy…
We are living in a world full of fear and uncertainty. Stress and anxiety is on the rise- and was well on the rise before the world even had a glimpse of COVID-19.
Many of us, myself included, are feeling isolated and alone, struggling to cope with the reality of the world…
If we are struggling… Our kiddos are struggling… How will our kiddos learn to persevere and thrive in this changing and stressful world?
I asked myself this very question when I first began my Mindfulness Club at my little Elementary School (if you haven’t read my last post, make sure you do before reading ahead!). Mindfulness was the answer then, and is most definitely the answer now!
In fact, in this COVID-struck world, I believe the practice of Mindfulness is even more important and more detrimental to our kids (and our own) well-being and resilience than ever before!
In March 2020, one week before our scheduled Spring Break, our schools in Edmonton, Canada shut down completely. We thought we would see our students bright and early Monday morning, turns out, we would not see them face-to-face for the rest of the school year…
I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the ‘controllables.’ No, I could not control what was happening in the world, but I COULD control and was very capable of finding a way to bring mindfulness to my students.
As schools and teachers frantically made plans to teach online, I thought about how to best serve my school community with the power of Mindfulness..
I decided to create a website for my students to access our mindfulness practices in the comfort of their own homes!
Using the platform, Google Sites… Mindfulness Club ONLINE was born!
Google Sites was easy and simple to use for a ‘non-techy’ person like myself. I am by no means an expert when it comes to web design. I prefer simplicity. Google Sites was the easy answer for me!
I designed it with a similar structure to our Mindfulness Recess Club- keeping our Mindful Monday, Wind-down Wednesday & Flexy Friday themes alive! Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I would post new breathing activities, yoga videos, games and stories (while getting creative and having familiar faces within our school record a read-aloud of a mindfulness book) for kiddos and their families at home.
I added a couple of extra features and resources on this site, including a virtual Gratitude Wall where students could submit notes of gratitude to an online Google Form. At the end of each week, I would add the submitted notes to a page on my google site, named “That Gratitude Attitude!”
This was created after our real-life ‘Gratitude Wall’ bulletin that hung in the hallways at Sherwood Elementary.
Most of the activities I posted were found for free on youtube (Cosmic Kids Yoga, GoNoodle Guided Relaxations), and breathing activities from a book I already owned (Breathe like a Bear- highly recommended for quick breathing activities for young children).
But… I felt I needed something more… and tailored to these online needs. And that’s where Kids Yoga Stories came into play!
I am a huge fan of Giselle and her work at kidsyogastories.com! I had previously purchased some of her classroom resources, but she had most recently come out with the ‘Keep Calm’ and ‘Get Connected’ packs and I knew I had to jump on those! These packs came with a ton of digital resources that I was easily able to implement onto my Google Site.
As crazy as this year was (and the years have continued to be), it ended up being a lot of fun and an exciting new venture for me: learning to build this site and share my passion in the online world. And surprisingly… easier than I anticipated!
If you are looking for ways to implement mindfulness online, or find new ways to bring these practices to the kiddos in your life, I would love to connect with you and share any insights or answer any questions.
You can send me an email:
And check out my Google Site, Mindfulness Club ONLINE, at the link below for more ideas:
5 PRACTICAL Tips for Educators who are Shifting to Online:
Find an easy “website” platform to use: Choose a platform that is user friendly. Easy for your students to access, and easy for you to use. You don’t need anything too fancy. The point is getting out info to your students, you don’t want to waste a whole lot of time making it look pretty. I used Google Sites. My students and I are already familiar with google applications (easy to access) AND it is designed simply with no excess distracting features.
Be open to using multimedia to address all learning styles: Think about the needs of your students. In the classroom, we differentiate to address different learning styles. Bring that practice with you in your shift online. Record videos or sound clips, add pictures and text. Make it easy and fun for all types of learners. A Lot of my students in Mindfulness Club were younger and weren’t great readers, so for every text I wrote, I also added an audio clip of myself reading the text.
Record YOURSELF and/or known trusted adults: Yes, you could search up videos of ‘professionals’ on youtube who already have videos posted to demonstrate a concept, but students love it more when they see you or someone they know on video! When choosing read-alouds for my Mindfulness Club Online, I recorded myself reading and asked other teachers and office staff in the school to read and record videos of themselves. The kids loved it!
Make it interactive for your students: Find a way to make it interactive for your kiddos. A page of some sorts where they can respond or ask questions on their own. Google Forms can easily be inserted on any page to be used for daily check-in’s, questions of the day, etc. I’m sure there are some other awesome programs out there (maybe even Jamboards) that you could link up to your site, but my personal experience is working with Google Forms on my Google Site.
No stress! Just have fun with it: This is where you get to see this as an opportunity to learn, make mistakes, and have fun while playing around with your site (Gosh, now I really do sound like Ms. Frizzle). You get to design it to let your personality shine through. If you have fun with Bitmoji, this is the perfect time to plaster your Bitmoji-self all over your website!! Ever heard of Bitmoji classrooms? I bet you have! Well, you can link your interactive Bitmoji classrooms all over your site! I have to warn you though.. This one can become a little time consuming if you’re a particular person, like me… So try not to dedicate a whole lot of time to it. (Unless it’s a fun hobby for you of course!)
Do you want to know how I brought mindfulness to my students?
Before we go any further, I’m assuming most of you who stumbled across this blog probably know of mindfulness or meditation.
But in case you haven’t, mindfulness is quite simply being aware or conscious of something. It’s the practice of allowing yourself into the present moment. Getting out of your head and staying mindful of the world in front of you.
I anticipated that mindfulness would help my students work through some of their traumas by helping them to understand their emotions and by learning how to regulate them. I hoped it would help them with any stresses and anxieties they may have. Because of a lot of their circumstances, we had some interesting student behaviours and students who lacked self control and self awareness.
Mindfulness studies have shown to have huge benefits in these areas!
I also anticipated some positive impacts in the classroom and a ripple effect throughout the school as well.. Like increased empathy and understanding towards classmates, therefore decreasing classroom conflicts and improving problem solving. I expected mindfulness to bring about a more compassionate school atmosphere!
Educators out there, doesn’t this sound like an IDEAL school environment?!
… back to the actual HOW of bringing mindfulness to my little Elementary school…
Being an Educational Assistant and not having my own classroom or my own scheduled time to hold any sort of mindfulness lessons, I had a little bit of a problem on my hands.
But problems are meant to be solved! All it took was a little bit of creative thinking and planning!
I asked myself a few questions:
“Who am I going to work with? Just my own home room class? The whole school?”
“What sorts of activities will I plan and lessons will I teach?”
“When am I going to find and make time for this?”
“Where can I get myself together with a group of students to teach them mindfulness exercises?”
“How am I going to get other’s on board with this idea?”
My goal was to get mindfulness into as many classrooms as possible, but I realized that I had to start small! With a little bit of a trial period…
As an EA, there’s not a whole lot of flexibility in my schedule and I don’t get any prep blocks so I knew I had to find time SOMEWHERE to get mindfulness into the week. I approached my teaching partner and our school principal with my dream. They were ecstatic and willing to give me the time and space in a spare classroom to practice mindfulness activities.
We decided on running it Monday to Friday in the mornings from 8:35-8:45, 10 minutes after school began.
On Mondays, we quietly and mindfully colored gratitude notes and put them in a jar to be read on Fridays.
Tuesdays to Thursdays were a mix of meditations, guided breathing techniques, relaxation activities, mindfulness stories and yoga games.
Fridays were for reading and sharing our gratitude notes with our group. And then displayed on the wall for all to see!
It started off small, but over time, it flourished into a full classroom! I even had one committed teacher who brought her entire class down to the little spare classroom every day to begin their morning with mindfulness!
With some of the improvement I had been seeing and the participation I was getting, I decided to take it one step further the following year, when I had a bit more flexibility in my EA schedule…
….And Mindfulness Club was born!!
Mindfulness Club was a recess club that would be offered to the whole school and kiddos were able to come to the club as they needed – there was no “you need to be here every day or you’ll get kicked out” rule.
I held ‘Mindfulness Club’ every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during afternoon recess. I wanted to get a variety of mindfulness practices in, so students were able to continually add new tools into their “mindfulness toolbox.”
I organized these practices into themed days:
Mindful Mondays: On Mondays, we would do breathing activities, guided relaxations, short meditation practices, etc. It was our day of silence and breath work.
Wind-Down Wednesdays: On Wednesdays, we did activities like mindful colouring, reading stories on mindfulness, doing kindness/empathy fostering activities, and holding sharing circles.
Flexy Fridays: Fridays were by far, the most popular themed day! Flexy Fridays were days filled with yoga and stretching activities. These days began usually with a Yoga Pose of the Day we would all learn together, and afterwards, we would do a yoga video, play a yoga game, or read a yoga story. Sometimes, we did partner yoga or took turns leading yoga sequences. It was so much fun to watch this crew transform into mindfulness leaders!
Regardless of theme, I always began and ended Mindfulness Club the same way every day.
We always opened with a circle (Don’t get me started on the power of circles!! We’ll leave it for another post…). We would take 3 deep breaths together, normally switching up the kinds of breaths we took, before breaking off into whatever activity was to follow.
We ended in a minute of quiet reflection. I would ask kids to sit down, closing their eyes or focusing on one spot on the floor. I’d instruct them to listen to their bodies. Do they have any physical feelings? Or any emotions that they feel now? How are they feeling now, after coming to Mindfulness Club? Before heading back to class, I’d ask them to do a quick check-in with me. Some shared a word that explained their feelings, others expressed themselves with the thumbs up/thumbs down system.
The question I’d like to leave them with was:
“What can you do for yourself TODAY, that can help you continue to feel joy?”
For 2 years, I had kiddos rate their happiness levels on a scale system of 1-5 (5 being the happiest) so I could track the average. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it allowed me to see trends and also to adjust my club based on the needs of the group.
Mindfulness Club ran in-person for 4 successful years. My little mindfulness crew grew bigger and bigger! It had a variety of students who attended it, many of them, coming back for more mindfulness again and again!
I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring mindfulness to kids. It’s been an exciting journey to watch them grow, learn, lead, become kinder and gentler humans…
It’s been an honour…
In March of year 5… DUN DUN DUN… the schools in Edmonton had shut down because of COVID-19. It posed a real challenge for me, trying to figure out how to get mindfulness to my students in their homes, whom I knew neededmindfulness, right now, in times of uncertainty and fear.
But, you know me, I’m not a quitter. I figure things out, especially if I believe it’s important enough, and so I did some more creative thinking and came up with an idea for bringing Mindfulness Club online…
Check out my next post to learn more about Mindfulness Club going DIGITAL!
Although, I’m better known as Miss T. to my students and school community!
I am an Educational Assistant located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I’ve been lovingly supporting students as an EA for 7 years now and I owe it all to my inspiring Mom (also an EA with Edmonton Public Schools) for choosing this path in the first place.
When I first started off as an EA, I loved working with kids. I enjoyed helping them learn and watching them grow. Helping to mould and shape their personalities. But it wasn’t until I began working with some very challenging students, when I realized exactly where I wanted to help these kids see success…
I began my career at a small, intimate school, Sherwood Elementary. It was located in a low-income neighbourhood and our community held some of the most vulnerable of families. Half of the school was dedicated to a special needs/adaptability program- which I spent most of my time working in. The other half was our “regular” K-6 program, but it was anything but “regular”…
The majority of these kids that attended our little home at Sherwood School had been through some traumatic experiences at such a young age- many kiddos who’d been in and out of foster care, families that didn’t have enough money to pay rent or buy groceries, and many instances of abuse. We had some very dedicated families, but often, because of their home life circumstances, students didn’t often remain at our school for the full 7 years.
As you can imagine, these kiddos had it rough… and so early on in their lives… There were many things beyond their control. It was the first time I’d seen so many hardships under one roof…
Yes, it was sad to see and sure did pull on the heart strings. However, I knew I had a real OPPORTUNITY to help these kiddos thrive- beyond academics!
Before I let you in on my plan to help these kiddo’s, I’m going to share a personal story with you…
There was a time in my life when I really struggled. During the natural transition from high school to adulthood…
Becoming an adult was overwhelming. I wasn’t prepared for it. I felt I just wasn’t worthy of a fulfilling life; It just wasn’t in my cards. I was unhappy.
Although, one thing that I did have going for myself was my willingness to persevere. I have grit. I am not a quitter. Never have been. If something doesn’t go my way, I figure out why and I learn to find a new way.
I’d got lost in the rabbit hole of self-development and came across this beautiful, deceivingly-hard concept… “Mindfulness.” The practice of being fully present in the moment…
I say deceiving-hard because the concept seemed easy enough- being fully present and aware in the now, but practicing it was not. It took a lot of hard work, focus, forgiveness and time.
But the end result was that mindfulness saved my life. Quite literally. It offered me a new perspective and allowed me to understand my thoughts and feelings. And the realization that I am NOT my thoughts. And that I am NOT subjected to my circumstances.
Mindfulness gave me back my power.
Now, back to my little elementary school…
One day in my self-development journey (because, you know, it’s a forever thing!), I came across an inspiring mindfulness documentary… this time, about bringing mindfulness to kids and into schools…
This provoked me to think:
“Mindfulness helped me. Why wouldn’t it help my students? Other people are clearly bringing mindfulness into schools… Why can’t I bring it into mine?”
And so, this thought propelled me into action!
The opportunity I had to help these kiddos was through the practice of mindfulness!
Hate to leave you hanging here… but you’ll have to check out my next blog post to see exactly how I turned this plan into action!!