I just finished re-reading ‘The Power of Moments’ by Chip & Dan Heath. (If you know this book, awesome! If you don’t… get yourself a copy!… There’s a reason I read it a second time around! :P)
I first read this book 2 years ago. One day recently, I started thinking about it. How I wanted to read it again. And refresh my memory of its many lessons.
Two days after that thought, the book ended up on my boyfriend’s doorstep… randomly, through a book exchange he was a part of…
Talk about synchronistic!!
I took it as a sign to start reading it again. It was just as good the second time around!
‘The Power of Moments’ a wonderfully inspiring book about how we can capitalize on and craft moments that have the power to be life-changing. (More on HOW in another blog post… :P)
One of the biggest takeaways from this book was:
The Power we have to Create Moments Through Simple Connection.
It is so easy for us to get lost in our day-to-day mundane tasks. We go through the motions; Do our jobs and cross things off our daily list.
Students, clients, and fellow staff members become 2 dimensional characters to us. It’s easy to forget there’s more beyond the surface of the people we interact with daily.
I know for myself, after working with the same students each day, it’s easy to lose sight of the human being behind the student. Too easy to focus on the daily to-do’s. Especially when it feels like there’s a million of them…
But the truth is: Our students, our kids, our coworkers, are more than just a number, or a ‘to-do’ to cross off a list.
They have their own identity. And with their identity, comes a whole background of experiences and moments that shaped them into who they are.
It is important for us to acknowledge each individual identity. After all, we are all different in some way. We’ve had different experiences that all led us up to this one moment. HOW we got here matters just as much, if not more, than the fact that we are here.
Its our human nature to want to be seen and heard. To be noticed and acknowledged.
The authors of this book suggest a reframe to our thinking…
Instead of always asking “What is the matter with you?”,
we simply ask instead “What MATTERS to YOU?”
See how powerful that statement change is?
We get lost trying to assess and fix problems, we often forget to consider the individual as a whole.. Their feelings and their experiences.
I wanted my students to know that they were loved and heard. I wanted them to feel appreciated, down to their very core.
During a Wednesday afternoon in Mindfulness Club, I brought in different coloured sheets of paper, markers, and crayons. I explained we would be mindfully working on a little project called:
“What matters to me!”
I reminded all of my students that although we are all in the same place, we all have different stories and backgrounds. There are certain things and experiences that make us, us. And how important all of our individual stories are. How those stories deserved to be acknowledged.
And so, we all had the opportunity in Mindfulness Club, that day, to create our own “What Matters to Me” poster (myself included!) so that everyone around us could see our stories. So they could see what lies beneath.
A one-day-project, turned into a whole-month-project!
Because my kiddos had so much they wanted to share about themselves!
They shared about their families and their experiences. About certain memories that stood out in their minds. About the things they liked and the things they didn’t. Some were personal. Some were sad.
All were so very beautiful in their own ways.
I learned a lot of things that day. About my students… About our own stories…
About making sure those stories are heard and understood.
What I’ll remember the most about that day, is the way their eyes lit up just because someone listened…
I really do believe it is as simple as acknowledging those around us.
Seeing them… I mean, really seeing them.
We all deserve to be seen.
And the most wonderful part about that…
Is thatWE have the power to give others the acknowledgement they deserve…
Well… I can’t give you one simple answer. Because the practice of mindfulness is simple and complex all at once – we’ll save the complex stuff for another post!
Mindfulness is our natural state of being…
…before the world was filled with constant distractions and everyday stressors.
When we focus on the present moment and are mindful in everything we do, it’s like we are connecting back to our roots. Our natural state of being.
Back in the times of our ancestors, our ‘fight/flight/freeze’ mode of our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) was only activated when we were in serious danger. Dangers like being hunted or killed by larger animals.
And even then, when our ‘fight/flight/freeze’ (called our sympathetic nervous system) was triggered, we were still PRESENT. Presently focusing on removing ourselves from danger.Once the danger was removed, we were easily able to switch modes back into our parasympathetic nervous system, where our bodies and minds could ‘rest and relax.’
Nowadays, these stress triggers are everywhere. We stress all day long. About our kids, students or families. About our jobs or the pay we get. We stress over not making it to work on time while sitting in rush hour traffic. Or about how we will do on an exam.
And now with COVID we have additional stressors! We stress about sickness and the health of our friends and family. We stress about when the next shut down might happen. Or if we’ll end up losing our jobs. Or worse.. Our lives or the lives of someone we love.
Sometimes, we’ll even stress about all the bad things that could possibly happen and things that haven’t even come true yet (and most likely, won’t ever come true).
In this day and age, stressors are EVERYWHERE.
But there are 2 crucial differences about these stressors than what we’ve experienced in the past:
Our sympathetic nervous system is basically running on overdrive! When we are regularly stressed, our body is living in this constant state of fight, flight or freeze. There is no time for our parasympathetic system to kick in (our rest & relax mode) and so our body is unable to conserve the energy it needs to function properly. Our body systems are working hard to get us out of this perceived danger, which never really seems to go away… This can have serious detrimental effects for us in the long term.
The majority of these new stress triggers aren’t even happening in the present moment! They are things that are going on in our heads!! Like I said earlier, we give too much attention to the things that have not yet happened, and may not even happen. Yes, some of the things we think about are important to consider in terms of planning our lives, however, when we are non-stop thinking about our stress, it completely takes us out of the present moment. We are stuck living within our heads. Not mindful at all. And not our natural state of being.
Now, the wonderful thing about understanding all of this is that it makes us aware. Aware of the problem, so we can also be aware of the solution.
And in returning back to our natural state of being- Living and breathing mindfulness, we can reverse some of the long term effects that stress and anxiety can have on our minds and our bodies. We can extend our lives and improve our health!
Of course, it’s never too late to practice mindfulness!
But, I am an avid promoter of the “get ‘em started young” philosophy!
Why, you might ask?
Well, for one, kids are SPONGES! They are the best kind of learners because they hold onto new information quite easily. Especially if that information is engaging! And even more so, if they see the adults in their lives MODEL it well!
And second, even though it’s never too late for anyone to practice mindfulness and improve their health, when we teach mindfulness to kids, we are better able to set them up for a successful path in life. We can teach them strategies BEFORE stressful events happen and they will better know how to deal with them when the time comes.
Ever heard of the mastery rule of 10,000 hours?
Well, Michael Gladwell speaks about it in his book “Outliers.” He states that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve a level of mastery in a particular skill.
In the case of mindfulness, bringing awareness and teaching this skill to kids at a younger age, allows them to achieve this level of mastery even before they become adults.
This is why I am so ‘gung-ho’ about practicing mindfulness to kids. By practicing mindfulness throughout their younger years, living in the present moment becomes a natural part of their subconscious. They develop mastery level to this skill before their teen and adult years – some of the most stressful years of their lives.
Being a master at mindfulness before they get into those stressful years, will allow them to utilize strategies for dealing with stress in the future.
We are setting them up for success in a terribly stressful world.
Imagine a world where we can all get out of our own heads and into the present moment?
A world where we don’t have to be constantly living in fight, flight or freeze.
I believe THAT world begins with our kids.
Stay tuned for more posts on how mindfulness works and how it improves, not only our thoughts, but our overall health!
Let’s have a chat about IMPACT for a second.. The impact we have on those around us.
I want to know…
What sort of impact do you want to have on the world? On your kids? On your students?
What legacy do you want to leave behind? What do you want to be remembered for?
Speaking from an educator stand point, I, of course, wanted to have a positive impact on my students. To leave them better off than before they met me. To shape them into kind-hearted human beings who could accomplish anything they set their minds to.
But sometimes, having such high expectations leads to discouragement.
We try our hardest, day in and day out, to guide our students into doing the right things and accomplishing the right things. And sometimes (quite often even), things do not go as planned. Sometimes, we fall short.
A student is dishonest with you, or your class forgets the concepts you’ve been working so hard to solidify in their minds. OR, even worse, one student hurts another with their words, or their actions… after we spent so long trying to instill a sense of compassion and integrity within our classroom…
It makes us question our efforts.
“Does what I do actually matter?…”
Trust me.. I’ve had more bad days than I can count. And many times when I’ve asked myself this very same question.
But I want to share a story with you. A story that hopefully will inspire you and remind you that ALL of your efforts really DO matter. They may not matter all in one day, or one week, or even in one school year.
But over time, the little bits of impact are compounded! And great things begin to happen…
I worked at Sherwood Elementary for 6 years, all years spent working in our Special Needs Adaptability Program. Which means, I was lucky enough to establish some amazing relationships with some amazing kids. Many of these students were in my class for multiple years.
There are students from that school and that program whom I will never forget. But one in particular who stands out in my mind. We shared a moment at the end of the 2020/2021 school year that made all those years of struggle worth it for me.
His name is Fadi.
Fadi* is a child on the spectrum. He started in my class when he was in grade 2 and I worked with him on and off until our school closed when he was in grade 5.
Fadi has a twin brother, also on the spectrum, but because of his more aggressive tendencies, was placed in a different adaptability program. Fadi, on the other hand, is quiet, kind, and sensitive.
I was drawn to Fadi right from the get-go because of his love of reading and his calm demeanor. He also became an avid attender of my Mindfulness Club.
Almost every single day that Mindfulness Club was ‘open for business’, he was there. Always the first in line.
He became one of my ‘Mindfulness Leaders.’
Quite often, I’d find Fadi alone out in the playground or in the field with a book in his hand, calmly holding a Yoga pose. Tree pose is a favorite of his.
Sometimes, with my adaptability students, it was tricky to tell if Mindfulness helped them in the ways I hoped. It was tougher to assess- because each day with these guys was different from the last.
But on our very last day of school (last day for the staff anyways, our students finished the day before), we all proceeded out of our schools front doors to have our final staff meeting farewell near the playground.
On my way out of those doors, I noticed Fadi, standing there with his Mom and brother. They seemed to be waiting to hand out year-end gifts for his classroom teachers.
Looking as handsome and grown up as ever, he proceeded to walk towards me, clutching something in his hand.
I was confused.
“I’m not his classroom EA this year… Why would he be coming to see me? Why would he be dropping off something for me?”
Because our school was closing, Fadi was making the move to a new school for the following year, and he was here to express his gratitude to the educators who made a difference in his years at Sherwood.
“Miss T, I have this for you..” He handed me an envelope. His mom standing behind him, tearing up, proud of her little man and what he’d become.
I opened it. And it read:
I felt instant tears stream down my face. I understood exactly what his Mom felt, because, I too, was so proud of the boy he became.
And in this one instant, I understood that all my efforts actually did make a difference.
Regardless of how hard and trying some days were, how challenging some kids were. I wouldn’t take back any part of it. Not a single day.
Because all of those hard days led up to this one moment.
And so, before you begin questioning all of your efforts and asking yourself if what you do really matters, I challenge you to think of just one kiddo… One kiddo you know that has crossed your path and left for the better…
Would you take back all of your efforts just because you only helped one kiddo?
Hell no you wouldn’t! You do what you do because you want to have an impact, you are here to help.
Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the influence we have on others, but I’m here to remind you that:
You DO make a difference.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s only 1 kid, or 10 kids.
At the end of the day, you made someone’s life better just by being in it.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful impact to have on the world..
*Student name changed to protect identity
The Starfish Story By: Loren Eiseley
In my first year at Sherwood Elementary, our principal shared this beautiful story with our staff. It serves as a beautiful reminder about how even the smallest gesture can make the biggest difference… to someone...
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.
Approaching the boy he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?”
“Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die,” the boy replied.
The man laughed to himself and said, “Do you realize there are miles of miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference.”
After listening politely, the boy bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the surf. Then, he smiled at the man and said, “I made a difference to that one.”
This is the phrase I scribbled onto the school pavement at Sherwood Elementary each September.
Every year, on the first day of school, a handful of teachers and I would go out onto the school grounds, where we would greet our new students and write out inspirational messages before they arrived. ‘You do YOU’ became my ritual to signal the start of a new school year.
Heck yeah, it’s a catchy phrase! But to me, it’s much more than that…
It was my wish for our whole school community. For them to embrace who they are, and all of the differences that make them, them.
And I meant it, truly. With my whole heart…
All I ever wanted for my kiddos was for them to be themselves- to allow their uniqueness and individuality to shine brightly!
You do you – be your truest, most authentic self.
I think this message is extremely important for kids these days (also an important thing for us to keep in mind). It’s easy to get lost in a crowd and to conform to the actions of others around us, but that is not allowing us to be who we really are.
This is one of the biggest challenges I faced while working within the typical school system…
More often than not, school focuses too much on improving weaknesses instead of capitalizing on strengths. They try to squeeze each individual kid into the same exact box as the other kids around them – expecting them to all learn the same way, behave the same way, think the same way…
I’ve seen it happen. Even teachers who care and have wonderful intentions are not given the environment, curriculum, or resources they need in order to help their students see real success.
And you know, our kids see it as well. They may even be more observant than some of the adults around them…
…Because observation is how they are wired to learn.
And they observe so well. They take what they see from the classroom and apply it even on their own – in the playground or during after school activities.
And because we focus so much effort on improving weaknesses and lacking skills, kids begin to notice other kids are lacking certain skills and they create their own boxes that they believe their friends should fit into.
Kids conform, not just to our educational standards, but even to meet the standards of their peers.
It’s been a tough thing to watch over the years. Children not being their authentic selves just to “fit in”…
And while it’s still important to be constantly improving and setting goals for ourselves and our kids, SOLELY FOCUSING ON WEAKNESSES does not allow individuality to thrive.
Instead, we expect all of our students to reach all the same benchmarks, as if they are all the same anyways. And come from the same backgrounds and share similar experiences.
This is just not the case.
Every child (and adult- because lets be real here for a moment, we were all children once too) has a unique background. They come with different types of baggage from their different life experiences. And as a result, they’ve acquired different sets of strengths and weaknesses than the other children around them.
And so I wonder, who are we to decide that their individual life experiences aren’t good enough learning grounds for their future?
Instead of working hard to make up for what skills they lack, can we not embrace their strength and their interests in order to mold a successful child?
By not enhancing our kids’ strengths, we aren’t allowing them to reach their fullest unique potential. I believe it’s a wasted opportunity!
As an educator, we have good intentions. We get into this field to help kids succeed and because we care. But I believe that intention gets side swiped by all of the targets that educators are forced to complete by the end of each school year. Teachers have certain topics to teach and grades to mark and so these targets tend to be the priority.
It is by no means a teacher’s fault. They have a LOT on their plates. Many shoes to fill and many hats to wear. (I applaud all of you!)
This is when we need to take a look at our current system and ask:
“Is this working? How can we make it better?”
This school system is an old model of thinking that needs to be revisited. We are training our kids to be and do the same. We are training them the same way we’d train individuals to work in a factory during the industrial revolution.
But the reality of the world has changed! And so, our school systems need to change.
We need to focus more on fostering the skills, experiences and interests of our children. Letting their unique identity guide the way to their own education.
We need to embrace their strengths, to foster curiosity and growth.
Imagine what the world would look like, and our school grounds would look like if we all embraced the “you do YOU” philosophy… Educators, parents and kids alike!
I see a beautifully different world, filled with so much uniqueness. A world where people don’t knock down others because of their differences, but instead, lift them up BECAUSE they’re different. A world where differences are strengths and are embraced.
Can you see it too?
I’ll end off with a quick reminder, in case no one has told you yet today…
You might be wondering WHY I chose to do what I do. Why I chose the path of educator, and now, am choosing the path of a writer..
Well, part of the story might be a bit of a fluke, or maybe the universe meant for it to work out exactly the way it did. Depends on your perspective, of course, but I feel like things happen for a reason.
And so, this story is MY story nonetheless.
When I was 18, I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I had no ideas, no direction.
There was a lot of pressure from teachers, family, and friends for me to pick a career path, get into university, and do the ‘typical’ highschool-university-career timeline. I felt like one moment, I was just a kid, and the next moment, people were shoving me off a cliff unprepared to fly into the world of adulthood..
This left me in a real funk…
Maybe you’ve already read this in my previous posts, but I am not someone who likes to feel defeated or stay defeated. I think this part of me comes from my competitiveness that I got from playing team sports as a kid.
And so… I read books, watched documentaries, and dedicated tons of time to learn more about depression and anxiety, how it affects our biology, AND what we can do to overcome it.
I love learning! Learning is what saved me.
It was because of this knowledge, and more importantly, the practical implication of this knowledge, that I was able to get out of this serious funk and find some direction in my life.
Yes, I am aware that I’m not perfect – I still have my moments where anxiety takes over, and still have a lot of learning and self development to do, BUT awareness helped me persevere. It helped me get better.
Long story short, I managed to get out of my funk and move on with my life.
I applied as an Educational Assistant for Edmonton Public Schools- not because it was my “calling” by any means. In fact, if I’m being honest, the real reason why I applied was because my Mom was an EA, and well, I was a tad jealous of all her vacation time throughout the years…
(…I know, my motive was not ideal, but like I said, I believe everything happens for a reason!)
Shortly after applying, I got the job!
I felt blessed to be able to shape little minds and have a positive impact on little lives. But, it did open up my eyes to more sadness in the world. Kiddos whose families didn’t have enough money for lunches, kiddos being shuffled in and out of foster care, kiddos whose families weren’t supportive or not completely able to care for them in the ways they deserved. There were many kids who saw more sadness in their short lives than I ever did in my 23 years of life.
It put a lot of things into perspective for me..
In creating Mindfulness Club, I hoped my previous struggles and my lessons learned could be used for good.. to help these kids. So they didn’t have to do it all alone, like I did. So they didn’t have to feel alone, like I did.
I saw the practice of Mindfulness work wonders in my years at Sherwood Elementary, hosting my little club and through living and breathing mindfulness each moment!
But then, 2020 rolled in…
And life changed… Drastically…
For many people, the year 2020 turned worlds upside down.
For me, 2020 was a pivotal moment.
Yes, I felt the stressful effects (and still do). Like the seclusion from friends and family.. And all the time spent in my head ruminating over the question if this world was ever going to return to ‘normal’ again (I can’t even remember what normal is anymore)..
But more than ANYTHING, from this darkness, I was able to see the light.
Yes, there was suffering in the world, maybe more suffering now than the world had seen in a while, but there was also an opportunity, MY OPPORTUNITY, for growth, change and inspiration.
I spent the previous few years helping a small number of students in a very small part of the world stay mindful and care for their well-being. 2020 allowed me to think BIGGER. To help more people on a WAY BIGGER scale!
I felt like I had a lot to say and plenty of experiences to share that could help people struggling in the world. And so, I started by helping the teachers at my school.
I created a presentation about building resiliency in our students and in ourselves- through the practice of mindfulness to cultivate some coherence in our bodies and minds. I gave the presentation at a staff meeting at the beginning of October 2020.
First off, I feel like I need to mention that I’ve always had a HUGE fear of public speaking! When I was in Elementary school myself, I used to ask my mom to call in sick for me whenever I had to speak in front of the class (Shh, don’t tell my teachers!).
Never did I ever imagine that I would be WILLINGLY standing in front of a group of 20+ people giving a presentation.
But I did. And it changed me!
My presentation was a hit! Staff members were inspired to take care of themselves more. They understood the link between our thoughts and our overall health. My principal raved about my presentation and sent it to a few of his colleagues.
And well, one thing led to another… and soon, I was speaking my truth to other groups within Edmonton Public Schools… and then to other educators in Western Canada… and finally, to educators around the globe!!
Because of the shift in the world and the abundance of online opportunities after 2020, I was able to get my message out there, my experiences and lessons out to a larger population!
All I ever wanted to do was help the kiddos at my school cope. But 2020 opened my eyes to the fact that I was capable of helping so many others. Especially in such a time of need, a time of struggle.
Speaking and writing has allowed me to do just that.
I want to continue to speak my truth… To use my writing and speaking to share my experiences with those who could benefit. For those who maybe can relate. For those who just need a little bit of help and guidance.
I’m here to remind you that it’s okay to need help, and okay to ask for it.
In my last post, I explained, plain and simply, what mindfulness is.
Essentially, it is a state of being consciously aware of something… really anything! Anything that draws our focus to one particular thing in the present moment.
This could mean bringing focus to our breath or our surroundings. Using our 5 senses to analyze the things around us. Grounding us here, in the now.
Once we become better at practicing mindfulness, our subconscious will allow us to automatically become more present throughout our day. Until then, it’s important for us on a daily basis to deliberatelyschedule mindful moments in.
To train our subconscious mind.
These moments could be big or small, although I recommend beginning anything by starting small. Making it more manageable to do will improve your success and follow through rate. Plus, once you are confident in your first baby step, you can take a few bigger steps until you eventually reach your ultimate goal.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “Change for the better” or “Continuous Improvement.”
It is a term that involves the continual process of manageable and incremental steps in order to see improvement.
We can use the kaizen philosophy to better ourselves (and the kiddos in our lives) at being mindful. By taking small, intentional steps to reach our fullest potential. We can adjust our steps as needed. This guarantees success!
Now, there are SO many ways and opportunities to schedule mindfulness into our days!
Whether you are practicing mindfulness for yourself, or for your kiddos, or perhaps, you have an entire classroom of kids, it is EASY (and hopefully I’ve convinced you it’s possible) to find time for mindfulness.
Tips on HOW to Schedule Mindfulness into your Day:
Schedule specific times on a calendar. When you write things down, you are more likely to make it happen! It doesn’t matter if it means only deep breathing looking out the window for 30 seconds-1 minute each day. It’s still the start of something. The key is to make it INTENTIONAL. Set specific times each day to make time for YOU!
Try having a morning and evening practice. Once again, even if you can only dedicate a minute in the morning and a minute in the evening, that’s okay! Starting the day with mindfulness can set you up for success and ending it off with mindfulness helps you relax for a more peaceful evening or sleep.
Take deep breaths before beginning tasks. An easy way to sneak mindfulness in the day, whether in your personal life or in the classroom, is to begin each transition (of whatever it is you’re doing), with a deep belly breath or 2. Getting in your car to run an errand, before starting work, transitioning from one task to another (in a classroom setting, switching subjects), coming home from work or school are all great times to sneak in a few deep breaths. Deep breaths are powerful because they calm our brains and allow us to reconnect with our body and breath.
Positive affirmations and intentions: Take a quick moment in your morning to set an intention or speak out some positive affirmations for your day ahead. Could be as quick as taking a minute to say things like “I intend to be filled with gratitude today,” “I am happy and healthy,” “I will persevere today!” Really feel the power behind your statement as you make it. This could begin as a quick moment in the morning, and grow to the point where you are stating affirmations randomly throughout your day, maybe even setting intentions at night for how you’d like to feel the next morning!
Express your gratitude daily! I really do believe that gratitude is the most powerful form of self-medication! You get the most “bang for your buck” with adding in the practice of gratitude. Expressing gratitude on a consistent basis really does make us happier and healthier humans. I could go on and on about the power of gratitude, but there will be more time for that in another post… 😛
Here are some other quick & easy mindfulness practice ideas:
Going for a walk in nature
Thinking of 3 things to be grateful for each morning or night
Taking a minute to do a quick body scan and listen to your body
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!