(Quite literally… NEXT WEEK! At least here in Canada… :P)
So, let’s get all you Educators out there motivated and ready to practice mindful moments this upcoming school year!
(Future you and your students will thank you for it!)
Are you ready…?
There just never seems to be enough of it.
Especially in a teacher’s day.
“How can I find the time?”
And understandably so…
Teachers have an extensive list of to-do’s!
An extensive, never-ending list…
HOW can we make time for Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is critical for students’ success, emotionalintelligence, and for building life skills.
Mindfulness is essential for teachers’ success, peaceofmind, and to preventburnout.
So, where do we find the time?!
I have the answer for you!
Here are 5 EFFORTLESS Ways to Add Mindfulness into Your Classroom TODAY:
Greet Students at the Door with Gratitude
Many teachers greet their students at the door each morning. Instead of just saying hi… add a fun “Question of the Day” element by asking kids “What are you grateful for?” before entering. Not only is it a fun way to practice mindful gratitude, you’ll also learn more about your students’ lives!
Take a Belly Breath In Between Classes
When switching from Math to Science, or English to Social, take a quick moment to pause for a breath. Have students place their hands on their bellies and take one big deep collective breath together. Remind them they are breathing out the previous activity to make room for the next!
First thing in the morning and at the end of the day, set a 30 second timer and have your students do a quick self check-in. Have students close their eyes (if comfortable) or gaze softly at a spot on the ground. Ask them to pay attention to any thoughts they are having, emotions that come up, or sensations in their body. Remind them not to place judgment on what comes up. Just notice it.
Tapping Before a Test
Before a test or any difficult assignment/activity, take 30-60 seconds to do a little tapping. Tapping is a wonderful way to decrease stress, it helps your students get into the right mindset before any nerve wracking activity. A quick minute is all you need. You can lead it or put on a tapping for kids youtube video! Try tapping in combination with positive affirmations too.
Warm Up for Gym with Yoga or Mindful Stretching
Gym is already part of the curriculum. And we already talk about the importance of stretching with our kids. Moving forward, add the mindful element to your stretching practice before beginning your gym class. Remind kids to stay focused and quiet. To pay attention to their bodies and the sensations from each stretch.
Well, There You Have It!
Some simple ways to sneak mindfulness into your day, everyday!
Time is on your side with these simple classroom mindful moments!
I created this journal with THEM in mind. They were my inspiration.
And it was so fulfilling to be able to present them with my journal and a personal note written to each one of them by me.
They changed my life. They helped me grow. I wanted them to know that before they took off to High School.
That they too, had made an impact on me…
The LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!
That meant more celebrations! We capped off the year with a Talent Show AND MORE dance parties!!
The day began back at my old school to watch the Talent show.
It was inspiring to see all of these kids muster up the courage to expose themselves on the stage in front of the whole school.
Kids are amazing. They surprise me each and ever year.
I got to watch kids of all ages from grades 4-9 display their talent for the whole school to see!
Tears were most definitely shed…
It was a beautiful ending to the crazy first year at this brand new school.
After the talent show, I headed over to our younger sister school for…
ANOTHER DANCE PARTY!!
That my boyfriend DJ’d once again! 😛
(In fact, he’s basically the Edmonton Public School Boards resident volunteer DJ :P)
When my Elementary School – Sherwood – closed down last year, the younger students (Kindergarten-Grade 3) went over to this school.
It was a beautiful reunion!
I spend the afternoon reconnecting with old students and dancing our little hearts out! Again… 😛
It reminded me how much a miss the younger grades…
I felt very grateful to be a part of their special event for the last day of school.
But… The Day Didn’t End There…
After the dance party at the K-3 school, I drove back across the street (good thing these schools are close!) and spent the last hour and a half wandering the halls of my 4-9 school giving out goodbye’s, see you later’s, and big bear hugs!
Some of my students would be returning, when others would not.
It hurts my heart a little not knowing when I’ll see them next (and if I’ll see them next).
I’m grateful to have made an impact while I could.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be in some of their lives – even if only for a short while.
I know these kids will do amazing things one day!
If they continue to follow their hearts and live life with kindness in mind.
“How am I supposed to squeeze anything else into my day…?”
Things I hear in Education..
And I get it, Teachers have a lot on their overflowing plates.
They are more than just Teachers – they feed kids when they’re hungry and console them when they’re hurt.
Days become overwhelmed with to-do’s and then suddenly… its JUNE! And we’re cutting it close on deadlines.
But if we invest a little extra time, into the RIGHT things, it is possible to get some teaching time back!
Let’s take a quick peek into our classrooms…
Teacher’s at the front, attempting to get through her math lesson.
Attempting… because we know her lesson is not going according to plan.
We have Johnny in the front, raising his hand every 2 minutes to interject with a concern. Bianca is noisily tapping on her desk, frustrated because she just doesn’t get math. Will snapped his pencil and is this close to flipping his desk if he has to painstakingly sit through another minute of this class…
Classrooms are overrun with interruptions.
Sometimes, as Educators, we feel so short on time, that we push through our lessons and don’t necessarily deal with the underlying issue…
The stress, the frustrations and the anger…
And the truth is… Kids aren’t learning if they are not REGULATED.
To understand that, we need to know how our brains work.
When information enters our brain, either from something external (like a lesson) or from our internal emotions (fear, anger), this information travels from the bottom up.
The Brain Stem, into
Our Limbic System (Emotional brain), and then
The NeoCortex (Thinking brain)
But… when students are disregulated, then information cant travel past our brain stem, our primitive brain…
Think of it as electricity flowing in a circuit. If our regulation “switch” is turned off… no electricity is getting to the “light bulb” part of the brain.
The upper parts of their brains aren’t on.
They can’t use their emotional brain to relate to your lesson… And they most definitely can’t use their thinking brain!
So, what’s the point in stressfully pushing through a lesson if our students wont remember or relate to it…?
We Need Regulation!
And how do we do that?
By taking a little bit of time to mindfully teach regulation strategies!
When our kids become disregulated, but are PREPARED in handing it. We can redirect back to our lesson quicker.
The interruptions become minimal…
And we have a more effective lesson…
All because we invested a little bit of time turning our students brains on.
Here Are Some Easy-Peasy Strategies To Get You Started:
#1: Deep Belly Breathing (and more breathing exercises)
#2: Journalling or Creating Art
#3: Gong for a Walk (even better if it’s outdoors!)
Wishing you the best of luck! (I just know you can do it!)
Working in a school, it was my job to help teach kids.
But as I reflect on the last 7 years, I’ve come to realize they taught me too…
In fact, I might have learned more from them than they did from me!
We can ALL learn from kids… As long as we are open to the possibility.
We canlook to our kids as teachers.
Here are 7 remarkable lessons that I learned from spending my days with kids:
#1: Be Fearless
Kids are courageous! They inspire me with their willingness to try new things. They don’t let failure keep them down. They get back up and try again. Those brave little beings…
#2: Look For the Good In People
Kids don’t judge others. They are always willing to put their trust in people. They are understanding. Kids give others the benefit of the doubt. I’ve seen more kids willing to help others – regardless of their circumstances.
#3: Its Always the Perfect Time For a Dance Party
Dance, play, BE SILLY! They understand the importance of playing and having fun. Oh, and their imaginations…! Imaginative play is wonderful for enhancing problem solving skills! I know a handful of adults who could harness their inner-child a little more… 😛
#4: Notice the Little Things in Life
Kids are super aware. They pay attention to all the minor details. They see things that adults don’t.“Look! A lady bug!!!” They will be enchanted with that lady bug for hours… They appreciate the simple things in life.
#5: It’s Okay To Cry
In fact, its okay to let any emotion out. Kids do this naturally. They aren’t afraid to cry or scream. They don’t bottle up their emotions. They are great teachers at letting it out and moving on.
#6: Trust Your Gut
Kids are wonderful at following their instincts. They listen to what their bodies are telling them. They don’t let misleading information distract them from making the right decision… They feel in their gut.
#7: Everyday Is a New Day
This is a big one… Kids don’t hold onto things that adults do. They forgive themselves and others with ease. They can move on. They understand that each new day is a fresh start and they don’t carry the past with them.
We could all learn a thing or two from the kiddos in our lives…
What sorts of things have kids taught you?
I sure am grateful for the lessons they taught me!
All day long, you give away pieces of your self to others.
To the tiny humans who need your support. Your full-attention. And your love…
But do you ever take a fraction of a second to give back to yourself?
Like a Car.. You Just Can’t Run on Empty..
Listen, I’ve been there.
My students mean the world to me.. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for them. As long as it means their protection. As long as they are loved.
But along the way, I forgot to stop and love myself…
Even though, I was aware of it, I thought burnout just couldn’t happen to me if everything I did was out of love.
But that wasn’t the case.
I’m human. You’re human too.
And as humans, we need to be filling up our fuel tanks constantly so we can keep on giving to others.
Sometimes, that means we need to give ourselves morethan others.
For humble educators: it’s a hard pill to swallow…
But it’s true.
I’ve spent the last few years learning this lesson the hard way.
And if I could go back in time now and have a conversation with the younger version of Miss T, I would tell her this:
#1. Don’t Bottle Things Up:
It’s easy to stuff our feelings, our exhaustion… And carry on for the sake of our students. But don’t.
Talk to people. To other teachers. Find a community. There is power in knowing you are not alone.
#2. Practice Self-Care:
There are no rules for self-care – it looks different for everyone.
Do things that nourish your soul, recharge your battery and foster sanity. This could mean writing in a gratitude journal, taking a bubble bath, going for a walk… Whatever it is, schedule time for YOU… Everyday!
Begin your morning with something for you, instead of immediately rushing off to take on the world.
#3. Take A Break:
There is strength in knowing when to step back. When to ask for help.
We pride ourselves in never having to call in sick or book a sub. But that’s not sustainable… Take the time you need to recharge.
Book a mental health day each month. Or apply for a short leave if you are in need of some ‘you-time’. Make it a reoccurring thing – like you’d make time to see your mechanic regularity.
There is a Good Chance you Already Know These Things, I Did Too…
But please, don’t let yourself hit burnout, like I did, before actually making some changes in your life.
It’s time to put yourself first.
You are human, after all.
Even the tiny humans in your life need you to love yourself.
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…
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.”