To read about the other phases in becoming a mindful school please click here.
Phase 1: Providing mindfulness practice for staff which will help towards their well-being.
- Providing opportunities for staff to practice mindfulness.
- Creating an environment where mindfulness is part of the fabric of the school.
- Treating mindfulness practice as a type of ‘subject knowledge’.
- Providing supportive CPD (Continued Professional Development) opportunities like any other curriculum subject.
This phase is focused on the idea of providing staff with a mindfulness practice for themselves. It’s through this increase in practice by members of staff that a nurturing environment for all will come. If enough members of the school take part in mindfulness practice, a guest or volunteer should be able to feel it as they come through the door.
The science & research behind mindfulness, whilst interesting, can be found here. Mindfulness is largely an experienced-based rather than intellectually-based practice.
Why you, the staff?
Many staff suffer from stress, tense work environments and crisis of confidence. Staff’s well-being is vital to the well-being of children and it is right that they are cared for too. This is one reason why it is important that staff have an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Once this is provided and the well-being of staff is being taken care of, the school environment will begin to change & it too will become nurturing. Children will already benefit from mindfulness in this way. Soon teacher will have enough knowledge to teach it for the children in the class too.
How to practice mindfulness
If you wish to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, it’s necessary to set aside time for a daily practice. A great start is to sign up to Headspace.com (No! I don’t work for them! – It really is just great & I use it daily)– This website and app has a ten day free trial, which will really show you how five minutes each day can make a difference to your well-being, environment and how you interact with other staff & children. I, along with Headspace, suggest doing it first thing in the morning before school, but understand that it’s about choosing a time that is most practical to you.
You might also want to download a mindfulness bell app which is useful for setting timings for your meditations. There are many free apps of this kind available.
Alternatively you can use this very simple exercise below – Best used with the mindfulness bell app or this website to give you timings.
Start with breathing meditation
Here is a basic breathing mindfulness practice which takes around 5/10 minutes. This is available for download and simply follow the instructions.
Daily practice is important
At first you will feel a lot of the benefits from mindfulness, this will soon plateau and you may find it becomes a lot more difficult. It’s important to stick with it and keep the daily routine. Some meditations will be a disaster – you’ll be unable to focus on the breath, your mind all over the place. This is normal. You will have good days and bad days, but it’s always subject to change. Every meditation is a fresh start, so don’t worry.
What you will notice once you have started your practice is the impact it has on your day-to-day running around. You will see it aid you in the rest of your life beyond the morning meditation itself. You can use your breath to help create that space between stimulus and reaction – otherwise known as informal mindfulness.
Unforeseen things happen in schools on a near daily basis – particularly when working with children! In such situations, you may notice your mindfulness practice begins to be a great help in maintaining calm and help you make better decisions.
Keeping a record
You may like to keep a record of the meditations you conducted and whether you felt they went well or not. You may be able to pick up on patterns and you can keep track of missed days. You may want to meet and talk about your records as a school, share good practice and seek advice from others on common difficulties.
Download: My Mindfulness Record Sheet.
Appoint a subject leader or co-ordinator
You may also want to think about people in the school who could be appointed ‘subject leaders’ or co-ordinators for this phase – someone people can go to if they need help. They could also set up a time in school when they practice so people can join together to do a practice collectively. – Alternatively you could work in partnership with me (leave a comment at the bottom of this page or via twitter @mindfulpedagogy).
Challenges you will face!
- It’s not easy to maintain the mindfulness practice. It requires discipline and a systematic approach to make it a new habit. This is where keeping a record or seeing your co-ordinator will help. You can also contact us with any questions.
- Feeling like you don’t have time to do it is another common challenge for staff. This is why we recommend starting with 5 minutes at a fixed time in the morning using either the Headspace trial or a clock or electronic bell to time the meditation period for you.
- You will at times get bored, sleepy, distracted, irritated and even resentful. Agitation is the biggest culprit here. If you are bored, be more disciplined and focus the mind. Be more willing to ‘let go’ of distracting thoughts and leave them for the two-minutes you give yourself to ‘free think’ at the end of the meditation time – if you can do this you are actually performing your meditations extremely well.
- Sitting in silence can be uncomfortable and many thoughts can arise. At times these can be too much. If this is the case ensure you have someone to talk to either personally or at school.
- There is no end or goal. Some people can find this incredibly difficult to accept and can cause people to simply dismiss their practice as a waste of time. This isn’t true. Think of each practice as filling up a bath full of water and when the practice has finished the plug is pulled out. You need to ensure you go back and top up the water regularly.
What meditation is not
- Meditation can on occasions be extremely tiring and hard to do. It can feel like your mind is getting the better of you and you’re too tired to ‘tame’ it. This will happen from time to time.
- Meditation is not about ‘clearing your mind’. It is about letting thoughts come and go – and not ‘play’ or ‘entertain’ them. I often explain this to children via the idea of you being a frog on a log, your thoughts being flies passing by. Whilst it is tempting to open an eye and begin trying to catch these ‘flies’ with your tongue and ‘chew’ on them – it is part of the practice to simply leave them bee and allow them to come and go.
- It’s not about accepting everything and anything and becoming passive. In fact it will help you better understand how you are feeling and why. Again it comes back to the idea of it creating ‘space’ between stimulus and reaction.
- You can’t get angry or upset anymore. Undesirable emotions will continue to be in your life but you may notice them quicker and as a result give yourself time to make better decisions as a consequence.
Meeting up in a couple of months time
At the end of this phase all staff should get together, reflect and discuss the impact regular mindfulness practice has had on your:
- Interactions with each-other
- The children
- Their work
- The school environment.
You should then begin to consider what benefits you potentially see for the children? Asking questions like– how does my mindfulness practice and the learning environment I create affect my students? This question should be reflected on individually, in class teams and by the school as a whole. This will make for excellent preparation for the next phase – Contact me for more details @mindfulpedagogy or leave a comment.