Teachers, how to become more mindful at school
3 Easy steps to becoming more mindful, to positively impact your pupils
A mindful teacher has a much greater impact on pupils, than a teacher who merely tries to teach mindfulness.
Dr Dan Siegal
I quote the above a lot, but I just think it is so, so important right now! Mindfulness in education is, thankfully, being discussed more and more, as massively beneficial for pupils. But, it appears to me, that the benefit for teachers is being hugely overlooked, as is the necessary training for teachers to deliver effective mindfulness teaching in school.
As teachers, we have the ability to positively effect the children around us on a daily basis, in the way we act, behave and speak; and these actions stem from our thoughts. Mindfulness is all about having greater awareness of our thoughts, so that we can have more control over them, by learning how to focus our mind on one thing at a time. The effect of this is that we can think more clearly, feel much calmer and work more efficiently, yet generally feel more relaxed.
Now, considering the fact that 3750 teacher are currently signed off work on long-term sick leave, due to stress related symptoms, mindfulness for teachers has to be something worth prioritising! (The Guardian, 11.1.18)
When we learn that we can be in control of our minds, rather than our thoughts controlling us, we begin to respond more thoughtfully and with greater awareness of our emotions. Children pick up and learn from this subconsciously – they begin to respond rather than react as well, with calmer more attentive behaviour. They will see you noticing your impatience, for example, and the way that you pause to breathe deeply, stay present and respond calmly to the situation – and they begin to do the same! Believe me, I have seen this in action! They are then learning a life skill, that will not only enhance their performance in school but enable them to lead happier, more fulfilled lives. (More to come on exactly why this is!)
A mindful teacher gains the benefits of their own new found relaxed state, by being able to focus, achieve more, be more empathetic towards pupils and teach even more effectively, plus has the effect of a calmer, more focussed classroom!
Reaching this desirable outcome doesn’t take as long as you might think – especially when the process can be made more achievable and be enhanced with regular yoga. The outcomes for both teachers and pupils is exactly the reason why I teach yoga in schools and provide training to teachers.
How to start being more mindful:
Focus. Start by choosing one relatively mundane action that you do at least once daily – for example, brushing your teeth. Each time you brush your teeth, give it as much focussed attention as you can! Notice how the brush feels in your hand and in your mouth, what the toothpaste tastes like, how it feels in your mouth, the temperature of the water etc. After a week it will become habitual to be this focussed during this activity. Do this with an increasing number of activities, such as eating as well, and soon your day will feel less rushed.
Breathe. Really, stop and notice that you are breathing right now. Obviously we breath automatically but when we are stressed, our breathing is much shallower. As soon as you take your attention to your breathing it begins to slow down and you have the chance to start to take fuller breaths. This will help to bring you out of the fight and flight sympathetic nervous system and into the relaxed state of the parasympathetic nervous system. Look out for the next post with more detail on how to breathe to feel relaxed but for starters pause, close your eyes if your alone, and give each breath all of your attention, as if it’s the only thing that matters. Notice the pace, length and depth of each breath and see if you can comfortably and naturally increase each.
Listen. The next time you have a conversation, with either a friend, colleague or more importantly a pupil, really listen to them. Don’t think about what you will say next, what you want to say, don’t interrupt them, just look directly at them and listen. Only when they have finished speaking, take a long breath, and respond calmly. As you’re listening, notice any negative emotions such as anger or frustration, pause to acknowledge them (this is where the long breath helps!) and give your calm response. If it is a ‘heated discussion’, the other person will feel your calmness and will, eventually, respond the same way.
Recommended Class Yoga Classes:
For yourself our 7 minute adult breathing class is an excellent way to start the day or use anytime you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
For your children our focussing classes are an excellent place to start to instil a sense of calm, focusses attention.
If you have a Class Yoga subscription at your school you will find the above under the classes menu.
If you would like to organise a free trial of our yoga classes please fill out this short form and we will be in touch.