Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Songs About Hope, Resilience, and Compassion

posted by Catharine Hannay

Here's the latest in the popular series of song playlists for teachers. Since so many people are having such a hard time of it these days, I decided to focus on hope, resilience, and supporting each other.

As always, please read the full lyrics and watch the full video before deciding what's appropriate to share with others. If you work with very young children, you might prefer the  Children's Songs playlist, which has several tunes about feelings and facing challenges, including a couple of songs about going back to school during COVID. (I also have a separate song and video playlist specifically about COVID.)

Broken and Beautiful, Kelly Clarkson
lyrics; official video; video of live performance; video of dance performance by JoJo Gomez Choreography
"Can someone just hold me? Don't fix me, don't try to change a thing. Can someone just know me? 'Cause underneath, I'm broken and it's beautiful."

The Climb, Miley Cyrus
"Every step I'm taking, every move I make feels lost with no direction. My faith is shaking, but I gotta keep trying. Gotta keep my head held high."

Don't Stop, Fleetwood Mac

"If you wake up and don't want to smile. If it takes just a little while. Open your eyes and look at the day. You'll see things in a different way... Don't stop thinking about tomorrow. Don't stop, it'll soon be here."

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Lesson in Mindfulness and Compassion from the Book of Job

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


guest post by Rev. Deborah Hannay Sunoo

The painful truth is that life can be incredibly hard at times. Good people, people of profound integrity, people of incredible faith, people who appear to be doing everything right, are the victims of life's tragic unpredictability every day.

I sometimes feel like we’re living in the book of Job, where a righteous man is subjected to devastating losses through no fault of his own.

The Book of Job is part of the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible, recognized as a sacred text by Jews and Christians. His story offers valuable lessons for all of us about how to respond compassionately to suffering.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Balancing Content with Caring While Teaching During COVID

Photo by Mladen Borisov on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

"A week ago I viewed a professional development video that made me cringe. The presenters said that the chat box in our virtual classrooms should only allow students to communicate with the teacher, not one another. 'They might be silly if you let them chat,' they suggested."

Third-grade teacher Aeriale Johnson,  'All Because I Trusted Them to Use the Chat Box'

Aeriale Johnson teaches in California, which is being hit by yet another round of devastating wildfires. In addition to all of the other stressors in their lives, her students are frightened by the skies filled with smoke. 

Here are a few of the chat box comments from her eight-year-old students:

We have COVID-19 and now we have wildfires? Jeez!

This is super scary!

How much more?


What’s next in 2020 that’s gonna be bad?


*Forty crying emojis

I don't have to tell you these reactions are anything but silly. 

Teaching under quarantine is so unprecedented that there are no real standards of comparison. But we can draw some useful parallels with teaching in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A Teacher’s Gratitude Practice To Make It Through Virtual Faculty Meetings

by Erin Bryk

I’ve found faculty meetings to be challenging since my first year of teaching. Recently, however, I’ve found virtual faculty meetings to be exceptionally infuriating. When schools closed for distance learning, our faculty meetings were also held virtually and, very quickly, I dreaded logging on to Zoom for these meetings. 

I was increasingly impatient with and critical of other teachers. I had a litany of complaints by the end of each meeting: 

Why can’t this person use the mute function? 

Why does it take this person so long to share their screen? 

Why does this particular person always seem to have “tech issues?”

I was looking for things to be annoyed about. It was not fun.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

ADDRESSING Diversity in Mindfulness Teaching

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

While volunteering at a juvenile detention facility, Mark Salzman asked some of the youth if they'd ever attended the meditation classes. 

Most of them had no interest. Those that were interested had given up after the first session. 

One of the young men explained:
'You suppos'ta close your eyes and picture yourself goin' down some stairs into your workshop in the cellar where you got all yo' tools... 'tools for life.' 
Raashad rolled his eyes. 
'You suppos'ta choose what tools you need and put 'em on your belt, like you some kinda superhero. First of all, I say to myself: [Who] you know got a workshop? [Who] you know got a cellar? Right off I knew that shit ain't for me.' 
(from True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall)

To be clear: There are many successful mindfulness and meditation programs in jails and prisons. The problem was that that Raashad's instructor didn't consider the socioeconomic background of his students. He fell into the common fallacy, "I find this approach helpful. Therefore, everyone will find this approach helpful."


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Case Studies in Microaggression, Empathy, and Mindful Speech

from Sign Duo

by Catharine Hannay

Like many of you, I've been inspired by the protests for social justice to learn as much as I can about marginalized groups and how to be an effective ally.

Since my background is in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), I've also been thinking about the experiences of my international and immigrant students over the years.

Meanwhile, I took advantage of some free time during quarantine to begin studying sign language and learning about Deaf culture and experiences of deafness. It's been quite eye-opening to see the level of discrimination against deaf individuals, and how this parallels discrimination of other marginalized groups.

A big part of my mission here at Mindful Teachers is to make it easier for teachers to find quality resources for mindfulness classes and values-based teaching. This includes practicing empathy and mindful speech with people who may have backgrounds and perspectives that are quite different from ours.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

4 Tips for Helping Youth During Times of Crisis and Confusion (guest post)

photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay, guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog

I don’t think there’s a youth anywhere in the world who isn’t having a hard time these days. The question isn’t whether they’re suffering, but how severely, and what we can do to help.

The challenge is that caring adults were already overwhelmed, even before the triple whammy of COVID-19, the protests for social justice, and a very contentious election year.

Here are few ways you can help your students or clients, without losing sight of your own needs.

Tip 1: Don’t Correct Their Feelings 

There’s a poignant moment in the film Goodbye, Mr. Chips when the headmaster, Mr. Chipping, is talking to a boy who’s just found out his father has been killed in World War I. 
The boy blurts out, “I hate all Germans!” then braces himself for a reprimand.

Earlier, at a school assembly, Mr. Chipping had told the students that “individuals are not nations.” He explained he was mourning for a dear friend, the school’s former German teacher, who’d been forced to return home and was killed in the war.

But instead of scolding the boy who says he “hates all Germans,” Mr. Chipping offers him a hug.

Of course, there are several reasons why it might not be appropriate to hug your students or clients (social distancing, trauma response, autism spectrum, and so on). The lesson here is that Mr. Chipping understands the feelings behind the boy’s outburst.

When someone is in the depths of grief, that’s not the time for correction or political debate...

Tip 2: Listen First. Then Give Advice. (Maybe.)

Tip 3. Set and Maintain Reasonable Boundaries 

Tip 4: Think in Terms of Triage

You can read the full post at:

About the Author

Catharine Hannay is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Teacher Awareness is Key to Responsibly Sharing Mindfulness with Youth

photo courtesy Inner Strength Foundation

by Amy Edelstein, from her book The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System™ for Transforming the Teenage Mind

Contemplative practices and empathy building are effective, teachable, and easy to practice. During practice, teens from a variety of cultures and experiences can create a collective environment that fosters their well-being. These practices can create a paradigm shift in our educational system, a shift in what we teach and how we teach it. 

Whether our students are new refugees, children of parents with substance issues, or twentieth-generation descendants from slavery, our youth will be more resilient and less likely to fall prey to the shadow of their experiences or to secondary stresses when practices that support their well-being are in place in the classroom.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Making Space for Our Experience: A Body-Based Awareness Practice

photo courtesy Inner Strength Foundation 

by Amy Edelstein, from her book The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System™ for Transforming the Teenage Mind

The mindful awareness I teach emphasizes making space for our experience while not getting lost or overwhelmed by it. It encourages us to feel into what our physicality is like, the sensations in our bodies, the pull of gravity, the upward stretching of our spine. Some exercises point our attention to the backdrop of awareness in which the objects of our experience arise.

Learning to make space, like the exercise of looking at the night sky instead of paying attention to the stars, planets, and meteors that cross it, we learn to pay attention to the backdrop of awareness itself, not the objects—the thoughts, feelings, physical sensations—that cross our mind’s eye. This emphasis on creating space enables us to be with our experience, without being overwhelmed by it.

As a little mind experiment, take your hand and cover your eyes. 

What do you see? 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Helping Teens Find Mindfulness and Meaning

Amy Edelstein is the founder of The Inner Strength Foundation, which trains adolescents to work with the tools of mindfulness and a developmental perspective so they can realize their highest potentials. 

She is the author of The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System™ for Transforming the Teenage Mind.

Inner Strength Education offers free online courses on COVID-19 Stress Supports for Teachers and Teens.

In this Q+A, Amy discusses the Inner Strength approach to culturally-responsive mindfulness teaching and integrating mindfulness with academic content.

Some mindfulness programs in inner city public schools have been criticized for focusing on ‘fixing’ the kids, or for not understanding and appreciating the local community. Could you give some tips on culturally-responsive mindfulness teaching?

Cultural sensitivity has always been important, and this time of national protests regarding systemic racism and implicit bias has exposed the dark underbelly of dominant white privilege and negative stereotypes of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students. 

In many parts of the country students are speaking out, making demands, and have brought into the light of public scrutiny/social media the many racial incidents they have experienced in even the best or supposedly most progressive schools. 

Mindfulness instructors, especially those who identify as white, need to undergo their own process of self-reflection around implicit bias and racial triggers. There are excellent programs on Racial Literacy, learning to read and recast racially-charged moments and interactions. 

We aren’t all called to advocate at the level of policy but we all encounter racial stress and tension and we can prepare to deal - in the moment - much better than we do. Then mindfulness instructors can serve as allies and create a welcoming and safe space for all students.