Sunday, July 15, 2018

Song Playlists for Teachers

A big part of my mission here at Mindful Teachers is to make it easier for you to find the resources you need to teach mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, social-emotional skills and social responsibility. 

In putting together these playlists, I reject at least a dozen songs for every song that makes it onto the list. I look for:
  • themes appropriate for values-based teaching and lessons on mindfulness and social-emotional learning;
  • a range of musical styles to suit different tastes; and
  • interesting lyrics, without gratuitously offensive words or images (which is why I don't include more rap and hip-hop; let's just say it's been eye-opening).

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Mindfulness for School Leaders (recommended book)

"Not enough leaders are equipped to deal with the stressors that are an inevitable side of leading... Within the practice of mindfulness, leaders can begin to learn another way of being that can change their interaction with the problems they are facing, and in so doing, directly impact their schools."
Dr. Caryn M. Wells, Mindfulness: How School Leaders Can Reduce Stress and Thrive on the Job 

Dr. Wells is a professor of educational and teacher leadership who previously worked as a high school teacher, counselor, and principal. She gives a compelling argument for how mindfulness can contribute to self-care for frazzled school leaders, while simultaneously improving the atmosphere at their schools.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Teaching Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga to Teens

I've discovered a pretty wide range of perspectives on issues like what should and shouldn't be included in a mindfulness class and how much training teachers should have.  

However, there appears to be consensus among experienced mindfulness teachers on the following points:
  • It's essential to practice what you teach. 
    • The presence and authenticity of the instructor are far more important than finding the right 'mindfulness script' for a particular student population. 
  • Given the level of hype and misinformation about mindfulness, it's not unusual to get some pushback from students or their parents. 
    • They may be skeptical about whether it really works or worried it might conflict with their religious beliefs. Be prepared to calmly discuss these types of concerns.
  • It's important to show compassion and flexibility with resistant youth.
    • We don't always know the trauma histories of our students or what might be stressful or triggering for them. They might have good reasons for not wanting to close their eyes, discuss personal information, or engage in some other part of the lesson.

Tips for Teaching Adolescents

The following articles have good suggestions for introducing mindfulness to adolescents and engaging those who might be reluctant to participate.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How Do You Handle Anger?

I have no idea what upset me, but I clearly recall being furious about something when I was five or six years old, and an adult saying:
When you're angry, you should take a breath and count to ten.

That made absolutely no sense to me at the time. I remember blowing out a big puff of air and thinking:
Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineten! What?! I'm still angry!

I can see now that I misunderstood not only the solution but also the problem. 

The problem isn't the feeling of anger or frustration but the potential hurtfulness of our reactions (to ourselves as well as to others). The most common reactions to anger are understandable but unhelpful: we tend to be overly aggressive, passive-aggressive, or overly passive.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

'Check Up From the Neck Up' Relaxation Practice

The following is a guest post by Evalyn Gaskell of Harmony LifeBalance.

Several times a day one can practice “check up from the neck up,” especially when there is a lot of mind activity going on, like:

  • feelings of being stressed, 
  • what to do, where to go, 
  • what’s happening tomorrow (or an hour from now), 
  • what happened yesterday, what was done, not done, said, not said, 
  • am I criticizing or judging myself or others, 
  • etc.  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Self-Care Through Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion (interview)

Evalyn Gaskell, M.Ed., is a retired Social Worker and Special Education teacher and is certified in Reiki and E.F.T. (Emotional Freedom Technique). She offers individual wellness, mindfulness and self-care sessions through her holistic private practice, Harmony LifeBalance, as well as community workshops and group guided meditation classes, in North Carolina.

One of your favorite practices is “check up from the neck up.” How can this help stressed-out teachers and counselors?

This practice helps us to become more aware of our own behavior, emotions, and thoughts. It can be utilized as a mini-relaxation, mini-break, stress reduction and centering tool. It requires us to become aware, paying attention to our “mind chatter” just for a few moments. This process helps us to become centered and present.

There is a well-known saying, “This too shall pass” and whatever is going on in one’s life always passes. Using self-help tools helps us to be the commanders of our own lives. As Louise Hay says, “Changing your thoughts, changes your life.”

[Instructions for 'Check Up from the Neck Up' will be posted next Sunday, June 17th.]

Your work incorporates both guided imagery and mindfulness. Could you briefly explain the differences between these two types of meditation?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Power of Forgiveness: Quotations for Reflection and Discussion

Here are perspectives on forgiving those who've wronged us, forgiving our own mistakes and imperfections, and feeling lovingkindness toward others without necessarily condoning their actions.

Teachers, I don't necessarily recommend giving this whole long list to your students. I like to provide a lot of options so you can choose what's most appropriate for your particular context.

The Meaning of Forgiveness

Donald Altman, One-Minute Mindfulness:
"Forgiveness does not mean we forget a violation or injustice and allow it to reappear in our lives.… Forgiveness is an extraordinary gift we give to ourselves and others.  No one can grant forgiveness except you, which makes it not only powerful but also empowering."

Sunday, May 27, 2018

More Than Saying Thank You

Activities That Encourage Awe for the Ordinary

photo courtesy Brandi Lust

The following is a guest post by Brandi Lust of Learning Lab Consulting, adapted from her book Myths of Being Human: Four Paths to Connect with What Matters.

It’s so easy in life to take our human experience for granted. Right now, hundreds of thousands of cells and dozens of body systems are operating in such a way that you get to breath air, move your fingers, and read these words. While it’s easy to forget our luck in being alive, we can reorient ourselves toward gratitude through attention and awareness. 

In Myths of Being Human: Four Paths to Connect With What Matters, I describe 4 paths to connect with what’s most important in your life. The four paths are mindfulness, gratitude, growth, and connection. 

Gratitude, the second path, is defined in the book as, 
“more than saying ‘thank you.’ It is also more than recognizing when something exceptional happens and appreciating it. Gratitude is about cultivating awe for everyday human experience—the good and the bad.” 

This is an important skill to cultivate because, unfortunately, our bodies can work against positivity. Research shows we pay more attention, for longer, to a negative stimulus. However, gratitude can help. It’s hard to feel grateful and fearful at the same time. 

The following is a gratitude practice from the book, followed by a modification that can be used with students. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Myths of Being Human: Four Paths to What Matters (recommended book)

"We live in a world of distraction, and simply being human means our lives are complicated. If we do not clear a space for ourselves within, we could end up lost and wandering, looking for the elusive 'right answer' based wholly on external clues. The solution to this is not more action, but instead cultivating a space of internal stillness."

Brandi Lust, Myths of Being Human

Myths of Being Human: Four Paths to Connect with What Matters is based on Brandi Lust's eight-week training program on mindfulness, gratitude, growth, and connection. It can be used as a self-directed program, the core text for a facilitated group, or as a supplement to an existing mindfulness class.

Each section begins with a 'myth' (or common misunderstanding) contrasted with the reality: 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

An INCRAmental Approach to Building Rapport with Youth

I had the opportunity to share my perspective on working with youth in a guest post on the Center for Adolescent Studies blog:

I dreaded my weekly staring contest with the man who was supposed to be treating my depression. He’d start each session by asking me a probing question, then silently wait for my response.  
Since I felt too intimidated to talk about my recent suicide attempt, we just sat there awkwardly looking at each other until the end of the hour... I didn’t have any reason to trust him or believe he could help me. It felt more like I’d been sent to the principal’s office for misbehavior, even though I hadn’t hurt anyone but myself. 
Many years later, I was fascinated by a scene in the TV show Mad Men where Sally Draper chats with a child psychologist while playing the card game Go Fish. This is what my colleague Dr. Sam Himelstein calls an INCRA, or Inherently Non-Clinical Relational Activity. 
Dr. Himelstein explains that an INCRA is “an activity to help take pressure off the youth so the relationship can develop organically.” Playing cards is just one example. It could be taking a walk, listening to music, or baking cookies. An INCRA is essentially any activity that helps build rapport with youth, takes the pressure off a tense situation, or helps them calm down if they’re triggered or traumatized.

Photo by Crown Agency on Unsplash