Tuesday, April 13, 2021

3 Ways to Make Sure You’re in the Appropriate Teaching Role (guest post)


Photo by kat wilcox from Pexels

by Catharine Hannay

I have a new guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies: 

I’ll never forget the day one of my French professors announced, “I can tell this class isn’t going well, so I’ve decided to film myself lecturing so I can see what I’m doing wrong.”

He could have saved himself a lot of trouble by asking us. We all knew what he was doing wrong. He shouldn’t have been lecturing at all; it was a seminar with only ten students.
I certainly made my own share of mistakes in my first couple of years as an English instructor. In one course, nearly all the student evaluations had some variation on “She’s very kind, but we don’t always know when we made a mistake.” I was trying so hard to be a Supporter that I vastly overestimated how upset my students would be in response to a simple correction. 

The point isn’t that one role is better than another but to use discernment in choosing the appropriate role at the appropriate time, and in not going so far into a particular role that it no longer benefits the students. 

You can read the full post at:


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Song Playlist on Resilience and Inner Strength

by Catharine Hannay

Continuing the popular series of Song Playlists for Teachers, here are a variety of perspectives on acceptance, self-compassion, resilience, and inner strength.

The rest of the songs are more appropriate for older kids and adults. If you teach young children, you might like this one:

Your Mountain is Waiting, Lanny Sherwin
official video (lyrics in video description)

"I hate to have to tell you but life isn’t always simple. Just when you think you have it smooth & easy, here comes a brand new wrinkle. You’ll probably need some Band-Aids for your knees and your heart, but I’ll be there with you when you’re ready to start."

I also have a whole playlist of Children's Songs about Mindfulness, Kindness, Self-Acceptance, and Gratitude.


Better DaysLe'Andria Johnson


"Sometimes it feels cold, and you feel all alone. But hold on, better days are coming. It can be rough in this world. I know it ain't easy, but hang on in there. I know better days are coming."


Beauty Lies, Jordan Smith 

video by One Voice Children's Choir (lyrics in video description); audio by Jordan Smith

"Sometimes the tears you cry can make you feel like you're running dry. At least you know you're still alive. We go on believing all the liars in our head, and stop before we've even started yet. But I know you, I know you can make that move, live your truth. When you lay down your pride, that's where the beauty lies."

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Body Scan and Progressive Relaxation


Image by DanaTentis from Pixabay

by Catharine Hannay, adapted from Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness

A body scan is a type of meditation where you very slowly move your attention from one end of your body to the other. I prefer to start from my toes and gradually bring my attention up to my head. If it works better for you to do it the other way, that’s fine. You can start from your head and gradually move your attention down to your toes.

A lot of people find that a body scan helps them to relax, but it’s OK if you don’t feel relaxed. The purpose is to notice the sensations in your body, not to feel a particular way. 

Progressive relaxation is similar to a body scan. The difference is that instead of noticing whatever sensations are already present, you’re consciously trying to relax your body. 

If these practices are new to you, try each of them and notice how it feels. (Please note: these are intended as guidelines for personal practice. If you're looking for a 'script' to use with your students, please see the caveats at the end of the post.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

When Does Your Lizard Brain Turn Into Godzilla?


Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

by Catharine Hannay

A lot of mindfulness teachers talk about the “lizard brain.” That’s because when humans feel frightened or stressed out, we can react the same way as primitive creatures like reptiles. The lizard brain gets scared even when you really aren’t in any danger, and it can make you lash out and do or say things you regret.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Maybe you were really worried about something that didn’t happen, or you got angry and said something you regret? 

Because you’re not a reptile, you can use your creative human brain to figure out ways to respond more skillfully.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Body-Based Practices for Self-Care and Stress Relief

Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

I'd been feeling a bit crabby and out-of-sorts the past couple of weeks, and I realized it was because I've been spending too much time:

a)  thinking about the past year and everything that happened vs. everything I expected to happen; and 

b) trying to figure out what to do in the next few months, when I have no idea what's going to happen.

I suspect I'm not alone in this. And I figure there are enough 'Reflecting on the Year of COVID' articles already. (Summary: This past year was tough on everyone, ranging from the inconvenient to the tragic. Bonus points to anyone who's been dealing with hybrid learning as a teacher or parent; double bonus points to anyone who's been doing both!) 

I've been finding it helpful to focus on body-based practices rather than trying to meditate, since that keeps turning into rumination. I'm also gently pushing myself to get more movement, as I've gradually gotten more sedentary during the ongoing semi-quarantine where I live.

So today I'll share a few body-based, grounding practices that you might find helpful as you keep on keepin' on with your various challenges. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Songs About Peace, Love, and Tolerance

posted by Catharine Hannay

Continuing the popular series of song playlists for teachers, here are a wide range of musical styles and perspectives on peace, love, and tolerance. You may want to use them in teaching about positive values, or as a personal playlist when you're feeling overwhelmed and in need of some encouragement.

The focus here is on lovingkindness and love for humanity. If you're looking for other types of love songs, see Songs about Healthy and Unhealthy Romantic Relationships and Songs about Love for Friends and Family 

Teachers, as always please watch the full video and/or read the full lyrics before deciding what's appropriate for your students. I try to avoid any potentially-offensive words or images, but you're the best judge of what's appropriate for your particular context.


Everyone is Different, Lanny Sherwin

official video (lyrics in video description)

"We're all different colors, we wear different clothes, We speak differently from different zip codes. We're short, we're tall, we're fat, we're thin, We're square pegs in round holes just trying to fit in."

If you teach younger kids, you might like the playlist of Children's Songs about Mindfulness, Kindness, Self-Acceptance, & Gratitude

Free and Equal Blues, Josh White

lyrics; audio

"I went down to that St. James Infirmary, and I saw some plasma there. I asked the doctor man, "Say was the donor dark or fair?"...He said, 'Metabolism is international.'... Trying to disunite us with their racial supremacy, and flying in the face of chemistry... You can't overthrow the circulatory system."

If you're looking for more anti-racist songs, check out the playlist with Songs about the Civil Rights Movement and #blacklivesmatter

Fussing and Fighting, Bob Marley


"We should really love each other in peace and harmony (peace and harmony). Instead, we're fussing and fighting."


Higher Love, Steve Winwood

lyrics; performance by Ndlovu Youth Choir on America's Got Talent; performance by Kelly Clarkson

"Things look so bad everywhere. In this whole world, what is fair? We walk the line and try to see. Falling behind in what could be. Bring me a higher love. Where's that higher love I keep thinking of?"

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Indigenous Mindfulness: An Extremely Brief Introduction

Image courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

by Catharine Hannay

It was quite eye-opening looking through stock photo sites for something to illustrate this post on indigenous mindfulness. 

I expected it to be a challenge. No photo can truly represent an abstract concept like mindfulness. And no single image can truly represent the multitude of indigenous cultures around the world.

What I didn't expect was the number of stereotypical, inaccurate, or downright offensive images. The oddest was a photo described as a "beautiful Indian chief" which actually showed a young white woman wearing, I kid you not, a feathered headdress and a miniskirt. 

I decided to go with the above photo of a weaver in Peru for reasons both literal and metaphorical. Can you imagine what would happen if a weaver weren't paying attention to the overall pattern and to the precise movements needed at any given moment? And it's fascinating to see the ways indigenous people weave together mindfulness practice with their own spiritual traditions. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Hindu Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga: An Extremely Brief Introduction

Photo by Rahul Dogra on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

Today I'd like to give a very brief introduction to Hindu beliefs and practices and how they differ from what's commonly taught in secular yoga and mindfulness programs.

There are two major concerns you should be aware of:

1) Tensions over yoga and meditation in public schools; and

2) Misrepresentations in popular culture.

I'll start by explaining those two concerns, then give a five-minute overview of 4,000 years of Hinduism.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

12 Principles of Mindful Learning

guest post by Linda Yaron Weston, from her book Mindfulness for Young Adults: Tools to Thrive in School and Life

With all the things competing for students’ attention, mindful learning can enhance focus, creativity, and curiosity in the physical or virtual classroom. Students may enter the classroom with stressors and challenges that impact their capacity to learn. Mindfulness can help students get centered and present to engage with the academic content. When they reflect on their relationship to what they’re learning, they become active participants in the process through their interaction with the material. This can be applied across disciplines, as students examine what it means to be fully present in learning. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"Look for the Helpers": Kindness, Compassion and Service All Over the World

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

posted by Catharine Hannay

In the midst of all of the political tension and continuing stressors of the pandemic, I thought everyone could use some positive news. And as a former English teacher, I know many of you are always looking for short reading passages to share with your students.

So here are real-life stories of people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds performing simple acts of decency and extraordinary acts of generosity.