I’m so excited that your curiosity and interest has led you to visit my website to find out more about my sparkly and magical mindfulness journey — I hope to get you inspired!
So who am I?
In addition to being an avid reader, a poet, and writer, I’m a passionate mother and an early years teacher who has worked in education since 2007. In 2016 I earned my Masters of Education with a specialism in Early Years from Dundee University and the IB Advanced Certificate in Teaching and Learning Research. I’ve recently joined an Ed.D. programme, where I hope to continue to delve deeper into my research passion and contribute to the field of education from a global perspective. Last but not least, I have been trained in the Mindful Schools Curriculum, and I’m an alumna of the Greater Good Science Centre at the University of Berkeley, California.
During the academic year of 2016/17, I found myself in a class where many students had complex needs. The challenge of helping these students became so great that I contemplated leaving teaching—but I wasn’t willing to give up on the only profession I ever wanted to pursue without a fight. I’d dreamt of becoming a teacher since childhood and hoped to make a positive impact on the lives of my students, like so many great educators had on mine.
Teacher burnout is widely reported, and while it is often acknowledged as a result of the profession’s demands on educators’ time and energy, both physical and emotional, there’s another overlooked cause: lack of practical and professional support or focused teacher training that could prepare teachers to assist with the emotional and behavioural struggles many young people experience.
In the challenges encountered with my students, I saw an opportunity waiting to happen.
I took the tools the IB curriculum offered such as the IB Learner Profile attributes and put them to use, along with insights from my work with expert teacher and practitioner of mindfulness, Bora Rancic. Bora and I had frequently chatted about mindfulness informally, and at my request he began to deliver fortnightly mindfulness sessions to all the teachers at the Early Learning Centre at my school during the academic year of 2015/16. We discussed both theory and practice of mindfulness, including ways to incorporate its strategies for wellbeing for ourselves and the students in our classrooms. Little did I know that these discussions and plans would subsequently lay the groundwork I needed in order to meet the needs of a highly demanding class the following academic year.
Using mindfulness, students learned to pay attention to the messages of their bodies in order to identify their emotions and the causes that triggered negative reactions, to reflect before responding to their feelings, and to communicate their wants and needs. In mindfulness, awareness is combined with non-judgment: children learn to understand that it’s okay to be angry, mad or sad, so long as they channel these feelings in positive ways. So I decided to revamp our schedule to start every morning with a mindful minute, practicing different kinds of breathing techniques and each day setting intentions based on the class’s essential agreements. A mindful moment was also implemented to help students transition to different experiences throughout the school day. Resources in the classroom included a quiet, inviting mindful corner where students could rest, reflect, listen to children’s meditation tracks, and read books related to emotions and mindfulness. As students began to develop the skills of self-awareness, attention control and emotional regulation, they showed care for each other in an authentic, kind way.
Change didn’t come in an instant, but with practice my students began to embody mindfulness with independence and consideration for others, learning from and alongside each other. They would remind their friends to “eat mindfully”, “listen with mindful ears” and use a “mindful body” when playing and interacting with each other. Soon children were volunteering to lead our morning mindful minute session and imagining their own breathing exercises. By the end of the academic year, grateful parents were preparing to take mindfulness with them as a family when the students progressed to the next year level.
The journey I and my students took together inspired me to write Golden Sparkles, a book that explains to children how they can become more aware of their feelings at the moment in which they breathe, with focused attention and intent.