Pedagogue

I’m excited that your curiosity and interest has led here.
Whether you’re a teacher, a parent or a curious being, read along to learn about my sparkly mindfulness journey.

I hope to get you inspired!

The Problem

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 without trying my very best.

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.

The Opportunity

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 (teachers) 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 learning 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.

The Outcome

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.

Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness allows us to experience the present moment with enhanced awareness.

It gives children greater agency over how they choose to experience their emotions.

Mindfulness can help students to cultivate focused attention and an overall sense of calm as a result of living each moment unhurriedly.

Our minds are often ruminating about the past (what’s been) or the future (what’s to come). It’s like we are on “autopilot”. No matter what happens, we just keep going…no stopping or pausing to notice how physical and emotional experiences can affect the ways in which we think, respond, or react in a given situation.

By learning to be mindful in our daily living experience, we are planting the seeds to greater emotional balance and physical well-being. Why? Because we choose to bring awareness, whether we find ourselves in distressing or loving situations or when faced with intense feelings. By doing this, we learn about ourselves and we learn about what triggers us or gives us tranquility, and this allows us to live in each moment with greater presence.

By developing these skills to live in the moment, we are relinquishing the need to be in control of thoughts and feelings and instead are simply being fully present with our bodies, our minds, and our hearts in every experience and event.

Mindfulness allows us to slow down and find respite in the midst of busyness.

Mindfulness enables us to cultivate clarity of thought and intention, balance, and acceptance as well as learning to be kind to ourselves (compassion).

Mindfulness also promotes a more balanced relationship between our inner (emotional/thinking) and outer (social/physical) experiences, as a result contributing to our social and emotional wellbeing as we learn to develop the skills of attunement, awareness, and self-regulation.

How much thought space are you willing to rent to inner dialogue?

How many thoughts clutter your mind and your perception?

Our thoughts do not necessarily reflect the truth; instead they are a mental phenomenon. Research has shown that we have between 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts in a day. When you divide these statistics by the amount of minutes or seconds we have in 24 hours, you may feel overwhelmed by the busy reality humans live with due to our incessant brain activity!

Mindfulness gives us greater clarity over our experiences as we develop skills such as attention and focus, which in turn helps us to recognise and have a conscious say over our actions. How? By giving us time to pause and assimilate, effectively letting us reflect on what we’ll do before we do it—transforming what would be a reaction into a response.

Research attests to the benefits of mindfulness:

Research has shown that mindfulness can contribute to cognitive function and performance, such as increasing attentiveness and decreasing our reactivity/impulse levels.

Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “Paying attention on purpose and non-judgmentally”. Jon explains that by practicing mindfulness in times of ease, we learn to access it when we are faced with emotionally and physically charged situations.

In classrooms, mindfulness’ focus on “being” rather than “doing” has been shown to benefit children in many ways. Children who practice mindfulness show greater interest in learning, more social intelligence, better memory, and improved executive function (the ability to make choices and gain perspective in changing situations).

Substantial research has been carried out on mindfulness in healthcare systems, but over time mindfulness practices have even been incorporated in institution contexts such as prisons, as well as in the corporate world.

What are some mindfulness strategies that can be used?
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Mindful Body: noticing our body posture (i.e. sitting, standing or laying down), how we touch others or things (i.e. briskly, softly), and how we move (i.e. self-paced walking, fast swimming).

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Mindful Listening: detecting the sounds that are around us and discerning them (i.e. birds chirping or people talking in loud or quiet voices)

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Mindful Feelings: labelling emotions and learning to recognise how they manifest in our bodies (i.e. sweaty hands, goose bumps); displaying a caring and empathetic attitude towards ourselves and others.

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Mindful Thinking: allowing our thoughts to float by as if they’re clouds, without getting sucked into concerns about the past and future. Being able to bring our attention back to the present moment gently and openly when we notice our thoughts have been diverted to another place in time.

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Mindful Eating: paying attention to the texture (i.e. lumpy, soft), the flavours (i.e. sweet, sour), and the temperature (i.e. cold, warm) of the food we eat; the colours and sizes of our portions as well as the smells they emit.

Resources Archives

BOOKS FOR Children

BOOKS FOR Parents

BOOKS FOR Educators and Professionals

School Visits

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Assemblies or classroom visit with book reading, interactive presentation and mindful exercise(s)

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Teacher workshop on mindfulness and its application within a classroom context