Sunday, April 1, 2018

Mindfulness Matters

I was first introduced to the concept of mindfulness in 2014 as a Teaching Fellow.  I was part of the Charlotte Teaching Fellows Institute and they brought an expert speaker to share these strategies and ideas.  Dr. Amy Saltzman shared her expertise with our group.  Mindfulness was something that was new and interesting and I loved the idea of using it with students.   I was excited to begin using it.
The idea of using mindfulness began to catch on and I felt knowledgeable because of my Teaching Fellows Institute experience but I still wasn’t really implementing it with my students.  I felt like it was something that was to be added.  It wasn’t until I changed my perspective to look at it as part of our everyday learning that I began to use it with my students and to truly see the benefits.
Mindfulness can be practiced as little as five to ten minutes a day with your students. On a daily basis I have my students stop and reflect on their day and their goals. They take five minutes to focus on themselves.  They are then able to work better on the projects at hand.   It is a chance for them  to reflect.  As Mindful Schools co-founder Laurie Grossman says, mindfulness is “to pay attention, on purpose, to the present moment.”  It is not letting the little moments go by unnoticed. 

This year I also had my 4th and 5th grade students chose one word to guide them. Some of the words they chose were peace, determination and challenge.   Each student has a copy of their word in their notebook.  I also hung them in the hall to inspire other students.  They use their word to help them when they are feeling unfocused.   It helps them be mindful of their goals and of how they want to live their lives. 

Our speaker as well as the other materials that I have read on mindfulness shows that there are many positive benefits of teaching mindfulness.  As teachers use the strategies and incorporate them into the daily activity students are having reduced stress and anxiety, increased concentration and engagement, improved social skills and better problem solving and decision making skills. 
A resource that I have used is Mindfulness for Teachers by Patricia Jennings.  In her book she states that mindfulness can help us to be more effective at reducing conflict and developing more positive way of relating in the classroom.  This in turn helps us as teachers feel more job satisfaction.  I have used her book so much that another NCAEE Board member, Megan Charlton, and I used it as a resource for our recent #NCAEEChat on Twitter. 
Another resource that I like is the Teach Starter website.  They have many ideas and strategies on their site. (The items that I have used have been free but they do have a paid portion to their site.)  It is a great tool that is easy to use. They also have their materials set up in such a way that it is user friendly and something that every teacher can do with their students.
The experience that I had as a Charlotte Teaching Fellow set me up for my journey to using mindfulness as it allowed me the chance to be exposed and learn more.  I feel that mindfulness makes all the difference in my day.  It is something that teachers can use and definitely see the benefit of with their students. 

Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree.  Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!