Mindfulness for TeachersServices
20 years of teaching has left me thinking…
‘I really want to help students learn and grow, but there just seems so much to do, all of the time – it is relentless!’
Latest assessment data entry, upcoming parents evening, department meeting, the latest initiative to go into schemes of work, marking for tomorrow, lesson planning for tomorrow, ooh, and I forgot – I’m on duty!
Teaching can get so hectic at times that we can feel so divorced from why we became teachers – to share the love of our subjects, to help and nurture the students we teach. How on earth did we ever get so marginalised from this?
Mindfulness can reconnect you with your intentions to be a teacher. It brings a reality to what is possible and what is not possible. It gives you permission and the skills to say ‘no’ when needed. It puts you and your loved ones back at the centre of your life. It reconnects you with the students you came into teaching to help in the first place. It also shows you that you are not alone in this struggle – you are normal.
What does Mindfulness for teachers offer?
An 8 week on site or online easy to access course
Keeping things simple keeps this course accessible. The 90 minute weekly sessions normally run after school in a quiet classroom or online. It does involve a daily home practice commitment of 15 mins. Similar to learning a new instrument, I can show you what to do, but ultimately it will be your personal practice which will determine how well you can play.
Run by a teacher for teachers and other staff in school or online.
Still teaching in the classroom on a weekly basis, I know the stressors and challenges and tailor the course to meet the group’s needs. Teaching assistants and support staff have also said how useful they have found the course in terms of managing their workload and being calmer in interactions with students and colleagues.
An accredited course with National Recognition.
I lead the .b foundations course for teachers provided by the Mindfulness in Schools Programme. This is a charitable organisation whose programmes are spearheading an all-parliamentary group backed research project through Oxford University. The research (costing £5.5 million) is examining the role of Mindfulness in developing adolescent resilience through school programmes.
Research has shown Mindfulness reduces levels of stress in teachers (Emerson et al 2017).
In a systematic review of research conducted with 589 teachers it was found that through de-centring (the ability to consider a situation from multiple angles) teachers have enhanced self-awareness, are able to better regulate their attention as well as increasing their self-compassion. This led to better regulation of their emotions, increased self-efficacy and ultimately reduced stress. Putting teacher welfare first!
Two clips – for different parts of the staffroom. The first 3 min clip is some teachers from Bristol reflecting on how they found an 8-week Mindfulness course.
Thank you to mindfulness4all for sharing this clip on YouTube for all of us to watch.
The second 3 min clip is a lighthearted cartoon (including rainbows and unicorns!) which has a simple example of how Mindfulness can work in your daily life.
Thank you to Happify for sharing this clip on YouTube so we can all watch it.
Frequently asked questions about…?
Most teachers who come to Mindfulness are keen for something to change. For many the challenge is the combination of workload and time. For others it is being able to ‘let go’ of school when not at work. Commonly teachers also mention being exasperated by some of the students’ behaviours and the impact this is having on them.
Taking on a Mindfulness course, many teachers are wary of adding another thing to do to the list. You are the most important person in your life. We live in a culture that puts others first and many of us follow this to the point where we feel overwhelmed.
Mindfulness gives you permission to put yourself back in the centre of everything. If you are well and happy, the ripple effect for your loved ones, your students and colleagues, will be tangible. It will meet your original aspiration of helping others, with the added bonus of also helping yourself, rather than the self-sacrifice spiral teachers can get drawn into.
I am already rushed of my feet - I simply havent got time to add anything else?
In our intention to help others, we often find putting our own needs at the back of the queue. Think about you and your loved ones, this year, next year and in 10 years time – does stressed and burnout look desirable then? If you don’t commit a little time now, however difficult, when will you? It is like the Oxygen mask principle – puts yours on first to meet your intention to help others and also make your life sustainable.
It won't be able to change my workload, so why bother?
Mindfulness shines a light on habits, routines and approaches. The workload won’t change, but the way you approach it can. Commonly we speak to ourselves in ways that we would never dream of speaking to others. Replace hostility with compassion, allow response to replace reactivity and you may be surprised how much time is gained and how much stress is lost.
I know for a fact, I won't be able to do all 8 weeks - I have commitments already.
I know school calendars are full of trips, events and parents evenings – some unavoidable. We will schedule sessions on dates that are accessible, but if you need to miss 2 or more sessions, it may be worth looking at doing the course at a different time. Like a TV drama, miss an episode, you can probably catch up – miss several and you have lost the plot.
Group setting, with other colleagues - I am not sure?
Most people are really surprised that when we work with our own direct experience in simple practices, hearing others experienced the same as you, reminds us of our shared humanity. In schools in particular – we have more in common than not and being reminded of this can be very supportive.
I don't do 'alternative... mumbo jumbo' stuff.
Your choice. Mindfulness is used on the NHS, is led by Oxford, Exeter and Bangor Universities and is subject to an all-parliamentary group to explore it’s value to broader society including a £5.5 million research project in schools. Typically, the teachers who seem to get most out of the course are often the most sceptical to begin with. Everybody is welcome.
Typically, I won’t know your staff, your teachers, your school and your pupils. So my first step is to be in your school, in your lessons and working alongside your teachers for a short period. It will give me an understanding of the day-to-day demands you face. My 20 years of frontline teaching give me an overview of the territory, but not the map of your experience – you are the expert.
When working together in a group we focus very much on the ‘here and now’ of direct experience. We don’t get involved in school politics or who said what, this is about every individual sharing as much or as little as they want about the variety of practices and exercises we do in sessions and in home practice.
The camaraderie and support that grows within the group over the 8 weeks always staggers me as people journey through it together. The universality of experience can come as such a relief and liberation – ‘it is not just me who feels like this’. Crucially, tools are also learnt to make changes, moving from a human ‘doing’ back into a human ‘being’.
How It Works
Schedule a free 1 to 1
The best thing to do is to get in touch and we will arrange to talk. We can discuss everything from the what your intentions are for coming to Mindfulness, through to the logistics of joining an online course or setting one up at your school.
Choose a Coaching Plan
I generally stick to the Nationally Accredited Mindfulness in Schools Programme. This has the added advantage of giving staff who complete the course the option of training one-day to be Mindfulness teachers themselves.
Set your Intentions
Some teachers will have a clear intention as to what it is they hope the course will provide. Others have a recognition that change is needed, the specifics of which will tend to emerge as the course unfolds.
8 Week .b Foundations Course
Typically run after school in 90 minute sessions for anything from a handful to a dozen or so staff, this programme follows the Mindfulness in Schools accredited course. Costs will vary depending upon the location or online and number of staff, typically school programmes begin at £1000 and can be funded out of training, welfare or health & safety budgets. Joining an online course as an individual typically costs £195.
• For adults in a school setting: teachers, non-teaching staff and parents
• 8 weeks
• 90 minute sessions
• 20 minute daily home practice
• Course prices on application. No two schools are the same and to meet the unique needs of your school, costs are worked out on a bespoke basis.
8 Week Course Themes
1. Waking up to the Autopilot
2. Bringing Curiosity to our Experience
3. Mindfulness in Daily Life
4. Turning Thoughts into Feelings
5. Exploring Difficulty and Building Resilience
6. Relating to Ourselves and Others
7. Developing Balance in our Lives
8. Mindfulness and the Rest of Your Life.
This is the same course which brought me to mindfulness in 2012. When I run free taster sessions for teachers and other school staff they often experience mindfulness for the first time. There are always plenty of giggles and normally a great deal of cynicism, but there is also a lot of astonishment. It is a wow, I never felt something so simple, could be so relaxing. During the course participants have a dawning realisation that the stresses and strains that they experience are not simply part of the job and to be accepted. There is an alternative approach available.
This comes through developing an awareness of our habits and routines. In the beginning we shine a spotlight on our difficult experiences with students and sometimes colleagues. It exposes how we often habitually react rather than respond. In the middle of the course we develop our capacity to stand in the centre of the storm and bring a calmness to ourselves and the situation around us. Towards the end of the course we explicitly look at the balance of nourishing and depleting activities in our working and home lives. An appreciation often occurs that if we want to help the young people we care for and our families, we must initially care for ourselves, just like the oxygen mask principle on aeroplanes.
Sign-up sessions on INSET Days
Many schools offer INSET days which allow staff to sign up for particular training sessions in which they are interested. I can run anything from 60 to 120 minute sessions for interested staff, as opposed to an ‘all staff’ approach. We can discuss costs, which will be deducted in full if an 8 week course is completed following the INSET. Depending upon the number of staff and location of the school, I can give you a quote. Figures start in the region of £75 an hour.
Please get in touch and we can discuss the bespoke needs of your staff and school.