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Rethinking PD: Self-Care & Mindfulness for Teachers

By The Room 241 Team August 14, 2018

Concordia University-Portland’s College of Education and WeAreTeachers hosted an awesome Facebook Live professional development session: Self-Care & Mindfulness for Teachers. Did you miss it? No worries! We’ve got you covered with some key takeaways. You can also watch the full video anytime to catch all of the details.

Mindfulness for students

Hosts Kayla Dessert and Aliceson Brandt are both teachers in Portland, Oregon, and they started off the PD session by sharing some awesome use-right-now mindfulness techniques for the classroom.

Brandt suggests implementing mindfulness practices in the classroom by teaching techniques explicitly during regular classes. She does this every Wednesday during morning meetings, and when students are in need.

Here are some techniques that Brandt uses and more fully describes in the video.

Techniques:

  • Hoberman Sphere breathing
  • Balloon breathing
  • Attentive listening: Chime in

Suggested resource

Mindfulness as teachers

Michelle Harrison, a social worker and K-6 Behavior Specialist in Portland, joins the hosts to discuss mindfulness for teachers. “Quite simply, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose — without judgment,” Harrison says. She explains that research has found that mindfulness comes with some impressive benefits.

One such workplace study found an “improvement in focus, concentration, and working memory… After an 8-week training, their sleep improved, their clarity improved, they had fewer absences at work, and their work-related stress lowered.” Harrison reminds us that mindfulness is a practice, one that takes consistency and participation.

In the full video, Harrison describes the following strategies and resources.

Strategies:

  • Body scan
  • Deep breathing in your car
  • Wellness buddy

Suggested resources:

Teacher self-care

Kayla Dessert then switches gears to talk about an endeavor she embarked on this year to promote teacher self-care by using Instagram. “We create these great lessons and grade papers, but sometimes we fail to remember ourselves. We can’t pour from an empty cup. Mindfulness activities have wonderful benefits,” she says. That’s why Dessert started a social media-based teacher fitness challenge where teachers participate in challenges and share their workouts with the Instagram educator community. For this upcoming school year, Dessert has 5 self-care challenges for educators. She urges teachers to choose at least one thing from the list and participate either as an individual or in a group with colleagues.

Watch Dessert discuss her suggested challenges.

The five teacher challenges:

  1. Leave school on time one or two days a week
  2. Leave your teacher bag at school one or two days a week
  3. Exercise or go to the gym after school (a buddy makes this fun!)
  4. Treat yourself to something special once a month — a manicure, a special coffee, or a movie
  5. Say “no” to something extra that someone asks you to do

Culturally responsive mindfulness

The PD hosts are joined by 4th grade Portland Public Schools teacher Nichole Watson, who notes that “many of our students are showing up traumatized and triggered and aren’t really learning how to engage in radical self-care on their own. When we think of self-care, there has to be a way to bring equity into the discussion.”

One of the first steps toward approaching mindfulness through an equitable lens, according to Watson, is by “decentering whiteness.” She notes that teachers may stray away from calling mindfulness practices by their cultural names. We might label Tai Chi as “exercising” or “stretching,” instead of honoring the culture of its origin. Watson notes that “liberating different ways in which indigenous cultures and communities of color engage in self-care” helps our students recognize themselves in the work.

It comes down to “enabling our kids who are coming from different cultures and different backgrounds to not only see themselves in our curriculum, and not only see themselves on the pictures that are on our walls, but to see themselves in their ability to take care of who they are,” she says. This can be challenging to do, but it is very important and can impact students in a variety of ways.

We’ve listed Watson’s techniques, and you can watch the full video to hear her describe them in detail.

Techniques:

  • Journaling
  • Low lighting/slow start
  • Catnapping
  • Silent reading
  • Nature walks or walks around school
  • Downloading nature sounds
  • Time with a teacher friend
  • Flexible Seating

Suggested resources:

Mindfulness and self-care benefit us and our students in many ways. We hope you enjoyed this professional development event as you gear up for back-to-school season. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, as well as our partner WeAreTeachers, so that you’re in the loop when we provide another professional development event or resource.

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