NEW BEGINNINGS - BACK TO SCHOOL
Jill Cox is Head of Development and Training at Living Mindfully, one of our sponsors, who offer mindfulness courses for teachers and professionals in the eduction sector.
In this article, Jill draws on her extensive experience in the education sector to explore the emotions that children go through when returning to or starting a new school and how a mindful approach can help support their journey.
The start of a new school term maybe experienced with excitement and anticipation for some, with dread and despondence for others, or maybe with some ‘whatevers’ in between.
An abundance of new experiences: perhaps new classes, new school, new timetable, new teachers, new sets, new buildings, new rooms, new expectations, new people, new phone, new fitting in and new self doubts. Then maybe after a day of that, we may be faced with new demands at home, new challenges, new homework, new questions about school, new clubs and activities, new housemates, being new to looking after yourself and living away from home … New … Different … New …!
New Beginnings...New Situations...
So many new situations and so much information to process.
Life is ever changing and ever moving and one thing we can learn is that there will be a continuous flow of new beginnings and new situations in our lives. Learning to understand, reflect upon and develop helpful ways to handle these experiences are life skills that everyone would benefit from, no matter what age. Learning such helpful ways earlier in life is such an advantageous start.
We will all continue to have thoughts, emotions, habits and behaviours. They are not something we only experience in years 2, 4, 5, 6, 13…! So, learning about our mind: how we think, feel, perceive and relate to ourselves, others and the world around us, can make a difference to how we live now and who we become.
Whether our experiences are exhilarating or completely outside our comfort zone, our body and brain will be busy communicating the corresponding messages to one another. Left unnoticed we may find ourselves living in an emotional, thought based world, reacting not only to our own thoughts and feelings, but to those triggered by people around us. It can be quite a heady mix. That is, of course, unless you have been taught about mindfulness.
Learning to Notice...
Learning to notice our experiences and focus in helpful ways we learn to enjoy all the good stuff, become interested in the ‘whatevers’ and manage the more challenging aspects of life. Mindfulness can transform how we approach and experience new situations.
From the example of an adult, parent, grandparent, carer, educator it can be interesting to witness just how quickly we can become so caught up in emotions of our children. We can go from serene bliss to inner tension just at the sight of our child walking in the door, or vice versa.
Learning to notice we are doing this and how easily we can become focused on their emotions and experiences, rather than our own, can remind us to pause, tune in and explore what we feel and need right now. We learn to find an internal base from which we are better able to handle and guide the situation. Moments of joy and excitement may well seem within our realm of competence, yet if we are reacting to their disquiet, fear or upset we may be trying to guide from a place of inner tension, fear and worry rather than from open awareness. Learning some supporting ways to ‘be’, parent, teach and care for youngsters can transform our relationship with ourselves, in this role, as well as that with our children.
Now, if we knew our children were also receiving an education on this level and that they learned all about their mind: emotions, thoughts, body and actions and had a skill-set to support them it could truly support your adult role. Could you ease back a little knowing that they’ve got this covered or at least are working on it? How would this change your role as a parent? Could you be present with an open heart, complete awareness and an ability to listen without the need to fix, judge or offer advice? How might this feel for the child who wishes to be heard, seen or simply given the space to ‘be’ however they feel in that moment? How might this change the way you parent? Of course, if more guidance is sought then you are here, open hearted and able to support from a more grounded place of unconditional love.
Know Your Mind...
‘Know Your Mind’ programmes offer students the opportunity to explore and experience life with guidance and support, so that they gain helpful understanding about their individuality, their connections with others and the lives they lead. Educators, therapists and counsellors benefit from a personal and professional pathway to living mindfully and teaching in insightful ways to reach the needs of their students. Adults, parents, grandparents and carers develop a personal understanding as well as demonstrating a natural way of living and being that can positively influence our happiness and wellbeing.
What the students & teachers say...
Gillian Bell | Youth Skills Tutor | Gateshead Council Learning Skills
I’m really enjoying delivering the LME programme. It is brilliantly structured, building each week on the themes of the programme - from gently exploring ‘don’t know mind’ to learning how to manage ‘life’, giving the students many, many tools they can draw on as guidance with this.
The activities are engaging and bring a great energy into the room when working with them. All students are enjoying exploring the different elements of their thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. The content gives in-depth explanations of each theme, with supporting activities, clips and relevant practices that the students can explore. My student feedback has been excellent..
Dr. Jennifer Gilling | Specialist Senior Educational Psychologist (Social & Emotional Wellbeing) - May 2017
It has been really exciting to work alongside Living Mindfully to work towards realising our ambition that every school in the authority will be a mindful school. Mindfulness in Hartlepool is helping to transform the support and provision for children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Young people in Hartlepool have indicated that they want be confident and resilient and they want the help they receive to be non stigmatising and more accessible in their community, particularly in their school.
The project focuses on:
- Recognising and promoting good mental health so young people can grow up to be confident and resilient and fulfill their goals and ambitions. We are encouraging schools to adopt and develop this as a whole school approach to promoting wellbeing.
- Improving access to effective support, both for children who access the programme and for staff who are training in the delivery of the approaches. The ongoing practice groups offered by Living Mindfully enable the sharing of good practice, sustaining the momentum of the project and spreading the word further.
- Developing the workforce so that staff have knowledge and training to deliver an evidenced based intervention.
- We also recognize that we can only get the wellbeing of children right when we have well staff.
Bethany Robinson | March 2017
I'd like to say thank you for allowing me to take part in your mindfulness course at Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
I'd heard of mindfulness before and tried some of the apps. This course not only showed me HOW to be mindful but WHY it's an important tool, something the apps hadn't taught me.
It's been a few weeks since the course ended now and I'm definitely trying to incorporate it into my daily life. For me, learning how to check in with how I'm feeling through breathing has been really beneficial. I've also found that I can ENJOY yoga! I'd tried it many times before but ended up frustrated. now, rather than getting annoyed, I'm able to take my time and be mindful. I also found the idea of the doing and being mind useful. Remembering this helps me to bring myself back to the present when I've zoned out, especially when walking.
Natalie Boagey | Assistant Headteacher April 2017 | West View Primary School
We have been so fortunate to be part of the six weeks mindfulness in school programme delivered by Jill. By taking part in the weekly sessions the children are becoming much more self aware and with time we are certain they will apply what they have learned to increase their well being and their ability to regulate their emotions. The staff and children have loved every minute of the sessions and look forward to each one. Jill has such a fantastic way with the children, she has a calm and approachable manner that captured the children's attention from the start.