- Name: Elisa Irwin
- Role: Class teacher
- Type of educational setting: two form Primary School with an ASD provision
- Location: Orpington, Kent
- Age range of students: 7-year groups 5-11 years
- No. students: 428
- Percentage Pupil premium: 34%
- Percentage SEND/SEMH: 19%
- Number of staff trained to teach mindfulness: Just me
Our school is part of the Clarion Futures Project; Clarion being our local housing association. They funded our school as part of a community project to promote health and wellbeing for children. The funding from Clarion enabled me to train in .begin and Paws b. Beginning my .begin training in January 2021 during one of the COVID lockdowns helped my wellbeing in extremely challenging circumstances; teaching online was difficult, especially with the rest of my family working from home too.
However, as soon as I started the course the benefits of mindfulness reduced my anxiety, enabling me to feel less overwhelmed in the current situation back then, and giving me a variety of strategies to deal with anything that arose. Furthermore, I learned to be in the present, rather than trapped in the past or the future; I used (and still do) the three-minute breathing space meditation when I needed a moment, mindful eating, and body scans also helped me with my physical and mental health.
July 2021 was when I trained in Paws b; it was an amazing course, with the MiSP teachers being supportive, patient, and very knowledgeable. With the summer holidays about to begin the new academic term in September 2021 was when I started to teach Paws b. Currently, I am a year 4 teacher so talking with SLT we decided that I would teach both year 4 classes Paws b during the Autumn and Spring terms as their weekly PSHE lessons.
I wanted to document the children’s mindfulness journey visually. Time is of the essence in school, and I needed a way of evidencing their thoughts and feelings as the weeks progressed without paperwork involved. Jamboard, which is a digital whiteboard, allowed the children to collaborate in real-time through Google Classroom, subsequently I was able to collect their responses on their Paws b journey.
Paws b has changed the children’s lives in such a positive way and not only do the Jamboards prove this but our classroom climate does too. With the challenges of our children recovering from the pandemic; not only academically but physically and mentally too; Paws b has given them the strategies to cope with their everyday lives. The children had to learn to be together again in a classroom environment, they were struggling with relationships inside the classroom and how to deal with tricky situations on the playground, in class, and at home too.
The impact has been immense, with the MiSP survey the children took reflecting this. They are now able to recognise their different emotions and how to deal with them using mindfulness. Now the children understand the 4 areas of the brain that can be developed through mindfulness, they are able to use this knowledge and understanding to help them react positively in different situations. As we all know, knowledge is power and the children loved learning the Science aspect of Paws b too!
Children after the class would come and thank me for teaching them Paws b and now in year 4 we practice every day before lessons begin. I will invite a child to join me at the front of the class and choose a practice to start the day. This now being a daily routine, if I am not in class the children will remind my Teaching Assistant ‘Miss, we need to do our Paws b’. Something that still makes me chuckle is when one of my girls said to me and my teaching assistant that we have puppy dog minds on a Friday! Now it is a standing joke in class.
As a year group, we have joined a MiSP ‘Schools Sit Together’ which the children loved, and have asked when the next session would be taking place. I have led a couple of mindfulness moments with staff before the beginning of a staff meeting during Mental Health Week; this went down a treat.
Our classroom feels safe, welcoming, and supportive of children’s learning; this is definitely because we are ‘Growing Happiness’ and choosing to nurture ourselves and others. My own practice is daily, teaching is a demanding job as we all know so using mindfulness when I am feeling ‘wobbly’ through a three-minute meditation, grounds me again and I move on feeling on top of the world. Before I go to sleep, I will do a body scan and as part of my yoga, I will be in the present. I have joined the Teacher’s one-day retreat twice now. It was amazing to meet other like-minded people and go through the different practices with knowledgeable teachers. Also, MiSP holds fortnightly hub sessions, which I have attended; these sessions refresh and revitalise the soul. That is what I love about the Hub and retreats, how each teacher brings something new to a mindfulness practice, their own little personal tweak.
Teaching Paws b has given me more understanding of mindfulness. It is now part of my everyday teaching routine, when a situation arises between some children, I will talk about the ’storytelling mind’ and refer to ‘making choices’. The children love the videos from the Paws b curriculum and from time to time will ask to rewatch the child having a moment in the supermarket. This is what MiSP has done for us, giving our children an understanding of why we react the way we do in different situations; showing us how to use mindfulness through different practices, which can be used anywhere. The lessons are so much fun, with videos and games that make the children smile and learn. What an amazing combination!
Now moving forward, what is the next step for us? Well, I am an advocate of mindfulness now in school and I want to teach the younger children dots. Through the fantastic feedback from the two year 4 classes, SLT has agreed for me to take the dots course in July 2022. Furthermore, as MiSP is extremely generous, we have been given a supported place. I feel so much gratitude for being given these opportunities, and to see our children using mindfulness in their everyday lives is truly wonderful.
- Paws b helps me do better in class and helps me a lot when I am stressed out with my brother.
- I like the Petal Practice because I have a chance to focus and reflect.
- Paws b has helped me with getting relaxed when I feel uncomfortable and scared.
- I like the Petal Practice because it is peaceful in the room.
- Paws b has helped me through these hard times and arguments.
- Paws b has shown me to be kind to other people and take a breath if I am sad or mad.
- Paws b has wonderful things to do like finger breathing.
- I like the How Many Breaths in a Minute because I like the sensation and the feeling and I like counting how many breaths.
- Paws b has helped me with relaxing and sleeping.
- I like the FOFBOC because I always feel tired in the morning and it helps me sort out my thoughts which normally race around my mind.
- I very much enjoyed the Paws b and mindfulness course. After the chaos and uncertainty of the last few years since Covid, it is very important to take care of your mental health. The structure of the course was in manageable size chunks and worded appropriately for the age of the audience. The mixture of information mediums used: doing, listening, and watching made the course accessible.
- I would say a majority of the children are starting to use some of the techniques from Paws b on a daily basis (which is brilliant) and the majority enjoy our morning Paws b session when we have them. The comment I have received from my class is that a session makes them feel calmer and quieter.
- I would like to say as a member of staff that Paws b is such a great way to start the day. It gives me time before the day starts. I miss it on Fridays when I am unable to join.
- Paws b has had a positive impact on the children, when doing Paws b in the mornings, I find the children are more focused throughout the day.