by Emma Goddard
When I joined Mindfulness in Schools Project as an administrator a few years ago I must admit that I didn’t quite get what ‘mindfulness’ was, but it was a job I could do part-time and I enjoyed it, so I stayed. Then, in September 2017, I was given the opportunity to take part in the pilot of MiSP’s new eight-week personal mindfulness course, .begin.
By the end of the eight weeks I realised how powerful mindfulness was and what a difference it was making for me. I felt more present and aware with my family, I actively practised kindness to others and encouraged my friends to do the same. I was able to stop myself getting into squabbles with my teenage twins when they pushed all my buttons. Now when someone annoys me, instead of getting cross, I just think ‘loving kindness’ and go on my way … well most of the time.
In my role at MiSP, one of my favourite jobs is working on the Class Impact presentations. Members of our teachers’ network, the Hub, can request links to the pupil and teacher surveys at the end of a .b or Paws b course and I turn the feedback into a presentation for them. They are a great way for teachers to show their Senior Leadership Team and school parents just what impact the course had on the pupils, and has often encouraged schools to roll out the courses to more classes.
But the best bit is reading about how .b or Paws b has helped the pupils. Teachers may be downhearted when a class appears not to be fully engaged, but there will be that one pupil, almost certainly more, for whom this is life changing. The practices they learn can support them through difficult times or help them cope with their anxiety. And even though students might look like they’re not engaging, all the learning is happening – it’s sinking in – and you may only find out just how much has gone in weeks, months or even years later when they come back and tell you how they delved into a practice they learned on .b or Paws b when a difficult moment arose, when they needed steadying before an exam or interview, or they just needed a brief moment to step back and really notice what was going on for them.
“If I get anxious, when a worry just comes, I just breathe and feel my feet I can do it anywhere. This stops the worry being so sharp and jagged.”
Paws b Student
“I get frequent anxiety attacks, but they’re getting bearable thanks to the .b course.”
Many teachers have noticed how it has enabled pupils to deal with anger issues and that is often commented on by the pupils themselves. It is lovely to read comments like this and know that a young person has been given tools that they didn’t have before which are improving their life.
“It has helped me to not be as angry to my sisters and family and I don’t give as much attitude to my family as well. I am being more kind and nice”
There are also plenty of pupils who talk about how .b and Paws b have helped them with exams and important sporting events. The mindfulness practices they are taught assist them in keeping calm, maintaining focus and being their best.
“I learnt how to stop my self worrying in big tests and Paws b also helped me to concentrate during lessons …”
Paws b Student
I really love how the pupils express themselves too. Clearly the mindful eating part of the courses is a big hit and the pupils have many great ways to tell us about the Minstrels they enjoyed … ‘minstrawls’, ‘mistrials’, ‘mindstraws’, even ‘ministerial’ but my all time absolute favourite is ‘mint trolls!’
And as a teacher, you can make a genuine difference. These lessons are unlike any others your pupils will experience. These are times within the school day when they can just be present and really connect with themselves. Pupils like the opportunity to be able to take their shoes off in class, “closing our eyes and being quiet”, maybe have a little sleep while learning Beditation! The pupils often comment on the impact their Paws b or .b teacher had on them: “I find these things very inspiring and I’d like you to come back because it really helped me.”
“The best thing about Paws b was that I got to be myself.”
Paws b Student
So when you are teaching .b or Paws b and it’s a bit tricky, take a moment to have a breathing space, then go back to our guidance when you first trained …
The fundamental aims are:
- For all students to know about mindfulness
- For most to enjoy it
- For many to use it now and again
- For some to practise daily
- For as many as possible to remember it.
If you can touch just one pupil, make a difference to just one life, it has all been worthwhile.