A friend and colleague sent me a great article by Kirsten Olson called The Mindful School Leader.  She describes the pressures and stress of life as a school leader and emphasizes the benefits of becoming more present in each moment.  In particular, she suggests a few practical strategies for becoming more mindful:

“Try this practice:  Every day, every few hours, stop and take three deep breaths through the nose, feeling the belly rise and fall.  Notice how you feel.  This builds awareness of the body and breath, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the body and mind, reducing stress.

Try this practice:  Next time you walk around the school building notice how you are walking.  Feel your shoes on the floor.  Feel your spine tall and strong, and your shoulders wide and relaxed. Allow yourself to become keenly aware of your surroundings.  This strengthens focus on the present, sharpening awareness and mental clarity.

Try this practice:  Next time you eat lunch, try just eating not reading, texting, or attending to anything else.  Notice the food.  Savor flavors. This enhances self-care and self-nurturance, and elements of self-compassion.

Try this practice:  Next conversation, practice listening.  Set aside the desire to fix, solve, correct or judge the other person.  Listen not just with your ears (to hear), but with your eyes (to see), your mind (to think), heart (to feel), and your attention (to focus).  What do you notice about yourself?  How does it feel to listen deeply?  Listening practice builds empathy and compassion, essential tools of emotionally intelligent school leaders, and promotes connectedness with others, a fundamental element of community.”

The summer months are great times to reflect on just how harried I had become in this past year – my first as a building principal.  Now is the time to begin to cultivate some practices that will help slow me down, keep me present, and stay more focused on our vision.

I would love to hear how others find calm in the midst of all that comes one’s way as a leader in education.

  1. July 31, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Thank Deb! How do you stay calm in the midst of all that comes at you?


  2. Deb Taylor
    July 31, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    It would be a stretch to say that I do . . . But several practices help me work towards that goal. I run regularly with a dear friend who understands me even when I don’t. I also am a member of a community that supports and encourages a practice of self-reflection. I try to dedicate some time each morning to sitting meditation, but I am not as consistent as I’d like to be with this. I hope to implement some of the practices you suggest. There is plenty of room for improvement. For example, I find myself much more able to be present for my students’ concerns than I am for my teachers’. As a good friend of mine says, “I’d like to be where my feet are” but often find my head a million miles away.

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