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Mindfulness

July 31, 2012 2 comments

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.

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Taking the leap . . .

I have recently been following The Principal of Change, a great blog by George Couros, and came across a wonderful article today about the importance of tweeting.  Here is a quote from the post that really resonated with me:

“You may not have many followers and you may not be blogging or creating the next BIG IDEA, but what you share still matters.  You never know the impact you can have by sharing a link or a blog post.  Simply retweeting good information can help anyone, including someone like myself who has almost 40,000 tweets to his credit, continue to learn and grow.”

George has pushed my thinking on a number of issues related to education and leadership, but this gentle invitation/nudge to take the next step and risk putting myself out there was just what I needed.  This summer, I have reinvigorated my PLN, dusted off my twitter account after several years of inactivity, and dove back into Diigo.  I have even begun exploring some new (OK, new to me at least) curation tools such as Scoop.It.  And, I’ve launched this new blog.  Yet when push comes to shove, it has proven surprisingly difficult to hit the share button.  It seems my inner critic is alive and well and asks, “Who in God’s name wants to read THAT?”  or “I seriously do not think you have generated any new idea here, so why bother?”  George reminds me that no learning can happen without some healthy risk-taking.  And my hesitancy reminds me just how frightening it can be for my students to take risks in their learning environment.  I guess it is time to think about how I can give them the same gift George gave me and gently invite/nudge them to take the leap!

How do you create a safe risk-taking environment for your students?  What makes it safe for you to take the leap in front of you?