i am me because of you

Mindful Schools

Chad Walsh

Vientiane International School

email: chadw@ourvis.com

What is a mindful School? Let’s narrow that a bit to satisfy our learning context…..

“What does a mindful School do to promote mindfulness?”

This can mean many different things and seeking clarity on defining this would be an inquiry worth exploring together as a School. For the purpose of bringing this even closer to the middle, what does this mean when thinking about prioritizing and synthesizing the things that should matter in School.

In essence, the below points was a process we went through in determining the Time Space Philosophy. What really matters and where should we be putting our intellectual energy?

Being mindful all boils down to having the capacity and wisdom to listen.

Never underestimate the power of listening. Recruiting and harnessing that power of listening has the potential to unlock a cornucopia of ideas, emotion and thinking. This process promotes a lot of soul searching by being introspective and extrospective. It allows us to listen to ourselves and the things (people) around us. We either get caught up in our own internal existence or other external forces…… and a lot of the time – both, depending on the situation.

How can we delineate between our ‘perceptions’ of what we think is happening, against the ‘reality’ of what is happening? And how does this distort our choices and actions in what drives and motivates us to do what is right, fair or ethical, with everyone and everything in mind? How can that mindfulness influence the things that matter or where our attention should be fixed on?

Listening.

Raw and honest listening, without fear or judgment.

Stumbling over this Philosophy still stands the test of time. These are as true now as they were when first written, all those years ago. Taking the time to connect again and recognizing my own growth (and failings) in these is such an invigorating and timely reminder about being true to our beliefs and values and why it is important to breathe life into them. For us, bringing them into focus again is important. We recognize that importance, so these can once again manifest and transpire in ways that create the best learning environment and conditions for teachers and students to thrive and flourish.

I just shared these with our Primary teachers, asking if anyone is interested in exploring these to examine what, how and why we do what we do. How seeking simplicity will bring us back to our purpose. And coming up with ideas to make these work effectively for our School community. The response was overwhelmingly positive and full of gratitude and appreciation.

This has now led us to use these to guide our own inquiry into how we can be and do better. Working from within, just as we do with students. After our Pi Mai break we are going to do an eight week inquiry into finding ways to take tangible action. Already some ideas are floating around such as having once a month Barbecues at School to socialize and interact…. another idea is that we create the timetable for next year…..and on and on.

We have no idea where this is heading or what the outcome(s) will be. And that is the exciting part. Having teachers feel united and lead an inquiry to plan and prepare for 2018-2019 is incredibly energizing and motivating!

Listening to the things that are important and then working together can only result in one thing. Developing a Culture of trust. A culture where people feel valued and respected to be part of the growing and learning. Being part of the decisions as everything we do ripples. Taking action that empowers us.  And having the fortitude and humility to listen to one another, because we know that is where the real power lies – inside all of us to create a mindful School! A School that we co-constructed together as we amplified voice and listened carefully.

How would these ripple out in your School?

What do you think about these as important elements in creating a mindful School?

  • The world is increasingly rushed, frantic and discordant. Most schools have become this way too, many of them even worse than the world outside their walls.
  • Nothing powerful, creative or innovative ever happens in a rush.
  • Allowing teachers and students to focus on “now” rather than always thinking about the next thing.
  • Removing as many things as you can from school calendars that have nothing to do withimproving learning.
  • Being strong in your beliefs when working with parents.
  • Being creative with the timetable – giving yourselves the time to be creative with the timetable – so that time is used effectively.
  • Fostering a culture in the school of making explicit connections between time and improving learning.
  • Making it unacceptable for school leadership to allow themselves to lose touch with how teachers use their time compared with how they use theirs.
  • Looking for opportunities to free up time, not fill up time.
  • Working continuously with school boards to help them see the difference between positive andnegative approaches to time.
  • Honesty about the role time plays in putting peer-to-peer relationships under strain.
  • Practical ways to remove administrative tasks that don’t improve learning.
  • Creative strategies to encourage a general sense of “slowing down”.
  • Recognising and celebrating mindfulness and its impact on behavior and learning.

 

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Meetings are a big part of what teachers do. We have all sorts of different meetings which serve different purposes and for different reasons. Every school I have worked at meetings are a point of contention. No one really likes to meet, let’s face it. We would all rather get on with it. Yet, we also understand that meetings are very important as it paves the way for being as purposeful and meaningful as possible in the way we teach and the way students learn.

A normal week for me equates to around 6 hours of meetings. That is an awful lot of time. And this doesn’t include the time I spend on preparing before and the follow-up after a meeting. I am sure this is very similar for most people in a school.

This is a typical week of meetings for me…..

Monday: 2 periods numeracy planning meeting (every two weeks)

Tuesday: 1 hour (whole/primary school) meeting

Wednesday: No meetings

Thursday: 1 hour primary school meeting, 2 periods UOI/literacy planning meeting

Friday: 1 hour Grade level leaders meeting

Without opening Pandora’s box about meetings, I would like us to think a bit more about ‘who’ attends a meeting and why are they needed in the first place.

Sam always talks about the fact if people leave without a ‘job’ to do from a meeting, then they should not even be there. I wholeheartedly agree with him. This doesn’t mean a meeting is designed to load up our ‘to do’ list, it just means that a good meeting will have clear action items to move planning from discussion to tangible action. This will drive the meeting forward till the next time you meet again.

Support teachers are very important complimentary pieces to support teachers and students alike. They have been hired for their unique skills and knowledge in their specialized area. They are teachers too, just like homeroom teachers. Yes, their role is vastly different, but they contribute in ways homeroom teachers can’t. As a school we have worked very hard on pulling them into the learning and benefit students in whatever way they need.

We had a Grade 5 meeting on Thursday and had a language-integration teacher, gifted and talented teacher and an IT integration teacher. It is great to have extra voices, ideas and perspectives planning together, but only when these teachers are naturally integrating with the learning and pushing-in. It is a welcome sign that these teachers want to know what is happening in the classroom. But, if they are not integrating or on the agenda, then they don’t need to be at the meeting. As a grade 5 team, we have realized that we achieve so much more, when the conversations are focused and pointed. Too many people in the room can sometimes get in the way, as most people feel the need to talk. And as teachers, we all like being heard. Right?

So my question is, “How can you tell support teachers, that they are are not needed at a meeting without making them feel unwanted or not valued?”

There seems to always be a huge chasm between homeroom and support teachers in terms of validating one’s position, role and how best to collaborate. The biggest thing here, is that no matter what position or role you have in a school, if you are not impacting student learning, then please understand that you may not be required at that particular meeting. Don’t see it as a bad thing, see it as an opportunity to use that time and put into another area in the school that will be of benefit. And the best way to know what a grade or class is doing, is not through a meeting, but spending that meeting time in a classroom instead.

We all attend a lot of meetings and often over-meet in schools. Time is precious. Whether you are a support teacher, specialist, homeroom teacher, whatever, always ask yourself, ‘Am I really needed here?’ And if the answer is yes, then stay and contribute, if it is no, then leave. And know that it is ok. People will respect you for it. We all need to rise above this idea of, if I’m in a meeting I am being productive and useful. Why do we take things so personally? It’s a very sensitive topic of conversation.

Do you have the guts to challenge if people really need to be in a meeting and do they have the wisdom to acknowledge it themselves?

How do you manage this at your school?

 

 

MYP

What was your day like today?
How are you feeling?
Why are you feeling like that?
How will or did today help you for your inquiry (Pecha Kucha) or presentation for Friday?

THE ART OR CONCISE PRESENTATIONS

Go here to WATCH a Pecha Kucha: http://www.pechakucha.org/presentations/mindfulness-in-education

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The above students are the ones that have not logged into or read any books on RAZ KIDS. There seems to also be a very obvious connection too. The same students are the ones that do not go to the blog. What does this mean? It means the students who really should be reading this post – aren’t.

If you are reading this, it means you are consistently on the blog and you are consistently reading. This is a sign of a good learner.

Why do you always step up and do the things that you know will help you be a better learner? What advice do you have for your more apathetic classmates?

Jai

Jai has been a real shining light this year. He is always on the blog where he contributes and shares ideas. During discussions he gives great insight by sharing his thoughts, this always lifts the conversation to another level. How do you see Jai? What do you learn from Jai?

Sarah

Sarah C

What can I say about Sarah? Well, a lot of things actually. For me, I have seen Sarah ‘bloom’ and ‘flourish’ into a mature and intelligent person. She has grown so much this year, more than she may realize. Why is this? Sarah has always been able to get on with things. She has shown a lot of responsibility and Independence. I can always count on her to do things on time and to the best of her ability.

As her class teacher I have been so proud of the way she has stepped up to challenges and pushed herself to be more comfortable with things. Her natural disposition is to be shy. Which is part of who she is. This is not a bad thing. It actually makes her even more unique and special. What she focused on in the Exhibition was highly personal and true to who she is and how she has grown this year.

Sarah, you have been a pleasure to be around. You have made my year enjoyable and I know you are going to continue to fly and really find your voice.

riko

Please click on this link: http://riko2013.wordpress.com

This is what everyone’s Eportfolio should be like and look like at this stage of the year.

Does yours look like that? Why is that?

Why do you think Riko’s looks like this? What attitudes is she demonstrating?

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