How practicing mindfulness benefits student and teacher health

While practicing mindfulness, children learn how to build self-awareness and compassion for themselves as well as others around them. Practicing compassion and caring for others is key to building better relationships and emotional well-being. During this process, children also learn to cope with stressful situations, regulate emotions, relax and focus better so they can concentrate more easily. Learning to still one’s mind and breathe correctly can help to manage anxiety and sleep problems. Mindfulness not only decreases stress, but also increases happiness!

Practicing mindfulness has benefits on both psychological and physical health. Some benefits include:

  • decreased anxiety and depression
  • increased coping skills
  • improved learning ability and memory
  • improved self-esteem
  • improved immune function
  • reduced physical stress responses
  • better sleep

Along with these health benefits, mindfulness also helps us as teachers by:

  • Helping us understand our own emotions it’s hard to consciously shift our focus from what needs to be done to what’s happening in the present moment. However, when we’re wrapped up in the anxiety of “what comes next,” we are more prone to reacting to disruptive behaviour, rather than realizing that that student may just need help self-regulating. Mindfulness can help us recognize our emotional patterns and regulate how we behave and respond to situations.
  • Helping us set up a better learning environment for our students – Mindfulness helps us realize that we can can control how we communicate and behave. That we can set and reinforce expectations and limits. It is important that we control the physical classroom space so it supports learning.
  • Helping us strengthen our relationship with students giving students our full mindful attention, even for a short period of class time, gives them the message “I see you.” Making connections with students lets them know that we value them as individuals.

Teaching children mindfulness gives them the ability to adjust and deal with the stressors they can often face every day. Teacher stress can also be a problem for students – stress impacts learning and hurts the quality of education in the classroom. Students learn better in more positive, less stressful environments – that’s why mindfulness is so important for everyone.


I’ll leave you with this idea (brought to you by an anonymous source): “Mindfulness matters because what we pay attention to shapes our brain.”


Next up: Creating a mindful space in your classroom

Until then,



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What is mindfulness?

Essentially, mindfulness is being present in the moment by acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts in that moment. Mindfulness does not mean emptying your brain – rather, it helps you become an observer of your thoughts without getting stuck in them. We can practice mindfulness by maintaining an awareness of our  feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment. Paying attention on purpose, without judgement, helps us become aware of what’s going on in our heads and bodies, which leads to self-discovery and self-acceptance. 

So why should I practice mindfulness in my classroom?

There is no special equipment or training needed.

Practicing mindfulness can teach students essential skills to cope with anxiety and stress, while also helping them develop self-regulation habits; this is especially effective in schools/classrooms that have students affected by trauma. 

By this time, most of us know that it’s hard to get a lesson across if students aren’t ready to learn. Imagine starting each day with a two-minute mindful breathing session – how would that benefit you? Well, controlled breathing calms the nervous system, which tells the brain that “all is well”, essentially putting one in a state of relaxation. Teaching students to pay attention to their breathing also teaches them to pay attention to other things. So, if students are calm and relaxed in the classroom, there’s a much better chance your lesson will go smoothly.

Mindfulness benefits not only the student, but the teacher and school as well. By practicing mindfulness, students learn social-emotional and self-regulation skills, among other things. Teaching students to be present in the present moment, to acknowledge and accept their thoughts/feelings while allowing them to be still and feel silence is very empowering. Accepting the present moment as it is, without wanting to change it is something most adults struggle to do; imagine what could happen if students practiced it daily.

Here’s a video I found explaining the power of mindful-thinking through aboriginal perspective. Hope you enjoy!

Until next time,


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Complex Trauma

What is complex trauma?

Complex trauma is early on repeated experiences in development. This trauma is a presents itself as PTSD but may not be as responsive to typical treatment for PTSD because it is very difficult to diagnosed a child with complex trauma.

Why is it’s significance?

Complex trauma Inhibits the neural system’s ability to return to normal but changes the system to appear like one that is always anticipating or responding to trauma.

Symptoms (often times occurs when a child is anticipating or believe that the trauma is reacuring):

-Poor concentration

-Poor attention

-Poor judgement

-Highly Reactive

-Responds to threat if not present

-Fight, flight, freeze

What does fight flight freeze look like?

Fight is seen as the aggressive reaction where the child may physically, and or verbally lash out.

Flight can present itself as a child fleeing a situation.

Freeze is often shown by the child not speaking, or moving. A child may be moving from shaking, crying, irregularly breathing but will not move places.

Effective treatment:

-Day to day collaboration with adults present in child’s life

-Preventative programs for parents who are at risk of not being able to provide for their child

-Trauma focused therapies (here is a link to distinguish the purpose of each trauma focused therapy: )

-Art therapy


Things that can be done as an educator:

-Recognize when a child is experiencing symptoms of trauma, and respond compassionately

-Create a routine classroom with predictable transitions

-Be cautious of what the trauma comes from and adapt your practice (ex: be cautious of discussing certain topics, consider rules of physical boundaries in classroom like asking before giving a friend a hug).

-Have a safety plan for the child (ex: a safe space for the child to go through when experiencing symptoms)

-Take care of yourself, and remember there are people to support you in your school!



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Growth Mindset… an introduction

our favourite term from 4th year, no?

obviously! and you know… I kind of groaned when I figured out that term applied to my kids. We had it drilled into our pre-service teacher brains last year, and now it comes full circle for me!

That aha moment took me by surprise, and even moreso when Growth Mindset came into the picture (thank you to Mary-Lynn who said the term in the hallway the other week!). I’m really excited though. My kids I can already tell will benefit from positive implementation of growth mindset work.

Here’s a video you may or may not have seen, it’s by Carole Dweck on TEDtalk. I encourage you to watch it, its about 9 minutes long.

Building that safe classroom environment is pretty key in helping students feel that they are good to express their ideas. But sometimes, I think knowing your students and what they can do/like to do is also important. This will help us see how they can best express themselves.

My class is boisterous, loud, energetic and very funny. I know I have my hands full. I really want to work on bringing them out of their shells and finding the things that help them express themselves. I want them to see that there are more to lessons than worksheets, that no- not everything needs to be perfect, and that yes- that was SUCH a great idea- let’s explore it more! I think honestly sometimes it takes being a positive influence/leader in their lives for them to hear they can totally do something, when they felt before they could not.

You know, fostering growth mindset is not easy. in fact, it still confuses me a bit. I want to bring in this article we were given last year in Paige’s class. 

What are some tools you’ve used to foster Growth Mindset in the classroom? What are some that you’ve seen been used effectively? Please do share them!

Next up: I really CAN’T DO IT! (yes.. you can!)

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Building Safe Classroom Communities

Thank you to Kathleen, who gave me the great prompt to write more about building safe classrooms for our students… and with our students!

I hope I can explore that more, and please feel free to send some thoughts about ways you see it working well in your classes!

firstly, I feel like this is a really important thing to establish in the first months of school. We may have had experience seeing how teachers did this in our fourth year, so do share any experiences you had, although since we haven’t been in our classes since september this year- it could prove tricky.

Here’s some thoughts I had on this:

  1. be a team leader with your sponsor teacher (and EA if any in the room!). Make sure you are always asking if it’s okay to try new things for your classroom… new ways to arrange the desks… different routines… creating that classroom rule list with the kids. Having a good relationship with the other teacher mentors in the room will help you establish a safe place for you to grow as a teacher. We are guests in their classroom, and if you’re lucky enough- by the end of our time in May we could be considered co-teaching with them!
  2. build relationships with your students. one thing that stuck with me from my supervisor from last year was to spend 2 minutes with students who seem to have behaviour challenges per day. doesn’t mean it should be 2 minutes full on, it could be split up during the day. I took that in to account, and have practised it even this year with kids at my childcare job. Any child would love this. Ask them what they’re having for snack/lunch. Spend time shoulder to shoulder during work time and make conversation with them about their work- ask questions, get to know them as a learner. These connections we make with our students will go so far in having them understand you care about them in many different ways, not just how they’ve done on their work. Another thing I saw my sponsor teacher do with my grade 2/3’s is write a totally misspelled/grammatically wrong sentence on the board. She pretended like she was done, and the students told her NO! There’s a mistake! And she had them ‘help’ her figure out the mistakes and what to put instead. It was hilarious, the kids completely ate it up and everyone was laughing and having such a good time. it was so special to see her connecting with her kids in such a silly way, that really had them all interested in helping fix the mistakes! (remember how i said they had such bright ideas in my last post? they truly are bright students!)
  3. allow students to work together on different tasks. my current supervisor gave me some great tips on how to get students to work on different lessons. Does it have to be worksheet after worksheet? no. and it really should be minimal worksheets (that’s another topic altogether..) Here is one thing he said would be great to intertwine a PBL lesson while outside. You pose a question to students, or have them reflect about something- and they would walk through the forest/playground/wherever you were in pairs, having walking shoulder to shoulder conferences. Students can help eachother gather ideas and express them in the partners they are comfortable with. Utilize the friend groups they already have. Encourage them to expand that network and pair them with people they may not go with, too.

Now, we can talk about how to facilitate a safe learning space to branch off of those ideas above.

Something i’m passionate about is Indigenous Inclusion, and ways to implement that into our teaching life. Have you spent much time looking at the First People’s Principles of Learning? I’m going to link it here×17.pdf. I really believe there’s a lot to learn here. Take some time to see how it can link to building a classroom community with holistic values.

Another resource is the Six Cedars. though it is not written by an indigenous author, it is still ok to use for many purposes in the classroom. I used it for a self reflection piece with my K’s last year. It can absolutely be used to build classroom rules/guidelines for learning.

Next up: growth mindset and inspiring students

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Formative Assessment and its Implementation

In order to work on my understanding of formative assessment, I decided that a good place to start is with what I already know in order to see where I can go from there.

To that end, here are some things I know already about the topic:

  1. Formative Assessment describes a method of assessing student work with the goal of ongoing improvement in mind.
  2. It is meant to be a long term process, rather than a single response at the end of a unit
  3. It is closely tied to the backwards design for learning in which units and lessons are designed from the final goal back to the start with the intention of leading students clearly to their goals.
  4. Formative assessment should involve reporting to students’ parents in order to receive help from them in encouraging their children towards the students’ goals
  5. Formative Assessment can appear in many different forms
    1. It can be in the form of an oral conversation with the student, that is later recorded.
    2. It can be in the form of comments made on an assignment returned with instructions for revisions, or additional work to aid in practice

I am thankful to have had so much time in the last few years to focus on and break down the basic aspects of Formative Assessment. However, I am fully aware that there are many places where I want to increase my understanding. My last point about the many forms of Formative Assessment is specifically a place where I will focus.

For now, I will bring in some learning from  the book “Outstanding Formative Assessment” by Shirley Clarke.

The first section of the book focuses on the setting up of a learning environment in which formative assessment will be effective. Clarke suggests investing time into fostering a space in which students are encouraged to maintain a growth mindset. This works in a loop with formative assessment, and is the student’s main way to cooperate in the improvement of their learning. If a student is open and ready to learn, then the teacher’s suggestions and feedback will be more readily received.

Additionally Clarke suggests involving students in the planning phase of instruction. This includes both the content of units as well as, importantly, the creation of criteria. Student involvement in the creation of criteria is essential to the learning of students after they have completed assignments. If students are fully aware, before beginning their work, of exactly what is expected of them, then they are more open to constructive feedback after completion. They can more clearly see in conjunction with their criteria, where they can improve and move forward with their learning.


So that is some base information on what Formative Assessment is. In the next post I will discuss the difference between Assessment FOR Learning and Assessment OF Learning.

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