Guest Post by Victoria Thompson

I am very big on self-care and mindfulness. I have given seminars and sessions on educator self-care in the age of COVID, as well as how to protect our peace and empathy. I have written an entire blog series on exploitation of empathy in professions dominated by women (particularly, teaching). So, I LOVE mindfulness, self-care, and wellbeing and am not necessarily new at it. However, if I am to be completely honest for a moment, “mindfulness” and “wellness” have become words that annoy me. Not necessarily because I do not believe in them but because typically when I am asked to practice “mindfulness” or “wellness” it’s usually in a seminar or a professional development where I get talked at for a long time and I do not actually get to practice these principles. To me, “mindfulness” and “wellness” have almost become buzzwords for educators and administrators: we are constantly told to practice it, but we seldom have the tools to actually do it.

Let me know if this rings a bell: your administration asks for you all to attend a staff meeting or professional development around mindfulness. When you go in, you are instructed to think about what mindfulness is to you, how to practice mindfulness, and how to sustain self-care. Little to no time has been spent giving you the opportunity to actually practice mindfulness—it’s just a lot of words with your colleagues in a large auditorium or in a Zoom room.

This has happened to me entirely too many times and I am a little bit burnt out on it. As much as I appreciate the information and the wisdom in the room from wellness and mindfulness experts, I would rather myself and my fellow educators utilize mindfulness time to actually practice mindfulness and self-care. For example, I have a makerspace in my home that has clay, LEGOs, canvasses, and other artistic materials where I go for screen breaks and just spend time creating and practicing self-care. I encourage educators and students that I work with to have opportunities to also spend time away from screens, and we help to create routines to establish that. I believe that would be more beneficial than a PowerPoint presentation on what mindfulness is.

This is where the Microsoft Educator Center comes in to help. Headspace, an app centered on wellness, wellbeing, and mindfulness for educators, has collaborated with Microsoft in this very neat course to inform, create, and curate an introduction to help integrate mindfulness into the classroom.

I admittedly haven’t used Headspace much at all, but I was really interested in the course due to these key four questions that it addresses: 

  1. Why mindfulness? 
  2. Educators self-care 
  3. Pre-teaching tips 
  4. Videos for students

This course also provides suggestions on how to integrate mindfulness into the classroom through the use of one of my favorite tools—VIDEOS! I do love courses where I get to read and digest, but the integration of videos is great as well. Plus, it is structured around the above four topics.

With wellness, self-care, and mindfulness being hot topics for schools and school districts right now (especially regarding taking care of educators and students), be sure to check this one out!

About the Author

Victoria Thompson is a STEM Integration Transformation Coach at Technology Access Foundation–a nonprofit leader redefining STEM education in public schools–a consultant for Ignite EdTech, and a learning specialist for NCCE. She has been in education for five years and began her journey teaching fifth and sixth grade math and science in Summerville, SC. After completing her masters degree in curriculum and instruction she moved to the Seattle, WA area in 2018, where her career has pivoted to focusing on STEM integration in schools, K-12 mathematics instruction with research on decolonizing mathematics curriculum for teachers and learners, creating inclusive math environments, and using technology to bridge equity gaps in math education. She has presented at ISTE, ImpactEducation, CUE, and DigCitSummit on topics such as creating inclusive math classrooms, culturally responsive STEM education, and equity in educational technology.

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