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A breathing meditation from Tchich Nhat Hanh

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A mindfulness practice from Tchich Nhat Hanh

 (This is taken from his book “Silence” ISBN 978-1-84604-434-2)

Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in

Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out

(In. Out.)

 

Breathing in, my breath grows deep

Breathing out, my breath grows slow

(Deep. Slow.)

 

Breathing I am aware of my body,

Breathing out I calm my body

(Aware of body. Calming.)

 

Breathing in, I smile

Breathing out, I release

(Smile. Release.)

 

Breathing in I dwell in the present moment

Breathing out I enjoy the present moment

(Dwell. Enjoy.)

 

 Tchich Nhat Hanh’s instructions:

With the in breath say the first of the two lines quietly to yourself and with the out breath say the second. With the following in and out breaths you can say just the key words.

My brief thoughts:

You could say this as a short drop in type practice and simply say the whole thing once through. Once you have memorised the 10 lines you could do this at any place and at any time of day.

Alternatively, you could use this as the basis of a sitting practice, taking your time over each couplet. I have done this in recent weeks and added in a body scan after I have said the 3rd couplet. I love the way the ideas start from the breath and build out to the whole of the present moment as an all encompassing idea and event. I also love the happiness in this practice. There is a deepness to it, but not one that comes to you overburdened with seriousness and intellectual striving. Instead he introduces you lightly and kindly to your present moment, undisturbed by thoughts of past or future.

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Mindfulness-Quietening the Mind week 1

Firstly thank you so much forgiving up your own precious time to come along this evening. I really appreciate it. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by the group facebook page or by email at philipanderson57121@gmail.com

Here is a copy of the daily practice record sheet. Practice Record sheet

I am linking two body scans practices. I would recommend trying both and then sticking with the one that ‘suits you’ for the week.

First is a 30 minute body scan from John Kabat Zinn. The first few minutes are an introduction, so the practice itself i probably a bit shorter than that. But the introduction is an excellent description of the approach and attitude that best helps doing this practice.

If that is too long here is a slightly shorter one (15 minutes) from Mark Williams

 

Also I suggested taking a normal daily activity (like brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, putting on socks or similar) and trying to do it mindfully. This is designed to help us live less of our life on autopilot.

Finally this is a link to the Tchich Nhat Hanh practice I shared if you have misplaced your sheet or just want a digital copy of it.

Good luck with your practices and I hope to see you next week.


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Mindful Walking

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I never got mindful walking. I was always a sit down on my cushion meditator, breathing in breathing out, getting distracted, returning to the breath and getting distracted again meditator. Then 10 days ago in a room with a view of the Nantlle Ridge Mountains in Snowdonia I found mindful walking to work.  Maybe it was Susanna’s wonderful guidance, maybe it was me settling the balance between my faith and doubt in having another go at it, maybe it was the supportive caring company – all of us trying together squeezed in to the room, maybe it was the cold floor keeping me alert to my toes and feet through my thin socks. Whatever it was, I got it.

And now I can feel it feedings in to my other practice. Walking flows more effortlessly into the next part of the day. When I finish a sitting practice, I stand up and move into the next room to carry on the day. It can feel like I am concluding the spiritual part of the day and then moving back into normal life. Walking more naturally avoids that threshold crossing; it is simpler just to carry on. Therefore mindful walking can help me spend more of the day mindfully. As I queue I can be aware of the feeling of my feet, as I walk from car to front door I can do so noticing the feeling of my feet on the ground beneath me.

And so I hope that now when I get up from my sitting meditation I can take some of it with me. Sat at my desk having just pressed send or save, I might feel my outbreath for a minute and when my mind wanders I might gently and precisely bring it back again.


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Being in the bath

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I much prefer taking a shower to a bath. I have never voted Conservative. But I would like to defend a Conservative MP from the criticism he is receiving for spending an hour a day in the bath. The Guardian is making disparaging remarks about men in their 50’s being naked and ridiculing this habit. Whilst The Mirror is worried about his £5 a month water bill. Both articles sneer at a public servant regularly taking some time out of his day to step back and look for the interconnections and wholeness of his life and job. The BBC at least gives Tim Loughton the chance to put his side of the story.

Finding and fitting in the time to pause and think, to reflect and become aware of ourselves, our body and mind and our surroundings will enable us to become better at decision making and concentrating for the rest of the day. As Thich Nhat Hanh says “Doing nothing is doing something.” The belief that Tim Loughton is wasting time and indulging himself because he is not rushing around all helter-skelter is the attitude  that commits us all to live at break neck speed without a thought for our mental welfare. Until we learn to value being as much as doing the mental health crises will continue to be unsolvable. Scoffing at someone for doing so is exactly the same line of thought that condemns us all to be mute when we should be discussing mental health.

So let us please value and encourage more people to stop and be for a period of time every day. I am delighted that one of our MPs is leading by example by lying in his bath every morning.

 


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My #tlt17 takeaway

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Yesterday was my second visit to Southampton for David Fawcett and Jenn Ludgate’s TLT or teaching and learning takeover. (here’s my write up of the 2016 one). More than a few colleagues (and family members) couldn’t work out why I would want to go. You spend so much time moaning about feeling exhausted and wrung through by your job. It makes no sense and seems hypocritical that you should want to give up your Saturday to go and hear people talk about teaching.

Well yes it does. So here are the main reasons I wanted to go again

  1. Last year was great and I picked up something from that day I now use in EVERY lesson I teach. No other CPD in 20+ years has ever done that.
  2. Through all the hard times my career, even when it was really tough and I could hardly walk out through my own front door to go to work, actually being in the classroom has always remained a joy; a sanctuary even. Now if you imagine the feeling you get in those good lessons, THAT was the vibe at Southampton university yesterday. People teaching because they wanted to share. And people listening and thinking because they wanted to learn.
  3. I met up with some friends from my own school. Sharing this love of teaching with them was a real luxury we can take back to our staff room.
  4. The sessions are relevant to me. Picked by teachers, delivered by teachers, with teaching, learning and teaching in mind. Its proper CPD, not forced on you and done to you between a full day’s teaching and full evening’s marking.
  5. Free of the influence of OFSTED, school improvement plans, performance management and unnecessary paperwork.
  6. Free coffee. In fact a free day.

 

Chris Moyse (@ChrisMoyse ) started the whole thing off by reflecting on the legacy we would like to leave. Could we “leave the shirt in a better place than we found it in”? © All Blacks. He asked us not waste the day by letting it become OPD (occasional professional development but instead to make it what the Japanese call ‘kaizen’ or continual small improvements

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My favourite thing he said though was how it was still okay to teach ugly but good lessons. In the hubbub of everyday school lessons I like to think I can always fall back on delivering an ugly but good lesson or two. Mr Moyes also has some seriously good IT presentation skills by which we were able to see on video loops the various painful ways pole vaulters could knock off the bar and injure themselves

I next heard Dawn Cox ( @missdcox ), a head of RE, talk about how she had dropped giving grades as part of her feedback to pupils and how they still longed for them. While I couldn’t possibly agree with her when she said she loved marking books, I did absolutely concur with the general murmuring of agreement as she discussed the ‘utter nonsense that has and still does masquerade as feedback in lessons; marking one exam question and giving it a whole exam grade, asking pupils what they need to do to improve their work, marking/feedback as proof for others to see, and those interminable trackers to show progress. Whilst she quoted Dylan Wiliam and Alfie Kohn on the trouble with feedback and grades I thought one of her own pupils put it best

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Ever since I’ve been in teaching I’ve wondered about the obsession with grades and measurable improvements. Like Dawn’s excellent session (which you can find here) it has always reminded me of Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

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My next session blended excellently with that one. The man himself David Fawcett ( @davidfawcett27 ) was also mainly focussing on feedback. I nearly purred when I saw his opening slide

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David showed how, just because Hattie found it to have a high impact, not all feedback is good feedback. What we should be looking for is a mixture of Robert Bjork’s idea of less input more output and Dylan Wiliam’s of ‘Feedback causing thinking”. Then David suggested one technique I really want to practice when I get back to my classroom. He talked of how he uses his visualiser for not only showing good work and discussing why it is  good, but also for putting an imperfect piece of work under it and asking the class what needs to be done to make it better. I love this. I have never mastered ‘live marking’ as I never get round more than a minority of pupils in my lesson. This idea, if I can get it to work, would it by like a ‘live crib sheet instead’!

I was really looking forward to Mark Enser’s session, because I like his blog a lot www.teachreal.wordpress.com and because he appeared to be the only geography teacher presenting on the day. Hs talked about creating a culture of excellence that doesn’t leave anyone behind. Mark said my favourite thing of the whole day. “We hardly mention the exams to the pupils. We help them make excellent work. They really enjoy producing excellent work.” It’s almost something Pirsig might have written.

I got more Kenzai ideas to go with the visualiser one. Mark talked of how he had used a blog to share posts that more able pupils could be asked to read and discuss. Since I have just revamped my classroom blog only this week (www.geogteacher.wordpress.com) this is fine time to try this strategy. I have already added a tag “Excellent Geography” and shared a possible post all about puffins and global warming. I will also try to get parents to sign up to the blog via email so I can involve them too.

As David’s session overlapped with Dawn’s, so Mark’s snuggled in cosily with David’s. He too talked about using bad exemplars of work to improve learning and how modelling can help a lot along with that. I already do this in parts, but not as explicitly as Mark suggests. There is my third “CPD not OPD” moment.

Session 4  was by Jack Philips ( @Mr_P_Hilips ) and had the best slide of the day

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He was also the third person in the last few months to recommend the book in the middle here. Maybe I should buy it.

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My takeaway from Jack’s enthusiastic vocabulary promotion will be to use some y10 tutor time to promote learning and using new words. I think this might involve prizes and having to have a witness teacher sign for your efforts

Finally we were all back in the big lecture theatre for Jane Ashes ( @lisajsaneashes ). With more than enough enthusiasm and energy to fill the place Lisa reminded us of the important things about the day:

  • Don’t leave the ideas in the room
  • Simple ideas are big enough share the ideas – don’t keep them to yourself
  • Sometimes we see problems as the reason for not doing something. There are many, many people with much bigger problems than us (for which she used her recent Ghana and Nepal experiences to prove)
  • The only way you can avoid any type of criticism is by doing nothing at all

And there we are – a fantastic day. I have new ideas to try those small changes, to keep it CPD and Kaizen. I have got them from wonderful, kind people who gave up their own time to share them with me…

The atmosphere at TLT17 reminded me of the quote John Tomsett uses to close his book “Creating a culture of truly great teaching”. It comes, knowing what I do now of Chris Moyes’ musical taste, from a man he would have greatly admired….

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I don’t know how you do it

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One of the reasons teachers like being teachers is that we think are IT; the bee’s feckin’ knees. I mean all that hard work, those badly behaved children, the night time marking, the government policy changes and mistakes, angry parents, those people saying “I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t do your job”, all the paperwork getting in the way of doing the job, buying resources for your lessons out of your own pocket. Heavens above! Aren’t we just the saints, martyrs and heroes of our town?

Or maybe, just maybe, teachers should stop the self love for a minute and consider the whole school, all the people working there and what they do to earn their pay and to keep the place functioning. Could teachers do these jobs? I’d wager a pound to a button we couldn’t.

Exams officer – What if you entered the wrong code or missed out one student from the list or put in the wrong mark? What is it like getting all those year 11 pupils, maybe 200+ of them, in total silence into the school hall?

Cleaner – You’ve already gone home for tea and marking, but in your absence, out of your sight your room is tidied up. Everyday all those scraps of paper are picked and hoovered up from your classroom floor. And just how do you think those squashed sandwiches from behind the bin disappear by the time you come back the next morning?

Bus Driver – Can you imagine 50 of them after a whole day at school, high on the elixir of 3:15pm and desperate to settle old scores and eat sweets, while you are tying to drive them safely home through town centre traffic?

Canteen worker – Think about that lunchtime rush, the chaos of the queue, children unhappy at their meal options, that tearful little year 7 without enough money and dealing with the snide jokes and complaints.

TA – There you are having to sit one-to-one for a whole hour with that child who hates you and then for the next 60 minutes with an only just arrived in the country , not a word of English pupil. There’s a relationship intensity there teachers at the front of the room rarely experience

Supply teacher – They have to teach the same class without the daily comforts permanent teachers have filled the nest with along the way…. Picking up pieces of lesson instruction while being uncertain of school systems and protocol. On the hoof in front of pupils who see her as less than their real teacher. Working amongst the feeling of abandonment.

Receptionist –  On the front line and exposed to angry parents, lost pupils, urgent messages and favours for disorganised teachers

Head’s PA – Probably the biggest and best secret keeper in the building. All those things to organise and organise calmly. Oh,  and running the school when the head is away for the day at a meeting.

Attendance officer – Having to suggest to parents (the ones who probably place little value on school and school workers) face to face that maybe, just maybe,  they could raise their child in a different (don’t mention better) manner.

Site manager – How do you keep the buildings upright and safe on sod all budget?

NQT – Do you remember what it was like to start teaching? Planning ALL those lessons for the first time? Teaching 14 completely new classes whom you have never met before?

Headteacher (or whatever they’re called now)  – People who on work more hours than you do. Who have to go to ALL those evening events and meetings. People who have the spotlight of all parts of the inspections and all parts of the exam results focussed brightly on them.

So why don’t we get off our high horse a for a while and appreciate or least notice that others are also doing a hard job. Maybe we could begin by not using phrases like “teachers and support staff” or defining jobs at school as teachers and non-teachers. That would be a start.