Can mindfulness make you a better teacher?  An interview with Carla Waites

Yes.  Mindfulness has made me a better teacher.  I hadn't really thought about the benefits of my own mindfulness practice until there was an incident in my college class last March.  Near the end of class, I asked if there were any questions.  A student raised her hand and then become very angry. As she lashed out and got louder and angrier, I thought to myself “She's having a really bad day.  I wonder what’s going on”.  I found myself listening – really listening and responding calmly instead of reacting.    

During my SMART mindfulness training course facilitated by Carla Waites, she told a similar story.  I remember at the time thinking how remarkable her response was so I decided to share more about the benefits of mindfulness by interviewing Carla.

1. Thanks for agreeing to this interview Carla.  Can you start off by introducing yourself?

I am a facilitator for the UBC Faculty of...

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Self-care & life balance as TESOLers: An interview with Liz England

I met Liz England a few years ago at a TESOL Convention.  Liz combines warmth and wisdom gained from an impressive career in the United States and has worked in five continents.  Liz is the author of TESOL Career Path Development - Creating Professional Success - a book I highly recommend.  I wanted to learn more about one of the chapters on Life Balance and find out how it relates to teacher self-care.  Have a read of my interview with Liz below:

1. Liz – first of all, congratulations on your book TESOL Career Path Development – Creating Professional Success. I have read your book and consider it the perfect navigation tool or GPS for all TESOLers at any stage of our career.

Thanks, Patrice, for the opportunity to share some ideas on TESOL career path development!  Your work in teacher self-care is a natural connection for this topic.  It’s a pleasure to be here.  As we all shelter in place now, we have a chance to be together...

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Self-care during the winter: A time to pause?

It’s official. 

I’m sick of winter.

I’m tired of sunless days, endless snow shovelling, frigid temperatures and ongoing sniffles and sneezing.

I think most Canadians are feeling like I do right about now. 

Self-care is always challenging but it’s especially tough during the winter.  All I want to do is be under a blanket, drink tea and watch Netflix.

But is that such a bad thing? 

Years ago, when I worked in the international development field, I met a brilliant, young agronomist from Ethiopia.  We met in February and when I asked him how he was getting through his first Canadian winter, he explained that we were lucky to experience winter because it gave the earth time to rest which resulted in better crops.  He eloquently explained that snow was a blanket from Mother Nature as a way to protect the earth and regulate the temperature of the surface. Also, melting snow filled rivers and lakes.  How could I argue with that?

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HAPPY in Oregon - An example of student & school staff well-being

Great things are happening in the David Douglas School District in Oregon.  Really great things for both students and school staff specifically at Menlo Park Elementary School. 

If you are wondering how a Canadian educator learned about this school in the US, I was the keynote speaker at the recent ORTESOL conference where I spoke about teacher self-care.  When I asked the audience of approximately 100 educators who had a teacher well-being initiative at their school, only ONE teacher raised her hand. A loud gasp from the audience followed! Immediately teachers asked where she worked!

I was curious to learn more about Menlo Park Elementary School so I arranged a phone call with principal Kellie Burkhardt who has been at this school for 6 years.  The school is very diverse - 25 languages are spoken by the student population.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, possible text that says 'Happy Principal's Appreciation Week! Menlo Park is lucky to have Mrs. Burkhardt. Help us celebrate her this week!'

How it started

First of all, the David Douglas School District is committed to employee health and wellness with the goal to create a...

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7 reasons why teacher self-care is not a thing

teacher self-care Nov 20, 2019

Teacher self-care is a thing.  An important thing.

I attended the TESOL Convention earlier this year where I had a conversation with a teacher about the work that I’m doing and the book I wrote about teacher self-care. She had a strange look on her face and said: “teacher self-care is a thing?” I wasn’t surprised when she responded that way because a few years ago, I would have said the same thing.

In 2015, I left classroom teaching after a 20-year career due to professional burn-out. Sadly, self-care was not part of my vocabulary especially during times of excessive stress when I should have been taking care of myself. I had no idea what the signs of burnout were so I’m now on a mission as a teacher self-care crusader and advocate to talk about its importance. I hope that by speaking out, I can help teachers avoid what I went through and sustain their careers.

Why don’t we think teacher self-care is a thing? I believe there are seven reasons...

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Is email your biggest distraction?

If you answered yes, then you are part of a growing group of people that feel email is their single BIGGEST distraction. 

Not only does email impede our productivity, according to Jocelyn K. Glei, author of Unsubscribe – How to kill email anxiety, avoid distractions and get real work done, it also impacts our creativity. 

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky are Google employees and the authors of Make Time - How to Focus on What Matters Every Day. They describe the downside of hopping on the “busy bandwagon” and offer ways to optimize our habits and routines to have more time each day including how to manage email.

Glei believes that we have a love-hate relationship with email because we treat it like a task and not a tool.  For example, if your goal for the day is to get to “inbox zero”, then you are just adding stress to your already busy day. Glei, Knapp & Zeratsky agree that having an empty inbox is unrealistic.

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An unexpected "Canadian gift": First Nations, All Nations, One Nation

The standard protocol for presenting at TESL conferences in Canada is that the presenter receives an honorarium and a card expressing thanks from the organizing committee.  It's a nice gesture and I always appreciate it.   

So when I received the most beautiful bag last week for presenting at the TEAM conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba I was moved when I learned about One Nation Exchange,  my bag, and Angela.

 

First of all, let me start with information about One Nation Exchange (O.N.E.)   It's a not-for-profit organization that promotes unity by creating opportunities for intercultural experiences, training, and employment for women who represent Canada's diverse cultures.

It all started in 2014 in Winnipeg, a city with the highest urban indigenous population in Canada.  That year, the province welcomed the highest recorded number of refugees per capita in the country.

The idea to bring First Nations women and...

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Why I finally told my story of burn-out

 



By the time I saw this quote on social media, it was too late.  I needed this advice at the start of my 20-year teaching career, not when it was over.  I never practiced self-care even when I experienced some major life events.  Self-care was just not part of my vocabulary.

When I left teaching in 2015, I didn't realize at the time that I had actually burned out.  Jokingly, I told my colleagues I was retiring.  To be honest, I felt weak because I couldn't and didn't want to teach any longer but I also felt sad because teaching ESL was a career I had loved.  

Sometime in 2017,  I started to read about teacher stress and burn-out. I had no idea that there was actually a Maslach Teacher Inventory to measure burn-out!  Nor did I know how frequently teachers were leaving the profession. I wasn't alone but I wondered if there was something I could have done differently to avoid burn-out.

When I googled teacher well-being, it lead...

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Can we really reclaim 2 hours a day?

I’m a big fan of The Blue Zones - an organization that helps people live better and longer lives based on research from some of the world’s longest-lived cultures (https://www.bluezones.com/)  Perhaps you're familiar with the founder Dan Buettner’s best-selling 2017 book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World's Happiest People.

When I saw the latest Blue Zones blog post headline Free Up 2 Hours a Day with This Exercise today, it caught my eye. Blog titles are meant to grab our attention, make us stop what we are doing and read. But is this title misleading?  (Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/35yB8Xl)

In my work as a teacher well-being and self-care advocate and writer, the number one reason why teachers tell me they can’t practice self-care is they don’t have time. I was an educator for more than 20 years and never practiced self-care, so I get it. People seem to be busier and more stressed due to growing personal...

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Teacher wellness rooms - timing or trending?

In the past few weeks, I’ve read several articles on social media about teacher wellness or self-care rooms in U.S. schools.

The abundance of these articles makes me wonder whether it’s timing (schools are back in session in North America) or trending.

I wanted to take a deeper dive into teacher wellness rooms to see why schools are jumping on this bandwagon. 

First of all, here is a bit of research on teacher stress as a backgrounder:

- teachers experience as much stress as paramedics and police officers (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald, Taylor & Millet, 2005).

- 80% of Canadian teachers feel their stress levels have increased over the last 5 years (Froese-Germain, 2014).

- students are negatively affected by teacher stress and burn-out (Arens & Morin, 2016)

- the chronic use of empathy and depletion of emotional resources are strongly associated with emotional exhaustion and/or professional burnout for teachers (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001).

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