Like many teachers, my summer reading list had both personal and professional titles on it. One of the professional books on my list was Well Aware: Developing Resilient, Active, and Flourishing Students by Patrick Carney. I was particularly interested in learning more about mindfulness strategies and how they can build resilience for students. Susan Kaiser Greenland (2011) has defined mindfulness as “the capacity to be alert and open to life experience as it occurs in a non-reactive, resilient, and compassionate way.” There is mounting evidence that mindfulness strategies can reduce stress, develop attention, and increase resilience.
At Eastview, we practiced mindful breathing as a staff during a Professional Activity Day workshop on September 4. This involved putting both feet on the floor, resting our hands in our laps, closing our eyes, and focusing our breathing, using it as an anchor. We were guided through an exercise thinking about a happy occasion in our career, a time when we had really made a difference for a student. We then shifted our thinking to a bad day, a frustrating time, and we contrasted how our thinking in the two different scenarios affected our physiology. In both cases, by focusing on our breathing we were able to keep ourselves calm and alert and the reflection on two such different teaching experiences helped us to keep balance and perspective.
The next step in my exploration into mindfulness strategies is going to involve art therapy. It seems you cannot even walk into a book store these days without seeing an assortment of colouring books – for adults! The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons, for example, describes itself as anti-stress art therapy for busy people. When I recently asked a sales associate at Chapters about their colouring book selection she explained that she mostly sees them going to teens and tweens, and that the 5 x 7 “travel” size is popular as it fits easily into most handbags for colouring on-the-go. When I visited a Barnes and Noble store in August I also inquired about their stock of colouring books was told that adult women were their primary consumer demographic. So I made the leap and picked up a couple.
I have now launched my foray into the world of art therapy with two colouring books – one feline-themed and the other featuring intricate nature patterns. A friend treated me to a set of water colour pencils that I’m having fun experimenting with as well. They write both dry and with water for varying effects and colours can be blended together to produce a wide range of tones and shades. The particular colouring books I have encourage you to enjoy using a variety of mediums – from markers to watercolours and from coloured pencils to gel pens and crayons.
Check out this interesting article about adult colouring books with a local link to Simcoe County:
I encourage parents and students alike to take a few moments out of your hectic schedule to reset and refresh with some mindful colouring. Let’s relive the days when our biggest concern was staying within the lines!