Mindfulness in June

The last month of school, whether May, June or December, depending where you live in the world, is super exciting! There are many great activities, excursions, and of course, farewell assemblies or graduations. In many ways it is one of my favourite times. I love attending graduations and witnessing the success and pride of our students as they celebrate.

But the last month of school can also be super stressful.  The stack of tasks to complete is overwhelming since everything needs to be done by the end of the month before vacation begins. Students can become anxious knowing that school will not be in session for a couple of months. There are endings for many that engender feelings of sadness.

All this doesn’t even include the elements of uncertainty that may be in play, like the current situation in Ontario with labour negotiations.  And sleep and exercise can go by the wayside.

For me, this time of year can lead to less mindfulness than I like.  When you’re tired and with a massive to do list, it can be easy to react quickly or even become irritated or annoyed. My communication with others is so important and can sometimes be misinterpreted, so mindfulness is essential. I want to be mindful, always. I want to take the time to think, to react and to respond. I remind myself each morning that my behaviour matters and can have a huge impact on my relationships and trust. And without these two things, I cannot do my job effectively.

How am I mindful? Reflect. Inhale. Think. Exhale. Vow to do better. Ask for support. Breathe.


Living in the Tension

Ambiguity. Uncertainty. Not knowing.

Image courtesy of Pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All these arrive in times of transition. Whether we await the appointment of a new leader, or we wonder what a major decision and its effect will be on our day to day work, we feel that tension as we are suspended between what was and what will be.

Sometimes these feelings arise when we wonder about next steps or what our personal or work lives will look like in a week, a month or in a year.

Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher, said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Living in that tension can be very difficult for some.  In an effort to feel better, individual leaders can push more strongly for action – any action – or move to a fixed problem solving orientation. While there might not seem to be an issue with that on the surface, quick action or decision making can lead to unintended precedents which may cause damage in the long run.

An effective leader is comfortable with uncertainty. She reacts calmly and carefully because she knows that it is part of life. Such leaders can continue to focus on what’s important and necessary while not knowing all the answers or how things may turn out.  Instead of focussing on what we don’t know, we focus on what we do know. Our certainty as school and classroom leaders can be found in what we value and believe.

What and who do you value as a school leader? What is important to preserve in these times of tension? Let that be your certainty.

Let’s Have Fun!

Kids running. Kids rolling. Kids playing. Kids laughing.

Photo Credit: 99%: "Meh" via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 99%: “Meh” via Compfight cc

I love it!  I believe in being active and having fun. Trust me, I don’t just cycle for hours to get the exercise. It’s great being out on the road in the fresh air, pavement whizzing by. One of my favourite times of the year is the first ride in the spring.  I see the leaves unfurling and the new growth peeking out from the brown grasses, and the smell in the air is wonderful.

In Canada, kids aren’t nearly as active as they should or could be.  The recommendation from the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines is 60 minutes of vigorous activity a day. Only 7% (yes, you read that right, 7) are doing that.  The news isn’t all bad, because about 75% of youth are active that long three times a week. Still, when you think about all the sitting that’s going on, especially in cars as most kids are driven from place to place these days, we’ve got some work to do.

Adults have a big role to play and modelling is one way to do it. I have to check in on my activity daily. Recently, I bought an activity tracker and realized how much I sit during the day.  It’s so easy to be sedentary, especially in all day meetings. Running, swimming and cycling are great, but if I spend the rest of the day sitting, it doesn’t help me that much. I’ve been making an effort to get up and walk around or go for quick walks at lunch.

Last Wednesday, I participated in the Run4Change at Bayfront Park in Hamilton with over 10 000 students and staff. It was fantastic! Mike Desjardins, our district community engagement guru, tweeted:

Kids from ages 6 to 18 were active in the park before and after the run, throwing footballs or frisbees and running around with their friends. I walked the 5K route with Mike and being around all those kids as they ran, walked or even strolled made us happy.

It was the culmination of a year of physical activity in partnership with Start2Finish, a non profit who is working to eradicate child poverty. My wish is that the students at the event had so much fun that it sparked some interest in continuing that activity. I have a friend who goes out for walks and bike rides with his kids, and they love it, even when they grumble at the beginning. Maybe all the kids from the Run4Change went home and talked about how great it was and inspired the whole family to get active. I really hope so.