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Business Surviving the Classroom


By: Brendan Zischke •  3 years ago •  

Considering that education is a foundation for the success of the next generation of adults it represents an enormous opportunity for coaches to help. As a coach wanting to work within the education industry there are a few key things to realise.

Did you know that Principals experience symptoms of stress 1.7 times higher than the general population? According to a recent wellbeing index, Teachers are reporting the highest level of occupational stress in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States than any other industry. Students are also affected with one in four Australian students currently having a mental health condition.

My experience with principals and teachers is that they are very passionate about education and care for the welfare of their staff and students. This places an enormous pressure on their mindset. So, as a coach reading this, there are three main areas which you can implement to create a significant improvement.

Principals need to learn how to “switch off.”

From the moment, they arrive at work to the moment they leave they are “on.” Meditation and mindfulness need to be taught.

When speaking with staff, explain that meditation and mindfulness are the same thing and that a consistent daily approach is vital. First of all, meditation is simply the formal practice of mindfulness.

“But I don’t have the time to mediate or be mindful!”

This is a common statement I hear when presenting to staff. As a coach, you need to be able to articulate just how easy, simple and beneficial this practice is. How it will make them feel better and save them time.

A good place to begin is by outlining the benefits:

  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Improves cognition – more efficient use of time
  • Increases your ability to focus and
  • Boosts your immune system

What is meditation/mindfulness then?

A common demonstration you can implement is a large glass jar filled with water and a handful of clean sand. Explain that the sand represents thoughts, feelings and actions. At the beginning of the day, the crystal-clear water represents a mind that is calm and focused.

When tipped upside down or sideways the water becomes cloudy. There is NOTHING you can do to make the sand go to the bottom.

The more you fight it by trying to manipulate the sand, the more the cloudy water remains. When this happens, we tend to fight more and we cannot see things and act with a clear mind.

I then put the jar down. You see the sand remains, but by simply letting the mind be and returning to what we are doing in the moment with our fullest attention – the mind returns to its natural state.

This then produces the benefits above:

This is a skill. As a coach, this is something that all education staff need to practice daily. It is like being at the gym.

Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but with each practice, the exercise becomes easier and your mind will be stronger.

Your ability to be mindful will increase naturally.

Here is what I recommend you use to help people start:

  1. Download Headspace and complete the first 10 sessions – not only will you experience what mindfulness is you will learn further what it is
  2. Practice Active Listening – this means giving the person your full attention – without being on your phone, watching the TV or any other irrelevant distraction
  3. Remember that the goal of mindfulness is not to get rid of any particular thought or emotion – that just places more attention and resistance on them, simply let them be whilst directing your attention elsewhere. With practice, this will become easier
  4. Start your day with a mindfulness habit – I like to have a mindful shower – listening to the sound of the water with my fullest attention
  5. Take time during your teaching day to bring about an attitude of mindfulness – you can even do this by simply observing your breath for one minute. This means that as a principal do not feel guilty for closing your door for 10 minutes! As a teacher on your lunch break find a quiet place, I often encourage teachers to put their headphones in and sunglasses whilst meditating at their desk.

By teaching Principals, teachers, and students about the techniques and benefits of mindfulness they will quickly see an improvement in their ability to survive the classroom. Let’s move on to Survival Tip number 2.

Sleep is Essential

Principals, teachers and students all need to learn effective practices which improve the quality and restorative benefits of sleep. As a coach, the first thing which I recommend is conducting a very simple sleep audit.

For example,

Rate your current average night’s sleep from 1-10. With a 1 being little to no sleep. With a 10 being falling asleep easily and waking up feeling refreshed.

Once each person has a rating, ask “why is it a…?” How could you make it a 10?”

Through experience I have found that sometimes people can come up with their own solutions.

As a coach, here are two common reasons why people rate their sleep poorly.

An overactive mind makes it difficult to sleep. The good news as a coach is that it is easy to settle.

1. Rumination
This is essentially a mind which is going over and over a particular problem or as simple as thinking about all the work they have to do the next day.

Explain to the person that the mind is like a naughty puppy dog.

Without training it will race, it will cry for attention and the more you give it the more it will demand.

The solution is to ignore it. Place your attention on something else. For example, the sound of your ceiling fan or your breath.

Every time your mind wanders to the problem/ unsettling thoughts return it gently to the point of focus.

The great thing about teaching this practice is that the more you use it at night the easier this will also become to do during the day.

It is important to explain that caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours: 140mg’s of caffeine drunk at 10AM (represented by a medium latte) will remain in your system much longer – by the time you go to bed at 10pm you will still have 35mg’s of caffeine in your system.

2. Caffeine and the education industry seem to go together. Students are also buying stimulant drinks and having the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee per day, often before their first class. This is a problem as it effects sleep.

Encourage a gradual reduction to one small cup per day in the morning. This will improve sleep quality whilst still allowing for the enjoyment of their favourite drink.

As sleep improves people will quickly see an increased ability to survive the classroom. Let’s move onto our final step.

3. Break time needs to be break time!

Not everyone wants to be helped, but you can still try, maybe eventually they will listen.There may be days where avoiding the staffroom may be the best thing for you to do. That is fine. In that case, take a break from work.Do something you enjoy. Read a book or travel magazine, listen to some music, practice mindfulness, anything that is enjoyable.

The staffroom in my experience is usually an opportunity for people to complain about their problems, whether this is home or work related. Have you been involved in this type of conversation? I used to all the time. Having a good “whinge” and I still occasionally find myself falling into this trap.

Change Conversation is the solution.

Conversation can Change Circumstances·       If a person has a legit concern, validate it by listening.Repeat what they have said so that they feel heard – do not add to the problem.·       If you can offer a solution to the problem, then offer it·       If not change the subject to something positive and let the rest of the staffroom add to this positive topic – a dominant person will tend to bring the conversation back to the negative – if this happens repeat the process – listen, repeat, offer and change. 
Brendan Zischke is a qualified teacher, author and speaker who has over 15 years experience in primary and high schools. He is passionate about wellbeing and teaching practical strategies that staff and students can use to create a habitual wellbeing mindset.For more information on how Brendan can assist you in wellbeing training within the education or corporate industry email [email protected]
There you have it, three simple steps – mindfulness, sleep and respecting break times. By teaching these you will quickly be able to help educators and improve their wellbeing. 

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