- Need to know: The importance of practicing mindfulness daily.
Practicing mindfulness in teaching
Q1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have been teaching for 21 years and love every minute of it! I became a teacher to help make a difference to the lives of our children in growing into considerate, creative and clever citizens of the world. I can’t imagine being in another profession. I am grateful for each and every day in the classroom, where I learn so much from my students.
Q2. Starting a new year can be a nervous time for kids and a busy time for teachers. From your perspective, what information should parents give to the teacher before their child starts in a new class?
Any diagnosis (eg ADHD, Autism, ODD), health and/or medical conditions, likes and dislikes, interests, out of school activities, social development.
Q3. Some parents and carers don’t find out that their child requires additional support until they are in school and the expectations placed on that child outweigh their ability to meet them. How much training or information do you get from the department/school around identification of students with possible behavioural, neurological or sensory conditions?
There are a number of professional development opportunities available to teachers. Teachers with students are encouraged to attend PL suited to meet the needs of the students in their class. We also have a school counsellor who we can refer students to if there are concerns.
We have a strong Learning and Support Team and we submit referrals outlining any concerns we have regarding students. These are followed up with staff and include key stakeholders such as psychologists and other key stakeholders.
I have read up on neurodivergence as I have had a number of neurodivergent students over the years and tailor learning to their needs, making adjustments where necessary.
Q4. How can parents work with teachers to get the best result for their children?
Open and honest communication is vital in ensuring that the needs of all students are catered for. It is imperative for parents to communicate any information regarding medication, reports from psychologists and other medical professionals to ensure we have all the relevant information.
Regular meetings with the class teacher and the Learning Support Team keep the lines of communication open.
Q5. Many children with behavioural, neurological or sensory conditions have difficulty learning in traditional environments. What kinds of things have you implemented in your classrooms that you think have a positive impact?
I have a number of students who fall into this category and have come to understand what makes them ‘tick’. I appreciate that children (or adults for that matter) are wired differently, and therefore the expectation varies.
Adjustments I have made for students with behavioural, neurological or sensory conditions include providing visual cues, differentiating the learning to offer support or enrichment, allowing for some ‘time out’ in the positive sense where they have the opportunity to take a walk outside (whilst still visible to me), draw, read or complete another activity until they are ready to re-join the class. We also have a sensory box in the classroom for students to manipulate the toys. Not all students with behavioural or neurological challenges like the sensory toys.
I have started 5-minute guided mindfulness daily and all students enjoy this time. If not lying on carpet with their eyes closed, some choose to sit and follow the voice. The addition on a teacher’s aide 6 hours/per week and parent helpers during reading groups is invaluable for these students, offering additional support.
Q6. Can you explain what is an IEP/ILP (individual education/learning plan) and how it is used by parents and teachers?
Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) are for identified students. These students usually have an official diagnosis such as ADHD, ADD, ODD, Asperger’s, other behaviour, be identified as gifted and/or talented in one or more areas.
This remains in the students Learning Support file, is shared with all staff responsible for that child and is handed to the teacher the following year.
Q7. If you were all powerful, what changes would you make in schools? Feel free to be aspirational, we can all dream!
A permanent teacher’s aide in each classroom to help reach more students ‘at-risk’.
One-on-one with students requiring support makes a world of difference.
Smaller class sizes in order to have more one-on-one time with students!