So… Why Discover Thought?

Many times when a student asks me a question, one of my main responses are “Be carful of the questions you ask,” or “Do you really want to hear the answer?” For example, they ask me about my web domain, which I have had for years… Basically, it frames my life purpose and is the foundation of all my work. My main goals as an educator is to help people, such as students, within the context of my classroom, learn the importance and power of their thought (Discover Thought). Please allow me to briefly explain that thoughts are things, happiness is a state of mind, emotions come from your thoughts, and there are many ways that you can discover your thought through meditation, mindfulness, brain entrainment, consciousness, the law of attraction, the four agreements, and the PAUSE technique.

Thoughts are energy that can be measured and calibrated in many ways. Those thoughts are things and thus are the seeds of creation of your reality, situation, and world. That said, thoughts are also a collective experience being formed from memories, society, and culture. Making thoughts a paramount construct for living and functioning at your highest potential. If you make happiness, the state of mind, a main life goal and not only the human emotion, awareness of thoughts will make that goal much more attainable. My goal is to help people learn about the importance of thoughts and the ability to be more aware of them, so they can discover the incredible power within.

Many people are not even aware of their own thoughts, but are somewhat aware of their emotions, and actions, which are both effected or created by thoughts. People label their emotions at any given time by judging the outside elements and situation and measure their relation to that, thus taking the outside in. More or less, blaming internal emotions on outside conditions, people, and the situation. This process might take place because we are never taught open awareness, but instead taught how to make ridged definitions and labels. For example, we spend years in traditional school learning about the world in terms of memorizing facts and information thorough defining, labeling, describing, and analyzing mostly through tangible methods of the senses, such as hearing and seeing. Interestingly, we are never taught how to use the brain it self, thoughts, or given any tools to better absorb and learn within the traditional method. Therefore, we should spend more time learning or discovering the seed and starts it all… our mind and thought.

Science and research has detailed and calibrated brain waves in regards to thoughts, words, and emotions. All of which are energy and vibration. On a more basic or rudimentary level, thought can be understood as being on a spectrum with one side being pinpointed, fine concentration and the other side full emersion and awareness of everything. There are many activities, games, and practices that address both concentration and awareness including meditation and mindfulness that can help with any endeavor, especially obtaining happiness. The main goals of most practices are to improve both skills and discover the power of equanimity. Even if you don’t meditate, or don’t want to, there are other methods such as brainwave entrainment to help balance the mind and even assist in reaching specific states of mind. Much of the time we wander through life, not paying attention and trying to label things as we were taught in school or find ourselves blaming our problems, a particular situation, or outside factors for where we find ourselves while overlooking the most important and basic cause, our thoughts.

Lets take a look at the practice of mindfulness, concentration and awareness, and how it can affect your life. Concentration is an important skill that helps us complete most tasks, which can also be called focus or attention. Awareness is understood as an open free wandering collection of as many elements, such as using all the senses and context of the environment with non-judgment, while including as many perspectives as possible. Life difficulties and problems normally arise when we mislabel or misinterpret both outside elements such as others, context, inside factors, and thoughts, which all influence emotion. The practice of mindfulness works on both concentration and awareness skills, but doing so through non-judgment and acceptance. Non-judgment is the act of open observation, taking everything, as it is, no right or wrong, no labeling, interpretation, analyzing, or rationalization about what is or why. Just take, what is, for what it is. Acceptance on the other hand, is not being attached to any one-thought or perspective, such as cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness. Acceptance is the active changing of the mind or thoughts from resisting, to willingness and active engagement to the present moment. Another tool within the practice of mindfulness to support and increase both non-judgment and acceptance is detachment (non-attachment) or separation, whether dealing with outside factors or the thoughts within. Some argue that detachment is the act of disengaging or not caring. It is just the opposite. Mindful detachment better allows someone to have better clarity, which increases non-judgment and acceptance in order to then actively engage and respond to life with more compassion verses reacting with judgment, close-mindedness, and entitlement.

Some tools I use to help guide my thoughts in everyday life and in conjunction with my meditation and mindfulness practices include the Map of Consciousness (Dr. David Hawkins) and the Emotional Guidance Scale (Abraham-Hicks). Both can be used to label or briefly describe a state of mind or emotions, but also offer the understanding that those states can be changed by putting your attention on what you want to see more of. However, beware both craving and aversions are not good or needed in any practice of equanimity. For example, in 2006 the book “The Secret” made public, in a very artful way, how the law of attraction works, but made many people just crave and want more. People wanted to change things, but started doing so by just wishing more and harder. This perpetuated more craving. For instance, if you want to be more successful, don’t create thoughts of wanting more, as you will get just that, more wanting. You need to put your attention and thoughts on now, being successful, you are flourishing, and thankful, thus you will receive more of that. You choose to make it better with intention. Whatever you put your attention on, good or bad, will expand.

If you don’t believe in meditation or mindfulness or don’t have the time to use some brain training techniques, another tool to help you stay aware of your thoughts and line of thinking is using the four agreements. They are very simple rules and if you use them you can transform your life. The first agreement is “be impeccable with you word,” which means speak with integrity, intention of love, say only what you mean and do not speak against yourself or others such as gossip. The second agreement is “don’t take anything personally,” which means knowing nothing others do is because of you, what others say and do is a projection of their own reality, and when you are detached from opinions you will lessen overall suffering. The third agreement is “don’t make assumptions.” Find the strength to ask questions and communicate clearly. The fourth agreement is “always do your best,” even though it will change moment to moment, but is important to avoid self-judgment, abuse, and regret. If you follow these rules you will have a much clearer mind and thus being much more aware of your thoughts as you speak and act.

For example, my favorite responses to most situations, statements, or questions include: “You don’t say?” or “Is that so?” Both of these responses allow me to follow the four agreements by staying authentically true, detaching myself from opinions and assumptions by using non-judgment, thus allowing me to do my best. Most students don’t even know how to react to these statements. Regardless if the situation or statement being positive or negative, I can stay true to my word. Furthermore, many times I do not talk or say anything at all or don’t even respond, just so I can keep true to my word. In addition, it also allows me to not take things personally; it gives me space, and helps remind me my reality is mine, no one else’s. I don’t allow anyone to steal my peace, as that is the only thing I can control, which is my response to my thoughts.

Overall, discovering your thought is a large step in the right direction of creating happiness. Normally the first step in “recovery” is the ability to recognize the problem and situation. Then openly notice, and detach from the elements (you and context – your surroundings) by labeling and defining with non-judgment. This would allow you to be aware of the running mind (monkey mind). Thoughts can be like passing clouds. You might not be able to control or change the clouds, but you can observe them, and choose which to put your attention on (Law of Attraction). Lastly, you do need to act, respond, and engage with empathy and compassion. Take care of yourself and others with a equanimous mind.

Helpful Thought Tips:

  • Thoughts are things.
  • Happiness is not a place, but a state of mind.
  • Emotions come from your thoughts.
  • Meditation and mindfulness can help stay balanced.
  • Brian entrainment (equalizing brainwaves) can help you be balanced.
  • The Map of Consciousness (Dr. David Hawkins) and the Emotional Guidance Scale (Abraham-Hicks) are great ways to monitor and label your thoughts.
  • Put your attention on your intentions (The Law of Attraction). Whatever you put your attention on will expand.
  • Try to live life be using the Four Agreements.
  • Ask yourself: “Is that so?”
  • Try the PAUSE technique, a simple, one-minute check to set your mind in the right direction.


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Summer Escape: A Teacher’s Guide to Using Time off as a Means to Becoming a Better Educator

Summertime… A time for Teachers’ to practice a different set of 3R’s: Reflect, Rejuvenate, and Respond!

Plain and simple, time off and away from anything helps give another perspective, which supports authentic reflection that can help rejuvenate the soul and inspire a better response. Teachers are not exempt from this rule. That said, let’s take a look at how the summer or time off coupled with mindfulness can later impact student engagement, flexibility, and professionalism (wikihow) with regards to general instruction (Domain 3 and 4 of the Danielson Framework), thus reflect, rejuvenate, and best respond to what life brings.

Generally speaking, student engagement is defined as students on task, but more importantly it also includes helping the students be intellectually active while working though challenging content. The easiest way to help students engage is by creating a structure and procedure that includes a beginning, middle, and end with guideposts and activities. For example, most teachers instinctually set up a basic introduction of material maybe with a bell-ringer activity; follow through with a few activities, and end with a personal reflection time. The practice of mindfulness can also enhance the above by adding self-discovery and awareness of others and context to improve flexibility and overall lesson delivery. For instance, a teacher could use the PAUSE technique as a bell-ringer, followed by a classroom discussion activity using awareness and having students actively listen and synthesize information and content, then end with a summative free writing journal entry activity that connects ideas with present moment awareness to their student personal lives. This example allows student thinking through an activity with well-defined structure, thus supporting authentic student engagement. In general, student engagement can be enhanced through approaching the student’s interests and enthusiasm through present moment awareness with proper pacing and activities they can relate to, thus students ultimately taking responsibility for the learning and exchange of ideas.

Another important key to student engagement is teacher flexibility and responsiveness to students. Even the best laid-out plans sometimes need alterations. For example, there are times while in mid-class a teachable moment arises or interests shifts and this is a great opportunity for a teacher to take a moment, respond, and make a lesson more poignant. A mindful teacher will be better equipped to change plans and access their extensive repertoire and knowledge in regards to strategies, approaches, resources, and community, but also persist in learning more themselves if they do not know something. Furthermore, mindful-awareness may also help in picking up on subtle changes in the students and class, so to know when to respond with flexibility sooner. Fine-tuning awareness will also support a more authentic reflection, which can enhance and inspire creativity to move on to whatever may come next.

Teachers can, this summer take a moment, or a few, to relax and rejuvenate by reflecting on the many things that may have went well or needs improvement throughout the year, create, plan, and then take action, so you can better respond the next time. Metacognition, or thinking about your thinking, is basically self-critically analyzing what you did and how your thoughts develop through a task. This type of thinking and reflection then lends itself to focusing on making revisions to improve overall effectiveness, regardless of what the task maybe.

So, after the rest, break, vacation, or get away… Take the next step, which can be done in the form of professional development, including working on course work, taking a new class, take on a new degree, or attend a conference of your choice. A continued growth to remain current and improve skills is critical in reaching others. The most skilled and knowledgeable teacher can use a fresh perspective from networking with other teachers; hear about new content, pedagogy, and technology to increase effectiveness. Most teachers’ instinctually do these activities anyway. Moreover, staying active in professional organizations is a basic must to assist with keeping in focus what is most important, such as overall service to others through integrity and honesty by putting what is best for students first. Regardless, the practice of mindfulness can even help with personal and professional development with keeping you more focused and relaxed, no matter what the context.

While working mindfully and reflecting on things, one might also want to include how important the role of a teacher is within a whole district, school building, and their effect on a community or family. Working with others, collaboration is a huge buzzword in any school, organization, or business. For example, most schools are using the PLC (Professional Learning Community) model, which is data based instruction across grade level and curricular areas. The main idea circles around collaboration with colleagues to share effective teaching strategies from student data. This is a great time to use reflection to remap course sequence and plans, as well as, help share strategies with colleagues, and reflect upon how to extend things out to the community. The use of mindfulness can be used to help overall communication with increasing patience to engage active listening and carefully crafting words to support healthy collaboration, even while working through contrasting points of view. Another suggestion could be to rethink how technology is used to communicate information to families, such as general current announcements, the activities taking place in the classroom, and students’ progress to engage families in the learning process. Being as transparent and open to all those involved takes both great focus and ability to detach emotionally form problems, which are skills mindfulness supports so one can rationally deal with and make the best decision.

Regardless, of what you do this summer… take time, relax, reflect, create, plan, or work on the next step, which should always be better, then the last, whatever that maybe. Take a moment or a few to sit in stillness, breathe, reflect and be more aware of the world around you. Then prepare to respond with equanimity to life in the best way and start to plan the next year’s lessons with a distinguished level of engagement, flexibility, and professionalism. Lastly, remember… “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Be aware and enjoy the ride.

Mindful reminders:

  • Use the PAUSE technique and general outline
  • Take time to breath and notice
  • Make or plan time to relax and enjoy some time off (just as important as work)
  • Practice gratitude (write or say a few thankful things each day)
  • Take the first step to doing something (small steps, the first of millions)
  • Reach out to other colleagues

Summer Questions:

  • What is your favorite way to relax?
  • What is the best way to rejuvenate?
  • How do you, or what type of practice do you use to reflect?
  • Do you respond or re-act to life? Is there a difference?
  • What do you plan to do better next time?
  • How do you reach out and work with the community?

July 4th has passed by… now the work begins on the new school year…

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. — Jacques Barzun


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Mindful Agreements to Deal With Drama

In the past few weeks I have experienced some heightened drama coming from my middle school students. Much could explain this phenomenon, such as cold and snowy weather, the winter blues, and standardized testing season, nonetheless, I chose to add and connect the practice of mindfulness to the wisdom of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

I decided to write on the board and planned to explain some new rules, expectations, and agreements for the class…

The Four Agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

I keep the Four Agreements listed on the board and refer to them everyday. In addition, these connect directly to my daily mindfulness PAUSE practice I walk the students through. I think most students try to keep these ideas at the front of their mind while in rehearsal and connecting it further to their life and the music we perform. I have noticed a slight change in overall energy and awareness toward being more mindful of gossip. Also, I have noticed a change in my troubled and challenged student due to the other students being impeccable with their own words and doing their best. The benefits of putting your attention on things you want to expand.

Drama at the middle school level is almost always running at a high level so any help with addressing this drama is always welcome. The Four Agreements are some of the greatest and simplest ways to live a better and happier life. I think if any of my students pick-up only one or a few of these ideas and develop them, not only will middle school and high school be better, but life in general.

How do you address drama in your life?

Do you have any toxic gossip stories and how you addressed them?


Try to live by and teach the Four Agreements…

How are you doing? Share your experiences.

4 agreements children

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Daring Discussions in a Mindful Manner

Discussion is the art of encouraging and directing students to exchange ideas freely with one another to construct knowledge and is a critical skill of a proficient or distinguished teacher (Danielson Framework, Domain 3 – Instruction). The practice of mindfulness, such as through the traits of engagement, novelty seeking and producing, and flexibility all directly relate to improving communication and discussion skills. For example, a mindful teacher provides many perspectives, scaffolding, and a bridge to a student’s prior knowledge by using clear purposeful language expressed through imaginative analogies and metaphors. Mindfulness also allows a teacher to notice subtle details of self and students to help guide the engagement of all towards connecting new (novel) ideas in a flexible and non-judgmental manner.

A mindful teacher, one that is truly self-aware (strong intra-personal reasoning), would be more in touch to freely express and explain details through stories to better communicate ideas and concepts within the given learning context. For instance, a teacher might pause in the middle of a lecture to add a personal story or remind students of another connection to another topic, word, or even take that moment to teach about prefixes (even though they are not a language arts teacher) as the teacher monitors the students’ level of engagement. This would deepen the students understanding of the content and build on common connections to other classes.

A mindfully skilled teacher can use a variety of questions and prompts to cognitively challenge the class and individual student perspectives, while also promoting thought flexibility, and open-mindedness to address higher-level thinking, leading to metacognition. This free and open exchange of ideas, while challenging personal and group thought, ultimately promotes awareness and reflection of thought. For example, a teacher that is aware and models the process of thinking about their own thoughts can help other students reflect and also help construct knowledge. This process of metacognition, thinking skills, reflection, self-awareness, active monitoring, and regulation of your own thought can be productive in many contexts, and does so through engagement.

There is a fine line between inviting open dialog and changeling students cognitively. It is imperative to create an empathic and compassionate atmosphere that values all students and their ideas in order to produce student lead logical reasoning and sharing. If done well, students take over the whole process of formulating questions themselves, invite each other to build on responses, or even contradict each other to develop constructive, connective knowledge. Besides empathy and compassion, one of the main concepts needing to be taught, in order for this type of exchange is to happen is, non-attachment.

A mindful teacher above all, models that all thoughts, ideas, concepts, and emotions are welcome by demonstrating non-attachment to any one side of an argument, case, or cause. Much of the fun in cultivating a deep, rich conversation, or discussion is lovingly taking the opposition. When a teacher or student is not held to one argument or element of a discussion, and practices non-attachment by doing so through active engagement with novel ideas, that cognitive flexibility builds the understanding and knowledge of all involved. This demonstrates just a few points about how the practice of mindfulness can have an impact on conversations and discussions positively contributing to constructing knowledge.

Mindful Communication and Discussion Tips:

  • Become more aware of your breath as you communicate. Your emotions are tied to your respiration. It changes as you interact.
  • Observe and notice, with non-judgment, subtle and small things you and others do while communicating, such as hand movements, facial expressions, nervous twitches.
  • Practice the PAUSE technique.
  • Be an active listener, paraphrase the other, and reflect.
  • Take your time to think about your response. Wait until the other person is finished before you start to think about your response.
  • Use metacognition, think about your own thoughts, where did they come from, how do they connect, where is it going?
  • Investigate or take the opposite view point or other side of the argument before speaking.
  • Practice (Metta) compassion, and empathy. Always care and respect others even if they think differently. We humans and society make right and wrong.
  • You always have the option to be silent. Sometimes passive engagement is the best choice. You might not be a need to get involved, stir the pot, or perpetuate negative conversations. Just send the other person or group loving thoughts.
  • Practice patience. Be forgiving and let go. Everyone and everything changes… Enjoy this time.

How do you construct knowledge?

Teacher and students b/w

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Skilled Mindfulness: How Do You Strengthen the Social Emotional Whole?

The time has come to teach mindfulness to students. Teaching mindfulness to students can improve social and emotional skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and decision-making, which directly impacts classroom procedures and student behaviors. According to the Danielson framework for teaching, managing classroom procedures and student behavior (Domain 2), are critical in becoming a distinguished teacher.

Mindfulness starts with paying attention with purpose. For instance, a mindful teacher that also teaches mindfulness to students, helps them develop skills toward working with purpose and allows the class to function with clear routines and procedures. If a student is given skills to address self-awareness and self-management the students help create a smooth functioning classroom. When students monitor their own feelings, emotions, and sensations, through non-judgement, they start to play an important role in carrying out classroom procedures that does not take away from instructional time. This benefits everyone involved.

Discernibly, the complex exchange of teaching and learning is emotional. Mindfulness is a process and practice that can help teachers and students navigate those emotions with non-judgement, which also impacts social awareness and relationships. This mindfulness awareness creates an empathetic environment that appreciates individual and group differences and similarities that supports engaging all students in the classroom routines and procedures, while maintaining positive student behavior. In addition, if students are taught mindfulness skills, they are more able to self-monitor themselves to establish and perpetuate rewarding relationships and resolve interpersonal conflicts, thus positively effecting overall behavior in the classroom. Overall, mindful teachers and students more clearly follow routines and procedures that increase productivity, engagement, and learning.

Clearly communicating classroom expectations and procedures to students always improves classroom management, but a teachers ability to recognize subtle changes, based on the practice of mindfulness, can also help prevent issues or problems before they occur. For example, a teacher can objectively observe a situation and clearly give feedback and attention to a student or students that need it in order to keep the class functioning at a high level. Furthermore, the ability to be subtlety aware of themselves and surroundings allows the teacher to be more authentic and attuned to what is truly taking place in the classroom, thus being more effective. Ultimately, mindfulness contributes to being more subtlety responsive rather than overtly reactive. For example, the practice of being aware translates to active monitoring self and others with non-judgment, which also transmits respect and integrity, further leading by example, where being reactive only feeds the negative and traditional power struggles.

Fundamentally, a mindful teacher that models and teaches the above to students will also reflect overall better decision-making. Therefore, when a student makes better decisions based on self-awareness, relationships, and ethical standards, the well-being of all within the classroom and school will improve. Finally, this indirectly impacts student behavior and minimizes effort on classroom management allowing the class to function and run effectively on its own.

Mindful Suggestions:

  • Teach/Walk students through being still for 60 seconds
  • Describe the endless flow of thoughts
  • The uncomfortableness
  • The sensations in the moment
  • Walk students through a breathing exercise (just pay attention to breath)
  • Use the PAUSE technique
  • Pay attention to your sensations (perform a body scan)
  • Encourage the use any of the above in any moment such as the beginning, middle, end of class (especially just as an uneasy situation is arrises)
  • Put your attention on what you want to expand
  • Minimize attention on bad behaviors
  • Look for the expected, or normal, and good behaviors
  • When being aware and observant, communicate and verbalize those observations to students without interpretations or judgment, especially the obvious and expected behaviors
  • You lead by example, so make it count (follow the building, classroom, and your own rules, routines, and procedures; take your time, PAUSE when needed)

How do you stay mindful and teach social and emotional skills?

Do you have a personal story that relates?

My detailed story to follow soon… Maybe in June (the month of great change in education called “graduation”).

brain awareness

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Interaction of the Mindfulness Muscle

The practice of mindfulness (purposeful, non-judgmental attention, and detached awareness) can contribute to creating and establishing a positive classroom atmosphere that supports educational value, viable interactions, challenging learning, open creativity, and regular effort, all the while transferring passion. According to the Danielson Framework – Domain 2, one of the most important aspects of teaching is the environment, atmosphere, and culture of a classroom, which is a direct result of a teachers energy. When a mindful teacher communicates both orally and non-verbally, clear, calm, and equitable expectations and proceeders, extraordinary things can happen.

A teacher practicing mindfulness can simultaneously encourage student independence and choice, connected to high expectations, while doing so through a lens of non-judgement. Having a general awareness of the moment allows the teacher to better take in subtle differences between students and activities to foster and support novel ideas. A non-judgmental awareness increases the openness of novelty seeking and producing of ideas to further manage the classroom energy and relationships. In addition, the students will pick-up and learn these concepts from the teacher leading by example and through modeling, thus supporting stronger teacher interactions with students and creating a positive classroom atmosphere and energy. For instance, a teacher can give a student positive reenforcement of specific behaviors and also encourage students to do the same for each other. This could also be expanded to allow an open exchange between students so they are able to ask each other for clarification and help about the concepts or activities in class not directly understood from the teacher, consequently supporting positive student-to-student respect, behavior, and engagement.

A mindful teacher also displays and shares the understanding of flexibility, such as the importance of welcoming a changing environment rather than resisting it. They could model the ability to view a situation from multiple perspectives and recognized that each perspective has equal value, ultimately showing great respect. Also, a mindful teacher operates as though the classroom is constructed and subject to continual re-evaluation by demonstrating open creativity and connections to the world beyond. For example, a teacher demonstrates knowledge and caring when inquiring about a student’s other activities and connects those to a classroom lesson and future possibilities. Moreover, the free exchange of ideas connected to personal context between students through the ability to share without fear of ridicule or put-downs, will influence the positive interaction, for example students applauding and supporting one another after presentations or performances.

Overall, the mindful teacher generates and maintains an open exchange of energy to guide and support student’s exploration of educational value, positive interactions, and exchanges that connect to life. There are many ways a teacher can create an environment of respect and establish a culture of learning.

 Mindful suggestions to help establish a positive learning environment:

  • Practice what you preach (students learn most through example):
  • Do what you ask others to do
  • Act and treat others the way you want to be treated (no special rules, or exceptions)
  • Take time to breathe, take a moment, 60 seconds to sit still and be, just notice
  • Practice the PAUSE technique
  • Take your time and act with purpose (move slowly if need be)
  • Model behavior that supports responding (not leading with impulses):
  • Thinking before speaking
  • Only talk when all attention is given (wait for silence)
  • Give your full attention to others when needed
  • Try not to multi-task (concentrate on purpose with one task, do it well)
  • Actively listen: Paraphrase questions, thoughts, and emotions from others before giving your own personal information or suggestions
  • Notice more subtle facial expressions, body positions, and jesters ALL – WITHOUT judgement
  • Try to use more vocabulary when you speak (take your time to find the best words)
  • Remain silent, let all thoughts and emotions go (sometime the best response is none)
  • Be more accepting that everything changes (including people and students)
  • Give forgiveness to yourself and others:
  • Be more caring, empathic
  • Model respect such as giving it in order to get it
  • Have an attitude of gratitude (be in a place of wonder)

Challenge: Try going through your day, such as teaching, talking, and interacting normally while using as few words and non-verbal cues as possible (basically, adding more silence).

I’m a music teacher and choral director and think I can teach a whole class or even a whole day without speaking much. Coming soon a post about my experience with this challenge.

old broken school room

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Mindful planning and preparation

Some of the main areas of concerns regarding planning and preparation (Domain 1) as outlined by the Danielson Framework for Teaching consists of demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy, demonstrating knowledge of students, setting instructional outcomes, demonstrating knowledge of resources, designing coherent instruction, and designing student assessment. Some of the main overlapping themes that are found throughout this domain include engagement, clear focus, intent, outcomes, relationships, choice, high-level thinking, reflection, decision-making, and awareness, which can be positively influenced by the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness, in terms of bringing more attention and focus to our surroundings and self, supports a higher quality of recognition, acceptance, investigation, and detachment (non-judgement), which can improve overall planning and preparation. For example, the practice of awareness and observation allows a teacher an ongoing method to help assess skill levels of students that can impact instruction accordingly. This also is connected to mindfulness theory, in terms of increasing the natural tendency or ability to produce and seek new ways of looking at students and the situations. This also supports the activity of engagement and flexibility by enhancing the recognition of multiple perspectives of reality and continual re-evaluation of the environment. Therefore, a teacher can provide multiple options and choices to meet individual student learning needs and even encourage the students to be more aware of, or reflect on their own needs, and allow them to make better independent choices.

Even the best made plans and mounds of preparation can have its issues. No one can prepare or plan for everything, but being open, aware, and flexible will enhance the probability of success in all situations. The practice of mindfulness allows teachers to systematically observe themselves, students, and the classroom to cultivate higher thinking skills and help students negotiate their own learning. For example, a teacher starts a very detailed and passionate lesson and after only a few minutes… things fall apart. Obviously, first the teacher needs to be aware of the struggles, issues, or problems. Non-judgmental detachment and awareness could increase the probability of noticing the issue earlier by increasing observational input such as subtle body language, facial expressions, self sensations (breath, temperature, blood pressure), to help suspend emotions so not to react negatively. These observations would also help bring in multiple perspectives and depict a better understanding and acceptance of the situation  and students to elicit a positive response and support all learners. Furthermore, this connects to being flexible and re-evaluating self, students, and the classroom to help engage all students, therefore supporting an ability to put more space in-between thoughts and actions to better respond, regardless the plan and amount of preparation.

The PAUSE technique is designed to address the above and help teachers negotiate frustrating situations concerning planning, preparation, teaching, and learning. Thus, this technique gives a teacher a tool and system to step back, evaluate, and reflect on personal thoughts and intent. It also helps bring clarity and focus of awareness to all relationships by taking in as many perspectives as possible through a detached lens, leading to higher-level thinking, better decision-making, and outcomes. Finally, it promotes empathic and compassionate engagement where all students can learn and achieve, while at the same time incorporating best practices connected to (Domain 1) planning and preparation.

More Mindful Planning Suggestions

  • Always expect and do your best. Think good thoughts and good things will happen. A positive attitude will move mountains even when dealing with or anticipating possible problematic situations. The law of attraction will prevail.
  • Understand everyone is trying to do their best, including students (aligning their needs and behave accordingly). Be accepting of everyone.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions without proof (actions, words, sensations). Seek information and details. Bring in more awareness and lose some ego/control.
  • Look and feel things from every conceivable perspective and angle (put yourself in the other person’s shoes).
  • Detach your emotions. Be aware of how you feel and try not to act on emotions alone.
  • Take your time and think. No reason to rush anything worthwhile.
  • Take a minute to reflect. Sit in silence, observe breath, and sensations in the body.
  • Don’t feel that every question, situation, problem, or person needs a response or action. Use the phrase “Is that so…” or “You don’t say…” if you must respond. Sometime silence is the best answer. If a comment or action is not constructive or helpful… it probably is not needed.
  • Plan and prepare through observation and be flexible. Everything is always changing.

Change the way you think and everything will change.


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Fractured Reflections of Teaching

Much of our natural human perceptions of reality rely on us dividing society into smaller pieces, sections, concepts, and ideas. For example, humans, as society or the world as a whole likes to see our body in relation to the gym or exercise; compartmentalize healing to a hospital, work at the office or studio, religious practice to a church or temple, family remains at home, and personal time or enjoyment with vacation or weekends. The field of education is no different. We have classrooms for different activities. Even the learning that takes place in those contexts is different. Some procedures and actions are welcome in some environments while others are not. Sometimes there are strict rules and guidelines and at other times these rules can be bent and lead to a freer atmosphere. And this is without even taking into consideration that students and people have different learning styles. In addition, teachers have different teaching styles and strengths, but are also held accountable to reaching all students in all contexts through this fractured system.

Enter the process of teacher evaluation. Over the years education has had it’s share of ridicule including a having a corporate answer of competition to a compression of that to socialism such as the means of regulation coming from all stockholders. Both, have their arguments that support and also contrast each other. Nonetheless, we as a society, nation, state, and school district, have adopted a formal system of evaluation to support both arguments by using the Danielson Model in conjunction with the PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act) of IL. Yet, again, another fractured reflection of what is happening in schools.

First off, I do not have any problem with any type of formal evaluation or regulation, as good teachers will always prevail. Nevertheless, many excellent, good, and solid teachers are worried and scared of evaluations, as any tool or system can be miss used and interpreted, regardless the tool and process. So, enter the (fractured measurements of the) Danielson Model… In general, teachers are to be held to the complex standards and activity of teaching as divided into 22 components (and 76 smaller elements) clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility: 1) Planning and Preparation, 2) Classroom Environment, 3) Instruction, and 4) Professional Responsibilities. Although this is an extremely fractured and detailed reflection, let me just focus on the whole right now regarding the teacher and student. I will give more arguments addressing the smaller components and elements in the future about each main domain/responsibility and its smaller elements. For now, stay focused on the general whole teacher and/or student.

A system that does address the whole is the practice of mindfulness. Interestingly, it was also a cover story February 3, 2014 in TIME magazine. In general, it covers a perspective and experience of one person learning a technique to quit the mind and pay closer attention to the present moment. It outlines many befits and pitfalls of the practice such as large companies using it as a focus tool, rewiring your brain for self-help with regards to working through emotions. In this article, mindfulness has many claims and even is connected to being more mainstream, as it is being introduced to schools through some government research funds and sponsored by congressman. Regardless, of what you believe, I have used, and now teach my middle school students this practice and have seen some interesting changes take place.

Let’s try to combine these fractured pieces into a full mirror and connect these concepts to being a better teacher or student. The practice of mindfulness can help teachers address the 4 main domains of the Danielson Model include planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. Within the planning and preparation domain, mindfulness allows a teacher to have more knowledge of the students by observing and noticing subtle body movements and speech with non-judgment. This keen observation also enables and supports logical and rational instruction. Therefore, being more prepared, flexible, and engaging in relation to the domain planning and preparation.

Mindfulness can also mend and address the domain of classroom environment. For example, when the teacher or student has a clear, calm, and balanced mind created by the practice of mindfulness the environment will be one of respect and rapport. It will also establish a culture of open learning, create clear procedures, and support positive student engagement and behavior. Furthermore, communicating with students, using open questioning discussion techniques, and engaging students, while being flexible and responsive are also main benefits of practicing mindfulness that address the instruction domain. Lastly, mindfulness can help support authentic reflection and overall professionalism covering the professional responsibilities domain.

Basic mindfulness suggestions and practice for pasting together the fractured nature of life within the classroom to address the basic 4 Danielson Evaluation Domains:

  • Sit still for 60 seconds. Observe your feelings of uneasiness and wanting to move.
  • You don’t have to sit still… Slow down and take your time. No need to rush through activities. Just pay closer attention to your actions by deliberately slowing down.
  • Notice your breath. Pay attention to how it moves in and out. No need to alter or change it. Just observe.
  • Try to notice your body position by observing sensations such as temperature, clothes, air moving, or sounds.
  • Try to detach from your thoughts and emotions. Think about your thoughts. Notice what and how you are thinking.
  • Do all the above without judgment. Just observe and notice.

If you must change your thoughts or emotions, replace them with compassion and gratitude. Send yourself and others forgiveness, happiness, and love… In doing so your fractured stressed life and classroom just might become more whole through noticing the interconnectedness of teaching and learning.

More details about commenting mindfulness to the four domains of the Danielson evaluation model coming soon.


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Preparing the soil for mindful teaching…

Before I begin to explore and explain the benefits, difficulties, and uses of mindfulness and awareness such as the P.A.U.S.E. technique in education, I feel I need to communicate my perspective, and general philosophy (prepare the soil). Let’s begin with defining mindfulness and awareness (planting the seeds). There are many ways to perceive and understand both of these terms. This is my working definition, so everyone knows the basics I work from. Mindfulness is purposely paying attention with non-judgment and can also be understood as general awareness of self and others. There is a spectrum with focus and fine concentration being at one end of the spectrum and open perception of everything being on the other. Furthermore, I will be taking mindfulness from the Western psychological perspective, proposed by Ellen Langer (1989), explaining that it can be dividing into four domains such as novelty producing, flexibility, novelty seeking, and engagement. Together these domains describe a person’s relative openness to experience, willingness to challenge strict categories, and continual reassessment of the environment and their reactions to it.

Novelty producing is the measure of propensity (natural tendency) to develop new ideas and ways of looking at things.

Novelty seeking is the measure of propensity (natural tendency) to explore and engage novel stimuli. It refers to a tendency to perceive every situation as “new.” This type of person is likely to be more interested in experiencing a variety of stimuli, rather than mastering a specific situation. This is one of two awareness domains of mindfulness.

*Engagement refers to the propensity (natural tendency) to become involved in any given situation. An individual who scores high in engagement is likely to notice or see the “big picture.” This is the second “awareness” component of mindfulness.

Flexibility is the belief and understanding in the fluidity of information, and the importance of welcoming a changing environment rather than resisting it. Flexibility in this case refers to someone who can view a situation from multiple perspectives and recognized that each perspective has equal value. The flexible person operates as though reality were in a social construction subject to continual re-evaluation.

To continue and prepare the soil, I also need to explain I hold a combined philosophical, overlapping theoretical, and conceptual framework that would be nice to know before I go further (diagram below). Obviously, mindfulness is on component. Another large concept is stress and burnout, which is normally measured by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and sense of accomplishment (Maslach, 1996). Additionally, making educational or classroom decisions are mostly based on cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1962) and choice theory (Glasser, 1985). Together these theories outline a process, which includes a person weighing options of thoughts, beliefs, and experiences to make a decision that is based on collaboration, self-worth, and positive outcomes. Lastly, the eastern philosophy of perception and meditation with regards to mindfulness practice such as following the breath and noticing sensations is the last major overlapping component.


 This framework gave me the lens for my research on Vipassana Meditation and Teacher Decision-making (Glogowski, 2012) to uncover the 3-phased Awareness (Anicca) Perspective Decision-making Process. Phase one is basically the standard cognitive decision-making where we face a stressor, weigh the options (thought and emotion), and make a decision, or act, but arguably re-act. Phase two is where mindfulness takes place with adding focus and awareness of you, others, and the surroundings to the present moment. Finally, in phase three the eastern philosophies come into play such as equanimity, detachment, impermanence, ego, and responding with compassion. The overall process is outlined in the below diagram.

3 Phases

Ultimately, these outlined settings (theories), background (framework), and process allowed me to create the P.A.U.S.E technique to remind people (teachers and students) how to respond verses reacting to situations. The word PAUSE is an acronym. The “P” stands for pause liter- ally. It reminds one to slow down, take time, think, and feel. The “A” stands for awareness, that includes using all senses to take in the surroundings, situation, people, and self against a backdrop of impermanence. The “U” stands for understand, which means working through equanimity and balancing all the elements brought in through awareness with an objective of detachment and non-judgment. The “S” stands for sensations and self, which is a reminder to monitor the breath and body sensations while working through equanimity. The “E” stands for empathic engagement, which is a reminder to connect with other people while making decisive action and engaging. The below is what I have posted in my classroom and teach my students.

The PAUSE Technique:

P – Pause – Slow down, Think

A – Awareness – Anicca (Impermanence) Self, Surroundings, Situation, and People

U – Understanding – Balancing, Detachment, and Non-judgment

S – Sensations – Breath and Body Sensations

E – Empathic Engagement – Reminder to connect and help other people

I teach and use this technique in all of my 6, 7, and 8 grade classes as a bell-ringer activity or is an end to my vocal warm-ups. I explain that the exercise goal or focus is to help support mind training over the body through increasing awareness and attention by staying as still as possible while noticing breath and sensation without judgment. Eventually, they can do it by themselves without my guidance. For more details about my general educational philosophy they can be found here. Also, more about a similar organization doing similar work – mindful schools here.

References – Seminal Authors

Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Glasser, W. (1998). Choice theory: A new psychology of personal freedom. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Glogowski, J. R. (2012). Vipassana Meditation and Teacher Decision-Making. Dissertation Abstract International, 73(10). (UMI No. AAT 3510201), From Dissertations and Theses database.

Goenka, S. N. (2002). Meditation now: Inner peace through inner wisdom. Seattle, WA: Vipassana Research Publications.

Goenka, S. N. (2005). Vipassana meditation, guidelines for practice. Seattle, WA: Vipassana Research Publications.

Goenka, S. N., & Hart, W. (2000). The discourse summaries: Talks from a ten-day course in vipassana meditation. Seattle: Vipassana Research Publications.

Langer, E. J. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

Maslach, C., Jackson, S.E, & Leiter, M.P. MBI: The Maslach Burnout Inventory: Manual. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1996.


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The overall direction is set!

This past week, I attended and presented some research at the Illinois Music Educators Conference. I found out that most educators are worried about evaluation reform because every session that had the word: Evaluation, Danielson, Data Teams, or Student Growth in the title was crammed with people. So much so, that I could not even attend one of them. In the future I hope to connect the effects of mindfulness and awareness techniques to address the evaluation tool most schools are or will be using (the framework: and meeting the terms of the PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act) law ( regarding indicators/proof of student growth as determined by the state and school district. Thus, my direction is set.  Image

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