“Living our truth allows us to respond to the world around us”. -Melli O’Brien

I love when I find dialogue that provides the language for my own experiences. Melli O’Brien’s blog on “How To Live Your Truth and Become A Mindful Leader”, resonates with my sense of responsibility toward my students. (See link below for the link to her blog and also her interview on “How to ‘Live Your Truth’ & Become A Mindful Leader In The World, With Dawa Tarchin Phillips).

This school year I’ve started each of my classes with a few minutes of mindfulness.

By showing a few minutes of various YouTube Videos such as Hawksbill Sea Turtles to relaxing music students are encouraged to think of something calming outside of their own thoughts for just a few minutes. At the beginning of this year, my students experienced much resistance to this idea. However, each day I would ask them to pause for mindfulness and then bring to their awareness of how the energy in the room had shifted after tuning in. In a short time, my students would genuinely look forward to this moment in their day. But more importantly, students and I, learned how one person being upset could change the classroom dynamic. They also learned how much easier it was to transition to learning and staying focused when they had a calm mind.

The idea came out of a realization that my students did not truly understand the language of calm. Most of my students have social cognitive challenges such as autism, social communication disorder, or attention challenges impacting their awareness of their own emotional state and therefore ability to regulate their emotions. Creating a visual tool for students to identify levels of emotion and strategies to stay calm has become an important part of my classroom. (“Stress Check In & Plan To Stay Calm” Burke, 2014). Contact me if you would like more information on this tool. 

Pairing language with experience is a key component to understanding and relating to others.

For most of us, this is an automatic process. For example, when we are learning to read and can sound out the word “fire” it is only a word. However, when we pair the experience of fire (hand over something burning such as a burning candle or campfire, we experience the heat and eventually pain). It is this experience paired with the name given that we truly understand that what fire is. Students with social cognitive challenges have minds that are not automatically wired for social. However, I know, by my observations each day working with this population, they can learn. By pairing adult facilitated experiences with language increases their ability to connect with the world around them.

I often tell my students, “When you are calm, people get to see who you truly are:  bright, funny, caring, courageous, determined etc. But when you are not calm, others are seeing you as a different person: angry, defiant, difficult”. The choice is yours.  Since many of my students have difficulty with perspective taking, I usually follow up with something like this: “Is your way working for you?” I then pause and allow them time to reflect on the question. Usually, they respond with a solemn no. I then ask them, “If your way is not working for you, can you be open to trying something new”. Surprisingly, most of the time I see a shift in their thinking and an openness to consider the instruction that follows.

Most importantly, I have a responsibility to model this for them. By staying calm in the moment I am able to show compassion and understanding. And when I have a tough day, and I have awareness, I can turn the situation into a teachable lesson. Asking them, when Ms. Burke is grumpy and not listening, how does that make you feel? I love it when they let me know I might need a moment of mindfulness!

Enjoy the following dialogue and be open to being who you truly are.

Mrs. Mindfulness hosts:

“How to ‘Live Your Truth’ & Become A Mindful Leader In The World”

With Dawa Tarchin Phillips

Curiosity about our triggers opens up our minds toward breaking and developing new habits. Habit transformation through mindfulness -Dawa Tarchin Phillips

Check out Mrs. Mindfulness’s blog here. Transcript provided on her blog on her interview with Dawa Tarchin Phillips (Published on Feb 26, 2017)


Categories: Uncategorized

Elizabeth Burke

Elizabeth is an educator with a focus on supporting students with exceptionalities. Teaching in public education for 12 years with specialized training in Social Thinking™; Masters in Differentiated Instruction, Doctoral Student in Education Leadership. She enjoys spending time with her family: daughters, son-in laws, son & 4 grandchildren.

1 Comment

  1. I discovered some literature on mindfulness this year as well, including a great book by Dr Ellen Langer (Harvard), which includes a few chapters on mindfulness in the workplace. I have also seen some interesting videos on YouTube of classes where teachers use techniques like a resonating bell or breathing techniques (http://www.mindfulschools.org/inspiration/9373/) to help kids focus and be more aware of their emotions. I was doing a breathing exercise the other day and my son, who is in Preppy K, said, “We do that at school!”


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