In October we host our first CELA Directors Retreat in Queensland¬ and judging by the response to our first teaser post on Facebook this week, it’s going to be popular with people from near and far. ¬†Before we get to the event itself, however, we will bring you stories from some of the spectacular presenters who will be guiding our directors for three days of engagement, enrichment, and enormously important self-care.
First up, a Q & A with Leonie Percy, new Queensland resident, creator of Mumfulness and author of, among others, the Mother Om Book.
What connection do you have to early and middle years educators?
Apart from being a mum who’s incredibly grateful to the educators who look after my two year old daughter (Leonie has a son at school too), I previously owned a children’s yoga company which provided incursions to about 50 early childhood services across Sydney. ¬†I worked with directors and educators almost every day and my appreciation for them just grew and grew.
Mindfulness is a big part of your practice, how do you see educators implementing mindfulness with the children in their care?
The best way is to make mindfulness part of your daily routine – just like with adults. ¬†For children it could be starting every day with 10 kinds of stretches, or having a deep breathing moment – especially before sleep time. In fact, younger children are often already in that routine of slowing down before a sleep with peaceful music or a story or back rubs.
Did educators say the yoga sessions had any noticeable effect on the children?
Yes! Especially when children did yoga in the morning, even if the meditation was only for a minute or three, it reset their sleep pattern, and educators would tell us the children slept and played better during that day.
Yoga for children can also help them fight against illnesses: twisting poses detoxify the liver, clear energy and blockages. It’s so beneficial for little children, and we all know what a big issue illness can be for early childhood services!
What¬†about directors, how do you approach your sessions for CELA?¬≠¬≠¬≠¬≠¬≠
Self care is absolutely essential for everyone in education, but many directors are particularly needing to reset their focus on caring for themselves, not just their team, the children and the children’s families. They tend to be people who really desire to give service – but when we give out all our energy and don‚Äôt leave any for ourselves we can become exhausted, overwhelmed, depleted. ¬†When that happens we can’t help others the way we want to and there’s a real risk of burnout.
You work a lot with mothers – are there parallels with directors?
There are a lot of similarities in the need for self care, regardless of whether directors are male or female or whether you have children at home. If your ‘energy cup’ is empty then you don’t have anything left to give to others. ¬†I say this to mothers and I say it very much the same way to directors: if you can elevate yourself above the chaos you will be more helpful to those around you.
How can busy directors ‘elevate’?
They need to create practical boundaries. ¬†I say practical because they can’t be isolated from the people around them, or remove themselves for long periods of time, but there are small, practical moments of mindfulness they can add to every single day.
You can make a ‘mindful’ cup of tea – where you really focus on the tea-making and nothing else. ¬†It can be a beautiful moment. ¬†If you have to walk between rooms in your centre, walk mindfully and be present in every step you take.
About 48% of the time we are on autopilot, which means we are physically there but not mentally there. Things are happening around you but you’re not really aware of them because it’s all so day-to-day.
Mindful is being full of the present moment
Mindless is autopilot
How much effort does mindfulness take in a director’s day?¬
Four times a day for a few minutes each time would be perfect. ¬†Active breathing, for instance, is something you can do anywhere but it’s easy to remember it at the beginning and the end. ¬†Add in the mindful cup of tea twice a day and there you are. ¬†Do that for 40 days and you will have a new habit of incorporating actively mindful moments into your daily life.
What else will you cover at the retreat?
So much more! But one other tool I will give directors is how to be very mindful of your energy and the way you speak. When people are run down or less resilient it’s easy to be negative. ¬†You hear the language in the staff room of being poorly paid and undervalued (which is true!) but you have to watch that language because – I know this can sound a bit whoo-whoo – but our words manifest our reality. ¬†Just as we can talk ourselves into a negative space, we can talk ourselves out of one too and that self talk is really important.
Any final words?
I have to say that as a mother and a person who has worked alongside hundreds of educators and directors I really think the work they do is PHENOMENAL. You all really should be paid more and you should be more recognised.You are shining lights and without what you do, familes like mine and a million others just couldn‚Äôt manage.