District Administration February 2018 - 56

ProfessionalOpinion
Becoming a more mindful leader
Being 'present in the moment' can be a powerful stress release
By Lisa Gonzales

I

n a world of round-the-clock distractions, being a mindful leader
is a powerful tool. Mindfulness
is simply the act of being consciously
aware and of focusing on the present
moment in a nonjudgmental way.
Research shows that mindfulness
improves concentration, inspires creativity and energizes our interactions with
others. Whether managing stress or
achieving nirvana-like relaxation and
focus, the qualities of mindfulness can
help increase our leadership skills and
personal satisfaction.
Why is it important?
Have you ever walked across campus
after school hours, deep in thought
while mentally preparing your "to-do
list," only to have your thoughts interrupted by a parent or staff member?
It's hard to be entirely present in the
conversation they are pulling you into
because your mind is stuck on the list.
The task at hand should be the other
person, but our brains are often a little
scattered with so much work and so
little time that we can't focus on that
conversation as fully as we would like.
That's where mindfulness comes
in, as it helps us reconnect with others in a more meaningful, authentic
way. For Principal Rosanna Whisnant
at Newton-Conover Middle School in
North Carolina, being a mindful leader
is about relaxing, reflecting and focusing
solely on the other person. "Listening
intently and asking clarifying questions
ensure I'm on the same page with others

DAmag.me/mind
56 February 2018

Mindfulness helps us
reconnect with others
in a more meaningful,
authentic way.
when talking," Whisnant says.
Sarita Amaya, an assistant administrator of multilingual programs in
Oregon's Beaverton School District,
adds that being a mindful leader is
about "being fully present for yourself
and becoming skilled at understanding
your feelings, your needs and how to
be nurturing, loving and compassionate to oneself."
What are the benefits?
The practice of being present and attentive helps focus and refocus our interactions and strengthens our awareness.
The physical benefits aren't too bad
either. After all, when we are relaxed,
positive, alert and open-minded, the resulting "good brain hygiene" permeates
our actions in the workplace and in our
personal lives.
"The irony about mindfulness is that
it's not just a mental state of well-being,
but a physical one as well," says Nancy
San Jose, an elementary principal in Los
Angeles USD. "I believe that mindfulness is best sought through the healing
of the physical brain via exercise, meditation, prayer, healthy eating, healthy
relationships, reflection, positive selftalk and being out in nature."
Mindfulness in our daily lives
School leaders follow a vast repertoire
of practices in their journey toward
mindfulness. Assistant Principal Eli

Holm, at Cheney Public Schools in
Washington, achieves it through the
arts. "Music is my stress relief, my
mindfulness practice, my center-
plain and simple," he says.
Meditation is another possibility.
Antoinette Gutierrez, principal at San
Bernardino High School in California,
says, "I take gratitude walks, use focused
breathing quite a bit, and meditate
daily, all of which keep my body balanced so the worries of the work don't
affect my mental and physical health."
Gwendolyn Dorsey, a principal in
Frederick County Public Schools in
Maryland, adds, "I do mindful breathing at several points throughout the day
to focus or zero-in on how I am feeling
at the moment."
At San Ramon Valley USD in California, Principal Joe Nguyen brings his
mindful practices to both his professional and personal life. "I take a moment in the morning to reflect on my
daily agenda and expectations for the
day. My faith definitely plays a role in
my mindfulness activities as we practice
mindfulness as a family at home."
Being mindful
Start small. Practicing for a few minutes
every other day or keeping a gratitude
journal to focus on the positives can be
a manageable beginning. The results
funnel up to improved productivity and
stronger quality moments with those
we serve. Being a mindful leader is one
more way to cope, focus and thrive. DA
Lisa Gonzales is president of the Association
of California School Administrators and
is assistant superintendent of educational
services in Dublin USD.
District Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration February 2018

District Administration February 2018 - Intro
District Administration February 2018 - Cover1
District Administration February 2018 - Cover2
District Administration February 2018 - 1
District Administration February 2018 - 2
District Administration February 2018 - 3
District Administration February 2018 - 4
District Administration February 2018 - 5
District Administration February 2018 - 6
District Administration February 2018 - 7
District Administration February 2018 - 8
District Administration February 2018 - 9
District Administration February 2018 - 10
District Administration February 2018 - 11
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District Administration February 2018 - Cover3
District Administration February 2018 - Cover4
District Administration February 2018 - 66
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