The teacher's time out card


Ever felt like saying to the class:

“Sorry folks…need a little space for myself now… just to take the edge off: see you in ten.”

Or what about saying to the hand that brandishes the time out card:

“hey, can I have one of those too….please?”

Recently I sat through a training session on behaviour management and noticed – in the midst of many words on a slide – the phrase 'managing your emotions'. The words just sat there, all JFDI defiant. I thought: you know what, I get it; I’m on Team Managing Your Emotions but what concerns me more is the toll that accumulates from weeks, months (nay, years), of chalking up managing the emotions whilst at the same time being 'cabined', 'cribbed', and 'confined' in the classroom.

I don’t know about you but for me the toll comes a day or two into what’s still quaintly known as the ‘school holiday’ (aka: extended non-contact time) when your immune system takes a hit proportionate only to Luke Skywalker’s sucker-punch on the Death Star: total evisceration.

Then there’s rumination; that pesky little buddy of cognitive overload. Rumination toots its horn like this: you’re out with your children, your partner, or some other significant other, when you suddenly find that you’re just not fully present; that your mind is elsewhere: perhaps with a certain lesson plan you’re mulling over, or a certain student who always seems to be giving your lesson plan a mulling over. There you are, at the park, vaguely cognisant of the fact that your three year old is sitting on the swing; that you’re pushing the swing; that you are – apparently, hopefully – smiling at your beaming bundle of joy as they experience the rapture of the swing’s giddy rise and fall. But you’re still not fully present. Indeed, if anything, your mind seems to be no more than tentatively tethered to whatever it is that is arising in the present moment.

So is there a solution to this? No, I don’t think there is. Certainly not whilst KPI culture is King. Can you imagine that? Measuring the efficacy of teacher wellbeing? Reminds me of the story about the incurable academic who says: I know it works in practice but what I really want to know is, does it work in theory?

No. What’s best for me is to cultivate my own time out card. The one I got given has ‘Mindful Awareness’ written on it. My teacher assures me I can use it whenever I feel a moment arising.

So there you go: I’ve got permission.

Permission from myself.

And who knows, if it helps me then perhaps it can help my students.

Mindful teacher, mindful students.

Now there’s a thought worth noting.

For more on teaching with mindful awareness and self-compassion, please sign up for weekly postings on my non-striving efforts at

Author Profile

Chris Reck

Chris Reck

Lead Practitioner in Secondary school. Teacher of English. Mindfulness teacher (trained with CMRP, Bangor University, Teacher Training Level 1 and with Mindfulness in Schools Project)

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Clare Erasmus Clare Erasmus @cerasmusteach 2 months ago
Chris you crack me up. Threw my head back chuckling. You have a lovely turn of phrase. YIP. wouldn't it be lovely - our own timeout? 'My teacher assures me I can use it whenever I feel a moment arising.' yes - we can I and I do. have started this year - with my year 9s - starting with 1 minute mindfulness using the chimes (part of the MINDUP program) Its great! I sometimes end the lesson with this calm moment too - the kids now remind me if I forget - they want it to - thanks to your blog - if it gets really tough I might be adventurous one day - with the right class and try it mid lesson - it works - being kind and gentle to ourselves - we are not robots - we are living - we must remember to breathe xxx
Chris Reck Chris Reck @chrisreck 2 months ago
Thank you Clare. Great to hear you are bringinging mindful awareness to your students. Absolutely needed. I teach the .b and pawsb curriculum as well as the MiSP mindfulness course for teachers. Most important for me is the offer for teachers. Just starting research with Cambridge Uni into this - esp teacher wellbeing. We need to be the advocates for change. Drive the kindness, curiosity and compassion train. Let's keep in touch x
Chris Reck Chris Reck @chrisreck 2 months ago
Great to hear from you Hannah. I hope you're well. Loved the pics from Swiss Cottage. I was there too, this week, training with Mindfulness in Schools Project to train to deliver the 8 week mindfulness course for teachers. Beautiful school and I was very inspired by meeting Vijita. Would love to come over to your school to share some mindfulness practice with staff and students. I can do Fridays as I'm down to a 4 day week. Warm wishes.
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