Meet the motivated and mindful elementary teacher, Kristin Safa who teaches her 31 students with loving kindness and mindfulness at Chapman Hills Elementary School in California. It started off as a Mindful Monday activity but evolved into a daily practice of mindfulness. She models kindness and love for her students and chose to use her influence as a teacher for the prosperity of the world. Now she has volunteered to present a 90-minute workshop on mindfulness in education to any teacher in her school district. I got the chance to connect with Kristin after she joined my Instagram Challenge, 4 Days of Mindful Activities.
“Yes, a teacher, that’s the perfect job for me.”
Kristin Safa is approaching her 5th year as an elementary school teacher at Chapman Hills. She was inspired to become a teacher because she loves working with children. She tells me she didn’t grow up knowing she would become a teacher, she changed her major a few times until one day it all came together, and she was like, “Yes, a teacher… that’s the perfect job for me!” She is their school mommy, the person who holds them while they cry, who tells them “I love you” who tells them they matter and are worthy of love and attention. who tells them they matter and are worthy of love and attention.
Tell me a little about yourself and what you do?
I knew I needed a career that mattered, something that made a difference and was more than just a paycheck. I have taught Kindergarten, First grade, Second grade, and will be moving up to third grade this school year. I love teaching. I am a forever learner and am driven to be my best so I can help my students in reaching their full potential.
“It was always a personal practice to
live a kind and loving life.”
How and why did you get in touch with mindfulness and what does it mean to you?My husband introduced me to Buddhism when we first started dating nearly 20 years ago. I was drawn to eastern religion and the four noble truths resonated with me. I remember him teaching me about ahimsa (non-violence) loving-kindness to all living things. He showed me a path of mindful living and really just paying attention and being more aware of things. It was always a personal practice to live a kind and loving life, but it has taken on a bigger role in the past few years. About three years ago I started practicing yoga. I had been familiar with yoga and done many videos and classes, but it was more like an exercise class. I stumbled upon a studio that opened my eyes to the healing and spiritual side of yoga. As I continue to grow in my practice, yoga is more and more about my well-being as a human rather than a form of exercise.
“What does mindfulness mean to me?
It is a tool that helps me see who I am,
what I am feeling, and what I want out of life.
It is a way to find calm in the craziness of life.
It is something that I practice daily.
I live it.”
I am at peace when I am on my mat. It is where I go when I am frustrated or when I need to sort through tough emotions. It is where I go to find comfort, to ease my physical pain while soothing my mental chaos. I was finally getting to a point where all the things my husband had been telling me for years were really starting to click. Things were beginning to become more clear and make more sense. I continue to read and build my knowledge of mindfulness and Buddhism, Yoga, meditation, it is all connected and I felt like I am closer to being the person I was meant to be. What does mindfulness mean to me? It means so much. It is peace. It is a way for me to quiet the chatter and focus on what I am feeling. It is a tool that helps me see who I am, what I am feeling, and what I want out of life. It is a way to find calm in the craziness of life. It is something that I practice daily. I live it, it isn’t just something I read about or just think about, but it is part of me. I think it is the most important tool we can use to help us be compassionate and gentle human beings that live with purpose and intention rather than simply going through the motions of life.
Why do you think it’s important to teach your students about mindfulness?
Kids are magical to me, they have this beauty to them, this curiosity about life, and they are honest and genuine. They are excited about so many things and their enthusiasm is contagious. I feel energized when I am around them. They are so smart and I learn a great deal from them. So why mindfulness? These precious little ones are growing up fast these days. Life is hard. Their parents are suffering because our world is a bit messed up right now. I feel like things have really gone in a sad direction. Many parents are overwhelmed and struggling in their own ways and find raising a child in this day and age to be quite challenging. I think our kids have a lot on their plates these days.
“I have had kids who come to school hungry,
without backpacks or materials, and whose parents I will have
little contact with because they are just
too busy with their own life.”
I have kids with only one active parent, kids who have had parents in jail or have had parents walk out on their family. I have had kids who are low-income and many who don’t speak English as their native language. I have had kids who come to school hungry, kids who come to school without backpacks or materials, and whose parents I will have little contact because they are just too busy with their own life. I know the parents love their kids, it just seems like many people are pulled in different directions making it difficult to meet all of life’s demands. Which can lead to the kids looking to their teachers for more than just academic support.
I am their school mommy, the person who holds them while they cry, who tells them “I love you” who tells them they matter and are worthy of love and attention. They need to feel safe, loved and important. They need tools to help them work through their emotions, to deal with the pressures of life. School is hard. We expect so much from these kids in regard to academics and test scores, and it is easy for them to feel inadequate when compared to others. Kids can be really hard on each other, friends are hard to make and hard to keep. Kids are growing up with technology at their fingertips, making them more aware of grown-up things at an earlier age than when we were younger. Mindfulness is needed for all these reasons. To help them learn to digest the intensity of life.
“Mindfulness empowers them to look
within for the answers.”
The rates of kids with learning disabilities and special needs are increasing more and more. A big part of it is, we keep adding more and more expectations onto these kids, and they don’t know how to handle it. Mindfulness empowers them to look within for the answers. Mindfulness gives them the strength to work through tough emotions, to realize what they are feeling and find a way to calm themselves down. It allows them to feel safe and cared for, which will make their learning come more naturally.
When I asked them to share or write about what they liked most about this year, most said mindfulness.
How has the mindfulness practice helped your students?
It has helped them be more aware of their actions and their words. It has helped to spread kindness and love throughout our class and also throughout the school and community. They are learning empathy and compassion, for their self, for others, and for our earth. The students are more thoughtful and more responsive than reactive. It was so successful this year, that my principal and I had discussed the idea of following my students to the next grade to see if we could keep this tight bond going. I will have about half of my class as students next year and I am optimistic we will continue to deepen our relationship with mindfulness. I also will be starting a mindfulness club and working with students in grades 3-6 on mindfulness activities before school and during lunch throughout the school year.
A Mindful Monday Thing That Evolved Into a Daily Practice
It started off as a Mindful Monday thing but evolved into a daily practice. It was probably the most appreciated thing I taught them. When I asked them to share or write about what they liked most about this year, most said mindfulness. They liked how it really felt like a school family, that like their mommy, I really loved and cared for them too, that they felt safe and that everything would be ok.
“I am hopeful mindfulness in education will become more common when integrated into classrooms everywhere.”
I see the way it has softened my students, but also, how it has grounded my practice. Mindfulness first and foremost, has to be embodied by the person guiding it. I think my authentic practice makes it easier for my students to be open to it, because they see me model it and live it. I get positive feedback from others wishing they could have what I and my kiddos have, but that they don’t know how to get there. That is why I volunteered to present a 90-minute workshop on mindfulness in education to any teacher in my school district at our back-to-school convocation. I am hopeful mindfulness in education will become more common when integrated into classrooms everywhere. I have had guest teachers visit my classroom to observe us doing our mindfulness moments. Each day we have a mindful moment, where a student reads the following:
Then we do a breathing activity and I call on a few people to share what is on their mind. They share how they feel so good after we do a mindfulness activity. How they feel safe, calm, at peace, loved. They feel relaxed and ready. They state how they feel hopeful, that they might have been tired or in a grumpy mood before but now they are feeling positive about the day. I had one kid share how she used to hate coming to school, but thanks to Mrs. Safa and mindful moments, she looks forward to coming each day. Every year I have loved my class and always felt like we had such a special thing going. Yet this past year, the year I blended my personal practice into my professional practice, it was magical. It was the most meaningful and transformative year I have had, and I think the parents and the students would probably say the same thing. It is special, pure and simple when kids feel loved and you truly look forward to being the one blessed enough to guide them in a positive and loving direction.
How would you go about and teach your students to cultivate a healthy, happy, holy mind?
“I teach my kids about growth-mindset, about how mistakes are helpful, how they might not be able to do something yet, but with time and practice, they could accomplish great things.”
With Love. I love them, I tell them I love them every day. I find things to connect with them about, things outside of schools like art, music, or sports. I teach my kids about growth mindset, about how mistakes are helpful, how they might not be able to do something yet, but with time and practice, they could accomplish great things. I believe in them and I hold them to high expectations. My students know that I believe in having a good attitude and a positive character, that who they are as humans are so much more important to me than their test scores. I have 31 kiddos looking up to me which makes me responsible for modeling the right actions and showing love and kindness to others as well. It is an amazing amount of power and influence we teachers have. I choose to use it for the prosperity of the world. I want to be a positive influence on them, I get to have a stake in molding them to be compassionate, kind, thoughtful, intentional, mindful, good little people. Of course, I teach them math, reading, writing, science, social studies, health, wellness, technology, internet-safety, and so much more, but at the core of everything I do with them, is making it clear that they are loved and capable of great things.
Would you like to share anything else?
Mindfulness has helped me be a better teacher, to be more loving and gentle with myself, so I can be more loving and gentle with my students. Being a teacher is beyond rewarding, and with mindfulness, I am truly at peace and filled with such gratitude that I get to do what I do. I think there are a lot of overwhelmed, unhappy, stressed out teachers who do not exude love and patience for our youth. I want that to change and I think it starts with teaching teachers about mindfulness. Once they start seeing the benefits, they will incorporate it into their practice. Kids will feel safer, they will feel like they are being seen and heard and that they matter. Once kids and youth start feeling those things, I think that is when we will begin to see greater change happen.
Thank you, Kristin Safa for sharing your story. I am grateful for your contribution to teaching mindfulness to our younger generation. I wish the best of luck to you with your mindfulness workshop and implementing mindfulness in the educational system. Connect with The Mindful Elementary Teacher on Instagram here.
“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” – Dalai Lama
Meditation Library: Head on over to my archived meditation library and try out some of kundalini yoga meditations here.
Resources for teachers:
- About Mindfulness Research
- The Happiness Curriculum
- How to get started with mindfulness
- Body Scan Exercise
- Puppy Mind Exercise
- Free audio guided meditations
- Teaching Students Mindfulness – Amazon
- Mindful Education Books – Ebay
Have a Mindfulness Story to share?
If you who are reading this article is a mindfulness teacher, or have an inspirational mindfulness story and want to share it on my website with the world to see, do let me know and get in touch with me here or via my storytelling page here.
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Thank you for reading!
With loving kindness,
Tiaga Nihal Kaur.