21 Sep Personal Transformation in the Classroom for Teachers and Students

By Elitsa Kostova, Anglo-American School of Sofia

Our guest author shares strategies for mindfulness and well-being for both students and teachers.

Support Teachers in Refocusing and Re-energizing

In his book “The theory U”, Otto Shammer discusses the importance of how people feel and what is there mood for a successful decision. Shammer finds that decisions made by people prove to be more successful when people feel safe and free to express their gifts because individuals can better assess the situation and respond to it.

In the light of such theory and practice, I suggest 3 centering activities and rituals to help teachers regain energy and focus.


The first is a simple meditation of 7 minutes that allows teachers to be present in the moment and tap into their personal strength. The transformational power of such practice comes from the idea of  presence, meaning how one feels and the subtle impression he or she leaves others with. This helps teachers tune in before/ after classes.


The second routine is related to maintaining a positive perspective and looking at all challenges as learning and teaching opportunities (which we all understand in theory, yet it is hard to practice).

The ritual has two stages, and requires a journal. The first stage is answering the following 3 questions, without giving it a very serious thought. The second part is reading the answers the next day.

  • What are 3 things that were awesome today?
  • What is one challenge I am facing today?
  • How can I use this challenge as a learning/teaching opportunity?

The transformational power of this ritual comes from a) regular practice and b) not thinking too deep, but allowing thoughts to flow on a regular basis, thus tapping into the hidden resources of the brain.

Awesomeness board

The final ritual is called the “Awesomeness board”, and allows both teachers and students to focus on the good in their lives and work. At the beginning of each class, students are asked to a) write on a sticky note something they are grateful for and b) something that are excited to learn or excited they are learning in the class. While this might take 10 to 15 minutes in a class, depending on the class size, doing it once a week creates community and, over time, a positive outlook for the entire group.

Help Students Discover Their Values

Adapted from transformational coaching, this value elicitation activity helps students discover what really matters for them. This provides a process for:

  • gaining clarity in decision making
  • understanding when and where to invest one’s energy
  • beginning to reveal the compass – those core values that show the North

In Middle School, have students set up a tale and character presented with several challenges and decisions to make. The activity provides a setting and loose frame for the journey of the character. Once students reflect on what was important for them in making those choices – a list of values is provided – they complete these in a personal constitution.

[Download the worksheet here!]

Empower Students with Positive Habits

What are mental and emotional habits that bring success? See examples of visuals, games, and activities that promote good habits below!

Look for solutions, not excuses

Have students reflect on this video. After watching the video, divide students into two groups – one comes up with all the excuses why the boys won’t make it and one with as many solutions for why they can. Finally, the class reflects on what are the outcomes of both approaches.

  • What actions and choices come with looking for excuses? Solutions?
  • Who do you become as a person based on both approaches?
  • What is the worst and the best that can happen when people a) only look for excuses or b) only look for solutions?

Every time a student is getting into an excuse mode, it is a good time to refer to this habit and ask the student to think of solutions and resources. What is the first, smallest step you can do towards a solution?

Ask the right questions

Teachers can use a poster with 4 questions and ask students to turn these into actions every time they start a project or are stuck. The questions are:

  • What is my goal?
  • What is the benefit for me? (reflecting on the learning outcome)
  • Where can I get support?
  • What is the first step and when will I do it?

In addition to these questions, students’ think of the questions that guide their work/learning in various situations.

Become the boss of your studies (own the process)

Ask students to set their own “finishing line” for the term, where students will get in terms of their skills. On a worksheet, students draw the line and answer the questions: What shows that I have mastered this? Who can give me feedback for how well I am doing? Then, on a monthly or bi-weekly basis, students literally draw their progress towards the finish line.

These habits are all practices teachers are already doing in one way or another, and here they are presented in a simple and structured way. The transformational power comes from simplicity and regular practice.

To connect with educator’s around the world and share strategies and tips, check out our upcoming PD events!

Elitsa started her career as an educator, and became a coach, mentor and a corporate trainer. She is the founder of the Edu Compass Foundation, which provides state of the art career orientation courses and personal development for youth. Her mission and career bring together the 3 elements of the development of the human capital – education, personal growth and corporate training.

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