May 09, 2022

Mindfulness Techniques in the Classroom for Students AND Teachers 

Mindfulness I feel sometimes gets a bad rap, which sometimes makes the idea of bringing mindfulness techniques into the classroom daunting.  Most of the time when we hear the word “mindfulness”, our mind wanders to meditation pillows and sitting cross-legged on the floor.  But mindfulness practices aren’t limited to this. 

The fact is, bringing mindfulness techniques into the classroom is easier than you think and can bring ease and support not only to the students in the room but can affect you, as the teacher, just as much…which you are going to learn about in this week’s episode. 

Welcome to episode 135 of The Burned-In Teacher Podcast. This is another flashback episode that I’ve pulled out from the vault I'm so excited to share it with you! 

I love this conversation that I got to have with Danielle Nuhfer back in 2019. Gosh, a lot has changed since then, right? I even reached out to Danielle to ask her for an updated bio because I was sure that her life had changed a little bit since our last conversation, and whose life hasn't changed in the last couple of years?  We are consistently being challenged in different ways. We are growing, our families are changing, our friendships are changing, and the world is changing. 

That's what I love so much about this episode! I’m bringing it to you now in a new light, a couple of years later, so you can soak it in with the understanding and the perspectives that you have now that you may not have had in 2019. Even listening to myself, I realized how much I have grown and how much my perspectives have changed being back in the classroom for almost an entire school year. 

This is a really great interview for anybody who has felt burned out in the past and maybe told themselves the story that they were free and clear of burnout forever, but we know that that's not the case. 

Putting this episode together for you all couldn't have come into my life at a better time, because as I'm recording this, I’ve faced a lot of challenges lately. For example, the other day was a very, very challenging day, behavior-wise, in my classroom. I’ve been working very hard on bringing new strategies, new perspectives, and new ideas into my classroom from the courses that I've enrolled in by The Active Educator, but that doesn't mean that every day is going to be perfect.  But I’ve brought the strategies that I remember learning from Danielle back in 2019 into my daily life in the classroom. I've done a lot of deep breathing - which I've already taught my students and I have been practicing it in front of them as well.  In this episode, you'll hear the other tips that she gives you for getting yourself into a healthy headspace either when you're kids are with you in the classroom or you're planning your prep time.

This is a fantastic conversation for this time of the year because this is when things are at their most chaotic and we tend to spiral. This conversation will help you become more centered, and that's what we all need during these last few weeks of school. 

It’s time to jump into this flashback episode! 

I'm so excited to have Danielle back on the podcast to help to remind us that we have power over our emotions and over our space. Danielle specializes in teaching mindfulness, stress reduction, self-care, and habit formation to teachers and students. She's a high school English teacher, a Mindful Schools certified instructor, and an ICF-credentialed teacher wellness coach. Danielle is the author of The Path of a Mindful Teacher - for which I got to write part of the foreword - and founder of Teaching Well, which is dedicated to supporting teachers to reduce stress and burnout while finding and sustaining balance and wellness inside and outside of their classrooms. 

Do you see why Danielle and I get along so well? 

Danielle was honored to partner with like-minded school districts and work with teachers through professional development opportunities, online courses, and one-to-one teacher wellness coaching. You can find and learn more about her at 

Amber: Danielle, thank you for joining us today on The Burned-In Teacher Podcast! I'm so honored to have you here.

Danielle: Thanks so much for having me.

Amber: Could you tell us a little bit about you and your teaching journey? Tell us a little bit about your teaching journey and how you got from teaching to what you do now.

Danielle: I am still in the classroom, but I definitely have had quite a teacher journey throughout the years!

I started teaching in 2002 as a high school English teacher and I went through basically the typical five-year, “everything's coming in on me”, typical burnout that teachers deal with that we talk about all the time. 

At the time, don't know what started first - if it was personal life stuff happening that would interfere with my teaching or if it was teaching stuff that would then compound my personal life stuff. In 2006, for whatever reason, I was sitting in the principal's office and I was not necessarily in trouble, but my principal was talking to me and he was really concerned about what was going on. He just knew something was wrong.

This all happened right before summer vacation, and I honestly knew that if I didn't do something during that summer, I wasn’t going to be able to last the next year. So I did a lot of deep diving that summer, and that's what I do each summer from then on. 

So it's interesting, I know you were doing a Summer Self-Care Series with your podcast, and I really try to empower teachers to do a deep dive into themselves in the summertime because that was such a profound thing that happened for me. 

So during that summer of 2006, I started going to see a therapist, and I found something called “mindfulness” that I used for my own personal practice. I also started to do things with my morning routine. Incorporating all of these things didn't just happen overnight, but slowly, those were the things that helped me go from sitting in the principal's office in 2006 to really starting to dig myself out of the overwhelm and stress I was feeling both in my personal life and my professional life. 

I'd like to pause there and say that my story is really a “cautionary tale” because I definitely had two big burnouts in my life. What I experienced in 2006 was the first one. After that, I thought, “Oh, I got through that five-year hump. I'm good!”  I think what happens to a lot of people, and what definitely happened to me, is because you start to feel better, you forget to do some of the things that made you feel better. 

As I became a better teacher,  people began asking me to take on responsibilities and add things to my plate. And to be perfectly honest, it was an ego boost! There I was in 2006 not knowing if I could be a teacher, and now people were like, “Why don't you do this?” or “Let's have Danielle do this” or “Join this committee and do this thing”. It felt good. 

So I did all those things and that caused - clearly - a second round of burnout for completely different reasons. It never occurred to me that burnout could happen again, especially, when I was involved in such great things that I loved to do. My ego really had me take on things and I didn’t know how to say “No”. I think that one thing that my journey has taught me is how to reframe the “No”. Instead of saying “No to all these things in my life, I realized that saying “No” can allow me to say “Yes” to other things - like a more balanced life. 

Amber: Absolutely! You’ve shared so many important things already! First of all, knowing that there's not one type of burnout and that it doesn't just happen one time. And, depending on where you are in your journey, burnout can happen for different reasons. 

Help me to remember or understand, in 2006, how many years had you been teaching? 

Danielle: I had only been teaching for four years. It was right at that time in your career when so many teachers walk away from teaching and really didn't want to. And that’s such an early part of your life that can be such a difficult time in your life in general. So having a stressful job, plus all the personal things happening can become overwhelming.  Nobody ever told me that all those things together could really cause me to leave my job. And I didn't have that self-awareness or the life experiences to know better. 

So as I've grown, I thought I would grow and not have another burnout, but we’re always growing.

Amber: Absolutely. 

So tell us a little bit about you. You're still in the classroom, but you also serve teachers. Tell us a little bit about that transition of having that side hustle of serving teachers alongside being a teacher. 

I am really curious about that because ultimately, I felt like I had to make a choice for my own well-being and I'm very curious about how you balance all of that.

Danielle: Let me start by saying I don't want to be on your show again in a few years from now saying I've had a third burnout! You are making very valid points and I will tell you how this all actually is. 

I’ll start by going back to my second round of burnout in 2014.  At the time, I didn't realize I could let go of some responsibilities, and if I did, maybe I would have more free time.  But my ego didn't want that to happen and I didn't know what to do because I really didn't want to go back.

I was able to find a happy medium. I had a friend who had gone on a sabbatical which my school district allowed me to take.  I was on sabbatical from the spring semester of 2015 to the spring of 2016. During that time, I was able to take courses in mindfulness which deepened my mindfulness practice.  I actually found, through that sabbatical, how to apply mindfulness to the classroom through all the training I was taking.  Being out of the classroom gave me space, and I was able to dig deep and learned, and then applied my new learning. And when I went back to the classroom, I was in such a different place. I found that these practices not only helped my personal life but I could also apply them to my classroom. 

This last year I have been on maternity leave with my son, so I’ve been working from home, while my husband is also working from home. During this time I've been able to really dive deep into working with teachers since I haven't been in the classroom for the last year. I go back to the classroom in August, and I'll be completely vulnerable right now and tell you that I don't know how I'm going to juggle this. 

Amber: It’s going to be fantastic to be able to share your own experiences.  Those are really valuable lessons! 

And you are going to learn a lot. With taking risks and starting something new, there's always a learning curve. I'm really excited for you! You're going to have to report back to us and let us know how it's going!

Danielle: That's how I feel.  I know that I'm taking the business and teaching well into uncharted territories, but this is real-life stuff. These are all things that so many teachers are going through, and I feel like it’s going to be a good thing. 

Amber: Yes, It’s going to be an amazing thing! 

This is a great transition into talking about the business that you started called Teaching Well.  You and I found each other on social media, and you and I have chatting back and forth for several months. I thought this would be a perfect time for you to come on to the show, share what you do for teachers, and teach us about what we can do at the beginning of the school year to help us to have a better year than what we did last year, or the years previous.

Danielle: Sure! I always like to give action steps when I work with teachers because we're always inundated with theory.

What I've found is that a very simple thing you can do in your classroom, if you want to bring more mindfulness in, is simply taking three breaths. Mindfulness can be that simple. Oftentimes, I look at a teacher's schedule, and we try to figure out when can they can take three breaths.  And I know it sounds silly, but when you're deliberate about those pauses, those pauses come more naturally, especially when you need them the most and you are getting ready to react to a student's behavior. If you can plug into those three breaths, you'll start to respond more mindfully. 

Just ask yourself, “Okay, where am I scheduled? Where can I just pause?” Maybe it's the beginning of the day, maybe it's before my lunch break, maybe it's during a transition period with my kids when they're walking to their specials class, or whatever your schedule looks like. Build in those three breaths.  When you are intentional and have those things built in, and then in the classroom, they come more naturally.

Amber: When you are doing this, are there things that you're thinking about? Or is there some mantra that you're saying to yourself while you're doing those breaths, what do you suggest teachers do during that time?

Danielle: I just want to focus on the breathing and where I feel it the most. So I might even just think “In”  as I'm inhaling and “Out, as I'm exhaling just to make myself focus on that breathing. I also will really plug into the place where I feel the breath the most, which is where I what I call “the anchor”. So the anchor might be the tip of your nose, it might be your chest, it might be your stomach, it might be the back of your throat. So wherever you feel that breath the most, you can really hone in on that part. And that will keep you present to that breath.

Amber: That is fantastic. That's a great first step. So what else do you have for us?

Danielle: Another thing that you could do in the midst of your class, I do this at the beginning of my classes, is something called “centering”. So all you do is when you're at the front of the classroom, you just plug into your feet. Think about what your feet feel like as you stand in front of your class so that you are really in your classroom instead of stressing about what you didn't get done earlier in your day -  the copy machine that broke, your email not working, that you have to make a parent phone call later.  Just ground down into your feet, pan around the room, and really center your feet to the ground and just feel what that feels like.

Amber: That seems so simple. How do you remind yourself to do this? I love the first one because that's something you can do when you are by yourself or you are at least in a place where you're not in the middle of the chaos. I love all of the things that you said that we're thinking about because only a teacher could understand all of those things. 

Tell us a little bit about some ways we can remember to try to do what you suggested. Is it a sticky note? (Like we need more sticky notes!) How do you remember to do this?

Danielle: I do recommend sticky notes!  You could put something like a smiley face or something like that in the front of the room to remind you. Any sort of reminder is absolutely fair game. 

Sometimes I will ask teachers if it would be helpful to put something in the back of the room that you can actually see that's like a sign for you. So that when you look up, it’s a reminder to get centered.  Maybe it's a smiley face again, or maybe it's something by the clock because, as a teacher, you’re constantly watching your time.  It also could be something that you do right before you go into the classroom. If you greet your kids outside the door, just take a moment center, take that one breath, and then walk into your classroom ready to start and so you do have that moment to pause like entering your stage.

Amber: Showtime, right? You’re getting yourself geared up for it. I love that, that's fantastic. I love the idea of having a sign or symbol somewhere in the classroom that reminds you. What I remember doing in my classroom is I definitely did not decorate my classroom because I really wanted to be student-centered. I did have little things in the classroom that showed that this space was mine because this is also my space and I needed to have little pieces of it that I love to bring me joy. I can imagine how having a little symbol that it just means something to you - it's like your little secret with yourself. 

So I know you have one more thing to share with us that you'd like teachers to take action on, especially beginning this year and getting into these practices. So what's the last step?

Danielle: Oftentimes teachers are doing these mindfulness practices -  they're learning to breathe, they're learning to center - and they say, “Well, shouldn't I be teaching this to kids?” First of all, I want to say you never have to teach this to kids if you don't want to because your presence alone will be different in the classroom without ever teaching students any of these techniques. 

What I'd like to offer if you need something to share with students, what I love to do is something called a “Silent 60”. So all it is is 60 seconds at the beginning of your class, where you just let the students put their heads down if they want and close their eyes. This is used as a transition between their hustle and bustle, and your classroom and it builds that bridge from everything happening outside of your classroom to focusing on what’s happening here and now.  I will tell you that in my experience, I've been doing this for years, the kids look forward to it and they ask for more. And at first, they think, “Oh, we're getting something over on or she's giving us this minute.” But what ends up happening is that they, and they don't realize it, are in a better space.  And I'm in a better space, the work gets done at a better, and everything just becomes a little bit more at ease. 

Amber: I love that. And that's so easy to remember!  All three of these tips are super simple but can make a big impact. And even in my position working with teachers in the classrooms and leading PD and things like that, I can see how that would also help me with my anxiety as well. This was a nice reminder to be mindful no matter what profession you're in, especially in the chaos of the day. 

As a teacher, there was one year I had 31 1st graders, and I could have used these practices because that was a very challenging year for me. At the time, I was also doing Burned-In Teacher on the side and I could have definitely used these practices!

Danielle, before we sign off today, is there anything else you'd like to share with the teachers as they enter their new school year? And tell us again where we can find you.

Danielle: One thing that I would love to give teachers as they move into their next school year is the ability to say “No”, and reframe that “No” to say “Yes” to all of the things that make them the wonderful teacher that they are. That's really what I want to leave teachers with - the ability to say “Yes” to themselves and “Yes” to a full life because that's going to make them an incredibly valuable teacher, and an invaluable person in our society. We need to take care of ourselves. And the empowering piece of this whole thing is that WE are the solution to that stress, WE are the solution. We don't need to wait for anybody else to do anything else, because when we change, things change, and that can make all the difference.

Amber: Such a powerful way to end our interview, and it's so true! I've said this so many times before, no one's coming to save you, YOU have to make the decision. YOU have to do the research, and YOU have to take the action steps. Just wishing for things to be different is not going to change anything. If you change nothing, nothing changes. 

Danielle, thank you so much for these lessons. These tips are invaluable as teachers begin the school year. And really anytime you listen to this, these are things that you don't have to print things out and laminate, you can just bring these things into your daily practices. 

Thank you so much for your expertise, your experience, and for what you have learned about mindfulness and for bringing it on to the podcast.



  1. Find a moment to pause - be intentional by scheduling moments in your day where you can pause. 
  2. Reframe “no” - be okay with saying “no” to things.  Remember, when you say “no” to something, you’re saying “yes” to other things. 
  3. Sign up for my new Masterclass!  Go to www. 



Instagram: @teachingwelldanielle

Facebook Group: We are Teaching Well

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 Danielle’s Website: www.TeachingWell.Life



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