The Mindful Teacher

The Science of Mindfulness Helps Teachers and Students Stress –Less!


Imagine yourself, midway through a well-planned lesson.  A student makes loud disruptive noises that distract the others and threaten your instruction. Your body tenses and you feel a rush of emotion. Without thinking you respond angrily to the student, causing stress in the other children and draining your enthusiasm for the rest of the day. Sound familiar?

Teaching has never been an easy job but in the last decade it has become more challenging than ever. Students bring tough and traumatized home lives, as well as untreated physical and mental health issues to classrooms.  These issues are not easily fixable and yet teachers are somehow expected to ignore them, and move ahead with the day’s lesson. Teachers feel pressured to meet every student’s needs, regardless of the impossibility of doing so. Statistically, one in five teachers leave the profession in the first two years, and four in five have left after five years.

Mindful Attention To Breathing

Attention, Attention!

Losing so many talented individuals to stress and feelings of inadequacy begs our urgent attention. Fortunately, part of the solution is just that- attention.  Research studies now point to the fact that teachers who pay more attention to self care are more open and connected to their students and more satisfied with their work. In turn, their students are calmer, more focused and attentive and the class accomplishes more. (Association for Mindfulness in Education website December 2013, www.mindfuleducation.org)

Studies show that paying attention on a daily basis to mindful body movement like yoga or walking, along with developing concentration and self-awareness (mindfulness,) decreases stress, depression, anxiety, and hostility, and enhances executive function, compassion and empathy. (Saltzman, 2011)

Research at the University of Wisconsin on mindfulness courses designed specifically for teachers have linked the practice to an increase in teacher effectiveness as well as a myriad of personal emotional and physiological benefits.

Mindfulness for Students

A simple definition of mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in the present moment  without judgment. (Jon Kabat-Zinn, 1994) Several studies have demonstrated significant changes in children who receive instruction in mindfulness techniques and their ability to learn.

In a 2005 randomized controlled trial conducted by Maria Napoli, Ph.D., first, second, and third graders who participated in a program of mindfulness and relaxation showed significant increases in attention and social skills and decreases in test anxiety and ADHD behaviors.

 In a 2010 study of second and third graders who did Mindfulness Awareness practices for 30 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks, Lisa Flook, Ph.D. and her UCLA colleagues documented that children who began the study with poor executive function had gains in behavioral regulation, meta‐cognition, and overall global executive control.

In research on teaching mindfulness to adolescents conducted in 2009 by Gina Biegel, MA, MFT, the teens reported reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and somatic (physical) distress, and increased self‐esteem and sleep quality. Independent clinicians documented a higher percentage of diagnostic improvement and significant increases in functioning scores. In layperson’s terms, this means that adolescents who were initially diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety were no longer depressed or anxious.

 Teachers Survive and Thrive!

Being more present, clear, and calm in the present moment and less subject to the emotional push-pull of what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future is important for everyone, but for the teachers in today’s classrooms it is imperative.  Additionally, by practicing mindfulness techniques that cultivate kindness toward others, teachers can deepen their connections with students and thereby increase learning.

Learn more about our Mindful Teacher Workshop

 

 

Rediscover the Joy of Teaching!

Teaching and modeling mindful awareness can help to counteract student anxiety and aid in attention and connection to the moment at hand. There will always be stressful situations in a classroom and in our home lives. Mindfulness gives us the presence of mind and clarity to change our reaction to them and in the process, help our students to be more mindful of their actions and reactions as well.   

Darci Knight

Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First!

Developing a personal practice of physical and emotional self-care offers significant benefits to both teachers and students.  However, teaching mindfulness is like teaching anything else: to teach with excellence, you must know and be passionate about the subject. Mindfulness is an experiential discipline, so in order to offer it with integrity, the teaching must come out of a regular personal practice. Find out more about Mindfulness.

Darci Knight is a Camarillo elementary educator. She teaches Mindful Awareness through movement, breath, and meditation at the Camarillo Yoga Center.

 

 

 

 

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is state of active, open awareness created by focusing one’s attention on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Who Can Practice Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is for everyone, from all walks of life, young or old.  Mindfulness is not a religion- anyone, with any belief system, can benefit.  Mindfulness research in the United States and across the globe has scientifically correlated mindfulness to stress reduction.

Mindfulness Improves Well Being

  • Greater engagement and satisfaction in current activities
  • Lessened tendency to worry about future or past
  • Respond more effectively to complex or difficult situations
  • Increase in creativity, productivity
  • Balance and resilience at work and at home

Mindfulness Improves Physical Health

  • Stress reduction and decrease in stress related illnesses
  • Treat heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced chronic pain
  • Improve immune function
  • Improve sleep
  • Aid in alleviation of gastrointestinal difficulties

Mindfulness Improves Mental Health

 In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:

  • depression
  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • couples’ conflicts
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder