Mindfulness in the Classroom: Developing Gratitude
“It’s bringing me new insight into my students’ minds and motivations, and I’m keeping my own mindful practice from teachers. I think my school is gaining from this (I work as a Mindfulness instructor in the school I tutor at). I’ve become aware that even people’s prayer and what goes on in their minds affect my classroom. I’m now devoting a couple hours per week just to meditation. And people and families have really bought into it.” ― Eva Bacchus
The primary benefit of mindfulness is being in control of our thoughts, how we feel about what we’re doing, and which thoughts are active and which are not active. What does that mean in a classroom?
Practicing Mindfulness for Teachers
According to the C.D. Howe Institute, most teachers are “not emotionally prepared” for the challenging work they do at the front of a classroom. You’d think they could come up with an office style of mindfulness. I’ve been interviewing teachers all summer to bring my colleagues their full-day workshop on mindfulness, Mindfulness in the Classroom, which was delivered in June. Over the summer, I’ve met teachers with many great ideas of how they would integrate mindfulness into their lives for their kids. But they also feel stymied and unfulfilled when it comes to coaching their students on managing their thoughts.
Since my partner Julie created the Psychology of Mindfulness group over ten years ago, I know that mindfulness is quite a strange thing for people to try. I know this well because my partners worked for over fifteen years as communicators with other teachers and then spent twelve years working as teachers as well. They could never bring the concepts of mindfulness to the forefront because the practice did not speak to them. And even after working at mindfulness retreats all summer long with teachers, they are still surprised by the practice that seems so foreign and boring.
They all agreed that while mindfulness was relatively easy to learn, it was not always easy to practice, and very little was known about how to teach mindfulness in schools. But they did agree on one thing, that they’d learned that the initial implementation of mindfulness in schools required radical, systematic support to transform the classroom dynamic.
What teachers and students will experience from Mindfulness in the Classroom
When you add mindfulness to a classroom setting, students can now feel a sense of security and safety within themselves. The experience of focus, clarity and being in the present moment are emotions that the student trusts, which completely changes their expectations. Students experience a shift in their values and ideas, towards ways of thinking that are unjudgmental and that reflect their beliefs and goals as individuals. They also see the benefits of a problem solving/decision making style, and they feel calmer. All of these are new experiences for their brains, although they are much anticipated. Students see the shift from preciousness to no-importance.
The (Mindfulness) practice is transformative for teachers and students
Today, teachers often feel like the victims of my students’ behavior, but I believe that mindfulness in the classroom does much more than just change the classroom. We have seen teachers who went from feeling worthless, dissatisfied and distracted to feeling successful and inspired. And we see how teachers who are good at managing their own stressful environments tend to offer remarkable and positive guidance to students, regardless of their backgrounds. Mindfulness teaches these skills to teachers, teachers are teachers first, and teachers are teachers to students first.
Now I’m sitting here in awe of the students, and they are in awe of their teachers. I’m sure teachers are starting to feel more that they have a choice in how they teach. Our school system desperately needs this.