Mindfulness for Educators

Each of us can recall that one teacher from our past who made a real difference in our lives. Perhaps he or she challenged us to look at ourselves or the world a little differently. Maybe it was some feedback that was painful to accept at the time, but helped us to raise the bar for all our future endeavors. Or it could simply have been a genuine interest in who we were beyond the confines of the classroom. Whatever it was that calls this person to mind, he or she expressed sensitivity…sensitivity to our needs as a learner and an individual…sensitivity to how we interacted…and sensitivity to building a safe, nurturing climate in which we all could prosper.

We must wonder how these special people were able to maintain such presence and awareness in what can be a very challenging space. Every learner brings a unique personality and background into the room. And there is only so much time to truly get to know everyone while ensuring that learning still takes place. Teachers must also closely manage behavior, which for many is the most challenging part of the profession. How do they prevent one student’s minor disruption from derailing the learning of everyone else in the room?  The teacher’s job is a daunting one and to be successful, they must know how to take care of themselves first.

A relatively new and exciting field of research has found that teachers are most effective in the classroom when they are “healthy, focused and emotionally balanced” (Jennings et al., 2016).

Mindulness_Definition.jpgProfessional development programs such as CARE* (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education), CALM (Community Approach to Learning Mindfully) and PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) are helping teachers to better manage stress, regulate their emotions and practice sensitivity in their classroom interactions. Brian and Ann of Team Sun Wellness have been trained in the CALM program and have seen first-hand just how important a few focused breaths and mindful movements at the start of the school day can be for a teacher’s well-being (click here to read our blog post on this experience).

Research also indicates that the stakes for these mindfulness initiatives could never be higher. Brian is currently researching for his doctorate the influence of a teacher’s sensitivity on the development of a child’s core cognitive and socio-emotional functions such as attention, memory, mental flexibility and interpersonal communication. The development of these skills highly predict a child’s healthy adjustment to school, and subsequently to the workplace and society at large (Diamond, 2012).

Team Sun Wellness welcomes the opportunity to introduce mindfulness training into your specific learning environment. We are trained in mindfulness (Penn Medicine), certified yoga instructors (RYT 200), and grounded in results-oriented academic research. We can provide ongoing mindfulness training to your learning professionals or tailor our sessions to the unique needs of your learning organization.

Find out more about rates on Wellness Offerings.

*Mindfulness Research References

Mindfulness is the New Apple

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We’ve been getting up very early the past week, bringing Mindfulness to Educators through the CALM program being implemented in the Red Clay School District in Wilmington, DE. The teachers at Highlands Elementary, one of four schools offering CALM, begin their day by taking care of themselves, bringing awareness to their own needs, so that they can face the challenging task of inspiring their students on a daily basis.

brian_meditation2.jpgCALM (Community Approach to Learning Mindfully) aims to boost educators’ focus, energy, stress-management, and well-being during the workday and beyond. The seventeen-week program builds on themes we learned in our mindfulness training at the Penn Program for Mindfulness, centered on the principles of breath and awareness established by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Each twenty-minute CALM session provides:

  • Breathing practices
  • Gentle yoga stretches and movement exercises
  • Mindful awareness practices
  • Setting intentions for the school day

Brian and I were lucky to be chosen to train for this program as substitutes, and over the course of our week of subbing at 7:55am every morning, we witnessed firsthand how the curriculum achieves it’s promise to enhance awareness for teachers.

IMG_3796One of our students, the art teacher named Eugene, was particularly receptive to the posture, breath, and movement exercises, and shared his experience as a teacher there. “You have to be 100% present, 100% of the time. Otherwise the sharks will eat you!” Humor aside, it’s clear that Eugene has a very caring approach to teaching and, like most teachers, provides not only instructional but emotional support to his elementary school students. After one particularly exhausting day for Eugene, where he felt he didn’t perform up to his own expectations, we worked on Breath of Joy, which aims to build energy, support the mind-body-breath connection, and perhaps even bring a little smile to the day.

Following our session, in the remaining minute he had before class, Eugene shared a new perspective with us.

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After seeing the transformation of Eugene’s energy from sluggish and distracted to calm and alert, we can’t wait to bring more mindfulness to educators and caregivers. We believe, as evidence supports, that teachers are most effective in the classroom when they are healthy, focused, and emotionally balanced. We love the idea of supporting the well-being of those who are central to the well-being of our communities! Thank you to all the teachers out there making a huge difference in our kids’ lives.

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