Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of our moment-to-moment existence by paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. It also includes cultivating a state of nonjudgement toward those things. Instead of categorizing them as “good” or “bad,” mindfulness teaches us to accept our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they are, with compassion. Getting started with a mindfulness practice is simple, unintimidating, and it offers educators numerous advantages. Here are six ways mindfulness can help you:
- Communicate clearly
Sometimes we address our students without even realizing what we’re saying or how we’re saying it. By slowing down and paying attention to our words, we can be sure our message is clear, and that our tone is appropriate to the situation.
- Manage emotions
Teaching is an emotional job, and teachers can go through the gamut of feelings all in one day. That kind of emotional rollercoaster often leaves us exhausted and overwhelmed. When we’re mindful of how we’re feeling, it helps us realize when we’re letting our emotions influence our actions detrimentally. On the flipside, mindfulness allows us to fully experience the joys of our job.
- Connect with students
A positive student-teacher relationship affords long-lasting benefits for student learning, which is why forming a connection early on is important. By intentionally spending time with individual students, even if it’s only for a few minutes, teachers send the message that each student is worthy. Being mindful of our interaction with students and focusing on only that moment provides them our full attention.
- Create a positive classroom environment
A classroom environment that uplifts and encourages students goes hand-in-hand with forming student connections. Mindfulness fosters a positive classroom environment by helping us become aware of any issues created by the physical space or by how we move around in that space. For example, if you want to promote independent reading, perhaps there’s a way to create a separate space for that in the classroom.
- Find joy in the day-to-day
Sometimes we get so bogged down with worries about the future that we forget to enjoy the moment we’re living in. Even if we’re feeling happy and content, a stray thought about what’s to come can shift everything. Being mindful of these thoughts helps us accept them, let them go, and return to the present moment.
- Handle difficult behavior
When faced with challenging student behavior, our minds tend to go straight to judgement. We judge the student, ourselves, and our ability to handle the behavior. Mindfulness is about acceptance (which is different than approval), and this helps us deal with the situation before us without the extra baggage of resisting it and judging it. Being in a state of nonjudgement means being aware of the evaluations and opinions we have, but not focusing on them. Instead, we focus on finding solutions and accepting help when we can’t get to a solution on our own.
By Kelli Drummer-Avendano