Mindfulness? In My classroom?

Until a short time ago, I had never heard the term “mindfulness” and even today, had to Google it to see exactly how the word might be defined. I was reading a post by a David Guerin on Twitter in which he referred to a recent NPR article, “Teachers are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All”, in which Patricia Jennings, author of Mindfulness for Teachers, made the observation “These teachers were better able to cope with classroom challenges and manage their feelings, which made it easier for them to manage their students’ big feelings. And that, says Jennings, helps students learn.”

That got my attention. Although I know a lot of teachers who are feeling the effects of stress in their lives, student trauma and stress is kind of a hot button for me right now. I have been reading a a lot lately about how the stress and trauma that many students experience off-campus is contributing the behavioral challenges they present and the lack of academic success they experience on campus.

In short, kids are hurting and when they bring that hurt to school, teachers hurt. It’s quite a cycle. I’m not too far from theorizing that if one had the ability to alleviate some of the hurt experienced by students (or at least the symptoms of the hurt), then a lot of the hurt and stress experienced by teachers would be lessened as well.

But the thrust of Jennings book — and the NPR article — is that teachers can only control what they can control and if we would practice “mindfulness” we would be better at controlling our space.

“What is mindfulness? Definitions vary, but Jennings likes to think of it this way: attending to things in the moment with curiosity and acceptance.”

I think that means that we look at our momentary circumstances and observe, “Hmmm. Well, I guess stuff happens.”

I might be pushing the boundaries, but it seems like that is what some people are describing as having a strong EQ — emotional intelligence.

So, if mindfulness makes us better educators, could it also help our students be more successful learners. Could we all benefit from taking time to realize that we are created as human “BEings” and not human “DOings”?

What if I found time as our school day begins for my classroom to become an unofficial “Mindfulness Zone” where for 15 minutes students had the option to come and meditate? I have no formal training in meditation, but I know how to sit quietly and think. That brief time — before school actually begins — could be a buffer for students — a kind if demilitarized zone in the war between what they bring to school and what they are asked do at school.