Students AND teachers need mindful moments

My last post argued for mindfulness in schools, but it focused on the student. Today, I want to include why teachers need mindful moments too.

The comprehensive peer reviewed article by Katherine Weare and Felicia Huppert on mindfulness in schools that I mentioned in my last post notes a theme running through the literature. They found “the essential need for the teacher to practice mindfulness themselves if they are to experience improvements in their own well-being, deepen their abilities as teachers, be effective and credible mindfulness teachers and to create prosocial environments where all may thrive.” The study shows that when teachers practice mindfulness with their students it deepens their relationship and gives teachers a “greater sense of authentic presence and empathy, putting the learner at the heart of teaching and learning, and encouraging students towards self-knowledge.”

Most of what I share in this blog is positive. I love teaching and I encourage you to as well, but that does not mean that it is easy physically or emotionally.

Yesterday I saw the following posted on Facebook by a colleague:

Attached to that post was this list:

A day in the life of a teacher…
Me: Ok class, today…
Student: This is stupid. I’d rather be playing video games.
Office: *ring* Send (student) to the office.
Voicemail: My kid told me that YOU…
Email: We need you to sub on your prep.
Teacher coaches: Students are experiencing an all time level of trauma. Form relationships with all students and make connections every day.
SRSS: Make sure to incorporate ELA and math into your lesson plan daily, so we can boost our scores for data.
IEP: Implement these modifications and accommodations for these students every hour. Document it.
504: You are legally bound to adhering to these accommodations for these students. Document it.
Pinterest: Every teacher in the universe has a cooler and craftier idea and classroom than you.
Facebook: Omg. Did you hear about what happened in *insert teacher here* class?! Don’t they even watch them? It’s their job! How did (s)he miss that?! Yeah, and I heard…
Class roster: 30+ kids every hour, 6 times per day.
Student Services: You have 4 homeless students. You need to provide the following daily.
Student Medical alert: These students will die if you don’t monitor these medical issues closely.
Professional Development: We’re trying something new this year even though we’re not ready to roll it out and there’s no funding for it. Be sure to document that you are doing it correctly.
Media: Your classroom is going to get shot up any minute.
Surprise observation: Be sure goals are set, reports are finished, lesson plans are perfect, and that you hit the learning target and success criteria multiple times. We need documentation and evidence that you’re doing this.
Standardized tests: You suck as a teacher. Also, your rating is based on this, but also, make sure students don’t feel defined by their performance on these.
PBIS: Teach students the expectations in the hallway, cafeteria, classroom, and outside. Take students in the bathroom and reteach how to wipe, flush, and wash hands. Be sure to only reward positive behavior. Check in and check out with these specific students daily.
MTSS: We have 3 tiers of support. What about your gifted students, pull out students, intervention students? Why aren’t you providing enough differentiation? You need to provide documentation.
Door: Keep me locked, so that students are safe. Yes you will be interrupted to open me 10x per hour.
Papers/Grading: Say good bye to your evenings and weekends.
Lesson plans: Are they aligned with school, state, U.S., and world wide standards? Be sure to document that.
The Powers That Be: What can we do to help?
Teachers: Please take something off our plate before adding something new.
The Powers that Be: Sorry, no can do. Btw, you also need to…
Tech Dept: We are working on correcting today’s issue as quickly as we can.
English Language Learner: *crying, speaking a foreign language, feeling alone and scared*
The Powers that Be: Sorry, there’s just not enough funding for those students.
Department Heads: I’ve been told we need to align all of our curriculum, assessments, and daily lesson plans. Be sure to document that.
Staff Memo: Be sure to attend the following meetings this week: staff, grade level, core subject, tech, school climate, school improvement.
Counselors: We saw 500 of the 900 students on our caseload, this month.
Social Worker: Yes, I filed that CPS report and the other one. Now we wait on the state to act.
Student: My step dad got arrested last night for beating up my mom.
Tornado Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.
Fire Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.
External Threat drill: Surprise! Make sure student are silent and out of the funnel of potential bullet spray. Now go back to teaching.
Tutoring: Provided before school, after school, and during lunch.
Technology: Must be implemented into all lessons but also make sure to monitor all 30+ students at all times and make sure they’re not doing anything inappropriate.
Administrators: *literally being pulled in 20 directions at once, everyday, while fielding discipline, making multiple teacher observations, fielding staff, breaking up fights, keeping us safe, performing investigations, cooperating with police, meeting with students and parents, and attending all after school and extracurricular activities*
State: Make sure you are highly qualified, but you must pay for all of your professional development, student loans, grad classes, conferences, hotel stay, food, and travel out of pocket. And you need to update your certification. You’ll need to pay for that too.
Bladder: You haven’t peed in 7 hours, you’re going to get another infection.
Heart: *racing*
Eyes: *leaking tears*
Me: *smiles* (Tells self) Stop. Just suck it up. You’re fine. You have 30+ students eyes on you right now. Do NOT let them down.
Society: F*ck respect for authority, including your teachers. Must be nice to get your summers off.
Parent of a student: You make a difference.
Student: I know I’m special and have value, because of you.
My own kids: Mom, why are your crying?
Me: *sets alarm for tomorrow to do it all over again*

As I read this I thought, yes, yes, yep that too. Teachers understand stress and trauma because we experience it. Teachers need mindfulness in our lives in order to make us better teachers. By incorporating mindfulness into the classroom we are benefiting both students and ourselves by being mindful about our mental space and our teaching. For a deeper dive into how mindful teachers can help improve classroom management, teacher-student relationships, and instructional strategies see “Mindfully Teaching in the Classroom: a Literature Review,” by Nicole Albrecht, Patricia Albrecht, and Marc Cohen (2012).

My next post will be an introduction to how I use mindfulness strategies in my classroom with tips on how you can use it in yours. My students beg for “Zen Time.” They know they need it and it makes a difference in their lives. When else do they get ten minutes with no phone, pure silence, and permission to check in on their physical and mental health? They don’t.

Check out these posts for more on stress relief and mindful moments:

Mindfulness in schools (an opinion)

5 ways to handle first year teacher stress

Survival Mode

5 Snacks teachers love

It’s ok to get teacheritis

Recommended reading for future/new teachers

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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