How Mindfulness Can Help Teachers Be At Their Best
We often talk about how mindfulness can help students. But what about how it can help teachers? Teachers and other school staff can use mindfulness to create a calmer classroom environment. But they can also use these practices at home to reap the mental health benefits of mindfulness for themselves.
Mindfulness is a helpful practice that teachers can easily add to their workdays and lives. Here’s how mindfulness can support you as a teacher, as well as some easy ways to incorporate it into your day.
How Mindfulness Can Help Teachers: 5 Benefits
If you’re a teacher, mindfulness can support you in many ways. Teaching mindfulness to your students can create a calmer classroom, which may lead to a more positive working environment for you. Not only does mindfulness help your students, but it can help you, too. Having your own mindfulness practice both in and out of the classroom can improve your overall well-being and bring more peace and calm into your life.
More specifically, practicing mindfulness comes with the following benefits for teachers.
Mindfulness, specifically the practice of mindful communication, can help teachers become better communicators. Healthy communication, both with your students and with other adults, is a critical part of your job as a teacher. When you can’t communicate effectively with your students, this may lead to misunderstandings, behavioral issues, and frustration on both ends. And poor communication between adults on-campus can cause a toxic work environment.
Mindfulness can help improve communication skills. When speaking mindfully, you are encouraged to reflect deeply on the words you use to communicate. Rather than saying the first thing that comes to mind, you can take a few mindful breaths before speaking. This can help you to be both clear and kind in your communication, which may lead to stronger relationships.
Awareness of emotion
Mindfulness invites us to take a deeper look into what’s going on inside of us in each present moment. Whatever emotion we find there, we can approach it kindly and without judgment — even if we don’t like what we find. The key to practicing mindfulness is to simply be aware. When we look deeply into ourselves, we become more aware of what we’re feeling; when we become aware, we are better able to manage these emotions in healthy ways.
This practice can help teachers arrive to their classrooms each day as their most compassionate and patient selves. It’s so easy to lose your temper when there’s an undercurrent of frustration or anger inside you that hasn’t been examined. Mindfulness can help you examine and become aware of these feelings so you can express them in healthy ways.
One of the simplest descriptions of mindfulness is having non-judgmental awareness of what’s going on both inside and outside of you. When you practice mindfulness, you not only notice what’s happening, but you examine it without judgment. Strengthening this skill can help you to take a more gentle approach toward your students — especially the ones you find difficult.
Instead of reacting in frustration when a student isn’t following directions, mindfulness invites you to have non-judgmental curiosity about the situation. What do you notice about the student’s nonverbal communication? What do you imagine the student must be feeling? What do you notice about what’s going on inside of you? All of these questions can help strengthen your patience in the classroom, even when it’s tested.
Mindfulness can strengthen the relationships that you have with your students. When you are more mindful and intentional during classroom interactions, you become more likely to notice which students are struggling and why. Research has also shown that mindfulness creates more compassion and empathy.
Having strong relationships with their teachers is critical for students. Research shows that having a strong relationship with an adult is so powerful that it can serve as a protective factor against childhood trauma. Students who have good relationships with their teachers also perform better academically.
Better mental health
Lastly — and perhaps the most important — mindfulness has been shown to boost teachers’ mental health. Over 80% of teachers who have participated in Calm Classroom’s programs have experienced a reduction in stress and anxiety. Other studies have found similar results. In the general population, mindfulness training has been found to be an effective intervention for mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
In other words, teachers who practice mindfulness generally become happier people. Teacher well-being is a critical benefit of mindfulness in and of itself. Not only that, but happy teachers tend to be better able to support and be present for their students.
How to Incorporate Mindfulness as a Teacher
So how can you reap these benefits and incorporate mindfulness into your day as a teacher?
There are many simple mindfulness activities you can do as a teacher, both by yourself and with your students. Mindfulness is often mistaken for meditation, but there are many ways to practice mindfulness that don’t involve sitting quietly for long periods of time. Here are some easy ways that even the busiest teachers can practice mindfulness.
Take a breath
Find moments during your day when you can practice mindful breathing. We typically breathe without noticing our breath. When you breathe mindfully, you become deeply aware of the fact that you are breathing. You can use your breath as a way to connect to each present moment. As you breathe in, be aware that you’re breathing in. As you breathe out, be aware that you’re breathing out.
This is a simple way to become grounded in the present even if you only have a few moments to spare. You can also use this practice as a way to calm yourself —- or your students — when tension is running high.
You can also practice mindfulness every time you walk. Instead of hurrying to your destination, try staying present with each step you take. Some people time their breaths with their steps; for example, you can take two steps for each inhale, and three steps for each exhale. Take each step as an opportunity to connect with the present moment.
You can practice this any time you need to walk anywhere, like the walk between the parking lot and your classroom. You can also lead your class on a short walking meditation when they need a short break.
Mindfulness meditation, or sitting meditation, might be the best-known mindfulness activity out there. To practice mindfulness meditation, find a comfortable seated position. Especially when you’re a beginner, it may be easiest to find a place that’s free of distractions — but meditation can be practiced anywhere!
Close your eyes or find a soft gaze. Then, gently bring your attention to your breath. Notice the quality of your breath — how warm or cold does it feel? How quickly, or deeply, are you breathing? You don’t need to do anything to change your breath; simply noticing it is enough. If thoughts come up for you while you’re in meditation, just notice them without judgment and let them go.
The more often you practice mindfulness, the stronger this mindfulness “muscle” will be. And the stronger your practice, the more easily these skills will come to you during difficult classroom moments.
Calm Classroom’s Mindfulness Resources for Teachers
At Calm Classroom, we strive to make mindfulness easily accessible even for busy teachers and their students. Our curriculum includes simple mindfulness activities that you can use both in the classroom and at home. Nearly 90% of teachers feel more relaxed after participating in Calm Classroom’s mindfulness program. And when you’re relaxed, you can bring your best self to the classroom.
To learn more about how mindfulness can support teachers and students, get in touch with us today.
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