Mindfulness for Teachers

As I have mentioned many times in this blog, having a mindfulness practice of your own is essential to teaching it to your students.  Taking time to be mindful or just to take the “brain break” that we are striving to give our kids is so important.  However, being busy teachers, we often fail ourselves.  Between writing top notch lesson plans, correcting papers, attending parent conferences, meetings, responding to e-mails, helping students locate lost books and papers, playing counselor, making copies, modeling good peer relations (are you tired yet?) there is little to no time to even think about ourselves.  Having all of this on our plates sometimes makes us a bit edgy and tired.  We owe it to our students to recharge our batteries and train ourselves to be mindful.

I wish that I could get every school to have a mindfulness room where teachers could escape to for some part of the day to just breathe.   Doesn’t that sound ideal?   Since that may not happen for you or any of us, there are things that we can do in our day to help to be more mindful and in turn have a better, more peaceful persona around our students.   Here are just a few ideas:

  1.  Start your day with a mindfulness ritual – Whether you set your alarm 10 minutes earlier or simply incorporate a mindfulness exercise to what you already do, take some time to practice mindfulness in the morning.  It will set you up for a better morning or day.  If you have children or other who may want to disturb you, let them know what you will be doing so that they leave you be.  You have heard me say this before, but I LOVE the Calm app.  It has so many great guided exercises.  Also, look for some of the free series that Oprah and Deepak Chopra have offered.  They are available in the app store.
  2. Take a break in the day – I know that this one may sound crazy.  I mean the days of anyone having time to go to the faculty room for any amount of time seems to have passed.  However, I promise that you will find yourself much more productive if you actually take time to eat lunch away from your desk or take a 10 minute walk around the building on your free period.  If we are encouraging our students to take breaks in their day for their own well being, we have to practice what we preach.
  3. Learn to sense when a break is necessary – often we can feel the energy of our students.  Whether it is this time of year (right before the holidays) or a time of high stress due to testing, we can almost feel a buzz with our students.  When you start to feel that buzz, take a mindful break with your students.  They will appreciate that you could recognize their stress and you will be less likely to lose your cool with them.
  4. Don’t be afraid of others seeing you do mindfulness – often teachers who are new to mindfulness feel as though other teachers and administrators will see them doing exercises with their students and think that they are “slackers”.  If you have done your research and know the benefits of what you are doing, you should not feel like you are doing anything wrong.  In fact, invite others to see what you are doing and the benefits that mindfulness has for your students as well as yourself.
  5. Don’t be all work – I have entered one of the most difficult years of my teaching career.  It has left me exhausted and feeling like I have to work morning, noon and night to get everything done.  However, thanks to mindfulness, I know that I am not going to be as productive if I do not learn to do my job in a mindful way.  That means taking time to be with my own kids when I get home and really be present.  We have to learn to leave our work behind us sometimes, especially on the toughest of days.   The papers will get corrected and the lessons will get planned.  We cannot always be everything to everyone.  We are no good for our students if we are tired and feeling the regret of not spending time with our families.  We are no good to ourselves or our families if we are working all of the time and missing out on them as well.  Mindfulness is about learning to be present, in the moment, and not allowing for overwhelm.

Our profession is one that is forever changing and growing.  It sometimes feels like a beast that is hard to tame.  However, at the end of the day, no matter what grade we teach or the what school we are in, we are working with children.  They need us to be the best that we can be.  We need to take care of ourselves (and one another) so that we can be the best for them.

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