Teaching can be a stressful and demanding profession. The pressure of meeting academic goals and managing a busy classroom can take a toll on even the most seasoned educator. This is where mindfulness comes in, offering a pathway to peace and balance in the midst of overwhelm and stress.
“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply means staying aware of the moment that you are in, no matter what that moment holds. And while mindfulness may seem like a trendy buzzword, it's actually backed by science. Research suggests that practicing mindfulness can reduce anxiety and depression, boost immune function, and improve calm and clarity.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness for Teachers and Students?
When teachers practice mindfulness, they learn to approach classroom situations with greater presence of mind. Mindful teachers describe:
- reduced stress levels
- improved mood and sense of well-being
- more empathy, compassion and connection with students
- better classroom management
Students trained in mindfulness are more likely to be emotionally resilient and engaged in their learning. Mindfulness practices can boost academic performance by improving students’:
- focus and attention
- social development
- emotional regulation
How To Begin
So, how can teachers incorporate mindfulness into their busy schedules? Here are three simple practices. Be sure to download and save or print out this infographic so you remember these three simple practices.
- Focused Breathing: Sit comfortably and gently close your eyes. Begin to focus your attention on your breath as you inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, perhaps placing a hand on your belly. Notice the sensation of the air entering and leaving your body in a steady rhythm, your belly expanding and emptying with each breath. It's perfectly normal for your mind to wander during this exercise. Take note of any thoughts, internal chatter or feelings that come in and out of your awareness. Imagine them as small clouds, airy and drifting. They pass you by but do not carry you away. Envision a little more space between you and the clouds as you return to your breath. These distractions will come and go–it’s all part of your practice, even withholding judgment of yourself in those moments. Slowly place your hand over your heart with appreciation for the ways your mind and body have practiced staying present.
- Gratitude Break: Find a comfortable, quiet space to sit. Take a moment to settle your mind as you bring attention to your breath. Think about someone in your community who you are grateful for—this could be a family member, a friend, a colleague or a student. Imagine their facial features, perhaps the curve of their smile, the quality of their voice or the sounds of their laughter. Recall a kind word or deed that was meaningful to you and notice how that now feels in your body. Know that this person, too, experiences joys and frustrations. Hold them in your mind’s eye and picture them surrounded by grace and goodness. Consider how your connection with this person expands your capacity to know and be known, and along with that, your sense of being upheld by your community.
- Mindful Walk: If you're feeling stressed during the school day, taking a mindful walk can help you feel more steadily grounded. Begin by taking a few deep breaths. As you breathe out, loosen your jaw and facial muscles, relax your arms and fingers, feel your legs extending gently to your feet, and notice how your toes anchor you to the earth. Does one leg balance more of your body? Try to center your weight, even as your body naturally shifts side to side. Walk a short distance, one slow step at a time. Pay attention to the sensation of your feet on the ground, the lifting and falling of your legs, and the sounds around you. Is the ground crunchy or creaky, yielding or firm? If your mind starts to wander, as all minds do, simply bring your attention back to your body, thanking it for carrying you now and through the day.
Practicing these mindfulness exercises just a few minutes a day can make a big difference in how you feel and how you approach your work as a teacher. So why not give them a try? Your mind and body—and your students—will thank you for it.
FPU’s Mindfulness Courses
Mindfulness takes practice, and Fresno Pacific University is here to help. Instructor Candi Reimer offers several fully online professional development courses to support educators in cultivating a mindfulness practice for themselves, their students and their school community:
EDUC-941: Mindfulness for Teachers presents empirically proven mindfulness practices that will empower you to improve classroom culture, respond to positive and unpleasant emotions and develop a routine for caring for yourself and others.
EDUC-942: Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom offers engaging and immediately applicable activities to grow students’ minds for:
- gratitude, joy and positive thinking
- focus, concentration, calm and purpose
- kindness, compassion and self-care
- regulation of stress, anxiety and difficult emotions
EDUC-943: The Mindful School equips teachers, counselors and school leaders to strengthen mindfulness programs in their schools. Whether you’re hoping to start a mindfulness club or aiming for a schoolwide implementation, this course will prepare you to launch a successful mindfulness program.