“Before we can share mindfulness with our students we need an experiential understanding of mindfulness from our own practice.”

-Meena Srinivasan

The Huffington Post / February 22, 2015

by Cameron Conaway

As readers widely shared “More Mindfulness, Please” (thank you for that!) I realized the piece was student-centric. It focused primarily on the in-class empirical evidence of mindfulness-based approaches for students. That’s because I wrote it as and in the mindset of an educator (it’s always about the students!). But few of us educators have the budget or resources to bring mindfulness teachers into our classrooms. The only reason I was able to integrate mindfulness teachings into my class at Penn State Altoona was because I had what Meena Srinivasan, author of Teach Breathe Learn, referred to as “an experiential understanding.” In addition to self-study, I’d spent time at Blue Cliff Monastery and with Thích Nhất Hạnh in Thailand.

But a search for “mindfulness for teachers” kept bringing me to content “for” teachers to use for their students, not for teachers to use for themselves. The study I mentioned in “More Mindfulness, Please” — the 2011-2012 collaboration between Mindful Schools and UC Davis that involved 937 students, 47 teachers and 3 public elementary schools, PDF here—also highlighted a few examples of the impact mindfulness training had for teachers:

‘Several teachers reported being able to access mindful breathing during the day, as well as to have more compassion for themselves as teachers.’

‘One teacher mentioned how her confidence in leading her class grew tremendously after the course.’

‘One teacher mentioned how he was able to respond more skillfully when challenged by students.’

An article from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center further reinforced these ideas, as it juxtaposed findings from a 2007 study by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future

“17% of teachers quit each year…”

…teachers who stick with the profession have unusually high rates of stress, alcoholism, and nervous breakdowns.”

…with a study involving 82 female schoolteachers titled Contemplative/emotion training reduces negative emotional behavior and promotes prosocial responses (NIH link here), in which researchers found, among other insights, that those teachers who had underwent the 8-week mindfulness program called CEB (Cultivating Emotional Balance) had lower blood pressure after performing a stressful task (such as a mock job interview or a difficult math test) and their stress levels dissipated more quickly after the task (A Training to Make Teachers Less Stressed).

Science will continue to prove the practical application of mindfulness for educators and students alike. It’s go time, but let’s go slowly. Together.

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