Are you feeling caught up in the stress of your classroom? Finding it difficult to reflect and see the big picture? Have you even got to the point where your passion is beginning to fade? It’s really not a nice feeling. Author Daniel Rechtschaffen believes that mindfulness is the key to transforming this negativity, and in his fascinating book The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-Being in Teachers and Students he explores how mindfulness can transform learning for both teachers and students.
So what are the characteristics and traits of a mindful teacher? What are some of the practices you can put in place to help your students, and nurture a mindful space for learning? In this practical guide for cultivating attention, compassion, and well-being, Daniel outlines the five key qualities he believes define the mindful teacher.
Qualities of a Mindful Teacher
When we see a student being resistant, distracted, or even obstinate, we can use our mindfulness to see the student within the student. Instead of looking at his or her external actions, we can keep our commitment to looking more deeply at the child who is acting out of fear, aggression, or pain. We can ask ourselves what basic needs this student is really trying to meet and clearly see the strategies he or she is using. When we can find our compassion, we can be a much-needed caring figure in this child’s life while responding skillfully to his or her complex needs.
With a mindfulness practice, we can learn to look more deeply at ourselves and our students. As we practice mindfulness we begin to watch our thoughts and emotional patterns and generally understand ourselves better. As we see ourselves more deeply we can also witness how easy it is to lay our assumptions, judgements, and prejudices onto the world around us.
We need to be mindful when setting boundaries that we are not simply creating a doctrine where everyone needs to do what the teacher says just because that’s the way it is. We want to perpetually look deeply at ourselves and the needs of our students to discern the most appropriate boundaries for the student. For trust and safety to develop in a classroom, children need respectful boundaries to be set and modeled by their teacher.
Much is said about the attention deficit disorder epidemic in our youth. One alternative vantage point is that a major cause of ADD is actually a deficit of attention being given to our students. We are living in the same age of information distraction that our students are growing up in. To offer quality attention to our students, we need to learn how to slow down ourselves and pay attention to our students’ needs without so much stress.
It is important to look at other master teachers and learn their strategies, but at the end of the day the most inspiring teachers are those who are fully being themselves. The message of mindfulness is that you are perfect exactly as you are. We must first embody this before we teach it. With our own self-acceptance we don’t have to spend so much time and energy hiding our vulnerability and trying to somehow be better than we already are. Modeling this transparency can be very relieving and inspiring to students.
Is mindfulness something you practice in your classroom? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And don’t forget to share the post for your chance to win a free copy of The Way of Mindful Education.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Mc Knoell.