Use these eight words when practicing mindfulness in the classroom and remembering the importance of presence for teachers:
In order to be truly present, we can learn to not rush the moment or seek to hurry to the next event. Choosing patience allows us to fully experience the here and now.
Patience is especially important for teachers. We can learn to be patient with ourselves, as well as with our students. Teaching, like learning, is a process—not merely a product, goal, or destination. The growth mindset encourages teachers and students alike to be gentle with themselves and to understand that the road to success can be long and filed with setbacks.
Just remembering to breathe can help a teacher get through a particularly stressful event or trying day. The key is to remain as relaxed and easygoing as possible, especially given that students can pick up on a teacher’s tension and apprehension quite easily. A teacher’s mood sets the tone for the classroom and ideally cultivates a culture of calm and alert readiness.
Teachers can take frequent breaks in order to refresh and refocus. Be sure to get out of your classroom during breaks and lunch. Gather with friendly, positive colleagues, and make an agreement not to talk about anything school-related.
Empathy and the sharing of similar feelings are what connect us to others. This type of sensitivity and awareness is exactly what being mindful is about.
In the classroom, our students yearn for a sense of belonging and community—amongst their classmates and with their teacher. Showing that you care and understand goes a long way in building those bonds of trust and relationship so crucial for maximum learning to occur. Be interested in and attuned to your students’ social and personal lives. This expanded mindfulness will pay off in your students’ academic achievement, as well as in the satisfaction you reap from your career in education.
Like relaxation, an overriding sense of peace and tranquility makes for a classroom environment conducive to maximum learning. Learning can be enthusiastic and alive, while feelings of fear and dread can be minimized.
For teachers, we can approach each school day with a serenity and assurance that this will be another day filled with willingness, wisdom, wonder, warmth, and worth–both for students and ourselves. Never forget: It’s a privilege and a pleasure to interact with children. The best teachers learn just as much from their students as their students learn from them.
Just as important as engagement is for your students, engagement is crucial for teachers as well. But engagement doesn’t just entail interest or passion. Engagement is about interaction and involvement. Face-to-face connections and discussions are ways that students and teachers prove they’re fully present and participating—in the moment and fully mindful of what others have to say.
A present and engaged teacher listens just as much as they speak. Knowing your students as individuals, personally and academically, allows you connect with them and to tailor your instruction and feedback to their varying needs. This way, students feel heard, understood, and supported. In turn, attuned and attentive teachers feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment that allows them to enjoy their job on a deeply satisfying level.
In order to be truly empathetic, one can learn to suspend judgment. Judgment only separates us from others. It’s an act of arrogance that presumes we always know better than others or that we know every step on someone else’s journey.
Teachers can instead be more concerned with becoming closer to their students—socially, emotionally, soulfully, and intellectually. These appropriate, professional adult relationships with students don’t waste time assigning blame or dwelling on supposed misdeeds. They’re more concerned with moving kids forward, daily and in the moment.
Think of being centered as placing your focus on the now, rather than upon the past or future. Children do indeed enter your classroom with baggage from home, the playground, and their last class; but if you want to center your students on the fascinating and fulfilling learning task at hand, you yourself must first be free from external encumberment.
One of the great things about teaching and being fully present in interacting with your students is that you really don’t have time to worry or complain about your personal problems. All your external anxiety temporarily disappears when you’re focused upon your students. This sense of presence is liberating and is a life lesson on how worry and complaint are useless distractions from the joy that is there waiting for us in the now.
Just because one is living in the moment, this doesn’t necessarily mean that events and people won’t ever upset us. Cultivating an even temperament is our insurance policy to take frustrations and challenges in stride.
One key way a teacher can develop an even temperament is by shedding the baggage they themselves bring with them into the classroom. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity for each student to shine and improve. If something happens to go awry (and it will), you’ll be able to deal with it calmly and with grace as you face frustrations and challenges as what they truly are: one small blip in an otherwise lovely day with your beloved students!
Featured image from NPR “When Teachers Take a Breath, Students Can Bloom.”
For a wealth of wisdom and practical strategies for how to teach empathy, inclusion, and altruism, read the inspiring new book by Robert Ward, Teaching the Benefit Mindset.