In today’s educational environment, standardized testing is an inevitable reality for both educators and students. For many, it is also a source of stress and feelings of powerlessness.
As with many environmental factors, this circumstance is not likely to be changed by the individuals most affected any time soon (teachers and students), so it is a good place to explore the tools that we can change: our individual reaction to the circumstances faced.
Here are a few strategies that may be helpful during this testing season. Ways to begin exploring what powerlessness over circumstances brings up for us, and how we can work with it in daily life.
Ohio Department of Education Q and A: Mindfulness and Social/Emotional Intelligence Training for Teachers and Schools
I recently gave a presentation to the Ohio Department of Education on my work with mindfulness and social and emotional intelligence training for educators. Here is a Q and A from the talk.
Can you provide resources that provide research-based support for mindfulness and SEI (social and emotional intelligence) training for teachers?
There are three reports that I would point to for research-based support for the work I do in training administrators and teachers. These are also the reports cited in my presentation:
- Teacher Stress and Health: Effects on Teachers, Students and Schools– This briefing published by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Pennsylvania State University outlines the negative impact that teacher stress has on student performance, school budgets, and teachers’ own lives. In addition, SEL (social and emotional learning) and mindfulness are two recommended tools for combatting this stress.
- The Mindful Leader– This research brief published by Ashridge Executive Education outlines the importance of formal mindfulness practice as a tool to improve leadership capabilities.
- State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2016– This research review provides substantive evidence for the use of mindfulness as a tool to mitigate the effects of implicit bias in educators. Implicit bias has an impact on quality of education and engagement for students.
Does mindfulness require a structural approach?
It certainly helps. However, the benefits of mindfulness on an individual level are also significant. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness practice benefits include:
- Reduced rumination
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved working memory
- Increased ability to focus
- More cognitive flexibility
- Higher relationship satisfaction
- Improved overall well being
- Increased empathy
- Reduced psychological distress
In addition, mindfulness changes the structure of the brain. This article from The Washington Post interviews Harvard neurosceintist Sara Lazar on the exact structural differences in those with a formal practice.
How can we convince administrators to incorporate this?
Mindfulness and SEI training for teachers both solves problems currently facing the educational system and has multiple benefits currently being sought. One problem it can help to solve is the high rate of educator turnover and burn out, which costs school districts both time and money. If teachers can be better supported through improved culture and additional self-care resources, retainment will be less of an issue.
The second is the impact on student outcomes. Students who have teacher who experience less stress have higher levels of social adjustment and higher academic outcomes (see Teacher Health and Stress Brief for more information).
The third reason is the social and emotional intelligence gains, including increased resilience and improved ability to relate to others, that students will experience as teachers model mindfulness and SEI for students and change the culture of the buildings in which they work. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and EQ expert, “Teachers are the crucial models for kids in this domain [EQ}… teachers teach it by their being, by how they handle it when two kids are having a fight, how they notice that one kid is being left out and make sure that he’s included, by how they tune into the social dynamics that between kids looms so large in kids’ lives.”
What data is available on how mindfulness has made a difference in the classroom?
This article called “When Teachers Take a Breath Students Can Bloom” from NPR describes explicitly some of the research for how mindfulness training for teachers impacts student learning outcomes positively (for example, improving students reading scores). In addition, according to the Teacher Stress and Health research brief cited above, teacher stress negatively impacts student outcomes. If teachers are less stressed, kids perform better.
Is this being implemented in Ohio Schools?
I am implementing SEI and mindfulness training in Central Ohio School districts right now. My multi-tiered approach begins with the adults working with young people (which is best practice) and will eventually lead to whole-school implementation. Projects are catered to the needs and budget of the district in which I am working, but in all cases, I use a transformative model of adult education in which I seek to shift the perspective of the educators.
Where does this fit in with all of the other things teachers have to do?
Mindfulness and SEI training provides tools to help teachers do all of the things they need to do without sacrificing their humanity, their health, and their wholeness. Educators who have worked with me leave feeling more capable of doing all that is required of them and often take more time for themselves after the experience is over.
Questions? Comments? Leave your thoughts below.
Is transitioning to more independent work always stressful?
Autumn: Not as stressful as showing up for a boss every day. 🙂 There are undoubtedly several things you have to learn how to do to be successful that have no relation to your industry. For example, as a photographer (I just like taking photos!), I have also become an accountant, a web developer, a marketer, a designer, a writer, and so many more things. If becoming all those things excites you, DO IT! It will be great. But if you absolutely hate the idea of doing all those things, figure out if a) it’s worth it, b) you can hire others to handle the things you don’t like, or c) if pivoting to this particular passion isn’t worth it to you. (And that’s ok! It’s like dating. When you find the right passion, all the work will be worth it!)
How can I organize my ideas into a plan/map? and How do I become discoverable?
Autumn: I believe both of these questions can be answered in the same way – it depends on who you are, what industry you’re in, what your interests are, how you organize your thoughts, your life, your business. Because of my recent pivot, plus my marketing background, I’d be happy to chat with anyone who feels interested in pursuing these questions further. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you further develop body sense/awareness?
Brandi: Try a body scan practice! The Insight Timer app is totally free. You can download it and search for “Body Scan” for some really good options.
Mindfulness and Creativity: Q and A with the Columbus Museum of Art Teaching for Creativity Institute
What does mindfulness have to do with creativity? So much. Check out this Q and A with CMA‘s Teaching for Creativity Institute from an event I did on January 21 on mindfulness and self-care to find out more.
How does mindfulness assist in the creative process?
Does it get easier to be mindful? How will I know when I grow?
I spent some time today with the staff from Grandview Heights City Schools exploring mindfulness practice. In session one, we explored informal mindfulness practice (otherwise known as living mindfully in daily life). In session two, we explored formal mindfulness practice (sometimes known as meditation).
We started out with a difficult prompt:
Have you ever done something because of an overwhelming emotion that you later came to regret? What were the effects on you? What were the effects on the people around you?
We then watched this excellent (and funny) short video “Why Mindfulness is a Super Power: An Animation” featuring the voice of ABC news correspondent and author of 10% happier.
In case you don’t know Dan Harris’s story of finding mindfulness, here is a five-minute video of his story. In short, he had a panic attack on national television that prompted a reevaluation of his life, and he has become a self proclaimed “evangelist” for mindfulness practice since that time.
Here is the Q and A from the sessions:
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
There is something special about the heart: a miraculous, continually pumping, life-giving organ located in the center of the chest, the heart beats 100,000 pumps a day, over the course of a life that’s 2.5 billion beats (more heart facts here).
The heart also contains neurons that allow for communication with the brain. While this does not mean that the heart is a brain, there is evidence of interaction between these two parts of the body, affecting one’s health and emotional state.
When I visited Andrea Patton‘s classroom earlier this week, we used heart-focused breathing with students before moving them into a prompt where they mined their own thinking about the process via journaling.