What does it mean to be a mindful teacher?

By Tracie Abram
Michigan State University Extension

Have you ever stopped to think about the thought, attention and effort teachers provide to get their room and themselves ready for the new school year? Many people think teachers have a solid three months off in the summer, but in actuality teachers take continuing education courses all summer as required for state certification. By the time August rolls around, many are attending faculty meetings, preparing their rooms and lesson plans. Mindful teachers spend a great amount of time and professional development hours learning new techniques that will nurture a learning environment.

One technique that helps establish and maintain a learning environment is practicing and teaching mindfulness. In the book “Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness,” author Deborah Schoeberlein states that mindfulness helps students flourish academically, emotionally and socially and teachers thrive professionally and personally. She defines mindfulness as being present with and to your inner experience as well as your outer environment, including other people.

Schoeberlein’s book explores two main themes. The first concerns the educator’s direct experience of mindful teaching and the related benefits to the students. The second concern is about training students to develop mindfulness themselves.

Mindfulness begins when teachers and students pay attention to the experience of paying attention. Mindfulness helps teachers in multiple ways by supporting emotion management, reducing stress and focusing the mind. Many students come to school on medication for attention deficit disorders and/or anxiety. Teachers therefore continue to have difficulty managing, let alone teaching, a classroom of more than 20 students where many could already struggle with focusing their attention.

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