New year, new blog! Ok, maybe we’re already 3 weeks into the school year; however, most of my Canadian counterparts are starting school this Tuesday so I’m still in the season of a new school year. Teaching is a busy job!
Of course, with every year come new year resolutions. While everyone is writing new year resolutions in January, us educators write them starting every new school year motivated by the question: what can I do better?
Most years my resolutions sound like this: Get all the students to love reading! Create better curriculum! Use blended learning to maximize student outcomes! Of course these are all very important and of course, teachers are constantly revamping curriculum but this year my main goal and focus is: mindfulness.
This goal is inspired by the two online courses I took last school year with Mindful Schools: Mindfulness Fundamentals and Educator Essentials, both of which I highly recommend. In fact, now that I’ve learned about mindfulness, I almost felt regret that I hadn’t learned about it before. It really made me think about how can students even begin to be receptive to curriculum if they do not feel at ease in their own bodies and are uncomfortable sitting with their own thoughts? So often I see students coming into class with so much stress that they cannot even handle sitting still for a minute, not doing anything, let alone listening to instruction. I am not a psychologist but I am pretty sure students in that state are not going to learn anything in my class.
I love academics – I love discussing literature with my students, doing research with them, trying new educational techniques. But of course, none of these things will have any effect if my students aren’t able to move past the high level anxiety they often find themselves in with demanding classes, university applications, teenage relationships and all the other stresses that naturally come with growing up. Therefore, taking the time to acknowledge these stresses and validate their feelings while giving them tools to deal with them is the first step towards their success.
Aside from offering mindfulness to my students, the most influential aspect of my mindfulness goal this year is really for me. I want to take a moment to respond rather than react to the student who seems to be distracted in my class but is really just stressed out about a math test coming up next period, and in fact be more mindful of the atmosphere I create in my class.
The other day I had one of those days: running late, raining outside, being stuck in traffic, dropping my phone on the road, watching said phone getting run over by cars, and then… facing my students. Try as I might I wasn’t in the best mood for teaching, but I tapped into my mindfulness to do my best. At the end of the long day one of my students dropped off a brownie and a note saying thank you for caring about her when she was feeling sick in class that day. It was the sweetest moment in an otherwise stressful day and I realized how grateful I was for having the tools to step outside my own feelings and step into what was going on in my class.
Overall, I am very grateful for having the tool of mindfulness to help me get through a rough day because as educators, students rely on us and trust us to be there for them. And the year has just begun!