In the era of initiative fatigue, the last thing most teachers need is another program that promises to improve teacher wellbeing, reduce stress, and benefit classroom management. So let’s not have that conversation. Instead, let’s talk about real, sustainable, systemic change for the better.
It’s no secret teacher stress levels are at a peak. Forty-six percent of teachers report daily stress. Another poll of 5,000 teachers and staff in the U.S. observed that educators find work to be stressful 61% of the time. State and federal mandates, poor job satisfaction, and limited resources to manage classroom behavioral issues just add to this problem, making teacher burnout and turnover prevalent.
However, the daily practice of mindfulness in the classroom has the potential to deliver real, sustainable, systemic change for teachers and students. Kids attend school facing poverty, violence, abuse, neglect, bullying and technology overload. These issues impact the teacher’s ability to engage and inspire students and create behavioral issues in the classroom and beyond. Mindfulness helps students calm down and improves emotional regulation. When teachers and students engage in mindfulness practices, it will begin to address the problem of teacher stress.
Mindfulness is paying attention to yourself and your environment, non-judgmentally in the present moment. Imagine sitting quietly and doing nothing but simply observing what is happening within yourself. This process allows practitioners to focus on the quiet, silencing the internal voices that lead to stress, discomfort, and negativity. The potential for internal peace, balance, and even happiness can arise from this process. These are the benefits that daily practice of mindfulness can achieve for practitioners.
The key elements of a good mindfulness initiative are: easy implementation, teachers and students practicing together, and engaging in the practice every day. When these elements are put into action, both teachers and students get the time to pause their day and students learn to better regulate behaviors which will allow teachers to have the time to complete that day’s curriculum.
Teachers report that mindfulness in the classroom improves classroom management; students are less impulsive and therefore have fewer behavioral issues. In addition to that, mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce teacher stress and burnout and this in turn improves their effectiveness and engagement with their students. Mindfulness practices improve executive function, including attention, creativity and emotional regulation, bolstering all social emotional learning initiatives by influencing the entire learning system.
I know it sounds simple, almost too simple, but it has been proven to work. It’s time we all take a stand for our teachers and start managing stress in a positive and effective manner. Let’s take a stand for mindfulness in the classroom.
 Gallup (2014). Retrieved from https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Teacher-Stress-and-Health-PENNSTATE-2016.pdf
 Badass Teacher Survey (2015) retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2017/10/educator_stress_aft_bat.html
 Journal of Educational Psychology. Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R.,Harrison, J. (2013). http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2013-14682-001
Janice Houlihan is a co-founder of Inner Explorer– a non profit organization helping children unlock academic potential and foster lifelong well-being.