What does it mean to be a mindful teacher?

Mindful teachers teach mindfulness techniques that can improve self-regulation and focus.

An angled shot of various books on a wooden bookcase.
FreeImages.com/Duran Cesar

Mindfulness is a practice that develops attention and awareness. No matter what learning environment you teach in — public, private or home — it is a win-win for both teacher and student. 

Attention and awareness are necessary characteristics, especially for teachers. A person communicates more through body language and tone of voice, than by words. One of the best means to enhance attention, awareness or focus is by cultivating or developing mindfulness. In the book “Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness — A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything,” authors Deborah Schoeberlein and Suki Sheth define mindfulness as being present with and to your inner experience as well as your outer environment, including other people, without judgment. In summary, mindfulness is the practice of accepting the present moment non-judgmentally, utilizing all your senses, before responding. Think of mindfulness as a pause button.   

School districts that have participated in or supported mindfulness development trainings obtain simple strategies, techniques and teaching methodologies that enhance and develop their learning environments. Once the basics are learned, mindfulness can then be applied into normal routines at home, work and at school.  Mindfulness happens when teachers and students simply pay attention to the experiences of paying attention.  Mindfulness helps develop awareness by supporting emotion management, reducing stress and disciplining the mind. When minds are stressed, it’s difficult to focus. If you are feeling stressed about returning to school, consider reading Schoeberlein and Sheth's book or others to learn more about mindfulness. 

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a teacher, scientist and clinician who developed mindfulness-based Stress reeducation (MBSR), which is used today in medical centers, hospitals and clinics around the world.  Dr. Kabat-Zinn is the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society.  He has written many books on the topic of mindfulness that can benefit educators:

  • "Letting Everything Become Your Teacher: 100 Lessons in Mindfulness"
  • "Mindfulness for All: The Wisdom to Transform the World"
  • "Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness"
  • "Wherever You Go There You Are"
  • "Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life"    

Another resource is Michigan State University Extension. MSU Extension offers a variety of mindfulness programs for parents, adults, teens, teachers and more  including the online version of Mindful Educators, a professional development workshop for educators that offers continuing education hours (SCECHs).  Learn more and find a program that fits your life at our Mindfulness for Better Living website

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