By Teachers, For Teachers
Have you ever sat down at the end of a long week and thought to yourself, “What did I accomplish this week?” Or, “Wow, the school year is already coming to an end, it went by so fast.” Time passes quickly, and before you know it things are changing and passing you by without you even realizing it. The best way to manage this rushed timelessness is to find mindful moments throughout your school day. These are moments in the day when you pause to be aware of yourself, your body, and your surroundings, and acknowledge them through meditation or yoga.
As an educator, there are always a million things on your to-do list, and the inner chatter in your brain can get stressful and interrupt your attempts at teacher wellness. Mindfulness has been found to reduce stress and ease anxiety. According to Washington State University’s professor of pharmacotherapy Tracy L. Skaer, creating a present mindset is associated with relaxation. When you stop to be in the present moment and notice your surroundings, you’re quieting that inner chatter that is occurring in your mind.
Here are a few practical ways to practice mindful moments as an educator, as a way to promote teacher wellness.
According to the book “The Mindful Manifesto: How Doing Less and Noticing More Can Help Us Thrive in a Stressed-Out World,” by Dr. Jonty Heaversedge and Ed Halliewell, you should practice mindfulness during your daily routine activities, because this is when your brain is usually on autopilot. For example, you should pay more attention when you’re taking attendance or lunch count. You may even find that what you thought was a meaningless task, is actually more interesting.
Another practical tip from the book was to be present in the moment when you are waiting. Waiting can cause a lot of frustration, especially when you’re waiting on your students. Sometimes teachers tend to rush their students because they want to move the lesson along, but rushing your students doesn’t do them any good. Instead, you can practice being in the moment. An easy way to do this is to focus on your breath. Bring attention to your breath by breathing in for a few counts and out for a few counts. This will not only make you be in the moment, but it’ll also make you feel better, and time will go by faster.
Practice mindful moments by simply observing the things around you. You can easily do this when you are on lunch or hall duty, in between classes, sitting at your desk, or even during a meeting. All you have to do is look around and name in your head everything that you notice. For example, you can say to yourself “I see a window that is halfway open, a student sitting at a desk with his head down, etc.” The more details you tell yourself, the more you are in the present moment.
Another practical tip to practicing mindful moments as an educator is to pick a prompt that will remind you every day (or a few times a day) to be in the present moment. Choose a certain time or something that you do on a regular basis as a cue to be mindful of the moment that you’re in: For example, when you sit at your desk to grade papers, or when you come back from lunch. Find a time or action that you do on a regular basis to help prompt your brain to be more present.
The best way to get your mind in the present moment is through meditation. You can train your brain by practicing meditation daily. Just like anything that you want to learn for the first time, it will take a lot of time and practice. You must commit to daily mindfulness in order to really train your brain. Once you learn, you’ll be able to do it with very little effort, and before you know it, life’s moments will not pass you by because you’ll know how to be present in them.
Mindfulness is always available. It’s up to you when you want to tune in and practice it. As you can see, there are many ways that you can bring mindfulness into your life -- you just have to make the decision to live consciously.
Do you live in the present moment as an educator, or do you think it’s too hard, given how busy teachers are?
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.