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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Behind the Curve: Waking Up to Mindfulness-Based Supervision of Teachers

Note: The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, tentatively titled: The Awakened Supervisor: Embedding Mindfulness-based Practices in Instructional Supervision (Rowman & Littlefield). Please share this blog with educators, including principals, mentor teachers, and university faculty involved with preparing teachers.

The Possibilities of Mindfulness-Based Supervision

Instructional supervision is behind the curve when it comes to exploring how mindfulness can impact the field.

While little research has been done regarding mindfulness within a supervision context, “several key supervision variables could be affected by mindfulness” (Wyatt, 2011, p. 6). In a study of 72 counselor education supervisors, Wyatt found that supervisor mindfulness was a “significant positive predictor” of a supervisor’s perceptions of the supervisory relationship (p. 148). The study also revealed that a supervisee’s mindfulness was a positive predictor of self-reported self-efficacy.

In my experience (Haberlin 2019), mindfulness holds the possibility to enhance various aspects of supervision, including growing more aware of one’s own practice, becoming more attuned to the affective needs of supervisees, and enhancing functional tasks such as conducting observations and conferences. Employing mindfulness methods could also provide a much-need gap in practice, similar to what Jennings (2015) describes happens when teachers intentionally become more aware and begin to respond from a place of calm and centeredness. Embracing mindfulness in supervision hosts a range of other possibilities, among them:

Providing practical tools for supervisors to become more “consciously skilled,” knowing when to balance tasks and practices. Mindfulness techniques become a concrete way for supervisors to grow more conscious as Burns, Jacobs, and Yendol-Hoppey (2018) suggest.  

Strengthening the emotional regulation and self-management of supervisors (as well as the teachers they supervise). Mindfulness methods address the under-explored area of supervisor self-management and emotional management. This approach also equips supervisors to model effective social-emotional practices and learning to teachers, who work within a highly stressful, emotional demanding job (Hargreaves, 1998; Jennings, 2015; Larrivee, 2012; Liljestrom, Roulston, & Demarrais, 2007). In turn, teachers are then better prepared to teach their students emotional intelligence and self- management.

Enhancing regularly performed practices and tasks, such as observing and evaluating teachers. Supervisors must be skilled in noticing critical events (Burns & Badiali, 2016b; Pajak, 2003) when observing classroom teaching. Mindfulness is based on the very notion of improving the ability to focus one’s attention of both their inner world and outer environment (Hanson, 2009).              

Promoting interconnectivity and deep, interpersonal relationships with those involved in the supervision process (e.g. teachers, teacher candidates, mentor teachers, school administrators). Mindfulness can help supervisors become more aware of their relationships and develop greater levels of kindness and compassion (Hanson, 2009).

Encouraging supervisors to contemplate their practices and supervisory stance, through meditation, mindfulness, self-inquiry, and increased awareness. Mindfulness meditation coupled with insight meditation, for example, can serve as a vehicle to deeply investigate experiences, beliefs, and gain new insights (McDonald, 2005).

Remaining more centered and present during educational reforms, added responsibilities, and increased pressures associated with supervision. Mindfulness practices have been shown to boost resilience and provide a buffer against psychological distress (Jimenez, Miles, & Park, 2010) and engage in more effective problem-solving, (Jennings, 2015; Safran & Segal, 1990).

It's time we awaken to the vast possibilities of mindfulness-based supervision.