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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Why Every Teacher Should Meditate—Especially During These Times

If you’re a teacher, you know that teaching can be a highly demanding, stressful job.

Unlike other professions, there is little if any downtime. You must constantly be on and present when teaching children or teenagers. Take your eye of the ball for a moment, and the opportunity for learning is gone (and students behave badly. Like sharks in water, I think they can smell the blood).

But seriously, teachers need a practical, sustainable method of self-care and, right now, considering the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the need is greater than ever. With schools ordered to close across the country, k-12 teachers have had to suddenly and completely transition to remote or online learning for the first time. They are treading unprecedented ground, and we know that change can be scary and stressful.

Much emphasis is being placed on how remote teaching will work and the impact on student learning. This is important. But what about the emotional impact on teachers?

What is this transition doing to them and how are they coping?

This is why every teacher should learn to meditate. It should not be seen as luxury but a daily necessity.  

Taking some time to sit and simply observe the breath, to become mindful of thoughts and emotions can have a major impact on how teachers respond—or react-to what is happening and their stress levels.

The research suggests that meditation can provide many benefits to teachers and students.

For example, according to David and Sheth (2009), practicing meditation and mindfulness-or intentionally paying attention to the present moment- can:

  • Enhance emotional balance
  • Improve focus and awareness as well as responsive to students’ needs
  • Support healthy relationships
  • Improve classroom climate
  • Improve well-being

Currently working from home, teachers have an opportunity to incorporate meditation into their daily routine. This could involve meditating when first waking to set the tone for the day and/or using meditation as a much-welcomed break from spending lots of time in front of a computer screen, facilitating online learning and grading papers.

The following is a simple meditation with directions I developed to help teachers and students. Give it chance and judge it by the results you gain overtime.

Simple Breath Meditation

  1. Sit comfortably, either cross-legged on a mat on the floor or sit on a chair-whatever you prefer. Keep the spine relatively straight but don’t obsess over posture. The idea is to be in a relaxed position. Don’t lay down though, as this will encourage sleep not a relaxed awareness.
  2. Just play with the idea of meditation. Relax into. No Expectations. Begin observing the breath, going in and out. Feel it. Meditation is intuitive—it’s not an intellectual pursuit as it involves going beyond thinking.
  3. As you easily observe the breath, notice when thoughts come. Simply observe them as well. Meditation is witnessing what is going on, without judgment. Do the same if your mind goes to noises around you. Just witness them.
  4. Gently come back to the observation of the breath. In and out. Perhaps start with sitting for 10-15 minutes.
  5. In time and with some practice, if you simply sit there, you will have fewer thoughts. You will experience a quiet awareness, a clarity. Just you sitting there with yourself, relaxed and alert.
  6. Using this approach, experiment with meditating at different times of the day, when you have a few moments. Also try meditating in relationship to other activities during the day. For instance, meditate right after a hot, relaxing shower or maybe following a long walk or jog. You might find this helps. On the other hand, meditating after a heavy meal will likely not help, as your body will be digesting and not relaxed.

Reference

David, D. S., & Sheth, S. (2009). Mindful teaching and teaching mindfulness: A guide for anyone who teaches anything. Simon and Schuster.