Walk the walk

Teachers are getting pumped up about teaching their students mindfulness in their classes. There is hype! That, alone, is great news because more kids will receive this beautiful skill set.

What worries me, then?

I’m concerned that teachers will become so excited about jumping on the latest trend train and begin delivering mindfulness lessons right away without yet knowing that the most important component of mindfulness in schools begins with them. Yes, you heard that right.

It is more important that a teacher learns and practices mindfulness than any of his or her students.

Teaching mindfulness is much more than reading or giving instructions on different techniques and approaches. It is a way of living life with presence, and it is NOT easy. I have only been practicing regularly for a little over two years: I am a beginner, more mindless than mindful most all days. I practice daily because I have actually seen myself progress (S.L.O.W.L.Y.) and witnessed some of the benefits that researchers have published in my own life, in my relationships, and in my classroom. But, it is HARD work. The journey is not smooth.

npr_teachers_final_additional_vs_slide-f3e375b181ec50c306f5f0631762ea75a294e4a2-1440x960Our youth should have a teacher that aims to demonstrate mindfulness in their actions, words, and presence. Mindfulness teachers should practice daily and continue to learn from their own teachers and from their personal, formal “sits” and informal mindfulness practice throughout their day.

Teachers of mindfulness should be there to answer questions, give guidance, and model curious, non-judgemental attitudes. When students say, “I hate this” or “I’m not good at this” or even begin to cry in class, a practicing teacher will be able to empathize with the students because they’ve been there. They can share their experience authentically and relate to the struggles, boredom, fears, and emotional highs and lows that their students face and feel.

I’m not an ideal mindfulness teacher, but…I am on the path. It’s unfair and hypocritical to ask our students to become more mindful and do these practices if the teachers are not trying to become more present and aware themselves.

So, before any teacher implements a mindfulness program to youth, please allow them [at least] six-eight weeks of practice with a skilled mindfulness teacher. They won’t magically turn into a unicorn, but they will be on the path. And being on that path is all we really need.

Walk the walk.

Recommendations

On-Line Courses: Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation (Insight Meditation Center), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) (University of Massachusetts), Mindfulness Fundamentals (Mindful Schools), Power of Awareness (Sounds True)

Favorite Apps: Headspace, Calm, Breathe, Insight Timer, Buddhify, Mindful +

Websites and Books: Greater Good Magazine (UC Berkeley), Mindful, Mindfulness for Teachers by Patricia J. Jennings

 

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