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Mindful : October 2015
Teachers burn out. Kids have trouble focusing. The good news: Bringing mindfulness into the classroom is helping our children and teachers solve problems together. A HAPPIER DAY AT SCHOOL By Patricia Jennings Photographs by Blake Farrington Karen is an English teacher in a private prep high school. The school has very high expecta- tions for its students. As a new teacher, she was assigned to the teachers’ least favorite class: freshman English. At a mindfulness workshop, she expressed anxiety about teaching. Her demeanor was timid and insecure. However, Karen was very responsive to the mindful awareness practices and the instructions on how to apply them to teaching. Patricia Jennings, Ph.D., is associate professor at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education. Her acclaimed research explores how teacher stress affects the classroom environment and student learning. She is the author of Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom, from which this piece is adapted. On a subsequent training day, I noticed a dramatic change in her demeanor. She stood with more presence and looked more confident. We began the workshop by asking participants to share their experiences of applying mindful awareness to their teaching. Karen was the first to raise her hand, and she shared an amazing story. One day, she had come to class prepared to teach a grammar lesson. It was a few weeks before the holiday break, and she faced a class of fidgety freshmen. The last thing they wanted to do was learn grammar. She said to her class, “Today we will be learning about subjunctive clauses.” The whole class moaned and com- plained, “I hate grammar! Why do we need to learn this stupid stuff?” Facing this onslaught of negativity, she wanted to run away and hide. But she didn’t. → 48 mindful October 2015 education