By LYNN FRANCIS, MA, MS
—Mindfulness is becoming increasingly mainstream and it is now enhancing education. Why? Because it makes sense. Giving as much attention to our inner world—our thoughts, feelings, sensations—as to the outer leads to increased well-being. Increased well-being of the educator trickles down to the students, colleagues, and the institutions. “Collectively we educators saw mindfulness as an antidote to stress, conflict and confusion in educational settings as well as an invaluable gift to give students” (From www.mindfuled.org). Who wouldn’t want more of that?
A working definition of mindfulness is paying attention in the present moment to one’s own experience without judgment. It is like a gentle internal awareness. It sounds simple enough; however, I think we have been very conditioned to pay more attention to what is outside of us rather than what is happening inside of us. But when we turn our attention to the inside, stress, anxiety, and confusion start to decrease and we gain insight into our own inner process. When we have compassion for our painful feelings without judgment, suppression, denial, or running away from them, they can be freed. Mindfulness accepts rather than rejects our experiences.
Longtime ESL teacher, life coach, and marriage family therapist Lynn Francis is interested in the inner life of the teacher. She writes, “Because the tools of our trade—methods, techniques, theories, activities—are so well covered at workshops, in-services, and conferences, I felt there was a need to address other aspects of the teacher that are not covered.”
Here are some simple ways to be mindful at work. Notice what is happening inside you at a meeting or a school gathering. There can be a lot of energy and at times a lot of emotion that can draw us outside of ourselves and zap our energy. During such an event, I have found it helpful to notice my own energy and return to my breathing and my own center. I notice any reactions that I might be having with compassion and just bring my attention back to my breathing. Through the years I have noticed that my attention is actually better and I am more present when I am less swayed by outer circumstances and more in tune to my own inner space.
Noticing also pays off in the classroom, where research has increasingly demonstrated that the teacher has so much influence on a student’s success. With my students, what do I notice about myself? Do I have any reactions to students—anger, frustration, joy, appreciation, or thoughts about them? Am I in the past or the future rather than just being present now? I try to notice with kind curiosity and take responsibility for whatever is going on with me. Our patterns to obsess, fixate, ruminate, and replay old patterns from the past reemerge to be seen and transformed. With awareness, I can open up to new choices and possibilities that may seem like habit, or “that’s just the way I am.” It’s a simple, straightforward path to enhanced well-being.
Mind Full or mindful—with some practice we have a choice and our mindfulness benefits everyone…
Lynn Francis is a part-time instructor for San Diego Community College Continuing Education. She has been a teacher trainer for more than 30 years. She also has a private practice as a life coach and licensed marriage family therapist. She especially enjoys working with teachers and welcomes readers’ questions or ideas for topics for Inner News. Readers can reach her at lcfranci@sdccdedu.
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