Teaching Mindfulness Indirectly and Directly

Here’s a question we’ve heard several times:
The principal at my school would like me to let the other faculty members know
about what I learned at the Mindfulness conference. I remember one of the speakers
saying teachers really shouldn’t be leading students in mindfulness unless they have
a mindfulness practice of their own. Should I discourage teachers from introducing
mindfulness into their classrooms? Could you let me know how I should answer teachers’
questions if they are interested in teaching mindfulness in their classrooms?

Answer:
This is an important, ongoing conversation in the mindfulness in education movement.
Following are some thoughts from Mindful Schools.

A teacher who has a mindfulness practice brings a certain presence with them into the
classroom. They are indirectly teaching students what it’s like to use mindfulness, or to
be mindful in various situations.

If they use their mindfulness in times of stress or difficulty, they are demonstrating
healthy, skillful responses without even mentioning mindfulness. When they are able
to be fully present with a student or class, the students learn what good listening and
kindness is through observation. When a teacher can remain calm amidst chaos, students
witness that as a possibility for themselves.

Teachers with mindful qualities teach mindfulness through their actions; they might be
less reactive and more patient, they might have gentler or kinder speech, students might
feel more comfortable and safer in their classroom. Mindful qualities can be inherent
in a teacher who has never learned mindfulness, or they can be cultivated through a
mindfulness practice.

When these teachers decide to teach their students mindfulness directly through
mindfulness techniques and lessons, you can be confident that the impact will be positive.

The question that is arising in the mindfulness in education movement is whether
teachers without training in mindfulness can effectively deliver mindfulness lessons to
students.

The biggest concern is probably that mindfulness could be misunderstood, misused or
misrepresented. If a teacher uses mindfulness as a punishment or disciplinary tool, they
have misused mindfulness. If a teacher tells students to use mindful breathing when they
are upset but the teacher him/herself cannot access the same tool, students are getting
conflicting information. Mindfulness invites a certain quality of stillness, acceptance,
and patience. If students’ minds calm down during mindfulness, it would be deeply
unfortunate for a teacher to behave in a contradictory way.

Also, students will often have questions about mindfulness. Only an experienced
practitioner will be able to answer all questions appropriately. This is particularly true as
students get older.

On the other hand, many of the mindfulness instructions are quite simple and could
potentially be incorporated for a couple minutes each day. The key is having teachers
who are at least interested in mindfulness and who are confident that their students
would benefit from the lessons. Inevitably, the more training classroom teachers have
in mindfulness for themselves, the more they will be able to demonstrate its indirect
application throughout the day. Also, the more training classroom teachers have in how
to deliver mindfulness instructions to students, the more likely mindfulness will find its
way into the school day directly.

The good news is that teachers will know right away if mindfulness is proving easy to
implement or whether they need more training.

Mindful Schools requires all teachers who use our curriculum to receive at least 12 hours
of training in mindfulness (through our Mindfulness Fundamentals class or equivalent
experience). We also provide a detailed Curriculum Training. Please see our training page or email info@mindfulschools.org for more information.

Warmly,
Megan and the Mindful Schools Team

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