“Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness” by Deborah Schoeberlein David

Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness

“Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything” (2009) by education consultant and mindfulness trainer Deborah Schorberlein David with Suki Sheth, PhdD is a handbook for applying mindfulness to education. The goal is to teach kids how “to notice what they were doing in the moment so they could decide what to do next” (page xv).

“Mindfulness is a conscious, purposeful way of tuning in to what’s happening in and around us,” Schoeberlein states. It’s about how we experience things that we have little control over. She offers some quick and fun ideas to help us calm our minds, help us pay attention, and create a positive outlook for the day.

For teachers, mindfulness can promote emotional balance, focus and awareness. Here are 3 mindful activities for teachers:

  1. Take 5 Minutes. Sit still, turn off distractions, and focus on breathing (the experience of noticing your breath fill your lungs and flow out of your body).
  2. Mindful Greeting. In the morning, greet the day by noticing and appreciating the morning, like “Here I am” or “It’s morning.” Then set a positive intention for the day, like “I aspire to express more patience during [this activity] today.” Keep intensions specific, modest, and achievable.
  3. Mindful Beginnings. Stop what you’re doing slightly before the schedule requires you to. Stop pre-class tasks before students arrive and stop preparations before class begins, so that you can greet people with your full attention. Choose a method to get students’ attention so that they will want to pay attention, not because you tell them to pay attention. Try ringing a chime, clapping in a pattern, or asking a riddle. Make eye contact during roll call.

For students, mindfulness can promote attention and concentration, and provides tools to reduce stress. Here are just 4 of the mindful activities that Schoeberlein suggests for students:

  1. Mindful Memory. Assemble a dozen distinct objects on a table. Cover them with a cloth. Gather students and give them one minute to observe the objects before covering them again. Then ask students to write down as many objects as possible. This teaches them to pay attention to what they see.
  2. Field of Vision. Outdoors, select a 3” twig from the ground and explain that you are going to place it somewhere in the designated space. Tell them to look at you silently when they have found the twig. While their eyes are closed, pretend the place the twig – and then put it behind your ear. This teaches them that what you expect to see will affect what you notice.
  3. Walk with Awareness. Ask students to walk slowly and normally. Walk as if your ankle hurts. Walk as if you think everyone is watching. Walk as if you want to delay arriving. Walk as if you want to be unnoticed. Walk as if you don’t know where you are or where you are going. Walk while paying attention to every movement you make. This helps students notice their body and how their body expresses what they feel.
  4. Journaling Kindness. Write in the present tense about your experiences. Discuss what kindness means. Record an act of kindness you observe, an act of kindness you initiated, and a situation in which an act of kindness could have been helpful.

These mindful activities are engaging and clever, but I would have liked to see more suggestions for disruptive students – and ways teachers can persuade skeptical students. Some of the mindful activities are so clever that I want to try them with my son!

For me, the most positive advice is the acknowledgement that it’s okay to get distracted (you don’t have to be mindful all the time) and the reminder to be kind to yourself. The step-by-step instructions for teachers and students and the summary at the end of the book are very helpful, and many mindful activities can also be adapted for parents and coaches. For example, Mindful Greeting and Mindful Beginnings could be used by parents when they wake up children in the morning and get ready for school, and when they come home after work.

What small change could you make to become more mindful? If you try any of these mindful activities in the classroom or at home, please write back and tell us about it!

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