Teachers, Here are the Keys to Best Educational Practices: Relax and Teachby Marc Severson on Jul. 02, 2012, under Education
Kirsten Olsen and Valerie Brown are specialists in relaxation in the education workplace. The bona fide addendum to their article in EdWeek says, “Together, they are in a private practice that provides leadership coaching and professional development.”
Their article, “Developing Mindfulness in School Leaders” offers advice for school leaders but it also can be applied to all teachers and educational professionals. 1) For too long now teachers have been pressured by influences they have no control over. Public opinion exacerbated by almost continuous criticism from legislators and state leaders seeking a panacea for their financial woes have left teachers looking over their shoulders and questioning their techniques and abilities no matter what their experience level. Self-doubt is one of the most virulent of professional diseases resulting in mis-directed goals and incomplete results.
Olsen and Brown offer some clear insight into techniques that can refocus teachers and keep them from entering that benighted land of inability. They offer four exercises:
• Every . . . few hours, . . . take three deep breaths through the nose . . . (n)otice how you feel. This builds awareness . . . calming the body and mind.
• Next time you walk around the school building, notice how you are walking. . . . Allow yourself to become keenly aware of your surroundings. This . . . sharpen[s] awareness and mental clarity.
• Next time you eat lunch, try just eating. . . (a) practice of simply being attentive to . . . the physical sensations of eating helps . . . [you] to feel cared for and connected to your body.
• The next time you have a conversation, practice listening. . . . How does it feel to listen deeply? Listening practice builds empathy and compassion, . . . [and] promotes connectedness . . . a fundamental element to building a school community. (deletions are mine)
Another key to improving teacher effectiveness is by upgrading the teaching environment. Lianna Heltin writes that The Education Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit group says that “To boost teacher retention and student achievement at high-poverty schools, states and districts must first look to improve working conditions for teachers . . . .” 2)
Concomitantly I would echo that this too relates to all teachers, not just those in ‘high-poverty schools’. As a teacher I know that when I see general improvements being made to the physical aspect of my school I feel recharged and rejuvenated.
As we were packing up our classrooms at the end of this year, my last as a regular classroom teacher, workers were busy installing new bulletin boards on the walls outside each classroom to better display student work. My principal had found a little money and made this cosmetic improvement a priority. As a teacher who has always insisted on displaying student work as prominently as possible, I was thrilled. What a great idea! It was almost enough to make me tear up my retirement papers.
OK, I wasn’t that thrilled, but I really liked the idea and it will go a long way toward improving the visual ambiance of our school’s hallways, which in turn improves morale, and teacher morale is in desperate need of improvement.