Teachers are often more than just educators. They are mentors, friends, or even a guiding light when times are tough. What would life be like if there wasn’t anybody willing to educate us, to show us a better way, to make us individuals? In a recent article, When Teachers Take A Breath, Students Can Bloom, Anya Kamenetz shares an incredible movement for everybody in the education system called Cultivating Awareness and Resilience for Educators (C.A.R.E.), which “promotes core skills and dispositions teachers need to create and maintain supportive learning environments while retaining their well-being and love of teaching.” Teachers need support and understanding too and someone needs to look after them!
“Teaching is inherently a stressful occupation, and by many accounts, it’s getting more so. Students bring the effects of poverty and trauma into the classroom. Administrators lay on the pressure to meet ever-changing standards. In the last few years, teacher job satisfaction has reportedly plummeted to a 25-year low, and turnover is high — almost 50 percent for new teachers.”
With decreasing employee satisfaction amongst teachers, special educators, and school counselors, C.A.R.E. “is a unique professional development program that helps teachers handle the stresses and rediscover the joys of teaching.” Annually, the program gathers educators from all around the world, where they learn “mindfulness techniques” through a series of role-playing, breathing exercises, and meditation.
“Just notice your breath, the sensation of your air coming in, going out…” says Christa Turksma, a Dutch woman dressed all in white with silver-white hair. She’s one of the co-founders of C.A.R.E. for Teachers.
Even though C.A.R.E. aims to improve teacher’s performance in the classroom as well as help them cope with pressure, indirectly, the program has a huge impact on students and their behavior too. Patricia Jennings, one of C.A.R.E.’s co-founders, has conducted a study that reveals how the training has changed the participants’ habits, performance and behavior in the classroom. Here are some of the insights regarding students:
“Even more interesting effects came from classroom observations. When teachers were more mindful, “yelling went down,” says Jennings. Classrooms were rated more emotionally positive and productive. Students were more engaged.
Among the students who rated lower on social skills at the outset of the study — presumably some of the most vulnerable — reading scores also improved. Again, these effects came from working with the teachers, not directly with the students.
Now that you know about C.A.R.E. and its methods, here are 5 techniques you can practice every day. These “tricks” could be used by both teachers and students, and remember: they don’t hurt.
1. Calmer Transitions
When it’s time to move on to lunch or PE, get students to take three deep breaths and then listen to the sound of a bell. Have students listen quietly until the sound fades away before moving on. What is the difference between actually listening to the bell, and just hearing it?
2. Take 5
Suggested by a CARE participant. For children too young or too restless to do regular meditation. Have them sit and quietly take note of five things they can see; then shut their eyes and count five things they can hear; then notice five things they are touching. This is a great way to help children get in touch with their senses which will come in handy if they ever have to BeCool when they are being bullied.
3. Quiet Corner Or Peace Corner
Described in Montessori and the Inner Resilience Program. Set up a space in the classroom where children can go to deal with difficult emotions. It might have pillows and be stocked with stuffed animals, calming books or smooth stones. It should be inviting, and not feel like a punishment.
4. Mindful Walking And Centering
For teachers, who like to take the class outdoors, or are always on their feet, focus on the sensation of the weight on your feet and the pressure of your feet on the floor. When walking, maintain that same awareness of weight shifting from one foot to the other.
The final and fifth technique is our company’s recommendation, something we use in all our programs, HUMOR!
5. Use humor, laugh more
Humor is an inevitable part of life, and education is no exception to the rule. Make yourself and your students laugh and have fun as much as possible. Make teaching and learning fun, enjoyable and much more efficient.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.